Isolated in the far flung spaces of the Upper Karoo, Williston is a small town situated in close proximity to the seldom-flowing Sak River. The town lies on the branch railway line connecting Hutchinson and Calvinia and it basks in fierce year-round sunshine on the wide open plains of this part of the Great Karoo. Both Karakul and Merino sheep farming are the primary economic activities in the vast open countryside that surrounds the town.
The town features a number of fine Victorian and Edwardian era buildings and the traditional flat-roofed Karoo cottages are much in evidence. In common with most Karoo towns taking a stroll will provide an excellent opportunity to meet the locals and it is not uncommon to be invited into a complete stranger’s home for a cup of coffee and home-baked roosterkoek or rusks. The district is also well-known for its corbelled dwellings, some of which are more than 200-years old. There are a number of corbelled houses preserved as national monuments, with the most accessible situated on the farm Arbeidersfontein.
The splendid Dutch Reformed Church is one of only 11 dressed stone churches remaining in South Africa and stand resolutely in the sunshine amidst a garden of Karoo succulents and plants and emerald green lawns in the centre of the town. It is interesting to note that Williston is totally reliant on boreholes for its water supply.
One of the more recent attractions of Williston is the ultra-eclectic and ironically named Williston Mall which is situated just off the R63. The Williston Mall features everything a hard-worn traveller could possibly need, from a Karoo Latte to some rather unusual branches of popular shops including a Woolies, X-Klusiv Books, Stirns and Bord Mans. Innumerable battered pots and pans adorn the walls together with an astonishing array of old sprung bed mattresses and other eccentric bric-a-brac. A distance marker indicates amongst other exotic destinations that Berlin is 10,117-kilometres distant and Pofadder is a mere 628-kilometres away. My favourite direction indicator points skywards informing patrons that “Die Maan” or the moon is a mere 406,740-kilometres distant.
Almost everyone in Williston and indeed across the district must have contributed something to the insane assortment of goodies on display including a mural of old number plates. Dilapidated bicycles of different types, pots and pans and old tin kettles, hub caps and deceased kudus adorn the walls. There is an artistic mural of old bottle tops and the loo wall is decorated with old painted tin plates of different types. An enormous chicken-wire heart-shaped tree hanging competes for your attention with a red e-type Jaguar which is cemented into the ground. Perhaps the best way to ensure that your vintage car is not stolen. All of this can be experienced with hearty Karoo food, great hospitality and a cosy chat in the well-appointed Doppies pub. Definitely well worth a couple of hours or an overnight stay.