Thursday, 22 May 2014

A Karoo Wedding

Shortly after we arrived in Brandvlei, Northern Cape (aka Middle of Nowhere, see previous post) the beers were cracked open, the cooler boxes piled up and a little bus came to collect us all and drive us 45km out of town to the bride's farm for a pre-wedding braai.

A Karoo lamb braai under the stars
After driving 1,200km-plus from Johannesburg we were all full of beans and having a great laugh as the bus chugged up the road. Lucky for us some other guests were trailing us in a car and noticed when about 20km out of town our bus spectacularly bust a tyre. We all piled out to look at the damage, thinking we'd just do a quick tyre change and be on our way. Then we saw this, were happy all passengers were intact, rescued the beers from the bus and set ourselves up at the side of the road to watch the sunset and wait for rescue.

An hour later and we were at the farm. The stars were coming out (just spectacular) and the massive braai was well under way. It goes without saying that we ate lamb that night (Renee's family sacrificed a lot of their animals for our enjoyment – this was as fresh as it gets!) and it was amongst the tastiest things I have ever eaten in my life. Seriously, they really know what they are doing in this part of the world when it comes to lamb.

A wedding in Afrikaans
Given that Brandvlei is one of the hottest places in the country, the wedding wasn't set to start until 15:00. Even then though the last few hours before the sun began to set were still uncomfortably hot for the un-aclimatised like us. It was not difficult to spot those of us who had never been to a rural Afrikaans wedding before. Tip for the future: you don't need to wear a tie for this kind of event - in fact suits are not really expected either. But still, what true Scotsman would attend a big wedding and not wear his kilt? If you're going to travel all this way for a wedding, you may as well bring a bit of your culture with you :)

Following a short and very sweet ceremony in the church, we all wandered over to the village hall next door to rest in the shade and listen to some music. The happy couple's talented friends played for us as we sat under a very attractive awning, munching biltong, karoo cheddar (aw man, so good) and sipping homemade ginger beer. 

Almost everyone who lives in this village (which I'm told has around 30 families in it - although somebody else told me it was actually 13) seemed to be in someway involved in this event. Whether it was driving the bus for the guests, serving the meal, butchering the meat, or giving up spare beds in their homes for guests. And you just know you're really in a small town  when the blokes running the sound system are actually travelling mechanics from a village 250kms away whose main job is traversing the Karoo fixing wind pumps and when the guy running the hotel (and the village bar) has turned up to be a bartender at the wedding too.

Finally the sun went down and the heat went back to bearable (in the mid-20s) and we made our way to our tables for speeches and food. Another notable meal, this time cooked by Brandvlei's very own Masterchef finalist (true story!) and great wine. Also check out what they did with the table decorations  - so pretty.

Then came the speeches, which were all in Afrikaans. There was an order to it (but I can't really remember) and at some point the groom got up to speak. Suddenly every young man in the room picked up his chair and moved over to surround the poor fella. They then proceeded to heckle him mercilessly and throw things. This situation totally flummoxed me until someone finally explained that that is actually just part of Afrikaans tradition. Who knew??!

After the food and the speeches of course came the dancing. The couple had specifically chosen a playlist filled with fun rock and pop songs of a more international variety (think AC/DC, Michael Jackson, James etc), but that didn't stop anybody from engaging in another amusing (for me) Afrikaans tradition. It's called sockies. It looks like a kind of ballroom waltz, and everyone was doing it. Learnt a lot of new stuff at this wedding for sure!

We stayed til the end of the party, dancing, drinking, chatting and making new friends. It was totally worth travelling all the way to be part of this very special occasion and without question, it really was the ultimate way to discover what Northern Cape culture is all about. And - I now know what the Afrikaans word gramadoelas really means :)

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