A Positive Outlook

Chris Harvie stops over at an oasis in the desert that’s on the way to everywhere

ERIC Husing is from the United States. It is a long story, so don’t ask him about it if you are in hurry. All you need to know is that he is married to Anna, who is from Ermelo, and that they own and run The Overlook in Keimoes, which is totally un-American and equally un-Ermelonian.

Keimoes is 300km north of Calvinia, about 50km west of Upington and the same distance east of Kakamas. On the other side of Upington and Kakamas, it is over 250km to Kuruman and Springbok respectively. Distances are huge in this part of the country, which is why towns like Keimoes need good places to stay.

The Outlook is just such a place and, let’s face it, there are numerous not-very-good accommodation spots in that region – lots of swirly curtains, chintz and religious tracts – so when you find one without all that paraphernalia, you recommend it.

The vineyards along the Orange River provide welcome cultivation and colour after hours of dragging along barren dusty roads, broken only by occasional kopjes, distant rocky outcrops and ever-swelling mines. The Outlook’s outlook is over line upon line of neatly trellised vines.

Eric has built three cunningly designed thatched rooms along a ridge above this view. The finishes are superb, the bathrooms classy and the units well kitted-out for self-catering. Each has its own verandah. There’s a braai area under an afdak against the boundary wall on one side and, further down the hill, a pool with sunbeds and tables. Ours was a bracing dip on a late April morning but it would be a welcome relief from the Kalahari heat in the sweltering summer.

Of course, South Africa is liberally spattered with excellent lodges and guest houses run by dedicated talkaholics such as Eric, but The Outlook’s owner has an unusual trick up his sleeve that makes his place especially intriguing: for complicated reasons, Esoteric Eric was brought up in an Indonesian kitchen in New York and is an award-winning chef. His spicy mutton soup is one of the most delicious dishes I have ever eaten.

The Outlook is on the way to everywhere in that stretch of the desert, but there’s also plenty to do if you are spending more than one night. The roads are lined with stalls and there are good and bad restaurants such as Die Werf – just up the road from Eric – which is a bit of both. It’s strong on springbok and black wildebeest wandering around the garden and on bangers and mash, but decidedly weak, for example, on pies.

The Orange River Wine Cooperative offers tours of its five vineyards and there’s the Kalahari-Oranje museum in Upington, famous for its life-sized donkey statue.

Kakamas claims to be home to no fewer than 11 working Persian-style water wheels so, if that happens to be your bag, you could spend a week here. And if you are looking for more turbulent tumbling waters than wheel-driven ones, there’s always Augrabies Falls around the corner.

Ask Eric for more ideas when you have finished unpacking the car. It might take him a bit of time to run through the list and you’ll probably get an entertaining family history as well, but it beats putting up with swirly curtains.

WHERE IT IS: 9 Von Wielligh Street, Keimoes, Northern Cape. The kopje-top lodge can be seen clearly from the main road below.

WHY GO THERE: Probably as a stopover on the way to somewhere else, but make it a two-night stop and get to grips with this remote region.

WHAT IT HAS: Three fully-equipped en-suite self-catering chalets – 2 double, 1 twin, DStv and air-conditioning. A family unit is under construction.

WHAT IT’S LIKE: It is the creation of an enthusiast and it is fun to hear Eric enthuse about it. He loves his place and he is quite right. It’s unbelievable value for money.

AND THE FOOD:Book in advance to sample Eric’s Indonesian fare so that he can nip off to Jakarta (or Checkers in Upington) for the ingredients.

RATES: R275 per person sharing. R400 single occupancy. Includes a continental breakfast.

WHAT THERE IS TO SEE ON THE WAY: Unending Kalahari sand with an occasional mongoose or quiver tree (kokerboom) to break the monotony.

CONTACT: 0544611235; e-mail overlook@telkomsa.net or visit www.overlook.co.za