A trip to Nieu Bethesda is a given when it comes to touring around the Sarah Baartman District so obviously we had to go out of our way on the way to Oudtshoorn (if you look at a map you will see that from Graaf Reinet these two places are in opposite directions…) and pop in to the home of fossils and owl decor.
The road to Nieu Bethesda is paved with not very much. Unless, of course, you count stunning views of valleys and a farm stall or two along the way. Ok…maybe it’s just one farm stall. But there are a lot of monkeys on the side of the road as well as warthogs so that’s kind of awesome. I wonder if folks who live in other countries get to see so many animals along the sides of their roads. I bet you not! Not like us at least… *insert winking emoji here*
Now, contrary to popular opinion, I have to admit that I find Nieu Bethesda to be kind of…well…a little bit creepy! And I do realise that we’re not actually supposed to admit this…but come ON folks! You can’t tell me that while you’re driving around those dusty dirt roads that it doesn’t occur to you how this teeny hamlet might be an excellent location for a new South African horror series to take place in.
Imagine it: a weird cult of animal carcass-wearing locals pretend to be completely normal during the day, but at night they gather in the forest and eat the babies of the collection of permanently pregnant women they keep locked up in a shed somewhere. And you just know there’s going to be a scene where some woman who is eight and a half months pregnant is hiding behind a praying shepherd in the middle of the night, trying to convince herself that no, those things did NOT just move.
And why are these weird cult people evil? They’re evil because they spent too much time with the demons that inhabit OWL HOUSE!
Yes. I said it: Owl House is TERRIFYING!
I get that Owl House is one of South Africa’s gems. I don’t even begrudge it that status. I do, however, take a little issue with the romanticising of this place. This is not a cutesy little place where a sweet misunderstood artist spent her days completing her life’s work. No, folks. I’m sorry….but what in the hell is that stuff?!
Did I misunderstand the reputation of the place? Whenever people have said to me “Oh my gosh you HAVE to go to Nieu Bethesda it is just the BEST place!” how did the creep factor never come up? Am I the only one who walked through Helen Martin’s house and felt an overwhelming sense of suffocation? Sadness? Panic?
And the worst part? Helen Martins killed herself by consuming caustic soda. Caustic soda! That’s the stuff I use to dissolve all my hair that’s caught in the shower drain so that my bathroom doesn’t flood… That is insane! Is it any wonder that such a massive sense of unease washed over me as I walked through the threshold of her home? Is it really just me who feels this way?
I can barely even speak for anything else after the Owl House. I was so overwhelmed by it that the rest is kind of a blur. The kids loved the fossil place and I have to admit I didn’t know that dinosaur fossils were such a huge deal around here.
In all seriousness though: If you haven’t been, go. It’s a fascinating place, and who doesn’t love a good dose of the heebiejeebies anyway? It’s a great place for a day out with the family, and to be 100% honest with you I wish I could rent a place there for a month and hide out with an internetless laptop and a bag full of books. Because it’s July and I haven’t written a single stitch of fiction this whole year so I’ve got that whole uninspired artist thing going for me at the moment. Maybe I should write that story about the cult.
Because seriously: If the Owl House isn’t haunted then all the ghosts that exist have missed a HUGE opportunity…