A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Groot Marico, on a writing retreat with three friends.
Groot Marico, a funky town in North West Province, is best known for its association with Herman Charles Bosman. Bosman was an acclaimed South African author who lived in Groot Marico in the 1920s and wrote a few collections of short stories based on the town.
Bosman, who was like the Edgar Allen Poe of South Africa, is all over Groot Marico. Everyone waxes lyrical about him and there was even a Bosman literary festival in Groot Marico the week before we were there.
Yet I recently learned Bosman only lived in Groot Marico for a few months, when he worked as a village teacher there for one semester in 1926. Bosman’s time as a teacher in Groot Marico was cut short because he went home to Joburg for winter break and murdered his stepbrother. So instead of going back to Groot Marico, he went to Pretoria Central Prison. Read more about the colorful life and death of Herman Charles Bosman.
I digress. My point is, it sounds like Herman Charles Bosman was a pretty weird guy. And Groot Marico is a pretty weird town. Wonderfully weird. I loved it.
There are things to do in Groot Marico. You can visit the Jacob Zuma arrest site, which I did and blogged about. You can hang out at the Groot Marico Visitors’ Centre, which I also did. The Visitors’ Centre, besides being a guide to tourism in and around Groot Marico, is a tourist attraction unto itself.
Santa van Bart and her partner Egbert (I hope I got your name right, Egbert), the charming hippie hosts of the Groot Marico Visitors’ Centre. Santa and Egbert have six dogs. Just a few minutes before I shot this photo, a rat ran loose inside the house (we saw it scuttle past the window) and two of the dogs caught the rat and were playing tug-of-war with its carcass.
Groot Marico is known for its mampoer — South African moonshine. You can visit a mampoer farm, if you’re keen, but I didn’t do that.
These are all things to do in Groot Marico and I’m sure there are other things, too. But the best thing to do in Groot Marico, by far, is nothing.
Doing Nothing in Groot Marico
My friends and I stayed Riverstill Guest Farm, which is about five kilometers from town down a bumpy dirt road. Riverstill is exactly how the name sounds — peaceful and still and next to the river. Riverstill costs R330 ($24) per person per night.
There is no cell phone signal, no internet, no connection to the outside world at Riverstill. There is nothing to do except sit, listen to the birds, drink gin-and-tonics, and swim in the river. (The Marico River is one of the cleanest in South Africa. The water at Riverstill comes straight from the river and tastes delicious.)
There are lots of dogs at Riverstill — eight of them, or maybe nine. If you dislike dogs, by all means do not go to Riverstill. In fact it’s probably best to skip Groot Marico altogether.
This trip was supposed to be a writing retreat. My friends all wrote stuff. I, however, did not write a word. I sat on the porch, stared, slept, listened to the birds, pet Aero, and cried (because Breakup).
I loved every minute, except for the crying (although I kind of loved that too). I can’t wait to go back.
Tips for Visiting Groot Marico
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Like, if the freezer in your kitchen doesn’t get cold enough to make ice, just drink your gin-and-tonics neat. Or if one of the dogs sneaks into the house when you’re out (no locks on the doors) and steals your unopened $10 bag of organic muesli, just pat him on the head and move on.
- Be prepared for very hot weather in summer. Don’t forget sunscreen, a bathing suit, and insect repellant.
- Bring books to read and whatever else you need to entertain yourself without a phone. (You can drive into town for cell signal, if you must.) Bring a towel, just in case. Our house didn’t supply them.
- There are no restaurants in Groot Marico and the guesthouses are self-catering. Bring all your own food.
- Do nothing and enjoy.