(published on 18 May 2016)
Calvinia is a sleepy little town just south of the Hantam Mountains on the banks of the Oorlogskloof (meaning “War Ravine” River), with broad streets which the inhabitants negotiate with an easy and relaxed gait and a refreshing approach towards the concept of the passage of time
The town, the mystery of the lost children and the joy of eating mutton tripe...
I was looking and feeling like a fugitive that just escaped from a Spaghetti Western with Clint Eastwood and a bloodthirsty posse hot on his trail. The sun, dust, non-stop music and good times took a heavy toll on me at AfrikaBurn and I felt a desperate need to escape the noise and people.
As I was driven to the gate with my two bags and guitar by a friend (so I can hitch a ride anywhere northwards), when we stopped next to a jovial man with an energetic spirit and a joyful glint in his eyes named Dirk. He was busy dismantling stretch tents. I inquired about the possibility of accommodation and without hesitation he offered me a few days respite at the guest rooms him and his wife; Sonja, owns in the small town of Calvinia. It is called the Republic of RusticA, and it’s one of my best finds so far in the more than eight months I have been experiencing this gypsy lifestyle.
This was a tremendous relief and I am still here, being cared for like an English Lord in colonial India, and so I decided to do a quick blog about this town in the heart of Namaqualand before I move on.
The eclectic and wonderfully eccentric Republic of RusticA
Namaqualand refers to an arid region of South Africa (and Namibia) and forms part of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. This area is probably best known for its abundance of veldt flowers that decorate its wide plains in spring. This is known as the Namaqualand daisy season and it’s a time when a colourful abundance of many different types of flowers sprout and bloom from the normally barren soil. At this time of year this region becomes a popular tourist destination.
The name ‘Namaqua’’ refers to the indigenous population that is a subgroup of the Khoikhoi people that inhabit this area.
Calvinia flower season
Calvinia is a sleepy little town just south of the Hantam Mountains on the banks of the Oorlogskloof (meaning “War Ravine” River with broad streets which the inhabitants negotiate with an easy and relaxed gait and a refreshing approach to the concept of the passage of time. There is no need to rush things here. Walk into a computer shop to fix your laptop and you can expect to spend some time in languid conversation about all kinds of little things that makes life interesting, the kind of things city folk tend to ignore and miss out on in their mad dash to keep up with the Joneses. There is no need for that material attitude towards life over here. There is a type of simplicity and beauty to the flow of the verse that you simply don’t find anywhere else.
Calvinia also enjoys an abundance of starlight and is renowned for its kaleidoscope of spring wildflowers, it’s succulent mutton and it’s friendly people.
Calvinia Street Life
I have history in this area. Deep family roots. My grandmother had a café 118 kilometres to the south-west in Van Ryhnsdorp where I use to visit as a child. You get there by traversing the Knersvlakte just below the Van Ryhns Pass where other family relations had a sheep farm in this region with its abundance of quartz crystals that apparently made a peculiar gnashing sound when the Voortrekker wagons of times passed traversed the area. Later on she lived in an old house with a creaky wooden floor adjacent to a funeral parlour with her second husband in Niewoudtville, a mere 60 km to the south of Calvinia.
I remember the skuinskoek (diagonal cakes), the rooibos tea fresh from the farm, the curried sweetmeats and the African Grey parrot babbling noisily next to the bookshelf with tremendous fondness. She instilled a love for cooking and reading in me that perseveres to this day. I feel strangely at home in this less populated area of our country. The silence of the wide open spaces stirs a type of introspective melancholy that is hard to describe. This is good place to simply let go and spend some quality time developing your inner dialogue. Relax, slow down and inhale some peace, quiet and healthy platteland (countryside) air.
Skuinskoek (Diagonal Cakes)
I felt immediately at home at the Republic of RusticA. It is a truly unique space with Dirk being the collector of many old an interesting things. You can spend a fair amount of time simply taking it all in. Dirk, Sonja their family and their amazing staff are also some of the most hospitable people I have ever come across. We had tremendous times in the ‘No Cry Bar’ where we cooked and socialized with friends and new acquaintances. Their non-judgmental and open-minded approach to life invigorates the space with a happy atmosphere that makes you feel relaxed and at home in this eclectic and eccentric space. It is a place I will miss, and undoubtedly revisit in the future.
I decided to write and record songs using a combination of software on my laptop and my video camera as a sort of a mobile studio, and this is one about Calvinia. The aim is to record original songs in collaboration with local artists and to produce an album at the end of the season. This will also be a crowdfunding project.
(prices valid at the time of publishing)
Places to Stay
Tel: 027 341 1423 / Cell: 079 552 1040
R 600 per room - B.B.
Tel: 027 341 1606 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
From R 400 to R 550 p.p. - B.B.
Tel: 027 3411 263
Single Room - R 430 : Double - R 640 (R320 p.p.s.) - B.B.
Tel: 027 341 1512 / Email: email@example.com
Single Room - R 400 : Double - R 375 p.p. (children 2 to 10 - R200) - B.B.
Places to Eat
Curried Tripe - R 120 : Spring-buck Pie - R 40 etc.
Die Blou Nartjie
Deboned Karoo Lamb Rib - R 105 : Bobotie - R 85 etc.
Rump Streak (300 g) - R 120 : Hamburger - R 45 etc.
Prawns - R 150 : Pizzas from R 40 to R 125 etc.
Things to Do
Go Watch the Seasonal Flowers
With it's broad roads, little traffic and pollution free wide expanses, Calvinia is the ideal place for this activity.
WHERE TO NEXT?