I sit at a small, square, wooden dining table, writing these words in an old journal. My source of light is gentle, even though it comes from 3 sources – a candle, a paraffin lamp and the wood-burning fire. I am at Papkuilsfontein, Rondekraal stone and thatched cottage. There is no electricity, though by day the cottage is amply lit by 3 doors, 2 windows and glass panels at the front end of the cottage. At night the natural flames create a warm glow. The Rondenkraal cottage is set within an old, stone-walled horse kraal, in a field of yellow grass or flowers, in the middle of nowhere, on the aptly-named Moedverloorpad (“losing will road”).
There are several thoughtful seating areas facing different directions, to make the most of the rising and setting sun and deep shade. A photographer’s paradise, there is texture and colour everywhere – thatch, stone walls, windmills, fynbos, rolling hills and big skies with cotton clouds. Thanks to the stone kraal wall and vast open fields, the privacy of the cottage impresses me. Usually rather a prude, I am so alone here that even I walk freely between bathroom and bedroom with the windows and doors wide open.
The cottage has a classical long-barn shape which is typical of this area. What gives it a modern twist is the glass wall at the top end of the cottage. Inside there is a pleasing aesthetic, with thick stone walls and recessed windows, old wooden furniture and an open-plan layout. The lounge at the top end of the cottage has rich red wingback rocking chairs facing the fireplace. The kitchen in the middle of the cottage is well-equipped with a full sized fridge, gas stove and oven, and a stove-top espresso pot. There is a friendly dining table which separates the living and sleeping areas. The bedroom is pretty, with a double bed which has a white mosquito net, white linen and a soft tartan blanket. Finally, the bathroom at the other end of the cottage has a deep ball-and-claw bath, as well as an outdoor shower.
I light every one of the paraffin lamps, as well as making a fire – it is the main entertainment here at night. I am tired from the long trip, in a good way. Sunburnt, physically sore and feeling a bit old and weathered. There is a safe vulnerability that this Namaqua landscape brings. Strange contradictions unhinge me – the dry vastness contrasted with the myriad of pretty flowers, the lack of keys in the doors and the sense of complete safety, the organic, rustic nature of this cottage along with the containing, thick stone walls, the simple but ample equipment to meet every need without the back-lit technology and excess which keep is distanced from ourselves.
It is a choice whether to engage this gentle undressing of all pretences and distractions. There is plenty to do in the area if one needs diversions. But I sense that my only task tonight is to sit here alone and give in to this experience of vulnerable openness and see to which new destination it takes me.
Review by Character Stay
- Also Known As:
- Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm Hotel Nieuwoudtville