A November 2003 trip
to Graaf-Reinet by Kathy Strehler
Quote: During our two week trip to the Cape we travelled some 3000km by car. We did not intend this to be a relaxing lie-on-the-beach holiday. We decided we wanted to see our country through
But the Big Hole itself exceeded my expectations – it is big!! It is hard to imagine that this hole was dug by hand as fortune seekers from around the world descended upon Kimberley hoping to find the diamonds that would change their lives forever and bring them the wealth they dreamed of. The Hole is so deep that two Strydom Towers could fit down the hole, one on top of the other. Most of the hole is filled with water now. We spent about two hours in Kimberley pushing on through the Karoo to the little town of Victoria West, where we stayed overnight.
And – it seemed to be the ONLY place in town where we could get something to eat on a Sunday night. Being in the Karoo, I decided that I had to have the Karoo lamb chops that were on the menu. Karoo lamb has a very unique and distinctive taste from the Karoo bushes that the sheep feed on. Well, I think this old ram eventually just died of old age. This was definitely no lamb! Despite being huge and tough, the chop was delicious and was served with real homemade chips – not the frozen jobbies you get in city restaurants. We ordered the side plate of vegetables on the menu – but were informed that tonight, there were no vegetables, but the kitchen could make us a salad. Hickman’s was a good deal at R85pppn and the meal costing only R90 in total.
Instead of heading straight for Wilderness, we decided to take a detour of 150km to Graaf Reinet. Situated within the Karoo Nature Reserve, Graaf Reinet is the fourth oldest town in South Africa. With only about 2 hours to spare in the town, we popped by the Tourist Information office, where the young lady was extremely helpful in advising where to go and what to see. But unfortunately, there was not enough time to see everything, and we chose Stretch’s Court and the Reinet Museum. Stretch’s Court is an entire street of slave quarters that have been beautifully restored as part of the upmarket Drosdty Hotel. We then took a walk down Parsonage Street with its beautifully restored homes, every one an historical monument. At the end of Parsonage Street stands Reinet House, a grand example of Cape Dutch-style architecture. The house was built around 1805 and was the home of Rev. Andrew Murray and his son Charles, who consecutively occupied the place for 82 years. On May 1, 1980, the original building was practically destroyed by a fire, and most of the original beautiful museum pieces were lost. Gunpowder stored in the basement aggravated the damage done to the house and contents. The townsfolk rallied to restore the place to her former glory, and today, most of the contents of the museum are pieces donated by people living all over South Africa. Here’s something I found amazing in the museum: a wedding dress knitted in baby-pink 2-ply wool on no. 14 knitting needles by a lady called Poppie Louw in 1941 – complete with train, veil, and muff! Outside in the garden, one can see the largest living grapevine in the world and the wagon house, where there is a small cart which was pulled by goats and an old-fashioned hearse. On the corner of Parsonage and Church Streets is a lovely coffee shop/craft shop where we had brunch. Wherever we went, we found everyone extremely friendly. The owner of the store is also a tour guide in Graaf Reinet, and he informed us that this gem of the Karoo had experienced an increase in tourism of over 600% in the past 5 years! Well, I’m not surprised. This beautiful town is well worth a visit, and if you can afford it, stay over at the Drostdy!
Roodepoort, South Africa