There s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

There’s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees

There’s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees

Calvinia, a small town nestled in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, has long been known for its Hantam Vleisfees. However, there is so much more to this charming place than just its famous festival. Let me take you on a journey to discover the hidden gems and untold stories of Calvinia.

First and foremost, the Hantam Vleisfees is indeed a remarkable event that showcases the best of the local cuisine, culture, and community spirit. Every year, people from all over gather to enjoy delicious food, live music, and traditional dances. It’s a celebration that brings the town together and puts Calvinia on the map. But don’t let this festival be the sole reason for your visit.

Calvinia offers a captivating landscape that will leave you in awe. Picture vast open plains, majestic mountains, and stunning sunsets. It’s a place where you can truly connect with nature and find solace in its tranquility. As you explore the area, you will come across unique flora and fauna, including the famous quiver trees and a variety of animal species.

The town itself is steeped in history and boasts beautiful architecture that tells stories of days gone by. Take a stroll through the streets, and you’ll be transported back in time, imagining the tales of the past. Visit the local museum to learn more about the area’s rich heritage and the people who have shaped it.

For those seeking adventure, Calvinia offers thrilling outdoor activities. Embark on a hiking trail and discover hidden waterfalls, or test your off-road driving skills in the rugged terrain. If you’re a star enthusiast, the area’s clear skies provide the perfect conditions for stargazing. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the Milky Way like never before.

And of course, no visit to Calvinia would be complete without savoring its world-famous lamb. From juicy chops to succulent roasts, the local delicacies will tantalize your taste buds and make you appreciate the culinary traditions of the region.

So, my friend, let me assure you that Calvinia has more to offer than just the Hantam Vleisfees. It’s a place of natural wonders, historical significance, and unforgettable experiences. Come and explore the hidden treasures that await you in this charming town. You won’t be disappointed.

There s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees MzansiBride

When I think of Calvinia, I immediately picture the Hantam Vleisfees and the dazzling display of flowers that burst forth in spring. But as I made my way there in the middle of April, I discovered that this sleepy town in the Northern Cape has more to offer than just seasonal blooms. Teagan Cunniffe’s stunning photographs capture the essence of Calvinia’s hidden treasures.

There s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees MzansiBride

As I’ve driven the last hundred kilometers, all I’ve seen are straight roads and crows. The R27 slices through the dry, wrinkled landscape of the late summer Karoo without deviating. So, when the Hantam mountains suddenly jut up on my dashboard, it’s not surprising that they too appear in straight lines, forming a second horizon above the first. The town of Calvinia is completely encircled by these mountains, fitting snugly like a nail in a horseshoe. In Calvinia, I feel incredibly small. A local resident once shared that she chooses to stay here because amidst these mountains, she can hear the soft whispers of the gods.

The walls of the optometrist’s office have witnessed the passage of time long before the invention of contact lenses; in fact, the building used to house a synagogue.

When I arrived in this tiny town in the Northern Cape, I only knew two things about it: lamb is a big deal here, and the place bursts with colorful flowers in the springtime. Flora and fauna. I wasn’t completely off in my assumptions. I’ve never eaten so much lamb in just three days! And it’s true that the locals share their favorite secret spots for flower viewing. But to be honest, these things aren’t unique to Calvinia – you’ll find them in other small towns in this region too. What truly sets Calvinia apart is its rich history and the stories that are etched into every corner.

Most of the buildings here have seen many lives. The optometrist’s office, for example, has stood the test of time, way back before people even wore contact lenses! And did you know that the town’s museum used to be a synagogue? It’s fascinating to think about how this place has transformed over the years. Once bustling with a thriving Jewish community that played a major role in its development, one by one, they all packed up and left. A mysterious exodus that no one can quite explain.

There s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees MzansiBride

When you arrive in Calvinia, you immediately notice the vast open spaces that surround it. On one side of the road, you see houses with beautiful back gardens adorned with wind pumps and the occasional Datsun pickup truck resting in the front yard. On the other side, there’s nothing but tumbleweeds and mountains looming over the town, creating an almost Wild West atmosphere. As I drive along, a dust devil abruptly crosses the road, causing me to hit the brakes. However, it’s not the dust devil that catches my attention; it’s the word ‘SHALOM’ displayed above a gate that makes me stop in my tracks at Bodiebering Vetplante.

