What does a weekend – a really good weekend – smell like? At Rooiberg – situated either 55km (via the R510) or 85km (via the R516 and R511) from Thabazimbi, or about 82km from BelaBela via the R516 – Saturday mornings smell like freshly flipped pancakes sprinkled with a scandalous amount of cinnamon sugar.
And no, your nose isn’t playing tricks on you: outside the entrance of the Rooiberg One Stop, five energetic golden oldies are working hard behind the gas flames. It’s very clearly a labour of love for this team, all residents of Avondsrus security village, who have been doing this for donkey’s years. Cor Minnaar, originally from Pretoria, turns out the pancakes five at a time; his wife, Hannetjie, Ludwig Uys and Jannie and Hettie Badenhorst take turns to dust them with cinnamon sugar; then Hannetjie or Hettie rolls them up. Each decadently sweet pancake is then handed to a customer on a square of baking paper – with a “R5, please, and thank you!” to seal the deal.
“The pancakes are made in aid of the church,” says Hannetjie, who is soon in full-time service as treasurer as the queue grows longer. “And, as befits good platteland neighbours, the town’s NG and Hervormde churches take turns to run the stand,” she says. “I think our recipe is the secret – I brought it with me from Pretoria when we moved here 13, 14 years ago.”
Hannetjie smiles. They ended up in Rooiberg by pure chance, she says. “One weekend we came to visit Leeupoort ( leeupoortnaturereserve.co.za), a holiday resort about 20km from here, where the same friend who gave me the pancake recipe lived. Cor had forgotten to pack his undies, so our friend suggested we drive through to Rooiberg, as there was a shop here she thought might have some in stock.”
Underwear wasn’t the only thing that awaited the Minnaars in Rooiberg. They also discovered a compact home suitable for their retirement – one of the 54 units in Avondsrus (where Platteland spent the night).
“It’s a lovely little town,” says Hannetjie. “You can’t even really say there’s a peaceful village atmosphere because, to me, it feels like you’re right in the Bushveld where nothing happens: you sleep and read and eat and chat and sleep and read and eat and chat…
“To me, it feels like you’re right in the Bushveld where
nothing happens: you sleep and read and eat and chat, and sleep and read and eat and chat…”
And when you’ve truly had enough, you can do as the city dwellers do and hang around at the mall. Can you believe such a tiny place has two malls?”
TO SURBURBANITES and residents of the concrete jungle the “shopping centres” in Rooiberg would probably seem like Menlyn Mall or Tyger Valley Centre at midnight: the “original mall”, the Rooiberg One Stop, is in fact a Foodzone supermarket with a comprehensive hardware section and a bottle store; the second, “new” mall, Marula Hub, a stone’s throw away in Marula Street, opened the doors of its coffee shop at the end of 2014 and has since expanded to include a range of little outlets that sell second-hand clothes, homeware (as well as CDs, VHS videos and cassettes) and books. There’s a library, too, where children spend time reading and listening to stories in the afternoons, and, since July 2015, a cross between a butchery and a deli >
that stocks, among other things, seven types of boerewors as well as warthog cabanossi, and a range of good wines. And last year the latest addition to Marula was a small bakery.
Pretoria filling-station owners Deon and Natalie de Klerk bought the premises in 2013 when “goats, cattle and donkeys still did their business on the stoep”, put up a fence and started the renovation project. They refer to Marula Hub as a labour of love: “The motto is ‘For the love of Rooiberg’” – and today this community development project employs 18 local residents. Yet the De Klerks would rather sing the praises of their staff and the small town that is slowly rising from the ashes, because to them “building bridges and demolishing walls come naturally”.
Natalie’s late father, who was a businessman and a legendary cattle farmer and abattoir owner from Hammanskraal, bought two farms outside Rooiberg at an auction in the ’60s. One of the farms was later expropriated by the government, and Natalie inherited the remaining game and guest farm in 2010.
When she saw the state of the local school and, over time, heard about the number of schoolgirls falling pregnant, as well as the shocking matric pass rate, and how learners battled with reading, writing and arithmetic, Natalie started a renovation project at the school and >