The joys of simple living in Nieuwoudtville

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 3 November 2010

From Elands Bay we headed inland towards Clanwilliam and onto the N7 towards the north. Leaving the ocean behind we headed towards Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape, home to windmills, quiver trees and carpets of flowers.

After a brief stop in Van Ryhnsdorp for supplies, money and fuel we drove through the stark Karoo landscape towards Van Rhyn’s Pass. There we got stuck behind a car that would have failed its roadworthy test and its passenger count. Going over a 800m pass is a feat in itself, but to do it at 20km per hour without rolling backwards is nothing short of remarkable.

The view was equally remarkable and T-Bird had ample time and opportunity to hang out the window taking photos whilst shouting “Wow, look at all this space!” Followed shortly by “Look at all this land! Who does it belong to?” If T-Bird ever goes missing I know where to look for her. She’ll be staking out her plot somewhere between Van Rhynnsdorp and Van Ryhn’s Pass.

After spluttering up the pass, we finally saw a sign welcoming us to the Northern Cape. Much whoop whooping was followed by exclamations of glee. There were carpets of flowers. There were windmills. We were in photographer’s heaven. After stop-starting all the way from the welcome sign to Nieuwoudtville, we arrived at Bokmakierie.

The keys were in the postbox as promised and we settled in under the watchful eyes of a herd of sheep and a handful of goats. Completely into the tea-followed-by-a-nap pattern by now, I was woken up by a knock at the door. Sleepy-eyed I was welcomed to Nieuwoudtville and handed half a dozen chicken eggs and half a dozen duck eggs by the neighbour. I could seriously get used to small town hospitality.

That evening we took a walk to the “ruins”. These buildings are the remains of the homesteads and outbuildings of the early pioneers and farmers who settled in this area. Many of the houses that we passed en-route had sheep practically in their backyard, whilst others had windmills. Most had chickens.

That night, we had a braai under the stars whilst being serenaded by an orchestra comprising of a lonesome peacock, a creaking windmill and trilling frogs. Apart from the occasional car on the main road, these were the only sounds that evening. Sipping wine bought from one of the numerous bottle stores in Van Rhynsdorp, we didn’t have a care in the world and it crossed our minds that we should never go home.

The next day we visited the Dutch Reformed church, which was built in 1897 on land purchased from the Nieuwoudt brothers. This Neo-Gothic sandstone church is a national monument and forms the centrepiece of the town’s attractions. We were most fascinated by the well-preserved horse-drawn hearse which is taken out of its “garage”behind the church on a daily basis. (OK, we also tried to figure out how we were going to have our photo taken in the hearse, but don’t tell anyone.)

Then it was off to Matjiesfontain Paadstal and taking more photos of ruins before heading out  to Loriesfontein in search of flowers and a windmill museum. The locals were right in saying that “the flowers have been a bit of a no-show this year”, but we managed to find a few on the way. We happily clambered over farmer’s gates to get our flower fix, whilst keeping an eye out for stray bulls. Despite the flower carpet no-show, there were flowers everywhere if you looked (and trespassed).

The road to Loeriesfontein is straight out of Thelma and Louise. A long road to nowhere where the only living things you are likely to see are the crows picking their way through bits of roadkill. I prayed the already rattling car would not break down, knowing the chances of us being found were minimal. The crows would probably get to us before a human did.

Our reason for hitting a lonesome road out to Loeriesfontein? The Fred Turner-museum, fondly known as the Windmill Museum, which houses a unique collection of windmills. Loeriesfontein was particularly quiet on this Saturday afternoon and we had the windmills to ourselves. We may have even had the town to ourselves. Before taking photographs we sat quietly in awe of about 20 silver windpumps, eating sandwiches and listening to the eerie creak of the blades.

The museum itself is stuffed full of town memorabilia, including photos, tins, implements, household crockery and cutlery, an old cash register and other bits and pieces that have been collected from families through the years. There’s even an ox-wagon. After having our fill of history and faded photographs, we made our way back to Nieuwoudtville, stopping off to see the quiver forest and waterfall.

