Cape Town

Cape Town Photos

23 Jun 2012

Starlight, star bright...Steve Newman and Greg Georgiades in Nieu Bethesda - 28 July 2012

an invitation from Mikey Wentworth:
For anyone seeking the glitz and glamour of a five-star holiday destination, I can only sympathize with your limited horizons.

I recently arrived in Nieu Bethesda for an extended sabbatical. I was traveling from Cape Town and with each passing kilometer the angst and stresses of urban living were gradually shed and replaced with the anticipation of settling into a new space and the excitement of starting work on my debut novel.
Between the N9 and my destination I pass through Rubidge Kloof and at the apex as the road bends I look down to my left into a lush valley where the farm De Toren lies nestled in the embrace of the surrounding mountains and an spontaneous smile spreads from my face into my soul.

I arrive on a mild autumn morning and even though it is a Friday, the streets are virtually deserted except for a couple of dogs who accompany me to The Karoo Lamb Restaurant where I meet my hosts Ian and Katrin Allemann who are also the owners of Spooky and Gump – who incidentally is appearing in court on Youth Day. They have been settled here in this sleepy little Groot Karoo dorpie for close to thirteen years. We sit on the spacious veranda of The Karoo Lamb – with a menu that includes regular specials of lamb, oxtail or venison potjie in addition to the usual fried Karoo Lamb chops, sandwiches and soups; situated diagonally across from the now famous Owl House – sipping coffee and getting to know each other before I am shown to the Aardvark’s Burrow, a spacious flatlet behind the old church hall where I will be staying for the next six months.

After a steaming shower I walk down the untarred roads of the village, lined with ancient pear trees, willows and variations of cypresses and pines that whisper a welcome as I wander contentedly with the constant accompaniment of rushing water in the Lei Water or water furrows that were built in the 1870’s and in the distance a deeper, more ominous roar of the Gats River which flows strongly after the recent rains.

The locals smile openly and greet with a willingness to stop for a welcoming chat; young men on their way to the local general dealer pass by on horseback with a wave, listening to the tinny music playing on their cell phones; and always in the background, rising majestically above everything else is the snow-capped Compasberg.

That evening at Die RamStal – literally an old ram stable that has been converted into the new pub – there is a bring-and-braai with a few of the local young and old farmers, mingling with some of the resident artists and craftsmen. Naturally everyone is curious about who I am and why I am here and while some approach me and chat, others just eye me surreptitiously until they are a bit more inebriated. Soon the smell of meat on an open fire fills the air and pots of stywepap and sous are added to the equation, making me salivate ravenously while trying my best to stay focused on the conversation I am having with a fellow writer who is also a co-owner of the local book store. The Karoo lamb chops with locally made wors is a carnivore’s dream and after eating my fill, the conversation continues for a while until eventually it is time to call it a night. As I leave the cozy pub I feel the chill breeze blowing down from the mountain and as soon as I leave the comforting glow of light, I stumble along in the pitch dark until I have to stop to regain my bearings and I happen to look up. The momentary panic – a remnant of the receding urban fear – is replaced by a lingering awe at the celestial splendor visible in all of its glory and as I continue on my way I smile once again with the sound of the rushing river and birdsong accompanying my footsteps: and a lone dog, barking in the distance.

The following morning I awake early and am accompanied on my walk by Spooky and Gump who gambol along playfully, oblivious of the frost covered ground. They take me on a guided tour of their favourite haunts over the footbridge and across the river, past the old mill and the Brewery, beyond the verdant fields and farms with doleful sheep watching the dogs warily and eventually back to the Karoo Lamb where the inviting aroma of freshly brewed coffee and frying bacon reminds me that I have to watch my weight here in the Groot Karoo. Just after nine I visit the Owl House and am completely mesmerized by the sad and lonely beauty of Helen Martin’s expression which was – as is so often the case with great artists – frowned upon in her lifetime but which has now become the lifeblood of this idyllic little Groot Karoo village which has successfully resisted the deceptive allure of what most would consider progress.

