In the late 1800s, the little Northern Cape town of Victoria West experienced a major disaster, followed by a prolonged period of very good fortune.
In 1871, the settlement was hit by a cloudburst that resulted in a 4m-high wall of water that killed more than 60 people. People at the local museum will point out the little church where there is still a stained glass panel commemorating the floods of Victoria West.
Less than 20 years later, when the great South African diamond rush was on in Kimberley to the north, Victoria West benefited greatly from prospectors, miners and travellers stopping over for rest and supplies.
The local farmers also used the town as their central place of worship, called Nagmaal (evening service) in Afrikaans. Nagmaal was more than a time to pray. It was also a great social celebration, held every few months, and many a romance was born during Nagmaal time.
The town’s main event happens in late September each year, when spring has covered the region with daisy blooms.
Die-hard rugby union fans will remember the legendary Springbok, Mannetjies Roux. He is a Victoria Wester, and owns the Victoria Trading Post and Mannetjies Roux Museum, which is full of interesting memorabilia and well worth half an hour of your time.
At the Victoria West Regional Museum, you will discover all manner of lifestyle artefacts going back to the Victorian era. There is also an archaeological display and a very interesting piece of pigskin. This 3m-long stretch of skin bears the signatures of the first stockholders of the 2nd Standard Bank to be established in South Africa.
Victoria West remains a welcoming, gracious stopover to this day!