Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Road Trip Day 12. Nieu Bethesda

I ran out of data so I couldn't do yesterday's post yesterday.

We moved from one extreme to the other as far as caravan parks go. At Gariep it took us more than half an hour just to get from our caravan site to the entrance of the resort. After some fairly hairy mountain passes we got to Nieu Bethesda and a caravan park that I could walk across in less than a minute.
It could take 6 caravans but we were the only one there. Again bathroom to ourselves with hot water and everything we needed.

From our campsite we walked across the foot bridge to visit the Owl House. It was the house of a school teacher, Helen Martins who was born in Nieu Bethesda and then returned after her marriage failed, to look after her aging parents. Her mother passed away and then after her father died she seemed to have been in a dark place in her life and started decorating her house to let in as much light as possible, replacing some of the windows with panes of coloured glass. She was an artist and with the help of workers from the village she filled her garden with cement sculptures, many with religious themes although owls, snakes and mermaids also feature prominently. She became something of a recluse, eventually taking her own life  by drinking caustic soda. I found it a fascinating place to walk through.

It was also interesting to see some of the old furniture and household items that were used in those days.

After visiting the Owl House, we tried to get to the fossil centre before 6 but we couldn't find it and then time ran out. Nieu Bethesda is a little Karoo town that seems to have managed to stop the clock and still does things the old way. The church has no electricity so doesn't hold evening services except once a year Carols by candlelight and some services by gas lamps.  
There are some beautiful gardens and interesting houses.

We felt a little sad to leave this morning - almost as if we had left part of ourselves behind. We were also a bit apprehensive about how Cubby would manage the steep incline out of town.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Road Trip Day 11. Gariep

We can see the harbour from our site
There is nobody between us and the water

This morning we woke up in holiday mode. We got up late, had a late breakfast and later went for a swim and ice cream.
The swimming pool was not very busy
This afternoon we got back into tourist mode. I had phoned to find out about a cruise on the dam. The lady told me that we had to be at the restaurant outside the Forever Resort to pay by 10 to 4 and then the boat would leave at 4pm. We thought if we left at 3.30 we'd be able to get to the restaurant by 3.50. We miscalculated the distance ( and the map we were given is obviously not to scale.) At 3.45 a different lady phoned to find out if we were still coming and it seemed that we were not going to make it. When we got to the security control of the resort we decided to split up. Brian would go the the restaurant and  pay and I would go down to the yacht club and tell the captain my husband was still coming and please not to leave before he got there.  The yacht club was back in the direction we had come from and again further than I thought. I saw I wasn't going to make it so I started doing scouts pace (20 running steps and 20 walking steps that we used to do at Guides) until I caught up with a group of people heading in the same direction and then I could finally slow down (and breathe)
At about 4.15 a car came down the slope and Brian got out and the boat could depart. We apologised to the other passengers.

The trip was very interesting.
The dam is currently 57% full. Cnstruction began in 1966 and was completed in 1971. The purpose is for irrigation, domestic and industrial use and power generation. It is the second largest man-made dam in the southern hemisphere after Kariba. The dam wall is 88m high and almost a kilometer long.
The electricity generated is fed into the grid and is annually 889 GWh.

After all the talk of drought it was lovely to see so much fresh water in one place. The perimeter is surrounded by nature reserves in an effort to help keep the dam unpolluted.
We turned around where 3 provinces intersect - Free State, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.
Once again we drove through the harbour and admired the boats.
Brian and I could see Cubby from the jetty so we decided to cut across the low-water-area instead of going the long way around. 

We had a lovely braai and watched night fall over Gariep Dam. Tomorrow we hit the road again.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Road Trip Day 10. Philippolis and onward

Philippolis, the first town to be established in the province, was founded in 1823 as a mission station to reach the local Griqua people. It was named after Dr John Philip who was the superintendent of the London Missionary Society. Adam Kok II, the Griqua leader, settled here with his people in 1826. The kraal where he kept his cattle and horses can still be seen. In 1861 the Griquas left for Kokstad.

The Dutch Reformed Church was built on the spot where the original missionary church stood. During the Anglo-Boer War the church was converted into a fort and the windows of the spire were blocked with sandbags.

Other famous people who lived in Philippolis were Emily Hobhouse and Laurens van der Post, the author. Emily Hobhouse helped improve the lives of the Boers during the Anglo-Boer War and founded the first spinning and weaving school after the war  in 1905. 

Yesterday evening we climbed up a small hill to view the two naval cannons. They were presented by the Cape colonial government to Adam Kok III in 1840. They may have been used during the various wars between the Griqua, Basotho and Boers.

On the way back to the Kanon Guest House we saw The Shop - and it was open (6.45pm on a Saturday evening?). We looked around at some lovely antiques and art works. I was given a glass of port to sip while I browsed.

