GROOT MARICO, a tiny, dusty and characterful dorp resting contentedly by the banks of the Marico River, just south of the N4 and 90km west of Rustenburg, gained fame through Herman Charles Bosman’s short stories based on his time as a teacher here. In mid-October, Groot Marico hosts the literary Bosman Weekend, drawing fans of one of South Africa’s best-loved authors from far and wide. At other times, visit the Herman Charles Bosman Living Museum on Fakkel Street which includes a re-creation of the school where Bosman taught and provides insight into his life. Nearby, the Art Factory on Paul Kruger Street sells Tswana cultural artefacts and locally made Afrikaner crafts such as wooden pipes, whips and clocks.
Although prone to stultifying heat, particularly in summer, the hills of the Marico district around the town are good for hiking, and when it all gets too much you can make for the river for cool relief. The water of the Marico Oog (“Marico Eye”), a spring 20km south of town, is particularly clear and refreshing: festooned with water lilies and surrounded by beautiful dolomitic rocks, it makes a tranquil place for a picnic, and can be paradise for birdwatchers, with over four hundred species recorded here. It’s also a favoured spot for scuba divers; contact the town’s information centre for more details.
According to legend, a Pedi chief by the name of Mampuru introduced the art of distilling peach brandy to the Boers. Named mampoer in his honour, the fearsomely strong spirit has inspired locals and visitors alike ever since. Any fruit can be used to make mampoer, but peach is the most traditional: until 1878, much of North West Province’s farmland grew peach trees solely devoted to this purpose. Things changed with the ZAR government’s distilling tax, and the new licensing system introduced in 1894, when thousands of mampoer stills were destroyed. A few, however, escaped detection. A local story recounts that one farmer cleaned out his entire drainage system, but made no attempt to conceal his fifteen barrels of mampoer. The inspectors found the barrels, split them open and poured the entire contents down the drain. Meanwhile, the canny farmer had his family stationed in the field where the pipe ended up with every container the household possessed, and managed to recover fourteen of the fifteen barrels.
If you want to sample and buy mampoer, head for Maruthwane Farm, 12km west of Groot Marico on the N4 (open daily 9am–5pm), where you can also see demonstrations of how the stuff is made. In the old days the alcohol content was measured by throwing a chunk of lard into a sample: if it floated halfway, the mampoer was perfect. Nowadays, you just hold a match over it – the higher and cleaner the blue flame, the better the brew. Groot Marico’s information office organizes mampoer tours.