03 September 2012 by Chris Marais

Fun in the Camel Yard

Nieu Bethesda, the Karoo village in the mountains, is dear to many thousands of visitors – and the Owl House draws them all.

The Camel Yard of the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda

If I visit Nieu Bethesda once more this year, I might as well buy a house here.

Owls are everywhere – even on the water tank

I don’t know what it is about this little village in the Sneeuberg mountains. I mean, the roads aren’t even tarred – by special request from the locals, it turns out.

Nieu Bethesda has kudu salami, goat’s cheese, Karoo Ale and the marvellous potjie stews of one Ian Allemann.

It gets really cold down here in winter, and then hot like a witch’s oven in midsummer, and yet you’ll spot that Karoo Space bakkie of ours time and again, mostly parked outside the famous Owl House.

Across the road is the Karoo Lamb restaurant, behind that is the Ram Stal Pub and across the river is the 2 Goats Deli & Sneeuberg Brewery.

OK, you’re starting to get the picture. Nieu Bethesda has a couple of things going for it. Like kudu salami, goat’s cheese, Karoo Ale and the marvellous potjie stews of one Ian Allemann.

This guy must have just had a classic Karoo meal...

But back to the Owl House. I’ve seen people from all over the world come here and have different reactions to the shiny bits on display in the late Miss Helen Martins’s home – as well as the cement figures in her yard.

It leaves some completely unmoved, and they wander off in search of a drink instead. Others are visibly enraged by the complex mix of religious icons. But most are intrigued by the world of this outsider artist who was made famous by playwright Athol Fugard in Road to Mecca.

I find the Camel Yard outside the Owl House most interesting because the cast of characters changes texture and tone as the daylight arrives, grows bleak at midday and then returns to soft gold at sunset.

I like the chicken man trying to close his pants after eating too much. I like the cement hostesses welcoming me with a beer. I like the lady in eternal communication with the owl on the arch. I think the other fat guy could smile a bit, though. He comes across too serious for a Buddha. Maybe it was something 1 of the 3 wise men said.

So if you’re in the vicinity, come and visit the Camel Yarders of Nieu Bethesda. The village holds a lovely festival in the 3rd week of September, which is also Heritage Weekend in South Africa. And you’re most welcome...

Accommodation enquires: www.nieu-bethesda.com.

The lady and the owl – in eternal conversation

Category: Attractions

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