Hiding almost shyly behind a koppie just off the N1, 135km south of Colesberg, the Karoo town of Richmond holds the status of being South Africa’s first and only ‘book town’. This relatively new position is still in its developmental stages.
However, already there are a number of second-hand bookshops all brimming with just about every genre. Most are in the atmospheric renovated buildings congregated at the top of the town’s main thoroughfare.
Built astride the Ongers River, the town has an intangible appeal and quaintness to its atmosphere. There are well-preserved examples of various styles of architecture, and along its streets houses peep from behind shady stoeps supported by various styles of painted pillars. The main street is pleasant to stroll along and, besides the bookshops, there are a small number of places to eat, drink and browse for treasures.
Look out for
Bookshops - This literally means it is a town for anyone with a passion for second-hand books. There are more than a half dozen bookshops to browse.
The Saddle Horse Museum - reputedly one of only two saddle horse museums in the world. The museum also has some very interesting pieces not related to horses.
The Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1854, has the country’s highest pulpit.
Anglo-Boer War history - there’s a circular 1-hour hiking trail starting just outside town that takes one past several forts where the British were garrisoned. On top of Vegkop stands the remains of a redoubt identified by the British and Vierkleur flags (this is private property so the tourism information office will help to arrange access).
Brickworks - several Karoo towns have low-tech brick factories that are really worth a visit. This may sound like strange advice, but the technique used is old-fashioned and quite ingenious. Clay from a nearby pit is mixed with ash and water, and this is then mixed using donkey-power before the bricks are baked.
Richmond Gallery - sells great bric-à-brac, objet d’junk, and enamelware, and is a venue for local artists and crafters to display their work.
Blue Crane congregations - during winter South Africa’s national bird, the blue crane, gather in great numbers in the vicinity. Contact the Nama Karoo Foundation for details.