​[M] The Welcome Mat spreads out at the entrance to Matjiesfontein‘s memories

carelvdmerwe's picture

Points: 4

Unfortunately this is not a bike related trip report, but would still like to share it with all of you. We had to do a "car swap" for one of my friends who's brother and his wife came down from Welkom and we met them in Beaufort Wes. We decided to make the most of this road trip in the cage and went to visit the Majestic little town of Matjiesfontein.

Here is the report written by Jani

Just as the toothbrushes thought they would have a rest from being buried at the bottom of a suitcase for another weekend, we quickly packed them in again and it was with no hesitation that we eagerly pounced back into the car for another road trip.

The reason for our trek up the N1 was to deliver our Garden route traveler back to its rightful owner. Considering we had such good fun and made some memories in this modern day horse and carriage it was only appropriate to honor it with a decent adventure back to its owner. The number plate, dusted off, reads Freestate. Meeting the owner at Beaufort West on the Saturday evening, meant we had 24hours to make our last memories with this carriage.

We made our first stop before sunset in De Doorns, which is situated in the Hex valley on the N1. This town is mostly popular to us for our grape season at the beginning of the year. The rain has done this area some green justice and it is looking so much prettier than it did the last time we came through here on the GS, which was just a few weeks ago. ‘’ Let it rain ‘’ is the types of prayer meetings the churches in this town are having. Desperate and hopeful the community prays for rain, as the rivers have finally started flowing and the last few snowflakes start glimmering off the mountain tops of this town.

We were welcomed by an amazing couple, longtime friends of Carel’s, that have been living in this town for a while. Their hospitality made us feel at home instantly and we spent the evening sharing stories and getting to know each other. The next morning, as any other weekend, in a bed that isn’t mine, I stretch my lazy legs into my trainers. It was time to see a piece of this town on foot as well.

Carel on the bicycle and me on my feet we headed into town and out the other end. We were so busy talking I hadn’t realized we were through already. Stretching down the main road, the shops and local spaza’s are replaced with vineyards. It’s a prettiness you don’t appreciate when you have it every day. Being spoilt for choice over the last few weeks, this has become my canvas to look at.

We joined our friends for a breakfast at the Veldskoen Padstal. This is a very plain looking building from the outside, but inside…. So pretty. The décor lures you in, and you find yourself not being able to not look a bit deeper, around, left, right, and up at the arty type chandeliers. The menu leaves you thinking that it may be breakfast on the clock, but definitely not on the tummy. Endless choices and really colorful, beautifully presented dishes.

Saying our good byes, we shared hugs, knowing that we will visit soon again.

Matjiesfontein, yes please… it was time to get to know you better.

I have been here a few times before, I have visited the beautiful Lord Milner Hotel, and I have sung with the pianist and host at the bar, ‘’ Ou ryperd’’ a few times already. But I have never given this one-street town my time.

We had a brief and amusing tour through the hotel with the gentleman wearing the top hat leading the way. If you have been here before, you have definitely met him before, he jams it out on the piano and amuses visitors with stories of the ghosts of the Lord’s Milner’s hotel and his many mistresses or was it wive’s?  With a naughty glint in his eye, you can’t help being drawn into his story.  

Walking to the end of the main road where the tar ends and the dirt road starts you are able to enter the motor museum. The honesty box at the door, gives the sense of safety and peacefulness. We popped the money in the box and let the cars and old trains take us on a journey through the past instantaneously. This is heaven for men who enjoy the old fashioned motor mechanics of our time. The old trains are open for viewing. What an eerie sensation walking through the corridors. I was wearing jeans, a jersey and a pair of pumps. I couldn’t help but think to myself that a few decades ago, if this was me, I would have been ambling through these narrow passages in a big dress, a corset and too much hair. Grateful for liberation of women and freedom of speech, I tap my jeans and say a silent thank you to change.

We headed onto the station platform and walked the walk which most visitors do when stopping in this town and then headed down to the Marie Rawdon Museum which is tucked safely beneath the train station platform.

This museum is by far my most favourite museum ever visited, I think it is because the building itself has been left in its almost original state. Walking through this museum, you are taken away to a time before ours. The furniture and utensils almost come to life. The smells, the lights and atmosphere is from another time.

Looking at all the old telephones, medicine bottles, I can understand why whatsapp would now confuse someone over 60 year old’s . Our parents and grandparents have grown up in a time where change was at the speed of light. They went from old gramophones and LP’s to MP3’s and USB sticks. I will refrain from using my patience quota now, and listen first.

Matjiesfontein was founded in 1884 by a Scottish railwayman, James Logan. His name is also mentioned in this museum. The Logan’s and the Rawdon’s . The town was preserved as a national heritage site in 1975. During the Anglo Boer War, Matjies became the headquarters for 12 000 troops and the popular Lord Milner Hotel was used as a hospital. This village was also the first in South Africa to have electric street lights and water-borne sewerage. Considering the village is so small. This must have been quite an occasion.

When we left the museum, in jeans and pumps. Placing my new millennium aviators back on my nose, I jumped back into the car that was comfortable, warm and full of disco lights on the touchscreen dashboard. I couldn't’t help but think of a time before the one we know, and to think that back then, they were grateful for change too.

We piled back onto the tar as Beautiful Beaufort West waited for the return of our Freestate number plate vehicle.

Thank you for the welcoming mat at the memorable and almost nostalgic Matjiesfontein.

“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


Where to next…

@backroadriderZA & @yellowclarity

Geoff Russell's picture
Joined: 2007/09/25

Lekker Carel.

Very nice article...

Committee: Ride Captain

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