Rietbron, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
The mother church of Rietbron has the only springbok-shaped steeple in South Africa.
When people inform you that the Karoo, South Africa’s arid heartland, is flat and featureless, it might reveal two things about them:
One: They were fast asleep when someone drove them through the Karoo;
Two: They have never actually been to the Karoo.
That’s because in 99 percent of the Karoo, you’re always within sight of a mountain range, an outcrop of conical hills and, in many parts of the Little Karoo, surrounded by craggy peaks.
Except when you drive into the little Eastern Cape village of Rietbron, on the R306 between Beaufort West and Willowmore.
Maybe it’s the heat, the dust, maybe it’s the dancing mirages, but here as you stand in the centre of Rietbron and look all about you, it is indeed ‘flat and featureless’. Rietbron is in a barren part of Die Vlakte (the plains), and its main attribute lies in the hearts of the people who live there. And, of course, the vibrant mohair industry that stretches from here to Willowmore to Jansenville in the east.
The local Dutch Reformed Church has a strong congregation and a lively set of legends to go with it. Here’s the story about the long-winded Dominee Kruger: 'Sunday sermons were recorded, and the recordings were taken around to various aged church members during the week so they could also hear the word.
'One Sunday afternoon Dominee Kruger was curious to hear how his own voice sounded on tape. So, after lunch, he made himself comfortable and switched on the recorder to listen to himself. He woke up as the congregation was singing the closing hymn…'
The village hosts an annual sporting festival in aid of the local primary school that is attended by loyal ‘Rietbronners’ from all over South Africa. And because Rietbron is truly ‘in the middle of nowhere’, it has become a firm favourite with weekenders yearning for an escape to a place where nothing really happens…
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
De Witten Huis
Tel: +27 (0)44 934 1057
Tel: +27 (0)44 934 1068
Mobile: +27 (0)76 922 9069
Ons Bekker's Huis: Lizelle Murray
Tel: +27 (0)44 934 1139
Mobile: +27 (0)84 811 2004
How to get here
Rietbron lies on the R306 between Beaufort West and Willowmore. It's about 100km from Beaufort West, or a little over an hour's drive. It's a decent dirt road, but take it easy, nevertheless.
Best time to visit
Come at the change of seasons: March/April, September/October to avoid excessive heat or cold. Visit in the shoulder seasons of spring (September to October) and autumn (April/May).
Around the area
Arrange some farm visits to see Karoo life in the raw.
You'll need to drive yourself in your own car or a hired one, presumably on a road trip originating in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth or Johannesburg. Apart from day drives out to Willowmore or Beaufort West, once you're ensconced in Rietbron village, everything is within easy walking distance.
What will it cost
Accommodation (self-catering) ranges from R100 to R200 per person per night.
Length of stay
A two-night stay-over is advised, for a relaxing getaway and a chance to bond with the locals.
What to pack
Nights can be chilly in Rietbron, even in summer. Pack warm clothes for just in case.
Where to stay
De Witten Huis (The White House) or Veewagterhuis (Shepherd's House). Both are self-catering, so bring some groceries with you. Both Beaufort West and Willowmore have a number of food stores where you can stock up.
What to eat
You're in the Karoo, so it's time to barbecue some lamb chops, which are a local specialty.
Apart from the sports festival in March, it's a quiet place.