With over 3000 trees, the quiver tree forest is one of the largest in the world.  It is the only time I have ever walked up a mountain with sweat pouring off my face and not complained. Whilst we walked around taking photographs and enjoying the views and solitude, I imagined the Khoi-San hunters hollowing out the branches to make quivers for their arrows. The San are no longer making their quivers, but considering the quiver tree can live up to 400 years they will hopefully be there for a long time.

From there it was a quick visit to the Nieuwoudtville Falls, which were way above any expectation we had. Taking in the 100m falls and staring down the deep ravines made us feel very small. We paddled in crystal clear pools, watched others splashing in pools far below (how did they get there?) and laughed at parents trying to stop their children from going too close to the edge. It was our last stop in a long hot day and we regretted not being able to stay longer, or having brought our swimming costumes.

That evening we went out on the town to a popular local restaurant which had come well recommended. From the minute you walk through the door at  Die Nedersetting you are made to feel part of the community. The restaurant is run by Wessie and Hester with Hester doing most of the cooking. Wessie is a larger-than-life person whose warmth and good sense of humour will have you coming back for seconds if the delicious home-made food doesn’t get you first.

I had the creamy Butternut Soup with a hint of ginger followed by one of my favourites, Bobotie. Both were delicious and I loved the fact that the bobotie came in its own little bowl. Wessie had made each one individually. T-Bird, not being one with much of an appetite was happy to have the soup and a Bloody Mary.

The menu is extensive with moo-burgers and cackle-burgers, toasted sandwiches, steak from the kraal, chicken from the coop, fish from the ocean and a dessert selection. Making up your mind could take some time. There’s also a lunchtime bar menu (we liked the lunchtime bar idea) and a teatime selection (with yummy cakes). On top of all that there’s a wide choice of beverages, from cappuchinos to milkshakes and wine, cocktails and beer. Not bad for a restaurant that has only been open since the end of July!

Freshly brewed coffee followed and we sat and chatted to Wessie who had many an amusing story to tell about the people who have visited her restaurant, including a tale of the lady who ordered four hamburger patties for her sausage dogs. When we left that evening we felt like part of a big happy countryside family and it was with leaden steps and heavy hearts that we left Nieuwoudtville the next day. But not before a final cup-of- tea-with-a-hug at Die Nedersetting.

This rustic cottage with its very own windmill will steal your heart from the minute you hop out the car to open the gate. It’s filled with whimsical country pieces and homely touches. There is one double bedroom and another has two single beds. The lounge has a huge fireplace for wintery nights indoors and there is a braai area outside for summery ones under the stars.

All linen and towels are provided as well as electric blankets and hot water bottles. The kitchen comes well-equipped – you will even find jars of herbs. There is a two-plate cooker and microwave, but no oven. The owner, Margie, has provided an informative “book” of things to do and see in the area which we used like a bible. Margie is also well known in the town for her flower map, where you can tick off the flowers you see in the area.

Contact Margie on 078 1619 369 or email [email protected].
Die Nedersetting
The restaurant only opened in July and I doubt that the fact it is the only a-la-carte restaurant in town is the main reason for its popularity. The meals are delicious, the service is with a smile and the warmth is tangible. There is also a guesthouse with four rooms if you have too many cocktails or just want to stay for breakfast.

It has history too. The building is from 1897 (same year as the church) and has been a shop and a bank before being a place where you can get a good meal. Word of caution: if the thought crosses your mind to rob the pantry for fresh bobotie ingredients, think again, it has very thick walls as it was originally the bank safe.

Die Niedersetting is open for dinner from 8pm until late every day during season (end July to end September). Pop in for lunch on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Various accommodation options are available and prices vary according to season. From R160 pppn for room only, R220 pppn for bed and breakfast and R320 pppn for dinner, bed and breakfast.

Contact Wessie on 027 218 1025 / 082 496 7875 or email [email protected]

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