Text and Photographs by Chris Marais
Richmond lies just off the N1 and almost halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
In the past, the town had little to offer passing motorists, except for a chance to refuel, grab a snack and continue their journeys north or south.
Modern-day Richmond is worth at least two days of a traveller’s time, in terms of a range of activities, overnight stays and dining choices.
The Horse Museum on Loop Street used to be a school for the orphaned and the underprivileged. It was converted into a horse museum (one of only two of its kind in the world) in 1963.
Apart from all things equestrian, the museum also offers Victorian-era lifestyle displays and an intriguing legend of an in-house ghost.
Right next door is another museum full of interesting oddments that will keep browsers occupied for hours: South African (Anglo-Boer) War gravestones, a relic from the old cooldrink factory, cuttings about an infamous local murder, a collection of vinyl albums of popular music from 50 years ago, and an enormous whale vertebra with flensing knife and harpoon.
Even the Info Centre across the road is packed with memorabilia sure to catch visitors’ attention.
Further on along Loop Street is the reading room for the Bookbedonnerd Literary Festival, which takes place every October. This festival has seen the literary likes of playwright Athol Fugard, academic Professor Jonathan Jansen, poet Clinton du Plessis, author Rian Malan and activist Breyten Breytenbach over the past decade.
Nearby is the unusual and visually stunning MAPSA Gallery and book-binding centre, where a team of Richmond community women produce works of art in book form, using Japanese paper craft techniques to bind pages into books, covered in recycled flour, maize and sugar bags.
The old Masonic Hotel in Richmond has been transformed into another small enterprise that creates local jobs: Karoo Creations, which produces top-end duvets made from sheep’s wool.
At the edge of town is the Hope Centre, which feeds more than 200 Richmond children on most weekdays. The Hope Centre is funded by the American Rotary organisation, and also cultivates its own vegetable plot.
About 18 kilometres to the north on the national highway stands the Karoo Padstal, owned and staffed by Richmond people. The upmarket farm stall has developed into a central source for regional products.
If you make something authentic from the Karoo, this is your shop window. If you’re motoring down or up the N1, this is your oasis of coffee, upmarket edibles and all manner of Karoo goods. There’s even a world-class chef in the kitchen!
Modern Art Project: 073 436 4413
Richmond Horse Museum: 072 629 0742 Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richmond Books & Prints: 081 270 8827
Die Vetmuis Restaurant: 082 380 1196
Pat’s Kitchen (Saddles Bar): 053 693 0142 or 073 406 4643
Richmond Trading Post (Tourist Info & Antiques): 082 797 2018
Karoo Padstal (Open Mon-Sat): 081 219 2890 facebook.com/karoopadstal
Richmond Meats & Deli: 082 554 8477 or 053 693 0037. Email email@example.com.
Karoo Creations: 076 886 0262
The Richmond Café and Rooms
Tel: 079 755 8285
Tel: 082 498 8650
Bloemhof Karoo Farmstay
Tel: 082 449 7700
Three Birds Country House
Tel: 079 529 5660
Northern Cape Tourism Authority: www.experiencenortherncape.com
For an insider’s view on life in the Karoo, get the Three-Book Special of Karoo Roads I, Karoo Roads II and Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa by Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais for only R720, including courier costs in South Africa. For more details, contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org