Nestled below the Compassberg, Nieu Bethesda is an oasis in the arid Karoo. This village, left behind in time attracts those seeking peace and tranquility…. An eternal spring bubbles on the plateau just above Nieu Bethesda. Its water rises up from the earth to flow downhill and through the village’s network of furrows, one of the last working furrow systems still operating daily. The babble of moving water is a fitting soundtrack to the serene pace of life in this small town, where the streets remain untarred and locals greet visitors like friends.
Nieu Bethesda is overlooked by Compassberg, the highest mountain in the Eastern Cape, and is lined on either side by hills. In this narrow fertile valley lies a town waiting to enchant and beguile. Night skies are clear, velvety and unforgettable. The air is crisp and enlivening. Ancient pear trees and quince hedges edge the roads and fields. Even though the village has no streetlights, it is safe to walk out at any time of the day and night and parked cars are safe.
Nieu Bethesda is home to a growing number of artists, crafters and other creatives seeking a more conducive way of life. Decades ago, however, writer Athol Fugard chose Nieu Bethesda as his inspirational home from home and the place where many of his world-famous plays were written.
But it is Helen Martins, creator of the mystical and unforgettable Owl House and Camel Yard, who has immortalised Nieu Bethesda. It was here that she gave life and form to her unique vision, by transforming her modest house and garden with glass and cement. Now run as a museum, and known internationally as a remarkable example of outsider art, the Owl House is open to the public every day of the year (except 25 December).
The town’s growing reputation as a place to unwind makes it a popular choice for those wishing to reconnect with nature and with themselves. Wildlife, birds and plants are abundant; physical pursuits are on hand; and there’s the enormous Karoo landscape. All of these – plus an element of mystery – make Nieu Bethesda a great place to be, to just . . . be.
Remember, in keeping with its distinctive pace of life, Nieu Bethesda has no bank, ATM, petrol pump, doctor, pharmacy or supermarkets. The Ibis Lounge, Owl House and First People Gallery have credit card machines.