Picture a long, hypnotically desert stretch of dryness leading to Barrydale, Little Karoo. The landscape is arid and flattened by an immense sky, modest rolling hills only beginning in the far distance. Yellow is the predominant tint and colors are warm but washed out. You’re driving 120 km/h on a single lane road as is often the case in South Africa. Then, up ahead appears a white speck, which soon turns out to be a low lying house with bleached walls and a red sign painted unevenly on the side. As you get closer, you finally decipher the letters: they say "Ronnie’s Sex Shop." Not having been warned, you’re left to ponder what on earth such a thing is doing out here.
There is no way to avoid a pit stop, curiosity has taken over. You pull over in the dusty parking lot and come to a stop between a Harley and a car with foreign plates. The remains of an old tractor look at you getting out of your vehicle and stretching, silently warning: "Look around and be gone, stranger, or you’ll end up like me."
You turn around and stare at the marking on the wall, still trying to figure it out. To the left of the main house, a patio and a few tables and chairs with their umbrellas suddenly remind you of your thirst. No matter what else they sell here, there seem to be drinks and souvenirs, and that alone was worth the stop. But you can’t help finding out first what the deal is so you head to the entrance on the right, nodding to the bikers sipping their beer in the shade as you pass them.
You walk into a rather dark room and your eyes fight to adjust for a few seconds as you hesitate walking in any further, mindful of the surprises that might lay ahead. Then your vision adjusts and what was darkness turns into a peculiar semi-lit room with a bar at one end and a slightly brighter space opening opposite you. A man is standing behind the bar, gray beard and long poneytail. Wearing a black t-shirt, smoking thoughtfully, he looks like a biker himself. Is he Ronnie?
Having silently said hello to the man, you turn your attention back to the room, your eyebrows still arched in question marks. Hundreds of old bras and panties are hanging from the ceiling, collecting dust and spider webs. You notice more chairs and tables, a few magazines, a TV showing some big rugby game. Venturing now into the far room you are greeted by harsh yellow light shining through a narrow window. The walls are literally covered with thousands of quite neatly arranged graffiti and messages.
You whip your camera out of its bag like a cowboy his Colt. The very low light makes shooting difficult but such an eerie atmosphere is well worth the effort. "Ronnie" kindly accepts to pose, or rather not to, for a moody picture. So he keeps on doing what he was, staring into emptiness and blowing thick volutes of blue smoke at his bras.
A little investigation soon reveals that the "Sex" was a prank played one night on Ronnie by his pals. They painted the word next to his name and fled. Ronnie liked it. He kept it. Smart decision – it put him on the map and inside travel guide books.
You smile. Glad you stopped.