This morning we packed all our overnight things back into Cubby and spent some time looking around Philippolis.
We saw the Emily Hobhouse memorial garden...... interesting street sign......

....and the old jail.

Martha was our guide. Back in the main street we saw the Laurens van der Post memorial garden through a barred gate

and then we were on our way to Colesberg. (We decided to take the longer route to Gariep.)
We passed again the interesting old houses and old trucks on our way out.

The road to Colesberg was a main road between two country towns and this time we had to be careful of goats on the side of the road.
Colesberg is a slightly larger town with a choice of supermarkets and autobanks and petrol brands.
Like many other towns it is built around a church.

From Colesberg we got back onto the N1 and backtracked to Gariep.

 We decided to stay in the Forever resort even though it is slightly above our budget. It is a very well run resort, a cut above the average, and we are going to use the laundry facilities to do a load of washing tomorrow.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Road Trip Day 9. Trompsburg and Philopollis

I found out this morning it wasn't a bomb-scare, it was a fire.

"3 injured in Bloemfontein mall fire

Three people were inured after a fire broke out at a Bloemfontein shopping mall this afternoon. Pictures: ER24

Three people were left injured this afternoon when a fire broke out at a shopping mall in the Brandwag area in Bloemfontein, ER 24 said in a statement.
Russel Meiring, spokesperson for ER24, said that the company’s paramedics, along with the fire services, arrived at the mall and found that a large fire had broken out.
“Fire fighters began to battle the blaze and evacuate the mall while paramedics began assessing the patients on the scene. Three patients were assessed by paramedics. Two were found to have sustained minor injuries while a third, a security guard, had sustained more serious injuries. It is believed that the guard had sustained his injuries while attempting to extinguish the blaze,” Meiring said.
He added that paramedics treated the patients and thereafter transported them to Mediclinic Bloemfontein for further treatment."
My  first impression of Tom's Place was negative. It looked old and run-down and deserted. When we first arrived we parked near an ablution block that didn't impress me at all. It looked like the public toilets you get at a popular beach. Just as we were about to plug in our electricity, one of the workers came by in a truck and redirected us to another site and showed us which ablution we had been given keys for. It was our own private bathroom with shower, toilet, basin and a table. It was clean, the water was hot and there was even soap provided in the shower.
I've had to revise my opinion. We had everything we needed. Part of what made me think it was run-down was the dry grass.  We are such Colonialists. Our idea of a garden is lush green grass. Let's face it. This is Africa not soggy England. I decided to use the gimp to see the effect green grass would make.

We had breakfast at the restaurant (yummy) and then headed towards Gariep.  Having googled Edenburg and Trompsburg for things to see without any exciting results, we decided to head for Philippolis as recommended by our daughter. The road was good and (added bonus) quiet. We had a lovely drive to Philippolis although we knew the two options to get to Gariep from there are a) along 45km of gravel road or b) about 100km to Colesburg and then backtrack to Gariep.

Going through Trompsburg, we came across a delightful side-of -the-road coffee shop called The Water Wheel.

No sooner had we stopped than a Mercedes pulled up behind us. The driver was very interested in our motor-home. Aged 77 years, he is a missionary and wants to go to Namibia on a fact-finding trip to see if it is a place in need of the gospel. He has done something similar in Mozambique and then left the thriving ministry to younger people who continued with it and a large number of disciple groups have been established. He asked if we wanted to sell Cubby.  He even suggested that we stay with his wife while he takes Cubby for 10 days. We assured him that if God wanted him to go, He would provide all his needs. (I hope we weren't meant to be the provision). We prayed for him before he drove off.
Back to the business in hand, we bought two homemade ice cream tubs and sat near the water wheel to enjoy them.

We arrived at Philippolis at 1.45pm, just too late to get lunch at one of the restaurants, and just about everything else it seemed was closed.

We drove through town, hoping to see an antiques shop t hat our daughter had mentioned. Brian saw a brown signboard with Kanon Gastehuis and some symbols including a tent so we thought "why not stay in Philippolis tonight instead of Gariep?" We recognised the name as the guesthouse where Mandy and Steven had stayed so we used the GPS to find it. We phoned the number on the board outside and explained that our daughter had stayed there (and had said we must try to to visit Philippolis) and that we were looking for somewhere to park for the night. Gerda, the proprietress, was so kind. She said we could stay in the guesthouse for what we normally pay at a caravan park. She was so friendly and accommodating. We now have the luxury of coolness (it is 33 degrees outside), space and all the luxuries of a guest house including coffee and rusks, shower, fridge with ice and cold water and a table to work at.

I would totally recommend this place to anybody who wishes to stop over at Philippolis.
It's almost sunset now and a bit cooler so we are going to see the canon nearby. Also nearby is a transport museum with old trucks and other vehicles.
I'll talk about some of the history of Philippolis in tomorrow's post.