So where better to start than the place where she was returned to the river - Rooiwalle. Rooiwalle literally translated, translates to "Red Walls" (and you'll see why!).
I decided to chat to the locals and ask about the Watermeid whenever the chance presented itself. I refueled in Oudtshoorn and asked the petrol attendant if he knew about a mermaid in the area? "A mermaid? No. Never heard of it. What is that?" The Watermeid? "The Watermeid! But of course!"
He has not seen her himself, but he knows about her and absolutely believes she exists. She lives in the Olifants river and has blue eyes, long black hair, pink cheeks and 'n white skin never touched by the sun. She is the most beautiful woman in the world. It is only when you go closer that you realize - it's a fish! And if she gets a hold of you there's BIG trouble...
Well there you have it. The first random person we asked knew all about the Watermeid. We would come to realize later that this was the norm as not a single person we asked was perplexed by the question. Not everybody believed, but without fail everybody knew about her. And the descriptive name is "Watermeid". Try to be PC and ask about the "Karoo Mermaid" and no-one would have a clue what you're talking about.
So off we went, heading South towards George. Just outside of Oudtshoorn you find the Olifants River. Picture looking East:
In the picture above you can see that most of the river is covered in reeds and in the background you can see Rooiwalle.
This road past Rooiwalle (a small connecting road) has been closed because of flood damage in 2006 (more about that later). Sometimes though, if you're lucky, the gate is open and you can see this phenomenon. And as it happens the gate was open today!
These Rooiwalle must have been formed by wind and water erosion. It's not solid, but formed out of red clay and river stones and there are several places where small "caves" formed.
Close-up shot of the wall:
I find this very interesting. I would love to hear a geologist's opinion on this.
I parked my bike for the purpose of scale - look at how big this is!
The road here fell away into the river a couple of years back. Because of the nature of these Rooiwalle I doubt if this road will be opened ever again.
And this is the deep hole in the Olifants river where the Watermeid was said to have been returned to the river. I can certainly believe that there could have been drownings here in the past (most of the stories go hand in hand with drownings).
We did not see anything resembling the Watermeid (and luckily, if we did, we were safe on a high spot! ) but this certainly is a unique and beautiful place. Well worth a visit!
Google Earth placemark: Rooiwalle.
But where did it all start?
She first appeared in reports in 1875 at a place called Eseljagtspoort...