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Loxton: Where you’ll find writers, rabbits and rocks...

Maverick Life

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Loxton: Where you’ll find writers, rabbits and rocks made of iron

The forever-dancing cement statues at Erasmuskraal Farm. Image: Chris Marais

There’s something magical about Loxton in the Northern Cape that makes people write thrillers, build Bavarian castles, craft life-size cement dancers out in the veld and study the riverine rabbit.

Loxton-born Ena Murray wrote romance novels here, producing more than 130 titles. Top Afrikaans thriller writer Deon Meyer was enchanted by the faces and places around Loxton, bought a house here and even made a feature film on Jakhalsdans, a neighbouring guest farm.

The Loxton DR Church – spiritual and geographical centre of the village.
The Loxton DR Church – the spiritual and geographical centre of the village.
Image: Chris Marais

Both Murray and Meyer based many of their characters on the people of Loxton, a settlement that seems to attract creative spirits.

Not far out of town is Kasteel Farm, named after the quirky Bavarian-style castle built decades ago by one Jan Hugo, who was inspired by the castles of Germany. When he found the castle he really liked, he sketched it on the back of a pack of cigarettes. And when he came home, he set about building it. He laid the last stone in 1974.

Dries and Myalan Wiese at their castle parapets on Kasteel Farm.
Dries and Myalan Wiese at their castle parapets on Kasteel Farm. Image: Chris Marais

The farm was later taken over by the Wiese family. Today, Dries and Myalan Wiese live in the castle on the veld.

The area around Loxton is ironstone country – hard rock formations created by molten magma 200 million years ago. As the magma rose closer to the surface, it would have come into contact with wet sediments or groundwater. The hydrothermal explosions that resulted punched upwards, creating thousands of holes in the Earth’s crust through which hydrocarbon gases poured. 

Some of the big stones bear ancient San etchings, while others were once used as gongs to drum out messages or simply to add to the music of the nightly fireside dances.

South of Loxton, on a farm called Erasmuskraal, stands a troupe of 10 life-size cement dancers made by the late Marcella de Boom. With some help, she created these intriguing sculptures in 1999, working day after day in the relentless Karoo heat.

In Loxton you’ll find the offices of the Drylands Conservation Programme. One of the ongoing research projects is on the critically endangered riverine rabbit. Also known as the doekvoet, pondhaas, Bushman’s hare, Deelfontein hare or Bunolagus monticularis, this nocturnal creature is the poster bunny for conservation.

The Upper Karoo – home of the critically endangered riverine rabbit.
The Upper Karoo – home of the critically endangered riverine rabbit. Image: Chris Marais

Most locals and weekend visitors do their shopping at the town agricultural co-op, which offers an astounding range of goods for sale. These include paraffin lamp wicks, picture rail hooks, Consol jars for preserving pickles and spices, waterproof Wellies, bags of loose tobacco, special teats for feeding milk to orphaned baby lambs and goats, and large grain bags – also known as streepsakke or striped bags because they were once made from zebra skins. 

The quiet, stately streets of early morning Loxton.
The quiet, stately streets of early morning Loxton. Image: Chris Marais

Where to stay

  • Jakhalsdans Karoo Guesthouse and Farmstay: Contact Linda 082 875 3330, email [email protected]
  • The Kliphuis: Call Bronwyn Coetzee 072 917 9997 or email [email protected]
  • Karos Manor: 023 007 0255, [email protected]
  • Pear Tree Camping Ground: Call Alewyn Vorster 083 411 1035.
  • Biesiespoort Farmstay: Call Lannice Wiese 064 729 8617.
  • Rolbos Self-Catering Cottage: Call Jac Visser 061 809 8044, or email [email protected]

What to do 

Outdoor activities at the upmarket Jakhalsdans Karoo Guesthouse and Farmstay.
Outdoor activities at the upmarket Jakhalsdans Karoo Guesthouse and Farmstay. Image: Chris Marais

For a good meal, some local baked goods and preserves, a book and tourism info, pop in at Loxton Lekker opposite the church. Call Manie or Hester on 079 590 7827. 

Visit Annelise Vorster Meyer’s art gallery in town: 072 982 4353 or email [email protected].

To visit Marcella de Boom’s statues in the veld, contact Ingrid Schöfmann on [email protected] or call 084 709 0218.

Pop into the lovely church and admire its organ and soaring interior. Someone can usually locate the verger Heinrich Jansen, who will generally be happy to show you around.

You can also contact Ingrid Schöfmann on [email protected] or 084 709 0218 to walk a giant geoglyph in the shape of a riverine rabbit just outside town; book a bespoke bike-packing trip around Loxton; head off for an extraordinary three-day hike around Loxton, called Die Hardeman se Pad, staying overnight in two separate corbelled houses. Carry your own or pay a little more for the slack-packing option. DM/ML

For an insider’s view on life in the Karoo, get the three-book special of Karoo Roads I, Karoo Roads II and Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa by Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais for only R720, including courier costs in South Africa. For more details, contact Julie at [email protected]; for more information, contact the Northern Cape Tourism Authority.  

"Karoo Roads", "Karoo Roads II" and "Moving to the Platteland" by By Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit book covers.
“Karoo Roads”, “Karoo Roads II” and “Moving to the Platteland” by By Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit book covers.

In case you missed it, also read Nieuwoudtville: A blooming marvel to behold in the springtime

Nieuwoudtville: A blooming marvel to behold in the springtime

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