Peet van Heerden told us to have lunch at The Brewery so we did.
We found it on Pienaar Street on the other side of the trickle of a river running through the middle of Nieu Bethesda. Past stone walls with quinces hanging heavily over them, past a field of goats, past a window in which a white mother cat was washing her four white kittens, and then pulling up under a pepper tree and parking on the steep incline beside the road. Walking past a shed where Vince is sure he saw a carcase of a kudu hanging, and up a garden path flanked by herbs and into the open-doored, cheese-filled but otherwise empty deli.
A girl appeared and told us that Andre was out shopping and that he'd be back soon. What's he shopping for? I asked. Baking powder, she said.
I was curious, because we'd been told pointedly that no groceries could be bought in Nieu Bethesda, and that we should bring absolutely everything we needed for our self-catering cottage. Not an issue for us since we were loaded with camping supplies, but still, my curiosity was piqued. Maybe the post office sold baking powder.
Within minutes a bakkie pulled up outside, filled with huge sacks of what might have been flour, but perhaps it was grain for beer. Anyway, a lot more than baking powder. This was Andre, tanned, friendly, happy to give us lunch. Where did you go shopping? I asked.
At the spaza shop, he said matter of factly.
Spaza shops are in townships.
What can you buy there? I asked in my white ignorance.
Everything, he said.
Huh. We decided we liked him.
Lunch was served out back on a picnic table under (another) tall pepper tree. A friendly but reticent kelpie dog came to say hello, a swing hung from a tree branch, an upturned child's scooter lay on the green grass. Water flowed in a furrow higher up the slope. We could see a vegetable garden and a raised concrete swimming pool on the other side of the lawn
There was no menu - we were offered a platter of house-made cheese with the option of kudu salami, which made the Frenchman's eyes gleam.
And of course we had beer, also made on site.
The chalky little goats' cheeses were delicious, and beetroot marmalade went perfectly with the pepper-rolled one.
Olive goat with local honey.
The salami was very smoky and a little too smooth-feeling for me, but Vince loved it. Bread quite wonderful, and good just with butter. Also quite addictive were the cucumber 'bread pickles': thinly sliced cucumbers, pickled. Eaten with butter and bread.
Another couple arrived as were leaving but otherwise it was very quiet, though I gather evenings are hopping. A sign outside reassured incapacitated visitors that they would be delivered safely to their various abodes in town by donkey cart. I think it was a donkey cart.
We stocked up on some droewors on the way out. Biltong was out of supply and they were waiting for hunting season to open to begin making it again. The hypocrisy of the game-watching carnivore. Kudu are beautiful antelope which we feel privileged to see in reserves, and we had eaten them for lunch.
But we did not leave feeling guilty, we left with a sense of utter relief. On two sides of a river we had experienced dark and light. The fearful and the enlightened. The one who feared the township and the one who shopped there.
Driving back to Doornberg we passed a woman sitting outside the police station, head bowed; an old man in the shade of a tree, staring at us impassively. The few shacks on the outskirts of that side of town framed sullen faces, and beyond them a waving man herded Nguni cattle by horseback. A complicated little place.
The dogged, overarching South African question and Damoclean sword: How to employ the unemployed. How to stop the cycle of poverty and its attendant evils.
To ponder the question, head off to Nieu Bethesda, eat some cheese and drink some beer, hear the goats bahing in the lucerne field across the road and the chatter of the employed young women in the kitchen. See if you can solve the unsolvable.
Sneeuberg Brewery and 2 Goats Deli