You are currently viewing In search of the Aberdeen bed grave

In search of the Aberdeen bed grave

I would like to believe that I am a true ambassador of the Eastern Cape and know a thing or two about what this beautiful and diverse province has to offer visitors and explorers. Would I go as far as to call myself an expert? Mhe… Not sure. I still have a long list of places I still want to visit and things to see. Until recently one of these was the bed grave between Graaff-Reinet and Aberdeen. The site isn’t that well known and most people would drive right by without realising it there. In fact, most people I’ve mentioned it to have never even heard of it.

Creating content for the Karoo Heartland website I tried to do a little research on it and found very little information and not even a handful of pictures. According to legend, the grave is that of a woman who took ill and died while the family was trekking through the district by ox-wagon. They weren’t from the area and had no family, farm or town to return to for a proper burial in a cemetery. Her husband decided to bury her next to the road and touchingly used their marital bed to mark and protect her grave before continuing on the journey with the rest of the family.

There is no record of who she was and what date she died, but cast iron beds only became commonplace in the late 19th century so it is unlikely to have been from the time of the Great Trek.

Right there finding it moved up my “Eastern Cape to do” list. Easier said than done though. All I knew was that it is located in the veld about halfway between Aberdeen and Graaff-Reinet. I received some information from somebody who had seen it before and en route to Nieu-Bethesda I veered west from Graaff-Reinet. After driving up and down the basic area I had to throw in the towel and leave with my tail between my legs. And worried that it may not actually be there anymore.

In Nieu-Bethesda I received some more intel and with this information, I took the detour again and gave it a second attempt on my way back south. Lining up the landscape from the photos I’ve seen and the info at hand, I took it really slow and scanned the veld properly. Another vehicle that stopped on the other side had me wondering what the chances were of somebody else looking for it as well, but a double take to my left and my eye caught something in the tall grass. There it was, kinda thanks to some visitors from Oudtshoorn on the same mission as I was.

The problem though, there was a fence between me and the grave and I don’t have a super long lens on my camera. Do I? Don’t I? Am I going to let the opportunity pass me by to get some pictures? Hell no. I did what I had to do. Had a look around and hopped the fence on a cross pole. Yeah yeah, I know, but I am an explorer at heart. And damn did I feel good to be able to say I found it and got some great pictures of the bed grave. But don’t do it. I have had so many wraps over my knuckles and I know it was wrong. Rather contact the landowner for access.

So this is where I have to decide if I’m going to share the exact location or keep it for myself. Well nobody is going to call me selfish. The bed grave is located 30km from Graaff-Reinet in the veld on the left. In fact, the bed can be seen just about 100m past the Graaff-Reinet 30km sign.

The grave is located on private land so if you’re not going to be happy only looking at it from the roadside but rather would like a closer look, please contact the farmer – Trenley Spence – at 082 898 4960.