10 October 2010 by Chris Marais

My Pal The Patchwork Man

Early in July, my wife Jules and I crossed the Great Karoo from Knysna to the Williston Winter Festival.

As day trips go, this one is epic. Between George and Oudtshoorn, the Montagu Pass is majestic, but once you’re deep in the Cape Fold Mountains of Meiringspoort, it’s like Hobbits are hiding behind the rocks. Just waiting for you to pass so they can continue feasting, casting spells or whatever they do in this magical, secret stone cathedral.

Then you’re on the roof of Middle Earth, winding along the sweetest road in South Africa: the Swartberg Pass. Built by Thomas Baines, the “Man with the Theodolite Eyes”, this 20-odd km stretch of mountaintop road is as perfectly cambered as the day it was built, more than a century ago.

Pass the hamlet of Prince Albert and you’re out in the open plains of the Karoo, where you can see friend or foe approaching for miles around. That’s where my mate Outa Lappies lives.

They call him the Patchwork Man, and he looks the part. Outa - Western Cape Tourism’s Personality of the Year for 2001 - is a gaunt old man who bashes tin and broken bits of glass into rough shapes you only appreciate back home, when they’re catching sunrise light in your bathroom.

And so we visited him again on this trip, in his little railway house in Prince Albert Road Station, just off the N1 highway. And although we hadn’t seen him for three years, Outa grinned and spoke as if we’d just popped out for a pie and had returned.

And he told us, like he always tells us:

“Pretty lady and man with camera, you must wake up and make something out of nothing every day…”

* Outa Lappies passed away on July 6. He will be sorely missed.

Category: Culture & History

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