On a sizzling Easter weekend in 1989, a group of us – including my long-time friend and co-blogger on salmagundi, Jane-Anne – headed off into the Klein Karoo for a long weekend at a little-known hot mineral spring called Warmwaterberg. (Left: Some of our party – Dennis, Bruce, Jane-Anne, me, someone I can’t remember, Andrew and Flip.)
Because it was little known, we knew little about it, including two facts that turned out to be rather important: 1, it was home to about twenty kajillion mosquitoes; and 2, there was only hot – very hot – water.
We’d booked the farmhouse (which at the time was the only accommodation available) and, when we arrived on the Friday evening, we did what young people do – we cracked open the tequila.
Countless shots later, and after lots of dips in the steaming mineral pool (at the time the only pool), we staggered off to our various bedrooms in the farmhouse. And were immediately set upon by squadrons of mosquitoes the likes of which we’d never seen before and I hope never to see again.
While we’d packed the necessaries (tequila, guitars, chocolate, swimming cozzies), we hadn’t packed any mosquito repellant, so much of the night was spent sealed sweatily under our blankets or dazedly trying to ignore being feasted on by the beasts or leaping dementedly around, squashing the ones we could see.
In the morning, we sent an urgent message to one of our party who was arriving late – bring mosquito coils!
The other problem – that there was no cold water – we solved by filling bottles with near-boiling spring water and putting them hopefully in the small, groaning bar fridge to cool down. The weather was blisteringly hot and there were quite a few of us, so there were several ill-tempered squabbles over who got to drink the cold water. Mainly, though, we just relied on tequila. (Those were the days!)
Above: 1989 – my sister Tana at the sole hot pool.
Below: 2012 – Marianne at the now-fenced pool complex. The pool in the background is the same one as in the pic above; the change-room building is still there; and the clump of plants behind the blue object in the pic above is now the healthy growth in the pic below.
Fast-forward almost a quarter of a century, and Warmwaterberg was a stop on Marianne’s and my recent road trip to Nieu-Bethesda. It’s both very different and very much the same – different, because there’s now a range of accommodation options, two hot pools and a large cold pool, cold water on tap and fewer mosquitoes (although that probably has to do with the season); and the same because it has not, thankfully, been overdeveloped.
We stayed in one of the old labourers’ cottages right at the top of the property with amazing views over the valley below. We had two baths in our cottage but chose instead to walk down to the big hot pool and float around there until it got too hot to bear (which happens quite quickly) – it’s an amazingly Zen experience, and when you get out of the pool you feel almost boneless. And brainless. Which was very pleasant.
Above: The view from our cottage at sunset (top) and sunrise (above).
Warmwaterberg apparently gets very full over weekends and holidays, but if you go during the week (we were there Tuesday/Wednesday) there aren’t many people, and it’s a wonderfully restful getaway in the most beautiful surroundings.