Nieuwoudtville is busy for two months of the year, August & September, the famous Flower Season .
The town itself is spread out, due to the large size of the plots; they looked to be about 1 acre each, at the least. There’s a main street called Voortrekkker Road of course, which has a Slaghuis/Butchery (this area is famous for its mutton), there’s a branch of ABSA, fenced off with stout green bars , but no other banks. There’s a hotel, which I didn’t investigate, but it looked dark and gloomy, a squat one-storey building. And the usual Dutch Reformed Church, and I think I saw a Post Office. A couple of Algemene Handelaars/General Dealers, but none of the customary chain stores that you see in most other South African towns.
There was very little traffic to be seen. I noticed a couple of big tour buses, returning from the flower viewing areas, the occasional local in a 4×4, but other than that, only foot traffic – maids walking to work, men loitering on street corners, or basking in the sun on the pavement. A few kids roaming around, small groups of men at day’s end, overall-clad, returning home from work – which puzzled me. There didn’t appear to be any industry in the town. The pace of life is slow, and the town is very very quiet, which is refreshing for the frazzled city soul.
Some of the houses were in reasonable repair, many needed a coat of paint, and others had a forlorn ramshackle appearance, with clumsy add-ons, broken down sheds, a hotch-potch of building materials ranging from brick, to corrugated iron, to who knows what. Despite the arid landscape and ferociously dry climate, there seemed to be an awful lot of rusty metal scattered about – old farm implements, drums, wrecked cars, and piles of general Stuff (origin & identity a mystery) added to which the sagging, rusty wire strand fences completed the scene of melancholy abandoned small-town ambience.
Many of the residential plots had a few sheep or goats grazing happily on the sweet green winter grass. To my astonishment I saw several goats tethered by stout chains to fence posts, left to graze on the long grass alongside the roads. Chris, the Swiss Villa owner, told me that one of the town residents is constantly complaining bitterly to the Police about the tethered goats – whether the objections are on grounds of road safety, or cruelty to animals, wasn’t clear, but apparently she has made it her life’s work! I haven’t seen so many goats for years, they were glossy and fat too, unlike the skinny Zimbabwean goats I saw on last year’s road trip. Those were forced to stand on their hind legs to try and grab a few leaves from the lowest branches of the thorny acacia trees. By contrast, the Nieuwoudtville goats are in Paradise. I spotted chickens parading around some of the gardens, one group led by a shiny golden cockerel with his black and white hens following behind.
The peach trees were in bloom – they’re often a feature of small town gardens in the Platteland. And of course, every vacant plot was ablaze with a carpet of brilliant orange daisies, sprinkled with patches of purple flowers . Most of the sandy streets had clumps of enormous bluegum trees, which must have been eighty or more years old, judging from their great height, and the girth of the trunks, festooned with shards of peeling bark. I’ve always liked gum trees, despite their current eco-unpopularity. Apparently one tree can consume up to 600 litres of water daily and it’s obvious that in a dry country like SA, this is not a good thing, but still ..