On the fringe of the Great Karoo, you’ll find a tiny desert oasis called Matjiesfontein. You may have to rub your eyes in disbelief, so unbelievable will be the sight be of this tiny Victorian village, where not much has changed since the 1800s.
Legendary railway man, James Douglas Logan; founded this once colonial outpost in 1884; and in 1975 it was proclaimed a National Heritage Site. Step back in time into vivid history: past guests include international cricketers, famed authors Olive Schreiner and Rudyard Kipling, Jamieson Raid reformers, 10 000 soldiers, among many other colourful characters. Some guests have never left. Matjiesfontein is reputed to be the most haunted town in South Africa; luckily its phantoms are said to be playful, mischievous, or oblivious to events around them.
Here are some of the highlights of what to expect from a visit there as well as a recipe by Chef Tronette Dippenaar for a traditional Karoo Lamb Curry—perfect for the colder weather.
Though small (very) there’s still plenty to keep visitors occupied; from ruins and historic buildings to museums (both the fascinating Marie Rawdon and Transport museums), and wonderful walks. See the attractions.
The Lord Milner
The hotel was named for Lord Alfred Milner, who was the governor of the Cape during The South African War (Anglo-Boer War). The gracious grand dame was completed in 1899, and shortly thereafter served as the Headquarters of the Cape Western Command.
The Olive Schreiner Cottage
Olive Schreiner—one of the first voices of literature and feminism in South Africa—lived here for a number of years
The Laird's Arms
Escape the Karoo heat and enjoy a pint or G&T in this historic pub, named after the original laird.
The Shortest Tour on Earth
Every day a vintage London bus takes guests on a fun, informative tour around the tiny town.
Go to www.matjiesfontein.com
Traditional Karoo Lamb Curry
Laingsburg Lamb is the signature product from this area, as it tastes unique to the region. The lamb's herbaceous flavour is known as the “Karooveld” taste, as the lambs graze on Karoo scrub and herbs.
2 knobs fresh ginger, peeled
5 cloves garlic
2 whole chilies
50ml Olive Oil
1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms.
2 large onions, chopped
2 peppers (red or green), chopped
1kg lean lamb, cubed
30ml sunflower oil
2 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon mixed Marsala
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cinnamon sticks
30g tomato paste
500g potatoes peeled and diced
500g carrots peeled and sliced in rings
2. Place the onions and peppers in a pot and fry on low heat till soft. Add 2 tablespoons of the curry paste to the onions and fry.
3. Add all the spices and keep on stirring till the mixture is dry. Deglaze the pot with the tomato paste and 1 cup of water.
4. Add the lamb and simmer with the lid on till the meat is just tender. Add the potatoes and carrots and keep on simmering till the potatoes are soft. Season with salt and pepper. Do not remove the whole spices.
5. Serve the curry with steamed white rice and sambals of your choice
Wine Suggestion: MOUNT SUTHERLAND SHIRAZ 2011 (Sutherland)