KAROO DIARY: Getting Smashed in Steytlerville

So this is a true Karoo Moment

Jules and I are sitting on the front stoep of the Karroo Theatrical Hotel. We’re spending the entire afternoon on this stoep, drinking much wine and shooting the breeze with the innovative hotel owners, Mark Hinds and Jacques Rabie.

Steytlerville, the magic Karoo village
Steytlerville, the magic Karoo village in its magic light. Photo: Chris Marais

But lest you think we’re a bunch of old soaks (well, there is that), let me hasten to add that our mission is solid. The rain, so welcome in the Karoo, is coming and going “on legs”, like the Bushmen used to say.

The front stoep of the Karroo Theatrical Hotel
The front stoep of the Karroo Theatrical Hotel – perfect vantage point. Photo: Chris Marais

It’s bringing all kinds of colour magic to the townscape of Steytlerville, in the middle distance.

And, of course, I have to photograph every tonal change.

Steytlerville skyline
Steytlerville skyline – before the second bottle of wine. Photo: Chris Marais

Steytlerville is a very special Karoo village, in the heart of Mohair Country.

Drive down its main street and you will see the crests of the families – of all cultures – who live here. To my knowledge, there is no other town in the world with such a main street.

They have a motor museum, a cheerful township restaurant called Lizzy’s Khaya, a Royal Hotel, a Valley of Flags outside the town and, for rugby lovers, there is Noorspoort Guest Farm where the legendary Dr Danie Craven spent so many years.

The hoisted family crests of the people of Steytlerville in the main street.
The hoisted family crests of the people of Steytlerville in the main street. Photo: Chris Marais

The Karroo Theatrical Hotel itself is a very special hostelry. Mark and Jacques took this infamous establishment over many years ago when it was on its last legs.

Mark and Jacques of the Karroo Theatrical Hotel
Mark and Jacques of the Karroo Theatrical Hotel. Photo: Chris Marais

They turned it into a bit of a Baghdad Café. Maybe a touch of Priscilla. With frills and angels and fun and a Saturday night burlesque show that brings in cheerful road trippers from all over the country and abroad.

So we’re just drinking our red wine, occasionally lifting a camera as the light changes and generally working very hard down here in the Karoo Heartland. That is a true Karoo moment.

Early evening descends on Steytlerville
Early evening descends on Steytlerville – time for that fourth bottle of cheeky red…Photo: Chris Marais

It’s a tough old life, to be sure. But as they say, if we don’t do it – who will?


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