You know that Clint Eastwood movie – the one where he rides into town on a tired horse, squinting into the dust. He heads to the nearest (unfranchised) watering hole, climbs the few stairs (spurs tinkling) and bursts through the creaking saloon doors. A few unwashed heathens (unbelievers of Clint) straggle to their feet, spitting some foul tobacco flavoured obscenities, and as they are still thinking about reaching for their six-shooters, they’re despatched from this world – with a belly full of hot lead and ice cold revenge.
Well, this place isn’t really like that. Driving the 30 kays of dirt road into town on a hot afternoon is thirsty work, and thankfully Die Waenhuis is on the main drag near the B&B we’ve booked. First impressions – big old square building, dating back a century or two – it must have started life as a barn or maybe even some high-ceilinged little school house (or a wagon garage, as the name suggests – Ed.).
Inside, it’s bare necessities – dusty floor, quaint tables and chairs – a roughly-hewn bar takes up the one wall. Sunlight washes in from the right, lending the place a quiet, old world feel, and a few self-conscious tourists shuffle about, coaxing the 100 year old dust from corner to corner. The Amstels are ice cold, the house wine is decent, but I’m sure we were charged the ‘out-of-towner’ rate (15 bucks ZAR per bottle of beer), which is right up there with some of Joburg’s pricier joints.
There’s a big screen TV nailed to the wall (we were losing at the cricket, again), and a fireplace smack bang in the middle – apparently winters here are murderous. We opted to park our lazy bones outside on the benches, where you can watch the sun set behind the mountain, and see the potjiekos slow cook in the waning light.
Every now and then you’re treated to the sight of a few local lads riding their ponies hard around the block, bare-back horsemanship that makes your dangly bits shrivel. In the city, these same boys would be doing burn-outs in their Opel Corsas, with the hip-hop pumping. Thank goodness they haven’t figured out how to mount an amp on a horse. For din-dins tonight – lamb potjie (stew) – rice and samp (just say if you’d like some more and you’ll get seconds) – a few more wetties and then it’s time to walk to bed, 2 blocks away. Donkey-brays and jackal-howls quicken the pace, and soon we’re passed out on a quilted bedspread, with the resident house cat purring quietly on my face. - Jason Bronkhorst
Nieu Bethesda, Karoo, Eastern Cape