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In photographs: a visit to Wakkerstroom

Words by Melanie van Zyl. Article from the April issue of Getaway.
“So many stories are written about Wakkerstroom. They feature the same people and they all say the same shit. Sorry, we swear here in Wakkerstroom. We are salt of the earth, real people.”

In the April 2015 issue of Getaway, I discover down-to-earth locals and foul-mouthed amusement in the birders’ paradise of Wakkerstroom, and love every minute of it.

Wakkerstroom - Melanie van Zyl-21-2

The town of Wakkerstroom from across the wetland on an early morning.

‘Sleepy’ is an overused adjective when it comes to describing South Africa’s dorpies. It’s right up there with ‘quaint’, ‘picturesque’ and ‘stunning’. In fact, these words are (ahem, were) banned from Getaway’s pages, but truth is Wakkerstroom is a small, picturesque, sleepy village.

Two locals cycle down the main road in town.

Two locals cycle down the main road in town.

A quirky gift shop in an old barn on the main road greets you as you drive into Wakkerstroom.

A quirky gift shop in an old barn on the main road greets you as you drive into Wakkerstroom.

Cosmos and farm guides create a village feel along with the dirt roads.

Cosmos and farm guides create a village feel along with the dirt roads.

And that’s just the way the locals like it.

Famed for impeccable birding, Wakkerstroom claims rights to 370 different avian species in the area. But there’s more to the town than beautiful hides, guinea fowl roaming the streets and cranes feeding in the vlei with the church steeple poking the sky in the background.

Guinea fowl peck through gardens and scuttle along the roads.

Guinea fowl peck through gardens and scuttle along the roads.

A Birdlife bird guide scouts the scene for an endemic species.

A Birdlife bird guide scouts the scene for an endemic species.

A bird hide peeks through the grass overlooking a small dam on the outskirts of town.

A bird hide peeks through the grass overlooking a small dam on the outskirts of town.

A long boardwalk leads toward three different bird hides along the Wakkerstroom wetland.

A long boardwalk leads toward three different bird hides along the Wakkerstroom wetland.

The Wakkerstroom wetland at sunset.

The Wakkerstroom wetland at sunset.

A visitor looks over the bird posters inside a hide at Wakkerstroom.

A visitor looks over the bird posters inside a hide at Wakkerstroom.

A long-tailed Widow birds swoops in to land on the farm fence.

A long-tailed widow bird swoops in to land on the farm fence.

Homemade cheese, an old-school bakery, a quirky bistro featuring delectable dishes and a small herd of alpaca all form part of the Wakkerstroom village and are tended to by salt of the earth locals.

Preserves and sweets on offer.

Preserves and sweets on offer.

You can see the goats next to the cheese store.

You can see the goats grazing next to the cheese store.

Wise words chalked up in the Wakkerstroom tourism office.

Wise words chalked up in the Wakkerstroom tourism office.

This is no shallow tourist town, hell-bent on churning visitor numbers. There are friendly neighbours, low fences, big hearts, soulful characters and a community that knows everything about everybody. Wakkerstroomers are people who gossip and swear. Real people. And it makes you feel alive.

Wonderful views over the dam just outside of town.

Wonderful views over the dam just outside of town.

Alpacas are comical animals, you can learn more about them in Wakkerstroom.

Alpacas are comical animals, you can learn more about them in Wakkerstroom.

Children dance for the camera in the streets of Wakkerstroom.

Children dance for the camera in the streets of Wakkerstroom.

A women walks home after work.

A women walks home after work.

The church steeple peeks over a line of trees.

The church steeple peeks over a line of trees.

Tea at a the guesthouse in Wakkerstroom.

Tea at the guesthouse in Wakkerstroom.

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