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So, get this – turns out ole Theo Schutte isn’t even remotely Jewish. Nope, not a bit. He’s just a regular guy who moved here from Tzaneen a decade ago, looking for some peace and quiet. And you know what? He found it. Along with his refuge, he discovered a passion for succulents. Now, I don’t know if you’re into plants like I am, but Theo’s collection is something to behold.

Let me set the scene for you. Theo, this unassuming, quiet man, takes me into his plant sanctuary, where he cultivates these beautiful Lithops plants. And get this – he manually pollinates them with a little paintbrush. Can you believe that? It’s like a delicate art form, watching him lovingly handle these plants while his dog, Caesar, clumsily bumps into everything.

Now, here’s the best part. Theo actually sells some of his plants. So, as I’m marveling at his green thumb, he casually mentions that he’s got a kanniedood up for grabs. Of course, I couldn’t resist. I had to have it. And let me tell you, it’s a good thing I did. These plants thrive on neglect, which is perfect for someone like me who sometimes forgets to water their plants.

Theo, being the down-to-earth guy he is, explains, “The people around here don’t need much. We find peace and quiet in the simplest things. For me, it’s my dogs, my birds, and, of course, my plants.”

There s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees MzansiBride

I relate better to my loyal dogs than I do to people,” Theo Schutte tells me.

“Finding a plant that can thrive in this harsh environment is a challenge,” Theo explains. And I can see why. The scorching heat makes me feel like I am turning into a desert plant myself. For those who are not extreme gardeners, there is only one season that is perfect for flowers: spring. It is during this time that Talita de Waal feels most alive.

“You know, we came from somewhere else. And it gets so hot here that I can’t do any gardening. So I turned to reading,” Talita tells me excitedly as we sit down for coffee at the Calvinia Guesthouse, which she manages. She is full of energy as she talks about flowers, the past, and the newcomers. She even sketches maps for me in pencil and points out the best empty lots in town for finding spring flowers.

‘Dirk is our town hippy,’ she leans forward and says. ‘He’s known for his long hair and his love for wearing dresses, especially when it’s hot outside. You’ll never spot him in a shirt with a collar. Everyone always asks, “Have you seen Dirk’s dress today?”‘

Curious, I inquire where I can locate him, and she points in a direction. ‘Don’t worry, when you arrive, you’ll know.’

(Note: The provided Afrikaans text has been translated into English.)

There s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees MzansiBride

When I first arrived at Rustic Art, I couldn’t help but notice the unique and captivating atmosphere. The crispness in the air signaled that kaftan season was over, but it didn’t dampen the charm of the place. Dirk van Rensburg, along with his wife Sonja, has transformed Stigling Street into a truly remarkable destination.

As I strolled through the front garden, I couldn’t miss the clusters of about 30 buoys hanging from the lower branches of a willow tree. They created a whimsical and eye-catching display. Mixed in with the buoys were old paraffin lamps, rusted gear chains, and large rose quartz stones. The sound of Edith Piaf’s haunting melody, ‘Non, je regrette rien,’ filled the air, blending beautifully with the sight of rusted signs, a makeshift tractor-turned-generator, and wildebeest skulls. It was a mesmerizing scene that struck the perfect balance between order and chaos.

If all this incredible stuff was thrown together in a less intentional way, it might resemble a messy dump. However, the carefully orchestrated arrangement at Rustic Art transformed the eclectic collection into something magical and fantastical.

They invite me to eat with them at the Don’t Cry Bar, and we stay up late drinking questionable cherry liqueur and laughing about family and music and art and Calvinia. (Most of that is off the record.) This dusty wilderness feels like the last place to find such lively, colorful characters: but I’m quickly learning that Calvinia is full of surprises.

