Mermaids and myths

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

There are mermaids in the Klein Karoo. They’re there in legend and art, and there’s even a Mermaid Route in the Amalienstein / Zoar region of Route 62 – the world’s longest wine route, and the road that runs like a living backbone through the centre of the area.

Take for example the story of the Mermaid of the Meiringspoort Waterfall, just off the road between Beaufort West and de Rust: the poor dear found herself washed away by the floods of ’96 (that’s 1996!), and swept out to sea somewhere near Mossel Bay, where she washed up, exhausted, in a fisherman’s net. A kindly fisherman, fortunately, brought her to the CP Nel Museum in Oudtshoorn, where she was able to rest and recuperate before returning to her watery home.

Or take the mystical, ancient, therianthropic (half-person/half-animal) painting of the Mermaid of the Rooiberg, 17 km from Calitzdorp (as described in Catherine Rust’s 2008 doctoral thesis, ‘Meta-tourism, sense of place and the rock art of the Little Karoo’).

It’s not surprising, though, that water sprites should populate the imagination of people in the dry heartland of our country – because water is the central challenge for anyone who wants to live there. So much so, in fact, that it even influences the property market in sought-after farming areas like Kannaland (which includes the towns of Calitzdorp, van Wyksdorp, and Ladismith).

According to Pam Golding Properties Oudtshoorn principal and PrivateProperty.co.za advertiser, Jacques de Beer, the market for large tracts of agricultural land in Calitzdorp is especially affected by water.

“There isn’t much agricultural land available in the fertile valleys, mainly because the water rights are attached to the larger farms – mostly port producers – and most of them aren’t selling. But you can still find smaller pieces of land that are serviced by municipal water, which makes them suitable as lifestyle properties.”

But while it’s a seller’s market in wine farms (“It’s difficult to get hold of stock”), it’s a more open market in residential properties – and potential investors shouldn’t confine themselves to looking at just one town in this remarkably attractive part of the country.

“It’s a funny situation, but in Calitzdorp the market for residential land is better than the market for agricultural land, while in Ladismith the market for agricultural land is better than the market for residential property,” said Jacques’ associate, Pam Golding Properties Ladismith principal, Masood Husain.

He said that Calitzdorp has recently begun to establish itself as a centre of the arts – partly, he thinks, because of its annual Port & Wine Festival – and that all the residential properties that the company has sold in recent months have been sold to artists.

“But I think Ladismith is as pretty an option, and you can buy houses and land here (he lives on a farm outside the town) at very reasonable prices.”

Ladismith is an attractive option for agricultural land, too: it’s suitable for wine and soft fruit (apricots, peaches, plums) – although hopefully you’ll be able to earn a little more than the secretary of the local co-op did when it distilled its first wines in 1940: “437 954 gallons [that sold] at 7½ pennies per gallon. The equivalent today would be 2 720 tons at R 10.14 per gallon, excluding cost deductions. The running costs included the princely sum of R8 per month for the secretary’s salary and R20 per month paid to the chairman, who managed the distillery during the three-month distilling season.”

More information from Masood Husain on 028 551 2520, or Jacques de Beer at Pam Golding Properties Oudtshoorn – 044 272 2822. The company currently has 328 properties listed with PrivateProperty.co.za.

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