an old hotel in the town of potchefstroom
An old hotel in the town of Potchefstroom

Click on images for larger view

I recently found myself on a journey to the Kalahari along with some  colleagues, to meet up with clients for a few days deep in the Kalahari. This entailed a lengthy road trip (10 hours) from Johannesburg to the town of Upington in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, where we turned north to travel a further 180 Kms to reach our final destination, a bush camp near the village of Askham. In this entry I’m posting some of the pictures I took during the trip. This is not intended as a detailed travelogue, but merely, as the title suggests, a few impressions along the way.

The first major town one encounters on the trip is Potchefstroom, or “Potch”, as it is known locally.

a building in the North West Province town of Potchefstroom
Building in Potchefstroom

If a culture is defined by its architecture, then grain silos are certainly the defining symbols of South Africa’s agricultural heritage. Agriculture still plays a vitally important part in the South African economy and one finds these silos outside many small, rural towns. I think farmers, being so dependent on weather patterns, rely a great deal on faith, and to me the silos take on an almost cathedral-like significance – built in faith that the harvest will be good.

grain silo in the south african platteland
Cathedrals to agriculture dot the South African landscape
grain silo outside delareyville
Just outside the town of Delareyville
small diesel locomotive at the delareyville grain silos
Small diesel locomotive

Those parts of South Africa that lie outside of the major centres are know as die platteland. An Afrikaans word, “platteland” makes reference to farms and farming, so if someone tells you they come from the platteland you would immediately associate that person with some kind of agricultural activity, or know they come from a rural community. But, literally translated, the word means “flat land” or “flat country”.  The early European settlements in South Africa were located along the coast, which is much more hilly and mountainous than the hinterland. However, once you travel beyond the coastal areas you’ll encounter vast open spaces that stretch to the furthest horizons, such as in the picture below.

platteland of the north west province south africa
The flat countryside of the North West Province.
rocky outcrop north west province south africa
A rocky outcrop near the road.

matities tuck shop northwest province


vryberg celebrates beef
The town of Vryburg in festival mode.

The banner in the picture above advertises the Vryburg Texas Vleisfees, or Vryburg Texas Meat Festival in English. Vryburg is one of the larger towns in North West Province. I’m sure there was some really good eating to be had at the Skougrond (Show Grounds) on September 24!

After a missed turn at Olifantshoek we found ourselves about 50 Kms off course, in the town of Postmasburg, where I noticed these signs. The Northwest Province is home to South Africa’s iron mining industry, as reflected the name of this little establishment. One can’t help wondering if the name is appropriate given the nature of the offering. But, as one of my friends notes, maybe it’s packed with minerals.

iron ore chicken, a fast food outlet in postmasburg
Iron Ore Chicken, Postmasburg

We stopped for a quick lunchtime bite in the small Northern Cape town of Kuruman, where I was able to take a few snaps.

blessed yemi fashions kuruman
Unusual name for a fashion outlet.

You know you’re in the Kalahari when…

a butchery in the kalahari advertises its fare
A butchery in a Kalahari town advertises its fare.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the town in which I saw this wall, but the proprietor is obviously very  proud of his products. Biltong is dried, salted and spiced meat, similar to beef jerky I am told. While beef biltong is the most common variety, it is also made from ostrich and various types of game. Biltong blara laterally translates as biltong leaves, which would be thin slices of biltong, or possibly biltong flakes.  Biltong stokkies are sticks, which are easier to break into smaller pieces and eat. If you ever visit South Africa your trip won’t be complete until you have tasted some biltong. Droëwors is the dried version of boerewors (lit. farmer’s sausage) which is a South African staple at braais (barbecues) all over the country.

osland butchery somewhere in the kalahari
Another small town, another butchery.

Sluighuis is the Afrikaans name for butchery. It’s also my wife’s maiden name. When her family arrived here from Holland (via Australia) my mom-in-law thought these were all relatives of theirs! Slaghuis means something else in Dutch.

vineyards outside the northern cape town of upington
Vineyards outside the town of Upington.

After a long drive we finally arrived at Upington, with the late-afternoon sun breaking through an overcast sky, and were surprised to see row after row of vineyards just outside the town. Upington is one of those places one keeps hearing of, but knows very little about. Some further research reveals the town receives it’s irrigation and water from the abundantly-flowing Orange River, on the banks of which the town is located. So perhaps the vineyards are not all that surprising.

I hope you’ll join me in my next post when we’ll travel still deeper into the Kalahari. Until then… 🙂

© 2011. All images copyright Grahame Hall and may not be used without the written permission of the copyright owner. Please respect the rights of others.


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