Who has ever heard of Witta? We certainly hadn't, but soon discovered this little hamlet in the Sunshine Coast Region of Queensland, somewhere between Maleny and Kenilworth. In the 2011 census, Witta had a population of 1 230 people - that's how small it is - we didn't even see a traffic light!
We thought that instead of braving the crowds of the Brisbane Oktoberfest, we would attend the Wittafest 2016 to enjoy everything 'German' that Witta has to offer.
In the 1880's this little hamlet was initially known as Teutoburgh, as the first settlers were German - it is believed that the name of Teutoburgh is a reference to the Teutoburg Wald (Forest) in Germany, which was the location of a famous battle. These initial settlers arrived from the Logan District near Brisbane where a substantial German population had been established in Alberton, Waterford and Bethania. Land was made available for lease to 'selectors' who paid a monthly rent to the government and promised to satisfy certain stringent conditions:
All selections taken up in the district were selected at 2/6 per acre;
The annual rental had to be paid before the 31 March, if the rent was not paid the farmers would lose their right to the land;
The selector had to reside on the land continuously for a term of five years, if they had a six month's absence the 'selection' and all improvements reverted back to 'Her Majesty' (with the huge distances these farmers had to travel to sell their produce, a six month's absence was not an impossibility);
An expenditure of ten shillings per acre in substantial and permanent improvements had to be made over the five years; and
The selector also had to provide proof of the lease conditions being met and pay for a Deed of Grant within six months of the lease expiring.
Imagine farming in such stunning surrounds - Image: Elaine de Wet
These first settlers had a tough life - having to provide sustainable farming for their families, so farmed diversely with cattle, pigs and even vineyards - the wine from the latter being used as an anaesthetic for dental problems - now to convince my dentist that a wine should be the pre-cursor to any dental work!
Wine for dental work, works for me - Image: Elaine de Wet
At the right time of the year, the farmers collected their whey-fed pigs together and herded them in one group to the train in Landsborough - this was a three day exercise. A German wagon carrying a pierced sack of corn left a tempting trail for the pigs to follow. The pigs spent the first night near Witta, the second night was on a property in Maleny and on the third and final day, they were herded down the Range to Landsborough, where they were loaded onto a train bound for Brisbane. This might sound like a fun excursion, but one has to remember that the farmers had to get back to their farms every day for milking and other daily chores.
Witta's General Store - The only store in town - Image: Elaine de Wet
Witta offers visitors the opportunity to stroll the few streets that make up the hamlet or perhaps pop in to the General Store, which, is the only store in town, but a very good starting point to start one's exploration of the little town. Though the General Store is a modern-day building, it replaced the original older store on the same site. The original Witta School is now a community facility with shady picnic areas and tables.
The people of Witta have two secrets that they are very proud of:
Just across the road from the General Store is what the locals boast are the best views of the head of the Mary Valley that give rise to the Mary River (I can definitely confirm this, the views are absolutely breathtaking) and the second secret is historical - the old Witta Cemetery.
One has to agree with the locals, their Views are Spectacular - Image: Elaine de Wet
A stroll around Witta Cemetery provides an insightful look at the early settlers - with the names of the first German families who settled in Witta. Pictures and symbols accompany many of the inscriptions on the tombstones, which apparently indicate the interests of the deceased for example musical notes, a piano, horse rider, fisherman or sailing ships. Then there are very unusual epitaphs like 'it's not the first game that counts, it's the last one.'
Back to the present-day Witta - as I said before our aim was to attend the Wittafest 2016. Needless to say, Witta is so little, we actually drove straight through it, before we realised we had gone too far. A 'U-ey' was in order and back to the General Store we went, to ask directions.
Blackall Range Growers' Market - Image: Elaine de Wet
The first park we arrived at where there were stalls and people milling around - yes, of course we presumed this was IT - but actually soon discovered was the Blackall Range Growers' Market, held every third Saturday of the month, rain, hail or shine. This Growers' Market showcases the best in small producers on the Blackall Range with seasonal fruit and vegetables, various fresh meats, herbs and plants. Well worth a visit if you're ever in the area.
Entertainment at the Blackall Range Growers' Market - Image: Elaine de Wet
Wittafest is a free, family event that aims to bring people together to share their stories of Witta, enjoy the live music, play traditional games or partake in guided walks i.e. the Cemetery; and to enjoy German beer, Bratwurst (sausage) and Sauerkraut. Proceeds from this year's event were for the Witta Rec Club. The Fest focused on the early 1900's with stories of various settler families, the dairy boom and World War One when Teutoburg changed its name to Witta.
We had a good wonder around, and as it was lunchtime, managed to secure ourselves a Bratwurst Roll (with or without Sauerkraut) and sat down in the midday sun to enjoy the happenings around us. Though a small event, one must remember that Witta is only a tiny hamlet, there were quite a few people participating in the various games or just sitting back, enjoying the sun and listening to the music. We chatted to a few of the people, who had all come in to Witta to experience first-hand what this little town has to offer.
Beautifully-crafted Bench in Commemoration of the Teutoburg Pioneers from the 1800's - Image: Elaine de Wet
On leaving the Wittafest, we came upon the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, the tiniest, quaintest little Church - established in 1892 - though the present delightful little Church is dated 1910 and is still very much in use for church services, weddings etc. In the stunning gardens to the side of the Church is a beautifully-crafted bench in commemoration of the Teutoburg Pioneers from the 1800's.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Dated 1910 - Image: Elaine de Wet