A little town called Porterville

“We’re off to Porterville for my birthday”, I said to many who had asked what I’ll be doing to celebrate. “But there’s nothing to do there”, said a few more. Boy, did we all underestimate this town dearly?

Heading towards the N7 along the Malmesburg route, passing the town of Riebeek Kasteel, onto the R44 stretch and turning into the lengthy tarred path beside the smiling road of yellow disas is Porterville, an hour and a half drive from the Big-city.

Inhabiting about 10 000 residents, it’s hard to believe that this picturesque town housed Bushmen before the arrival of Dutch Settlers since its establishment in 1863. During the 1800s, Settler Fredrick John Owen subdivided his farm into plots and named the town after William Porter who was a popular Attorney General of the Cape Colony.

Welcomed with an unhurried pace to life as the weekend ending began to creep in, or occurrence at the start of our exploration became irrelevant.

Settling in and making blissful yet undesirable adjustments to our three-day stay, we drove to the foot of the Olifant River Mountain, got out, grabbed the camera and admired the sun; showing off its ray of orange and yellow colours above the farmland fields.

While the big-city days begin bright and early on a Monday morning, Wednesdays are the day that the town begins to show some glimmer of life as many businesses only open their doors by then.

There’s nothing to do there.

Popping into museums is high on our itineraries when it comes to uncovering the hidden gems of a town or village and visiting Jan Danckaert was no exception.

A pioneer of the 1600s, Jan Danckaert today still lives throughout the town, displaying traditional antiques that outline the history of the town with old ox wagons, artifacts that portray in which the Sans lived and tons of farming equipment that are more than 100 years old.

There’s nothing to do there.

Monique, an exceptional Goldsmith heard of our arrival and insisted we make a turn to her studio known as Ebonymoon Jewellery. Having lived in the town before her 20-year stay in Cape Town, it was last year August that she returned to make Porterville her permanent homestead.

Strapping us two younglings under her wing, she showed us her studio situated on the property of her home while her enormously huge dogs followed after suit. Sitting around her workbench where she hosts various jewellery workshops, Monique spoke about her passion. Even though she was not working, the smell of sawdust and craftsmanship still hung in the air. Her fine eye for detail is living proof on her neatly displayed countertops all sterling hung for all to see.

“Do you love honey? The old lady across the street makes the best honey in town”. Sheepishly looking in Courtney’s direction for an answer, I turned and said no, but my father loves it.

Before making our move towards the front door with an empty jar in her hand, she showed us her bathroom. Her bathroom? You might be thinking. Yes, where Christel the next person we about to meet created a mosaic artwork.

There’s nothing to do there.

After a 2 minute walk down the scorching quiet road to the old woman who sternly said no, she has no honey, we turned around and giggled under our breath because Monique warned us prior to arriving on the old woman’s doorstep that she was grumpy and Monique constantly had to remind her that she lived just down the road.

Beeline to our cars, we followed Monique to Mosaic House paradise.

Christel is one eccentric woman and describes herself as a Drama Queen.  Her entire house is designed and covered in mosaic tiles; all symbolising some form or shape of Christel’s life.

She started by creating a family tree on the far right end in front of her home. It then developed into a series of meanings in her life like you can’t walk without God and there is a universe out there, then there was just no stopping her.

Stepping into her home, each wall gave meaning. She explained how she outlined all five of her kids which for interesting sake, all start with the letter C including her grandchildren. Moving into her hallway were paintings of fascinating dragons in colours of red and blue. She showed us a few of her artwork that drew you in every canvas we starred at.

In each bedroom, dining room and basically every clean space she found, was covered in bright tiled artwork that kept us mesmerized for the duration we spent there. Her garden is a must-see-for-yourself expression. Each piece she creates speaks of her passion for intricate detail.

Don’t be fooled by her craziness. She’s one funny woman who kept us entertained. Mind you, we left with baguette bread and a souvenir to remind me of her.

There’s nothing to do there.

A quick pit stop home, we opted to spend lunch at a place called KoppiKoffi – sounds just like Oppikoffi, the hit Afrikaans TV show in South Africa. Seeing it was Monday, we were the only people to be seated.

Wanting to try the infamous KoppiKoffi pizza but were let down due to it being mid-week so we opted for toasted sandwiches and fries, sided with a cappuccino and Courtney’s ice cold beer; watching trucks and bakkies pass down Voortrekker road.

There’s nothing to do there.

Our next stop is to pop into a tiny gift store called Kaya, 2 minutes from the restaurant to see if they have any key rings Courtney and I collect on each travel excursion. Alas, they didn’t have yet their charming craft shop is worth a visit.

There is nothing to do there.

A good way to make the day adventurous was to drive up to 22 Waterville. While conducting my activity research, the drive to their consisted of gravel road which I didn’t want to risk with our car. However, local residents convinced us that the drive was ridiculously short; that was not really the case.

A long yet tedious rocky road, a path between fields of greenery, we made it to the reception office where dogs barked and farm workers herding the cattle as the sun begun to lay low in the sky. R30 pp later and a short explanation that due to the time, we could only see three of the 22 waterfalls, by the first one we should climb up a ladder to find the next.

Making our way through the automated gate, followed by reading the wooden signs along the unpaved road for direction, we parked our bruised car and followed the sounds of water falling.

We found the first one easily then we saw the steep wooden ladder leading you through bushes. As Courtney made his way up and me following right behind, all I heard was, “turn around now”. Trying to find grip on tree branches, Courtney accidentally touched on what was to be believed to be a baboon spider and freaked out; leading us to turn back and sit on rocks while we caught our breaths.

This is not for the faint-hearted.

Thinking we might have gone up the wrong ladder, we tried various paths but it all leads back to the one we were on before. We called it quits, sat at the first waterfall and admired what Mother Nature had to offer.

There’s nothing to do there.

News flies in a small town like Porterville all hearing about my rough end on my birthday. All the entrepreneurs in the area gathered at Flyers Lodge to host a get-together and make known that Porterville is much nicer than my disastrous occurrence.

We met Hermian and Bernard from Indie Ale. Karen, a ceramist who just sold a piece to a Saudi Prince and her husband Peter. The eccentric Joey, who is on the Tourism Board and hilarious stories to tell about her partner. Bradley and Janine who owns Flyers Lodge alongside Monique and her adventurous husband, Roy and, Dean and Philip from The Stable.

Because the days we were there were the days Indie Ale was closed, Bernard was so kind enough to bring over his craft beer and let us have a beer tasting session and I can tell you now that Courtney had the biggest smile on his face. Even though I don’t really drink, I opted to partake in the tasting sesh. We tried his three mainstream beers namely, the 24-River Blonde Ale, the Cochoqua Red Ale and the Porter’ville Porter, all with unique tastes. I liked the 24-River while Courtney lends towards the Cochoque Red Ale that had a hint of coffee.

Janine entertained us with some fireball swinging outside on the lawn as the sun had already set and encouraged Courtney to try it out for himself who seemed petrified yet went up and took a swing. Might I add, he was very chuffed with himself for not burning, of course?

We laughed, sat around the table and enjoyed one helluva feast sharing stories of the town, the people and how they all met; each with a unique and interesting take.

There’s nothing to do there.

Take a walk to the beautiful Dutch Reformed Church close to the museum and admire the architecture. We took a quick tour around the building and spent about 5mins taking it all in before our departure.

“Can I resign from my job and move here permanently?”, Courtney had asked me while we about to leave The Stable.

“Someday, yes”

Until the next adventure.

Stephanie Marthinus Blog