Taking stock of the Karoo

Don’t always trust a British ambassador when it comes to breakfast.
I had been recommended, by the former British ambassador to somewhere or other, to visit The Apollo Theatre in Victoria-West for the best breakfast on earth. So, of course, I did. One must obey British ambassadors. Even former ones to who- knows-where.

It was, he explained, run by a community development agency. So a good breakfast and a good cause too. Blazing sunshine pricked the gravel causing it to shine like crazy diamonds as we picked our early way across the Karoo.

The Apollo shows occasional flicks but is more immediately impressive as the home of a small but superbly presented collection of antediluvian movie cameras and a couple of old Box Brownies. We were met on the stairs, as we sloped silently up into the projectionist’s lair, by curator Brendan.

“Hi. I’m Brendan,” said Brendan. That’s all he said. He switched on the lights and disappeared, never to be seen again. We occasionally picked up shreds of important development agency business wafting up to us from the depths of the Green Room.

Ready for a breakfast fit for an ambassador, we sloped downstairs again. The Diamond Route Cafe is at the front of the theatre, just behind the acres of expensively-chaired empty desks in the offices of the development agency. It is decked out Art Deco. The Cafe. Not the development agency’s office, which is not decked out at all.

A huge menu arrived.

“A monster pioneering breakfast, please, as recommended by Her Majesty’s Representative.”

“We are doing stock-take so there is no food,” the waiter replied.

“We have only coffee.”

Fair enough. They were obviously counting out the coffee, grain by grain. So, coffee it would be.

Off she swung, taking with her the menus and an unoccupied chair that had become inadvertently tangled in her passing ample apron.

We caught the last few words of Brendan’s musings on his cellphone as we left, having contributed less than we had intended to development. He sounded forlorn, as well he might. Un- sated, we pushed west again on a dusty brown road with rare patches of green and sheaves of black insects.

Eighty kilometres further on, Loxton is that rarity in these parts, a heavily treed town; an oasis fed by boreholes, its ivy-clad church perched prominently on a rarely-travelled traffic circle alongside which stood a sign indicating that Die Rooi Granaat was open for Ontbyt and a poster advertising that the Apollo Film Festival was coming up in nearby Victoria West. Or rather that it had happened two months earlier. No wonder there was no food left in the theatre cafe.

The proprietor and her chums hospitably vacated the roadside tables and disappeared inside amongst the unavoidable Chappies, dried mangos and appelkoos konfyts and the rather more intriguing range of face massagers. Die Rooi Granaat supplies every preserve under the Karoo sun and a machine to preserve your face after a beating from the Karoo sun. Loxton’s answer to Botox.

The church clock struck 14 as a slim pink proprietor produced pink tablecloths, pink sugar bowls, pink plates and a full Karoo breakfast. No movie cameras, no Brendan and no development agency, but Die Rooi Granaat is as reliable as the clock on the church tower.

In fact more so, it gets it right all the time. No stock-take required. Go and tell the ambassador.