Charming silence says it all
Karoo farmhouse Jakkalsdans pulls rabbit out of hat with treats, tales and a myriad outdoor activities travel2011
ANY self- respecting jackal would have had its nose tucked into its bushy tail. An icy wind was driving enormous tumbleweeds before it on the lonely expanse of veld.
We were staying at Jakkalsdans, on the R354 between Sutherland and Calvinia, and I was on a mission to find the shy riverine rabbit. The terrain seemed perfect for the endangered mammal – a dry watercourse with scrub bushes hanging over the edges.
So I hopped over rocks, searched for prints and tried not to sound like a herd of spooked elephants.
That evening, owner Johan Visser told me Jakkalsdans was too cold for riverine rabbits, though they were found in the region. There were three other kinds, which came out mainly at night, he said.
A treat was in store – his wife, Lien, arrived with freshly baked roosterkoek, a traditional bread which often accompanies braais in the Karoo. We tucked in as she lit the fire to ward off the chill.
Lien told us that when she came to Jakkalsdans, after marrying Johan, for the first three months her ears rang from the silence. “When a bird flies overhead, you look up, because you hear the wind in its wings,” she said.
Silence is part of the charm of the spacious, well-equipped, selfcatering Jakkalsdans. Lien has put her stamp on the decor of the five bedrooms, each named for different jackals and the bat-eared fox.
Guests can go mountain biking, hiking, and fishing in the Fish River which runs through the farm. There is a quad-bike track (bring your own scrambler), 4x4 trail, bird watching, stargazing, or you can participate in farm activities.
Nearby attractions include the Southern African Large Telescope at the observatory; the Louw Museum (birthplace of poet brothers NP Van Wyk Louw and WEG Louw); Ouberg Pass with its views of the Cedarberg and the Karoo valley; Gannaga Pass; and Tankwa Karoo National Park.
Johan told us his grandfather (who had six daughters and six sons) on his mother’s side owned the farm Wolwedans. He and the boys worked the lands and sheared the sheep. The eldest son kept count of who brought what sheep.
Eventually, the old man divided Wolwedans into six sections, one of them being Jakkalsdans.
An article hanging on a passage wall gives some insight into the battle for survival, which the muchmaligned jackal faces. It tells how animals between 10 months and two-years old have to search for their own bit of land.
A jackal of just 11 months has been known to walk 24km in a night for four nights in a row.
Sometimes they cover 40km a night, then lie up for several days to let their tattered feet heal, before carrying on. The stress of such strenuous physical exertion accounts for a 60 percent mortality among young animals.
On the final morning, white streamers of clouds radiated across the sky. Snow was on the way. A lonely swing, creaking in the wind, personified all I had come to look for by way of an isolated farm.
Call 023 571 2745 or 072 996 8185.
DECEPTIVE: Jakkalsdans may look like a typical farmstead, but it is spacious and well-equipped.
STARK AND HARSH: Typical terrain favoured by the endangered riverine rabbit.
DRAWING INSPIRATION: The shy mammal the writer had hoped to spot.