When you visit Sutherland in the Karoo, 110km north of Matjiesfontein on the R354, there’s a good chance you’ll have been lured there by the promise of stars or snow.
In Sutherland, the air is clean and free of light pollution, the night skies a riot of stars. Indeed, the South African Astronomical Observatory and the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) make up one of the little town of Sutherland’s major tourist attractions. Snow is a draw card too. Sutherland is one of the few places in South Africa where you can rely on it. It’s the coldest place in the country, with a recorded minimum of minus 16.4 degrees celsius in 2003. When it snows (usually between June and August) the dorp becomes a hive of activity and the town’s 30 B&Bs – most of them named for constellations, stars or planets – burst at the seams.
The Galaxy B&B, Sutherland
Although it was October when we visited, the nights were still pretty cold. We stayed at The Galaxy, where hosts Kobus and Betsie Muller provided all the warmth we needed – both with their friendly helpfulness and the number of heaters in our cottage. There were wall heaters, a gas heater and electric blankets on the beds. What bliss to warm the icy sheets before climbing in for the night.
The Mullers are both lawyers who moved to Sutherland from Stellenbosch about five years ago, to be nearer to his mother, now 97. He was born in Sutherland and grew up in the house on the main road that today is the Cluster d’hote restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious lamb shank in elegant surroundings. Coming from the ‘mild’ Cape Winelands winters, Betsie has found it more difficult to adjust to Sutherland’s arctic temperatures.
‘It’s cold, cold, cold,’ she said, her face involuntarily pinching as she thought about it.
Kobus chipped in, ‘If it’s -9°C, it feels more like -13°C because of the wind chill factor.’
Our little stone cottage at The Galaxy wasn’t just a place to sleep. Apart from the main bedroom and bathroom, there was a small kitchen, a living area with easy chairs and a cane dining set (and two extra single beds), as well as a second toilet/shower. Lots of cupboard space and drawers, a book about stars and some Weg and Country Life magazines piled high to stave off boredom.
The Galaxy is a restored Victorian house built from local grey sandstone, with high Oregon pine ceilings, large sash windows and broekie lace. A huge pear tree was in snowlike blossom next to our cottage and orange daisies lined the garden paths.
We had breakfast on an enclosed verandah – fresh fruit with yoghurt, cinnamon-and-apple porridge, bacon/egg/sausage, the works. Everything was delicious and put together with care – a rosemary flower in the butter, a mint sprig in the fruit cup. Kobus donned an apron and got stuck in at the stove while Betsie drove to court in Williston for another day in the life of a small-town lawyer.
Although our cottage at The Galaxy was comfy and the breakfast delicious, best of all was how friendly and helpful the Mullers were, keen to help us with info about the town, willing to book star tours at the observatory or supper at a restaurant for us, entertaining us with snippets about the goings-on around town.
If ever you visit Sutherland to experience some of the things to do and see in the area, I can recommend both staying over at The Galaxy and trying the lamb shank and lemon meringue pie at Cluster d’hote.
Need to know
The Galaxy B&B www.wheretostay.co.za/thegalaxy/
7 Theron Street, Sutherland
Contact Kobus or Betsie Muller
Tel 023-5711241, cell 082-8575482 Email [email protected]
Cost R290 per person sharing for B&B
Roxanne is a writer, editor, blogger and incorrigible Africa addict. Read more about her travels here.