Eve Palmer said: “At first encounter the Karoo may seem arid, desolate and unforgiving, but to those who know it, it is a land of secret beauty and infinite variety.” If I think back to my first encounter with the Karoo, this couldn’t be more accurate.
While many families run to the sandy beaches that line our beautiful country, mine likes to stop half way. We’ve become a little bit obsessed with the hidden gem of the Karoo that so many have driven past but never really stopped at. If you’ve had a conversation with me at all over the past five years, you’d know that PC and I absolutely love Nieu Bethesda, a tucked away village just 40-odd kms from Graaf Reniet.
Home of Helen Martin’s Owl House and where Athol Fugard penned The Road to Mecca, it is as eclectic as a Karoo secret could be. Nieu Bethesda is the kind of place that you stumble upon when you’re too tired to force your way through the sixth hour of your drive to Plettenberg Bay. It is the kind of secret place that you fall in love with the moment you turn off of the national road and start your winding ascent toward a village that first got a taste of electricity in the 90’s.
Yes, the 1990’s.
PC and I often talk about what we’d do with a lottery win, and the first on our list is always a home in Nieu Bethesda, much to Riley’s disdain. Poor guy was a real champ this visit though, in the past it has been the bane of his existence that his parent’s keep dragging him to the dusty stretch of B&B’s and curio stalls.
We spent the night in a charming home called Nieu Zebra. I absolutely fell in love with the old home and all of her colourful charms the moment we took our weary bones through the screen door. I mean, who still remembers screen doors anyway?
We purposefully left earlier than necessary so that we could have a leisurely afternoon in our favourite village. Riley suggested that we went to the Fossil Center that we’d very conveniently stayed next door to, (not that it’s very far to get anywhere in the village) which was a wonderful change from the usual sulking attitude he has toward NB. I don’t blame the kid, he is only 10 and he is such a trooper when it comes to doing what we ask him to.
We decided to visit The Waenhuis for dinner, a stunning little venue that served really delicious meals. The decor is something else entirely, perfection for someone who is planning her own wedding – and apparently the popular choice for newlyweds as well. Hardly surprising either, we’re planning our Honeymoon in NB as it is, it’s just that kind of place – romance personified.
There are no streetlights and no noise, so the evenings are incredible. Sit outside under thousands of stars that you’d probably forgotten all about in the city. Most of the accommodation options offer coffee and tea, but we’re such snobs when it comes to filter coffee, so I suggest having a backup plan if Nescafe isn’t for you. Apart from being convinced that there was a ghost in the kitchen, I slept like a baby that night – as I always do when we visit Nieu Bethesda.
If I could give anyone a piece of advice it would be this: take the damn turn off! You will not be sorry about it. Visit the little shops, take walks in the afternoon and sit under the stars! I can’t begin to express how magnificent it feels to unwind, switch off and recharge your batteries after a long year.
You absolutely need to visit The Karoo Lamb, the breakfast is wonderful and Katrin has all the accommodation options in one place for you to choose from. We go back on the 3rd of January and I can’t wait.