Merweville, Upper Karoo

For those who have not ventured into Merweville before, it is best described as: Edwardian dwellings meet the Gothic Merweville Moederkerk (mother church), in Hard Man's Karoo.

Set in the heart of possibly the driest part of the country, Merweville is all but dominated by its NG kerk, its imposing presence (the beams of the ceiling came from a shipwreck and the organ was built in Aberdeen, Scotland) all the more emphasised for its position on the slopes of Letterkop.

Far from flat, however, and despite the token rainfall of little more than 150 ml a year, this part of the northern Cape is a series of hills and valleys that seem to belie its aridness.

Lying north-west of the N1 where it meets the R353 east of Laingsburg, and south-west of Beaufort West, Merweville (or Mirville as the locals call it) sits in the gap between the Swart and Nuweveld mountains, the only water source the sometimes flowing, and somewhat distant, Buffels, Dwyka or Gamka Rivers. Hence the town's reliance on boreholes or windpumps, and the fact that few even pretend to farm here anymore.

Every road that leads into Merweville (there are several) is dirt, the sunburnt grit swept into eddies by cars that pass through. Few relate to this thirsty earth.

Don't assume all is muted stillness in Merweville. Word has it that the major annual event – the Dankfees – raises close to half a million for the church. And whilst nobody can claim the town is a Prince Albert in-the-making, the old-world charm and the few examples of Edwardian and Karoo-style homes make it worth a second glance.

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