Travel and hotels in the Karoo, circa 1870

The arid plains of Africa did not impress Melton Prior, war correspondent for the Illustrated London News. From 1870 to 1905, he seems to have covered every major war in the world, but he found South Africa’s rural scenery unbearable and disappointing. He found some of the accommodation on offer even worse. “Each day we push on with renewed vigour only to find that at its end we have arrived at a miserable shanty or store, with the grand title of hotel. The proprietors of these shanties, as a rule, are abominably rude. Often these fellows do not attempt to hide their belief that they are obliging you when they are asked if they can give you a room or put you up for the night. Often they do not even call a servant to show you to your room which, once you find it, has mud floors, broken furniture, dirty bed linen and a myriad of flies to torment you. As for water, that is always trouble. I have more than once been told that if I wanted water I should fetch it myself, or send down to the river for it.”


© Rose’s Roundup, vol. 2, no. 48, September 2007.

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