25 June 2012 by Chris Marais

Kalahari bucket list #1: Van Zylsrus Hotel

The Van Zylsrus Hotel is a must-do on anyone’s Kalahari Bucket List. Its off-the-wall decor and sense of humour just add to the lustre of this far-flung country establishment.

The zany Van Zylsrus Hotel – in the middle of nowhere

Back in 1989, my spies inform me, the tiny Kalahari hamlet of Van Zylsrus was given its first traffic stop sign.

Too right – Van Zylsrus is so far away from anything, it might well be closer to the Sahara...

‘You should have seen the fuss they made about it,’ say my informants. ‘It was hot news all over the bar at the Van Zylsrus Hotel.’

Me, I’ve always wanted to visit this place. It’s on my bucket list of 20 things to do and see in the Kalahari before I kick the proverbial bucket myself.

Gimme a cold one, it’s been a long ride in the old Isuzu saddle.

So here I am, keen as mustard. I know about traffic signs and stuff because I come from Cradock where, my other spies tell me, we once had a set of traffic lights. But, due to general lack of interest (and, I suspect, a certain degree of non-compliance), they took our traffic lights away. And everything slumped back into a state of polite country chaos.

It’s a hot day, and the sign at the entrance to the town says: ‘Relax, this is Van Zylsrus.’

The hotel is the last word in quirky country decor

You should see this hotel, which has been completely rebuilt. Nothing of its former status as a 2-star dive remains.

You could wander about the premises for days and never be bored. There’s an arty little folly here, a creative little niche there, with eccentricities abounding. It’s a 4-star boutique in the desert; but more importantly, it’s a desert hotel with complete attitude – and full-on artfulness.

Inlaid patterns, galvanised steel buckets, water fountains and meerkats – of course meerkats – hand-crafted mirrors, basins, interesting toilet seats and a bar that comes as close to Mardi Gras as the Kalahari ever will, with shiny lights and signs and stuff.

Gimme a cold one, it’s been a long ride in the old Isuzu saddle.

The owner buys his stuff from auctions, or has them made by a genius crafter from Zimbabwe. He knows the value of having a drinking hole with a good back story. And so, to everyone’s delight, he’s busy building that legend – on a daily basis.

Category: Attractions

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