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SSteytlerville in the Eastern Cape is the kind of town where you can do absolutely nothing. It’s also a place enjoy a Saturday cabaret and learn about the night skies, how angora farming works and how to pluck a goose for her down feathers.
The first thing you should learn when you visit the Karoo – South Africa’s dry heartland – is the time-honoured art of ‘stoep-sitting’ (sitting on the verandah).
Stoep-sitting means a lot more than parking on a porch and doing nothing.
Yes, there’s a lot of doing nothing involved, but you have to do nothing in a meaningful way when you stoep-sit in the Karoo. There’s meditation, reflection and intense chatting involved, along with complete and utter inactivity except for the occasional raising of a glass of red wine in honour of a fine Karoo sunset.
And if you're stoep-sitting in Steytlerville in the Eastern Cape, you're doing it in arguably the stoep-sitting capital of South Africa.
Its massive porches, wide streets, bull-nosed Victorian verandahs and polished floors – combined with its inherent lack of urgency – put it way up there in the stoep-sitting stakes.
And there’s always something to talk about in Steytlerville. There’s always something going on in this town of artists and retired folk.
Like, what are the boys out at the Karroo Theatrical Hotel up to this Saturday night? Another innovative cabaret performance by Dame Leyla Lamborghini?
And what’s happening at the Royal Hotel? The place is packed with bikers, their machines gleaming, and leather and club patches galore.
And young Danie Craven, grandson of the Springbok rugby legend, what’s he doing out at Noorspoort Farm, where it’s a delight to wake up on a winter’s morning under a duck-down duvet and contemplate a day of patting farm animals and reading a thick book?
There goes Jan Pampoen (Pumpkin), cycling to the local golf course to hunt for earthworm mounds (Steytlerville earthworms – rumoured to be the longest in the world – can measure up to 2m).
Anyway, Jan’s off to find a couple of these giant earthworms. He cuts them up and sells them for bait.
So, as we open another bottle of pinotage, we settle in on this evening for another session of world-class stoep-sitting, right here in Steytlerville...
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Royal Hotel Steytlerville
Tel: +27 (0)49 835 0385
Noorspoort Guest Farm
Cell: +27 (0)60 646 8536
Karoo Theatrical Hotel
Tel: +27 (0)49 835 0010
How to get here
Steytlerville lies next to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area in the shadow of the great Winterhoek Mountains. Steytlerville is approximately 170km west of Port Elizabeth and 150km south of Graaff-Reinet.
Best time to visit
Any time of the year is great to visit Steytlerville except for high summer (December/January) when it is very hot.
Around the area
Explore the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve and the towns of Graaff-Reinet, Nieu Bethesda, Jansenville and Willowmore.
Tours to do
Guarri Safaris offers guided self-drive tours into the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve and Gamtoos Valley.
It's best to drive yourself in this part of the world. Hire a car from Port Elizabeth; it needn’t be an SUV, as the road to Steytlerville is in reasonable condition.
What will it cost?
Accommodation is generally in the R500 to R700 range per person per night.
Length of stay
Steytlerville is worth at least 2 days of your time.
What to pack
Pack for the outdoors, because you might find yourself traipsing over farmlands and into the surrounding mountains.
Where to stay
You are spoilt for accommodation choices, which include the Royal Hotel in Steytlerville, Noorspoort Guest Farm or the Karroo Theatrical Hotel.
What to eat
Substantial meals are offered in Steytlerville, in true Karoo tradition, so prepare yourself for lamb, venison and full plates.
Mohair, sheepskin and angora products like blankets, scarves and slippers.
- Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency
- Baviaans Tourism
- Karroo Theatrical Hotel
- Royal Hotel Steytlerville