THE BEST PLACES YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
Scouting Report 2008: Graskop
Our third-annual rundown of the best new places—as determined by people lucky enough to have exploration be part of their job description.
GRASKOP, SOUTH AFRICA
Christian Chumbley: Regional manager of Backroads, a 30-year-old travel company based in Berkeley, Calif., that specializes in small-group, multisport tours (backroads.com).
Christian Chumbley, a Backroads regional manager based in Cape Town, spends about six months each year on foot or a bike all over southern Africa and Asia, in countries such as Botswana, Laos, Nepal, India, China, Bhutan, and Indonesia, checking in on his team and investigating new itineraries.
But it's Graskop, a tiny artists' community about four hours by car from Johannesburg, that has a special place in Chumbley's heart. He discovered the town a dozen years ago when researching his first itinerary for Backroads. "The town is a crazy blend of hip artists and traditional Afrikaner farmers," he says. "Its artistic scene is vibrant because of a more recent influx of Shangaan, Swazi, Zulu, and other African groups that have come to the area since the end of apartheid."
Once a mining center, Graskop now thrives on galleries and roadside art stands selling sculptures and baskets. Artists even decorated the 37-room Graskop Hotel; the 1960s-era motel displays works including a glass installation and wall hangings made of stuffed cloth arrows.