I need time to assimilate the experience and opt out of the fossil tour and the visit to the bookstore, choosing instead to sit quietly on my own along the river beneath the trees and ponder the enormity of such dedication. Besides I have time enough to visit all of the interesting places: the bushmen’s paintings at Ganora Guest farm owned by Jan-Peet and Hester Steynberg; the gallery at The Village Inn where they also have a sumptuous breakfast and lunch menu; the award winning sculptor Frans Boekkooi’s working studio; the Kitching Fossil Center where visitors are taken on a guided tour along the river; The Brewery and Two Goats Deli where Andre Cilliers brews a superior Sneeuberg beer and makes his own goat’s milk cheeses; and of course Dustcovers, co-owned by Victoria Nance who with her quirkish smile confesses that she is a seller of rare and collectible books and damn fine reads!

Nieu Bethesda has no Bank or ATM, no streetlights, only the one tarred road which ends four kilometers from town, and no petrol station; it has no neon lights and frills and certainly very little night life in the conventional sense of the word, but the one that it has in abundance is character and I for one feel blessed everyday that I awake in this pristine little corner of our beautiful country.

On Saturday the 28th of July, the village will host the sublime talents of two of this country’s finest guitarists when Steve Newman and Greg Georgiades will perform a selection of their original compositions in the Old Church Hall in Martin Street.

Steve Newman is one of South Africa’s most accomplished acoustic guitarist who has achieved unrivalled success as a soloist over the past three decades as well as being an integral part of various collaborations with fellow South African musicians. He has written a history for himself that very few can equal. A consummate instrumentalist, he has traversed the globe with his mesmerizing talent, both as a soloist as well as with the bands Tananas, the Aquarian Quartet, In the Clouds, Mondetta, and a duo with Tony Cox. Tananas has played festivals and concerts in Australia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, France, Sweden, UK, Spain, Canary Islands, USA, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. As a soloist he has played UK, Holland, Belgium, India, UK, Norway, Mozambique and Namibia.

Greg Hadjiyorki Georgiades is a multi instrumentalist who plays acoustic nylon string guitar, oud, bouzouki, ukelele and also electric guitar and sarod. He has used these instruments in many thrilling collaborations with various other iconic local musicians across all genres including McCoy Mrubata, Madala Kunene, Errol Dyers, Tony Cox, Syd Kitchen, Marc Duby, Ernest Mothle, Ashish Joshi, Jeff Maluleke, Simphiwe Dana, Julian Bahula, Mlungisi Gegana, Kevin Davidson, Khaya Mahlangu, Zamo Mbutho, Lungile Dlamini and many more with whom he has performed and recorded included Miriam Makeba and of course Steve Newman.

Together these two consummate performers are recognized for their dynamic harmonies and melodic adventures that have transported audiences across the length and breadth of the country on a spicy, sonic journey of rhythmical delight that is sure to leave you thrilled and rejuvenated.

Tickets for the performance are R100 and bookings can be made by phoning 049 841 1642 or 072 742 7113. For information about accommodation and meals please log onto

So whether your interest is music, art, bushman paintings, fossils, climbing, hiking, bird-watching, mountain-biking, horse-riding, game-viewing, star-gazing or just sitting on the stoep watching the world pass by, you'll never be at a loss for things to do in Nieu Bethesda.

For more information on how to enter log onto


"Jazz and freedom go hand in hand. That explains it. There isn't any more to add to it. If I do add to it, it gets complicated. That's something for you to think about. You think about it and dig it. You dig it..." Thelonious Monk
"Jazz and freedom go hand in hand. That explains it. There isn't any more to add to it. If I do add to it, it gets complicated. That's something for you to think about. You think about it and dig it. You dig it..." Thelonious Monk

Hamba Kahle Winston Mankunku Ngozi - Tributes

PASS photostream