Pearston, Karoo Heartland

Head across the great expanse of the Camdeboo from Graaff-Reinet, along Route 63 in the direction of Somerset East, in company with the Karoo Mountains, and you reach the little Karoo village of Pearston.

That its name is irrevocably linked to the pear is no mistake, for before the town built its Dutch Reformed Church its people would gather under a pear tree on Casper Lötter's farm, where they waited for a pastor to ride all the way from Somerset East to preach to them.

This, however, is only half the story. The minister who preached the people of Pearston (that was not yet called Pearston), was called John Pears. He travelled from Somerset East, covering miles by horse-drawn cart, to preach not only to the crowd under the pear tree, but other towns in the vicinity as well.

Whether it was the pear tree, or John Pears, after whom the town was named is debatable. That they were both pears seems to have had rather a lot of bearing on the subject.

Pearston lies in what is known as the Karoo Heartland. It is a small town with a main road still called Voortrekker Street which, at first glance, does not seem much more than a dilapidated general dealer, Afrika hair salon, and the odd tin-roofed Victorian-style Karoo dwelling.

However, its church that stands alone on the plains of the Camdeboo behind a gate that leads directly to its wooden door, is a wonderful building; a fine example of Karoo Gothic architecture, with a significant steeple (perhaps not as high as that in Aberdeen, but no less compelling).

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