The ‘Sex Shop’ With No Sex … but Lots of Beer
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because driving through the Karoo is thirsty work.
I first visited Ronnie’s Sex Shop with my parents — I was 17 and my little sister was 11. We’d been driving three hours, and Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world, was still three hours away. South Africa’s semidesert scrubland known as the Karoo can be pretty repetitive, and we all did a double take when the meaning of the crude red letters painted on an otherwise unremarkable white hovel sank in. My dad turned the Kombi round, pronto, and we went back to investigate.
Ronnie’s has grown a lot — both in size and in fame — since that first visit. It now sees around 120 visitors per day in winter and more than double that in summer. In addition to the extremely well-stocked pub — festooned with underwear (left by female patrons, mostly) and graffiti (courtesy of visitors from all over the world) — there’s a café with a shaded outdoor dining area, a “cuddle puddle” for young and old, and the option to braai (barbecue) your own meat. Ronnie sells firewood and “braaipacks” ($5–$8, depending on what’s available at the butcher).
I’ve only got one neighbor and he spends most of his time drinking here!
Ronnie Price, proprietor, Ronnie’s Sex Shop
The oddest pub in Africa came about entirely by accident. Years ago, Ronnie Price painted the words RONNIE’S SHOP on the outside of his cottage in the middle of nowhere, hoping to someday open a farm stall selling fruit, vegetables and preserves. Late one night, after a boozy braai at Ronnie’s place, some of his mates sabotaged the signage by adding the word SEX (look carefully and you can see the lettering isn’t as professional). Instead of getting angry, Ronnie decided to open a pub. The rest, as they say, is history …
Since Ronnie opened shop in 1997, the R62 — the 330-mile back road between Ashton and Humansdorp, which features vast landscapes, quaint dorps (villages) and quirky arts and crafts — has developed into an under-the-radar tourist attraction in its own right. In the early days, Ronnie, with his long, white ponytail, bushy beard and biting humor, was always around, but these days he spends more time on the road, he says, “doing business for the pub, visiting friends and just driving around aimlessly.” If you want to snap a selfie with the man himself, best visit on a weekend or a public holiday, when he returns to the roost to keep an eye on things.
The adjoining Road Kill Café, which is managed by Ronnie’s daughter Trya, serves up hearty breakfasts and pub grub (the homemade burgers — around $5 — are excellent), while the pub does a roaring trade in ice-cold Castle beers ($2) and double brandy and Cokes ($3). Given the remote location, most patrons don’t stay for more than a couple of drinks, but Ronnie will gladly host any celebration you can dream up. You can party as long as you like, he says: “I’ve only got one neighbor and he spends most of his time drinking here!”
On November 7, Ronnie’s Sex Shop is turning 20. Now, there’s one party you won’t want to miss.
DRINK HERE: RONNIE’S SEX SHOP
- Directions: Ronnie’s Sex Shop is about halfway between Barrydale and Ladismith on the R62. Map.
- Hours: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
- Pro Tip: If you’ve had one too many, spend the night at the low-key Warmwaterberg Spa, which is less than 2 miles away.
- Get the T-shirt: Ronnie sells a variety of T-shirts for $15 apiece.