The little town of Eksteenfontein in the Richtersveld World Heritage Site has a fascinating history. Those who ended up here were victims of racism and Apartheid rules. In the 1990s, fortunes changed as the people of the Richtersveld realised how valuable and sensitive the local plant life was.

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The Basters’ original iron-and-wood church was dismantled and brought to Eksteenfontein nearly 70 years ago.

Eksteenfontein, perched on the very edge of the Richtersveld World Heritage Site, has one of the most interesting histories of any South African town.

Most of the people there come from Baster ancestry. These people of mixed blood (in Afrikaans, 'baster' means ‘hybrid’ or ‘mixed’) were forcibly removed from the white farming area near Pofadder in the Northern Cape in 1945.

Their new home in a ‘coloured area’ was negotiated for them by a Reverend Eksteen and had the unpromising name of Stinkfontein ('stinking spring'). The oldest people of Eksteenfontein still remember the month-long trek to their new home – made on foot and with carts pulled by donkeys and oxen.

There were no roads, and the brackish water en route made many sick. When they arrived they had to cope with a sometimes hostile Nama people who had lived here for centuries.
The settlement, named in honour of the pastor who had helped them find a new place to live, became something of a town of last resort for marginalised and disaffected people.

No one had any idea then, that their new home – the Richtersveld – would one day be recognised as one of the foremost floral destinations in the world.

This botanical wonderland became a World Heritage Site, declared for its natural and cultural importance, in 2007.

It’s an intriguing town to visit – and not only because of the floral bounty or the stock farmers who migrate with their livestock according to the seasons.

You can stay in the middle of town at a comfortable (but basic) guest house owned by the community, or take a slow donkey ride to the Rooiberg Guest House 15km away.
Enquire about sampling traditional food like delicious bread cooked on an open fire or dumplings cooked in goatsmilk, or seeing a demonstration of the 'Nama Stap' ('Nama Step') – a traditional dance.

The longer you stay in Eksteenfontein, the more you’ll be drawn into the everyday lives of these interesting people. Go to a church service and listen to the Eksteenfontein String Band (known as the 'Snar Orkes'). Or just head for the local games shop where you can meet the youth, listen to their music and shoot some pool.

Go and visit a nomadic livestock farming family nearby. You’ll feel a whole new appreciation for the sustainable relationship the Richtersvelders have with their arid yet beautiful land.

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