Friday, 2 July 2010

Castles in the Karoo

There’s something about small towns that attracts people with a certain kind of energy. I know this because I live in a small town, and although it’s become rather gentrified over the last decade or so, it still boasts its fair share of eccentrics. As, judging by some of the structures in this little Karoo village, does Nieu-Bethesda.

Although Helen Martin’s Owl House certainly put Nieu-Bethesda on the tourist map, this castle is worth more than a passing glance. Jakob, the local tourist guide who offers donkey-cart trips through the village accompanied by a lively and very entertaining commentary on the town and its denizens (and on how he came to own his two ‘kêrels’, his darling donkeys, despite the initial scepticism of his wife, Betty), told us that it was built single-handedly by someone with the unlikely name of Dusty Canyon. (It is possible that I misheard, or that I misinterpreted the name spoken in Jakob’s fairly strong Afrikaans accent.)

This little castle has been built entirely with local stone. I particularly enjoy the counterpoint of the dragon peering around one side of a circular room, and the satellite dish installed on the other.

Echoing the castle theme in the town is this charming (new) building, part of a community project. The tower has three storeys – the café kitchen is on the bottom floor; there’s a room with twin beds in the middle; and the top storey boasts a circular double bed.

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