Nestled in the North West Province, somewhere between the Magaliesburg and the Botswana border, lies the unassuming town of Groot Marico.
The town itself is small, basic, and desperate but surrounding this little dorpie lies natural delights that arise from, or sink below, the red earth and scrubby bosveld.
Author, Herman Charles Bosman held this chunk of South African landscape in very high regard, and these literary nods are used as the basis for the small tourism industry ‘The Marico’, as the locals call it, generates.
There is no other place I know that is so heavy with atmosphere, so strangely and darkly impregnated with that stuff of life that bears the authentic stamp of South-Africa. - Herman Charles Bosman, Marico Revisited
Situated in the Limpopo River basin, the rivers that run past the town are the only perennial streams in the basin that produce clean, drinkable water. We drank it, it was pretty good, a bit fungal tasting, but our guts stayed inside us… so no stresses there.
We stayed at RiverStill Guest House, run by a guy named Jacques who moved to The Marico 20-odd years ago after he was diagnosed with cancer. The clear air, fresh water, and boundless space seem to have done him well; and he has created a beautiful place to stay at in the process.
The property is dotted with an arrangement of citrus trees and boasts a lovely herb garden that guests are welcome to scratch in for bits to spice up their suppers. There’s also a labyrinth, which provides both relaxation and reflection.
RiverStill offers guests intimate and cosy stone cottages, equipped with fireplaces, private patios, and snazzy kilim carpets. All the cottages are a short walk from the milky turquoise river, where canoes and water swings offer ways to enjoy the slow moving water.
And while the river is highly enjoyable, we came to Groot Marico to see the Oog (Eye). And man, we weren’t disappointed.
About 40 km from RiverStill, along a dry, dusty and bumpy road, passed farms and veld,, lies this otherworldly pool of water. Walk straight towards the bulrushes, situated on a private farm owned by J Z Palm, and soon you will discover it.
Waterlilies and pads freckle this pond, and in the spaces between them the sun shines through into crystal clear water to reveal more emerald vegetation.
Staring into the Eye you expect to see mermaids – or at least exotically painted fish – slink between the submerged plants. Unfortunately, no such luck. It was so still as we gazed into the Eye’s modest depths (save a Black Crake, who scuttled along the lily pads in a comically paranoid manner), that we found ourselves just quietly staring, appreciating this marvelously bizarre natural wonder.
The source of the Marico River, The Eye, is actually is a large dolomitic hole in the ground. Bearing witness to the start of something as massive as a river with a basin of over 13 000 km is only outdone by the sheer beauty of the water, which is a popular spot among scuba divers.
We visited The Eye in the middle of winter, but the sun was out, so eventually our clothes came off, and we gingerly jumped in, quick to relax and luxuriate in the cool, clear water.
The sheets of black rubber matting, wood, 43and carpet that the farm owner has placed along one side of the Eye, although rather unsightly, provided a good space to soak up more of the African sun and enjoy a picnic lunch. He has also erected a stilted structure for the the adventurous types to jump off of into the water, but it looked a bit rickety for our liking.
Driving back along the red dusty road to RiverStill, we felt we had encountered something incredible. Because we had; a natural wonder which seems so far removed from the landscape that surrounds it, that it creates an aura of mysticism and magnetism.
Back in our cottage, a bottle of red wine by the fire provided a perfect ending to an utterly magical weekend, and driving back to Joburg the next day, we felt renewed and revived. The Groot Marico had certainly treated us well.
For more information:
Groot Marico Tourism: http://www.marico.co.za/
- Note that there is one toll gate on the way from JHB that will run you about R80 each way.
- It is advised to do all your shopping before you get to Groot Marico, as there are only small cafe type shops in the town.