Matjiesfontein Tourist Attractions
Matjiesfontein, situated in the Little Karoo half way between Cape Town and Beaufort West, is a charming little town, popular with South Africans for a weekend holiday trip, which is also a convenient stopover for visitors on their way from the interior of the country to Cape Town (the Trans Karoo Train which runs between Cape Town and Johannesburg stops in Matjiesfontein). The barren country round the town is suitable only for sheep-farming; some of the farms are the size of several British or American counties.
In 1880 a Scot named James Logan who had suffered all his life from a lung disease settled in this area and found that the dry air cured his complaint. Thereupon he founded a spa so that others could benefit as he had. This was a great success, and in the late 19th C many notable people came to Matjiesfontein to take the cure, among them the Sultan of Zanzibar, Lord Randolph Churchill (Winston Churchill's father) and the writer Olive Schreiner. Such distinguished visitors had to be provided with every comfort, and accordingly Matjiesfontein became the first place in the country with electricity and running water.The townThe whole of Matjiesfontein was declared a national monument in 1975. It preserves many buildings of the Victorian era, including the Lord Milner Hotel, an elegant building in which the guests feel carried back a hundred years, Olive Schreiner's house, the Post Office and an old warehouse. The Mary Random Museum has a collection of Victoriana and material on the Boer War. From 1899 to 1902 the headquarters of the commander-in-chief of the Cape were in Matjiesfontein, with a garrison of 10,000 men.
Sutherland, South Africa
120km/75mi north of Matjiesfontein on R 354 is the little town of Sutherland (alt. 1,456m/4,777ft; pop. 2,000). The road runs through a quiet and empty expanse of country with only scanty vegetation. Nevertheless the Great Karoo has a particular charm of its own, and the sunrises and sunsets in this semi-desertic region are a memorable experience.Sutherland, which has preserved a number of buildings of the Victorian period, is one of the coldest places in South Africa. In winter the temperature frequently falls to 6°C/21°F, and snow is by no means rare. The high altitude and clear air offer ideal conditions for astronomical observations: hence the presence of the South African Astronomical Observatory 14km/8.5mi outside the town.
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