Matjiesfontein Meander

Posted in clicking 365 project

Matjiesfontein Meander

On a train sounding very much like a centipede or shongololo, is how I arrived in Matjiesfontein the last time I was there. It was a circus, one long party all the way from Cape Town to Matjiesfontein and back. The engineer was probably the only person who didn’t have direct doings with the revellers. His lucky day.

Instead of turning right when we came to the N1 we went straight over the road to Matjiesfontein. Who on earth could possibly imagine such a place here, in the middle of the Karoo. A refreshment station, hotel and small village.

I confess I am in two minds about places like this, on the one hand I love it when a plan comes together, when someone has a grand idea and it all falls into place, I can only admire that. Babylons Toren comes to mind. I look at some of these ludicrous grand schemes and all I think is delusions of grandeur.

The usual suspects, Cecil John Rhodes, James Douglas Logan, James Sivewright, were the people who masterminded this refreshment station for the railways going to and from the gold fields and diamond mines. I’m sure if the walls could speak we’d hear stories of tender manipulations, corruption, sordid to the 99th degree. Like landed gentry they were all on this gravy train. What has changed?

“It is curious, and to me very attractive this mixture of civilization & the most wild untamed freedom; the barren mountains & wild Karroo & the railway train."- Olive Schreiner, March 25th 1890

“Take a trip on the Old London Bus, let yourself be summoned to dinner by trumpet, soak up the history in the Transport or Victoriana museums, take in the uniqueness of the Little Karoo with veld walks, hikes and mountain bikes, visit the Boer War British Army remount encampment site (c.1900) nearby, play a game of tennis or Petanque, or simply relax, and read in the hotel's opulent lounges or by the residents only pool.” Taken from the hotel’s website.

It’s a fascinating place, steeped in history, Victorian drama, colonialism and a good pit stop no matter your political view, (as Precious is fond of saying “we have principles, but if you don’t like them we have others’).  I read somewhere that the first cricket games were played here too.

We ordered our Gin and Tonics in the infamous bar, had lunch on the long veranda, the smell of red floor polish still lingers, the hotel cat was as snooty as becomes a cat. I strolled around the gardens enjoying the Monet like scene and reflections in the water, sat for a while in the chapel and admired the artifacts in the museum.

We enjoyed our short visit, it reminds me of The Polana in Maputo, The Metrapole in Hanoi, The Imperial in New Delhi, Raffles and The Fullerton in Singapore, The Harksmoor House Hotel in Stellenbosch, The Mount Nelson in Cape Town and The Grand Central in Mumbai. Love them all.