Text and Photographs by Chris Marais
Just more than 60km west of Britstown is Vosburg, which proudly proclaims:
“Come and Enjoy Our Shady Trees.”
That sign has lured in many a traveller along the R384 on a hot summer’s day. When they drive in, they find the streets lined with a large selection of beefwoods, pepper trees, Scottish pines, cypresses, poplars and carobs. One never takes shade for granted out in the Karoo.
Locals will also tell them there is a strong vein of underground water that has been supplying Vosburg without faltering for more than a century.
In the midst of this jumbled forest in the middle of the semi-desert is the NG Mother Church, looking like a German castle. A Vosburg farmer services the church clock, keeping it wound up and accurate.
Most gardens are full of grapevines, prickly pears and saltbushes, and the houses are distinctly Karoo-style in character. So because of its ample water, trees and large plots of land, Vosburg is also the local centre of seasonal home industries: February is ideal for prickly pear syrup. March and April are reserved for quince. In June and July, it’s time for orange and lemon marmalade, In October, green figs are bottled. November and December make the season for apricots and ripe figs.
Out at a primary school in the local township of Die Skema, a Vosburg interior designer runs a project in which community elders teach the teenagers knitting and sewing.
In the afternoons, an elderly local woman runs a Riel dancing school that still continues the tradition of a storytelling dance born on the farms and veld of the Northern Cape. Anna Klaaste learnt to dance the Riel from her mother and grandmother on the riverside at Hopetown.
The troupe of learner-dancers practices outside Anna’s house, while the crowd gathers, the dust flies and the rhythm of the Riel pulls everyone into its magic circle.
The local hotel, nearly a century old, was once a-buzz with travelling salesmen who criss-crossed the Karoo to supply farmers and townsfolk with all manner of goods. These days, the commercial centre of Vosburg is the agricultural co-op, which also doubles as a grocery store.
In the past few years, South African urbanites have begun to look at the little towns of the Karoo with an eye to semigration – moving to a less crowded, more affordable place. Vosburg has enjoyed special attention from city dwellers, and many have relocated to this idyllic little spot in the middle of the Upper Karoo.
- Die Katte Guesthouse
Mobile: 074 890 1872
- Elvee Guesthouse
Mobile: 084 240 1587
- Karoo Country Inn
Mobile: 063 288 4878 or 072 974 7915
- Die Ketel
Mobile: 072 997 3182
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 email@example.com