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SShould you ever find yourself on a Sunday stroll around Amandelboom, the so-called coloured township of Williston village in the Upper Karoo, best you not be hung-over. 

That's because, at any moment, you might turn the corner and encounter the Williston Brigade in its full, blaring, marching, joyous glory, waking saints and sinners alike before the Sunday church services begin. 

Amandelboom was the original name of this little Northern Cape village on the Sak River, which began life as a Rhenish mission station in 1845. It was named after the wild almond tree where the first missionaries encamped, and then renamed in honour of the then-colonial secretary of the Cape, Colonel Hampden Willis. 

But back to the Williston Brigade, and modern-day Amandelboom. Brigade leader Major Cyril Swart says every time his band marches, '2 or 3 join our flock'. 

The local population is predominantly Nama (of Khoikhoi descent), and the older generation still talks of the river snake that can turn into a beautiful woman, or a dust devil, at will. 

This legend stretches far up into the Richtersveld, to the original abode of the river snake, the Orange River. There was once a mystical connection between the river snake and the coming-of-age ceremonies of the young Nama girls of the region. 

Enjoy traditional Nama Riel dances performed by adults or children. These can be booked through the owner of 'Die Ark' – a well-known guest house in town. 

And if this was 200 years ago, they would probably have gone down to the Sak River and performed for the Great Snake as well. 

Did You Know?

TTravel tips & planning info 

 

Who to contact 

 

Die Ark  
Tel: +27 (0)53 391 3659 
Email: arkgastehuiswilliston@gmail.com 

 

How to get here 

 

Williston lies on the R63 between Calvinia and Carnarvon in the Northern Cape province. The driving distance from Cape Town to Williston is about 450km. 

 

Best time to visit 

 

Spring/early summer - August to October; Autumn - April /May. Summers are blisteringly hot, winters brutally cold. 

 

Things to do 

 

Corbelled houses, the Tombstone Route and day trips to Sutherland – home to SALT, the largest telescope in the southern hemisphere. Sutherland is 140km from Williston. Book a tour of SALT through the Karoo Highlands Tourism Office. There’s the Williston Winter Festival in August. 

 

Where to stay 

 

There are a number of B&Bs, and self-catering and guest house options in Williston. 

 

What to eat 

 

This is meat country, so if you have carnivore tendencies you can enjoy succulent lamb chops and steaks at most establishments in the village. 

 

Related links 

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