It was a Friday afternoon late in November and all the staff of the Karroo Hotel had been involved with putting up the lavish Christmas tree whilst humming along to the carols playing softly in the background. A spirit of joviality filled the air as we made these initial preparations for the festive season. The weekend promised to be fairly quiet as only two couples were booking in.
By tea time both couples had arrived and settled in. Having been made to feel quite at home, they seemed almost grateful to be here. The one couple were a Mr. and Mrs. Smith from Canada and the other a Mr. and Mrs. Campbell from Australia. It always fascinates us how people from so far abroad find their way to Steytlerville, this tiny Karoo town in the middle of nowhere.
Dinner was served at seven and both couples entered the dining room choosing tables on opposite sides of the room. Neither made any particular effort to acquaint themselves with the other, obviously preferring anonymity. Between the main course and dessert Jacques and I entertained them with our cabaret show. Much appreciation was expressed, however, at a certain subtle, intangible sadness seemed to pervade in the atmosphere. After dinner Mr. and Mrs. Smith joined me in the bar whilst Mr. and Mrs. Campbell preferred to have Jacques serve them another bottle of wine on the stoep.
Being keen to entice conversation I proceeded to ask the Smith's how they had heard about Steytlerville and why they had decided to visit. Mr. Smith was in fact born in South Africa. At a very young age his father had tragically been killed in an accident. His mother, being left destitute, had struggled to support her two children, and being afflicted with tuberculosis she was eventually forced to find foster parents.
Mr. Smith had been sent to his uncle on the father’s side, and his sister had been sent off to her aunt on the mother’s side. The two families were entirely estranged from each other. However the children were well provided for and eventually adopted. The mother had died as a result of her illness. She had been buried in Steytlerville where she spent several months seeking a cure in the dry Karoo air. His last recollection of meeting his sister was a brief encounter when attending the funeral.
Shortly after that he had been hastily shunted off to Canada where his adoptive father had taken up a golden opportunity in the corporate world. The children were never to meet again. All attempts of communicating with his sister were dashed as unopened letters were returned, "address unknown" scrawled boldly across the face of the envelopes.
Over the years he had made innumerable efforts to establish his sister's whereabouts, but to no avail. The purpose of his visit to Steytlerville was, naturally, to visit his mother’s grave, something he had always vowed to do. Having shared his story, Mr. Smith seemed somewhat relieved and almost hopeful. The three of us continued to peruse trivial conversation for another couple of hours, enjoying one another's company immensely. By the time they left for bed, the Campbell’s had already retired.
Jacques had spent a long while with them on the stoep and they obviously enjoyed one another's company a great deal. We proceeded to lock up for the night and being fairly tired, each of us headed off to bed without even indulging in the usual night-cap.
The following morning breakfast was served in the customary buffet style. The guests had slept well and seemed to be in a cordial mood. The morning proceeded and each couple went off to do their own thing. The Smiths obviously to visit the graveyard.
Jacques and I finally found a quiet moment to indulge in a pot of tea on the stoep when Jacques flabbergasted me by saying that Mrs. Campbell and her husband had headed off to the graveyard to visit the grave of her mother. She had tragically died of tuberculosis.
Mrs. Campbell had been adopted and raised by the mother’s sister who had emigrated to Australia. She had devoted a great deal of effort in her life trying to trace her only sibling, a brother who had been adopted by her uncle on her father’s side.
What an incredible beginning to a festive season!
Available every Saturday night. This remarkable package includes: Accommodation, sundowner cocktails with canapés, a delectable three-course candlelight dinner in a mesmerising setting, our signature cabaret show – The Steytlerville Follies – rounded off with an assortment of cheeses, Cape Ruby and coffee. Also included is a buffet breakfast on Sunday morning.
R1 560 per couple in a standard room (double bed)
R1 680 per couple in a standard room (twin beds)
R1 860 per couple in a superior room (queen bed)
R1 980 per couple in a superior room (twin beds)
R1 080 Single rate in a standard room