Matjiesfontein, A Town Lost In Time

Tired of driving the long boring stretch through the Karoo in the direction of Cape Town we rested in a most charming little town. Matjesfontein keeps its past alive without being just a museum.

Matjesfontein is a little gem in the Karoo, South Africa; a living museum town with an original train station, a museum and a colonial hotel.

We’d driven kilometers along the monotonous N1 highway through the bone-dry Karoo, which connects South Africa’s business metropolis Johannesburg with Cape Town.

Karoo – Far From Anywhere

Tired of seeing the flat and dusty surroundings only interrupted by some lonely farms, whose proprietors must go crazy to live out here in the gramaduelas*.

Matjesfontein, South Africa
Matjesfontein, South Africa

Whoever lives out here knows about saving water and irrigation systems. Long drives to the next town a hundred kilometers away must be planned, no chance to get the forgotten milk the next day or to replace that broken bulb.

Matjesfontein, South Africa
Matjesfontein, South Africa

 Matjiesfontein – A Gem Of The Past

We approach Matjiesfontein, whose white houses stand out between some tall old trees. “I feel like having a cup of hot chocolate!”, I suggest to turn off the highway for a break.  It doesn’t need much to convince my travel mate George.

Matjesfontein, South Africa
Matjesfontein, South Africa

Surprisingly there is just one main road in Matjiesfontein, which is tarred . There we found an original, still working train station, looking exactly the same as some hundred years ago. Integrated is a little museum with various machinery, which was used at that time.

Matjesfontein, South Africa

Tourists, mainly of Chinese origin, descend the train. A musician, even so an original like the station, sings a traditional Afrikaans song. I have to think of suikerbossie ek wil jou he” ** which made me laugh the other day.

We found some more relics of the past in Matjiesfontein, which are carefully exposed along the main road, in the restaurants and shops. Even the unique hotel in the middle of the town keeps the original style of the past in a favorable way.

We entered a café with wooden floor panels and old-fashioned tables. The waitress wore a white hat with ruffles as if from another era.

Behind the desk and on windowsills are various antique items like old style coffee and tea tins, an delightful touch to the 1900-century – picture.

Matjesfontein, South Africa
Matjesfontein, South Africa

Capetownians favor Matjiesfontein as a weekend getaway to unwind. I understand why. It’s a little gem, telling the story of early immigrants and their descendants, peaceful heaven in the vast emptiness of the Karoo.

Matjesfontein, South Africa

*Afrikaans: kilometers from anywhere
** “suikerbossie ek wil jou he” is a traditional Afrikaans song


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Author: Marcelle Simone Heller

I’m searching for natural beauty and wilderness, while I’m travelling relentlessly to find delightful places and encounters with wildlife. I try to capture the thrill of the moments in photography and words, hoping to inspire others with the love for animals and nature.

5 thoughts on “Matjiesfontein, A Town Lost In Time”

  1. Dat lied ken ik nog….suikerbossie ik wil je hebben!

    Am 30.11.16 07:13 schrieb “Grey World Nomads” unter

    1. Indeed! There are many towns in the dry Karoo with the ending fontein which suggest a source of water. I guess the early settlers must have been very happy to find water in these dry surroundings moving only with their slow ox-wagons.

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