Before leaving the next day, I stop at a house with a small sign that says ‘The Weavery.’ A small dog barks until a curtain moves, and an 89-year-old stranger welcomes me into her home. Ann Brundyn doesn’t ask any questions: she’s just happy to see a new face. We sit down. When I ask about the weaving, she says, ‘Oh’, as if it was a passing concern and complete strangers often stop by without an explanation. She was born here – her sons are all over the place and want her to stay with them, but Calvinia is what she knows. She speaks little English and I don’t know much Afrikaans, but it doesn’t matter. We smile at each other and laugh at jokes we only half understand while smoking too many cigarettes. I finally leave after sunset, with the pink light making even the rocks in her barren front yard look soft. It’s hard to believe that in a few months, this old riverbed will burst into a colorful sea of flowers, just like the rest of the Northern Cape. But it seems to me that in Calvinia, there’s always color in the air.

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My Adventure in Calvinia in August

Guess what? August is an awesome time to visit Calvinia! That’s when the Hantam Vleisfees, a super cool festival, takes place. It happens on the last weekend of August, and let me tell you, it’s a blast! People from all over come to enjoy this amazing event.

If you want to go, here’s a tip: book your accommodation as soon as possible. The festival is super popular, so places fill up really fast. But hey, if you can’t find a spot in Calvinia, no worries! You can always try looking for a place in nearby areas like Nieuwoudtville. There are bound to be options available.

Oh, and here’s another great thing about visiting Calvinia in August: it’s just the start of the flower season! So, not only do you get to experience the festival, but you also get to see the beautiful flowers that bloom during this time. It’s like a double dose of awesomeness!

How to Get to Calvinia

Okay, so if you’re coming from Cape Town and you’re wondering how to get to Calvinia, I’ve got two options for you. The first option is to take the N7 and stay on it for about 300 kilometers. Now, I gotta warn you, there might be some stop-go traffic along the way, so be prepared for that. Once you reach Vanrhynsdorp, turn onto the R27. This route can take you close to six hours, including stops.

But here’s the thing: if you don’t want to deal with any potential traffic, you can always take the longer but more peaceful N1 route. Just hop onto the N1 and keep going until you reach the R355. It might take a bit longer, but hey, at least you won’t have to worry about any traffic headaches.

Fun Things to Do in Calvinia

Welcome to the Akkerendam Nature Reserve! I have to admit, this place is stunningly beautiful, but I have to warn you, it can be a bit confusing to find your way around here. No worries, though! Just head to the gate and pick up a map to make sure you stay on track. If you’re up for a good hike, I recommend trying the Kareeboom trail. It’ll take you about four to six hours, but trust me, it’s worth it. For those looking for more of a challenge, there’s the Hantamspiek route, which takes around six to nine hours. Just make sure to check in with Riaan van Wyk (Tel 0833202116) about any changes to the signage and roads. It can be a bit tricky out there, especially if you’re driving a 2×4. Stick to the main road, and you should be fine. Venturing onto the side roads can be a bit treacherous, so be cautious. The municipality is located at 20 Hoop Street, and you can reach them at Tel 0273418500.

Now, let’s talk about the Calvinia Museum. This is definitely a must-visit if you want to truly appreciate the town and understand its history. The curator, Memci Van Wyk, is incredibly knowledgeable and more than happy to help you gain a deeper understanding. One thing you absolutely cannot miss are the teacups with moustache protectors. Yes, you heard that right! And keep an eye out for the mean-looking “drie-angels” – those are some wire twisted into malevolent barbs that were meant to catch out unwary English hooves. Intriguing, right? To get in touch with the museum, call Tel 0273411043.

Hey there, come pay a visit to The Weavery on Paul Kruger street. You’ll find a beautiful range of handmade rugs and mats created by Ann Brundyn in her room filled with looms. No need to make an appointment, just drop by whenever you like. Give us a call at 0736513742 if you have any questions.

