17 July 2012 by Julienne du Toit

A tap on the road

South Africa’s roadsides are rather eccentric at times, especially in the Karoo. You may find a large rock painted as a tortoise, or an ancient bedstead that doubles as a grave. But what is the story behind this odd little tap?

A strange sign along the N9 in the Karoo. Photo Chris Marais

If you’re driving along the N9 between the Karoo towns of Willowmore and Uniondale, you may spot a brown road sign with a tap featured on it.

In fact, I’ve heard say that this is the only road sign in the country that points out a tap.

Despite a warning that you drink at your own risk, the water is pure and sweet. Photo Chris Marais

The tap is to the side of a small shelter with picnic tables. It’s low down, wedged into a metal and concrete circle that contains the following Afrikaans words scratched into the cement: “Water is kosbaar” (water is precious). The tap works perfectly, and from it gushes pure, sweet water.

But why is it here?

It turns out that Meyer van Rensburg of the adjoining farm, Groenrand, had always thanked his lucky stars for the glorious sweet water that has flowed constantly and abundantly from a mountain spring on his farm. He felt he should share it with thirsty wayfarers.

Raise a glass to Meyer van Rensburg – a grateful man in a dry land, who shared his good water with strangers.

He is typical of most Karoo farmers, who must surely rank among the most hospitable and generous people in the world.

The basset pup carefully examined the tap. Photo Chris Marais

When we stopped there recently, we drank deep from the tap, and refilled our bottles. As we were walking back to our vehicle, another pulled up. A family tumbled out, with the cutest, most doleful basset puppy. They told us they were taking it to its new home with a family in Willowmore, and ushered it towards the water.

The pup regarded the tap with grave misgivings, as basset hounds do. But while 1 of the children held up its long ears, it drank the water.

A week later we heard that Meyer van Rensburg had just died. His son, Danie, has taken over Groenrand.

The tap, said Danie, will remain unchanged.

So if you’re in the area, stop to drink the water. And raise a glass to Meyer van Rensburg – a grateful man in a dry land, who shared his good water with strangers.

Finally the pup drank, while 1 of the teenagers held his long ears out of the way. Photo Chris Marais

Category: Routes & Trails

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