It isn’t difficult to find unusual names in the Karoo. It seems as if this vast, effortless aridity gives rise to names that are the deuce to pronounce, if you’re a visitor, and difficult even if you live in South Africa.
Here are 10 Karoo towns with weird sounding names…
When it comes to the weird names of some Karoo towns there tends to be a strong association with underground streams (I’m thinking here of Lekkersing). De Aar is no exception. Its name means ‘artery’ which could well refer to its location as a major railway junction.
Through here steam trains used to boom and puff their way, each engine with its signature whistle. But artery actually refers to the underground water supply of De Aar. Despite its position in the nether reaches of the Northern Cape where the continuous flatness is broken only by the occasional bush and odd-shaped ridge, De Aar has plentiful water from underground streams, supplied by close to 100 boreholes.
What you don’t know about De Aar: it’s the place to try and break paragliding cross-country flight records.
The name of this town that lies north west of Kuruman, virtually on the border with Botswana, is an intentional pun. Hotazel. It really is, according to those who named it, as hot as hell although it does not get nearly as hot as other places in the Kalahari (but once the thermometer is over 37 degrees Celsius, who is actually keeping track?).
What you don’t know about Hotazel: It has apparently got good 3G access.
Despite the obvious connotations with the Afrikaans ‘kak’ (a common South African slang word meaning ‘crap’), Kakamas is not named after anything odorous or brown. The true origin of its name has more than a couple of theories. One is that it comes from the Khoi word ‘gagamas’, referring to the clay of the area used by Khoi women on their faces.
Another is that a nearby drift was named Takemas, meaning ‘place of the raging cow’, which referred to a run-in between a fairly irate bovine and the local Korana herder, whilst heading through the drift.
What you don’t know about Kakamas: it began as a colony for white people who had lost everything due to a drought.
Keimoes ostensibly means ‘mouse nest’, when translated from the Koranna language, which may refer to the mice already living here when the colony settled. Name aside, Keimoes is world famous for its Persian-style waterwheels. There are purportedly 11 in Kakamas, but if you can’t find them visit the reconstruction model still in use on an irrigation canal along the main road.
What you don’t know about Keimoes: It is an amalgamation of about 120 islands.
Khuboes or !Khubus is part of the Richtersveld reserve, one of several village settlements to develop from the missionary crusades of the 19th century. It is home to the Khoekhoen people; a village of remarkable scenery that lies at the foot of an enormous mountain separating it from the Richtersveld National Park.
What you don’t know about Khuboes: almost every home has a mat hut, or matjieshuis, the traditional, domed shaped hut of the Nama people
The most southerly of the little villages of the Richtersveld the origin of the name Lekkersing is the Afrikaans ‘sing sweetly’ that refers either to the town’s natural spring that makes lovely noises, or to the story that the village’s founder, Ryk Jasper Cloete, named it such after the town’s people’s voices. For local tours ask for Jakob Diergaardt.
What you don’t know about Lekkersing: The Protea Elderly Club food Garden supplies vegetables, fruit and herbs to the community; the best garden in the Northern Cape it has won several prizes.
The missionary village of Pella is described as a palm date oasis in the midst of Namaqualand, its spring the reason for the figs, sweet potatoes and grapes grown here. It is named after an ancient town that served as a refuge for persecuted Christians by the Romans.
What you don’t know about Pella: the beautiful well over a hundred and fifty years-old cathedral was built by the French Brother Leo Wolf from a picture in the Encyclopedie des Arts et Metiers (the latter day version of the Internet). He and Father Simon took seven years to build the church without plans.
To assuage any curiosity about this town’s name, it comes from the Koranna word Prieska that means ‘the place of the lost she-goat’. But there is no further explanation as to what it is about the goat that applies to this dry, little town where they mine semi-precious stones.
What you don’t know about Prieska: it is about to acquire an 86-megawatt peak solar power plant, expected to be operational in 2016.
Putsonderwater in South African means a place way out of the way; in the middle of nowhere. Directly translated from the Afrikaans it is ‘a well without water’.
Back in the days when it was still known as Klippan, a tenant farmer dug a well. Every time a thirsty traveller arrived and asked him about it, he told the passerby: ‘Ja meneer, ek het ‘n put, maar dis ‘n put sonder water.’ (yes, I have a well, but it’s a well without water.)
What you don’t know about Putsonderwater: It actually exists, it is a railway siding and the remains of a village in the middle of the Kalahari.
It’ s a lovely story, this community of Damara and Koranna people who were forcefully removed in 1973 and then regained their land post 1994. With hard work and a vision they have built 14 camp sites and over six chalets, accommodating mostly the 4X4 crowd who head up to the hot spring that is said to have curative powers.
What you don’t know about Riemvasmaak: it is home to the highest abseil in the country of 148 metres.