Looking to buy some top-quality olive oil? Head over to the Owl’s Nest, where Hugolese Müller grows pecans, quince, and olives on her farm just outside of town. While most of her harvest is sent to Cape Town, she has some of that delightful peppery oil available for purchase if you get in touch with her directly. You can reach her at 0825509222 or via email at [email protected]

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There s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees MzansiBride

Have you ever been to the Calvinia Museum? It’s an incredible place where you can see Jewish artefacts that offer a fascinating glimpse into history. And if you’re feeling hungry, I highly recommend you check out Die Blou Naartjie. It’s a restaurant in Calvinia that is famous for its delicious grilled Karoo lamb chops. People love it so much that it’s a good idea to make a reservation beforehand. The restaurant is located in one of the oldest buildings in town, and the interior is just beautiful. The high ceilings and wooden floors create a lovely atmosphere. And here’s a unique touch: there’s a lit Menorah that not only pays tribute to the original owners but also provides light during load-shedding. So, if you’re looking for a memorable dining experience in Calvinia, you should definitely give Die Blou Naartjie a try. Just give them a call at 0273411263 to make a reservation. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

Check out my photoblog for more amazing pictures from my road trip through the Great Karoo!

Hey there! If you’re looking for a unique dining experience in Hantam Huis, you’ll have to make it for dinner – they’re only open during the evening. But don’t worry, they welcome visitors for lunch, too. Trust me, you won’t want to miss their famous waterblommetjiebredie, it’s simply delicious! And guess what? They serve skilpadjie (that’s lamb’s liver wrapped in fat) for breakfast, but hey, it’s worth a try!

Now, I have to be honest with you, while the food is amazing, you might have to endure some interesting musical choices. They tend to play the pan-pipe version of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and the plinky-plonk rendition of ‘What a Beautiful Morning.’ But hey, it adds to the experience, right? If you’re interested, you can give them a call at 0273411606.

On the other hand, if you have dietary restrictions like gluten-free, African Dawn B&B is your go-to spot. Believe it or not, they have a whole menu dedicated to gluten-free options. How cool is that? And let me tell you, the ambiance is something special. You can enjoy your meal under a beautiful honey mesquite tree that’s filled with weaver nests. It’s like dining in nature!

Oh, and if you’re planning to stay the night, I highly recommend room five. It’s the best one they’ve got! Prices start from R690 for two people sharing a room, and that includes a tasty breakfast to fuel your adventures. If you want to book a stay or inquire about anything, give them a call at 0273411482.

There s more to Calvinia than the Hantam Vleisfees MzansiBride

Looking for a place to stay in Calvinia? Well, let me tell you about some great options.

More photos: Take a look at the beautiful colors of Calvinia.

Where to stay in Calvinia

First, there’s Tarantula Guest House. This place has a family suite with a mezzanine where the kids can sleep. It’s perfect for families, and it’s right in the heart of town.
If you prefer something with a bit more history, check out Hantam Huis. It’s not just one building, though. It’s actually a collection of 30 historical units spread throughout the town. Each unit is unique and full of character. You’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time.
Another great option is Stoepkamer in Die Dorpshuis. This place is a national monument, and it’s located on Water Street. The rooms here are cozy and charming, with a brass four-poster bed in some of them. It’s like staying in a life-sized dollhouse. Plus, there’s even a vintage Huisgenoot magazine from 1975 in the sitting room. How cool is that?
So, whether you’re traveling with family or looking for a taste of history, Calvinia has the perfect place for you to stay. Prices start at R200 per person sharing.
To book, just give them a call at 0273411606.

Welcome to Rustic Art, also known as The Junkyard, Karoo Blues, or Rusthouse. You can find us at the end of Stigling Street. While we are in the process of expanding our accommodation options, currently we only have one self-catering flatlet available. It costs R280 per person and can comfortably sleep two people.
It is important to note that if you are looking for a quiet getaway, Rustic Art may not be the ideal choice for you. We pride ourselves on our vibrant atmosphere, where music plays a significant role. Whether it’s the calming tunes of Beethoven in the morning or the soulful blues in the evening, music is an integral part of our space.
For inquiries, you can reach us at 0273411423 or email us at [email protected]

If you are a family looking for a fantastic self-catering option, Tarantula Guest House is the perfect spot for you. Our spacious family suite can accommodate four people and comes with a private swimming pool. The best part? It is surprisingly affordable at only R890 per night.
To make a reservation, simply give us a call at 0836437277. You can also book through SafariNow for added convenience.

Remember, this article was originally published in the July 2015 edition of Getaway magazine.

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