Friday, September 19, 2014

Karoo Heartland Churches

Looking through everything I have that still needs to be posted I decided to take three Karoo churches and make up one Random... Karoo churches post.  Just about every small town in the Karoo Heartland of the Eastern Cape has a remarkable church of some sort.
Cradock must have one of the most memorable Karoo Heartland churches there are.  It stands at the top of Church Street and is known as the ``Mother" Church.  The church was completed in 1868 on the same site as the first Dutch Reformed church in the town.  This church community was also the first in Cradock and was established in 1824, 10 years after the town received it's name.  The design of the church was based on the ``St Martins-in-the-Fields" church in Trafalgar Square in London. and the great South African statesman and first President, Paul Kruger, was christened here in 1826.  During the Anglo-Boer War, the roof of the church was used as a look-out post by the British soldiers who occupied the town.

On the other end of the spectrum you will also find churches that is a lot less imposing yet still has historical value to the area its located in.  In the village if Middleton you will find a Methodist church that is probably smaller than most houses.  The church was built in 1903 and only has 5 rows of seats.  It has services in it every Sunday for the residents of the village which is run by the Noupoort Christian Care Centre who owns the village and uses it as part of their rehabilitation process for drug and alcohol addicts.
A little further to the north west is the village of Nieu-Bethesda.  Built in 1905, the Dutch Reformed Church is the grandest edifice in the village, with its long gothic spire reaching to the sky.  A decline in the town resulted in a dwindling of the numbers of the congregation and the church has not had a permanent minister since 1961 with the Sunday service being performed by a minister from Graaff-Reinet.  There is some fine wooden carvings on the old church pews and the original chandeliers are quite unique. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tsitsikamma National Park

This is a view that everybody who has been to the Tsitsikamma National Park would know.  If you haven't been there, this is the view from just below the restaurant building at the rest camp looking across the bay towards Storms River Mouth in the distance on the left.  If you look carefully you would be able to see the end of the suspension bridge across the river mouth.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Feeding Koi at the Barrydale "water front"

Barrydale on Route 62 in the Klein Karoo is a pretty little town known for the beautiful surrounding mountains offering various walks, the Tradouw Pass, quint gardens, interesting shops and farm stalls, restaurants popular with passing tour groups and the very famous Ronnie's SEX Shop down the road.  Everything but an ocean.  So I was very intrigued when I saw a Geocache description refer to a spot as the Barrydale "water front".  One or two turns off the main road and we discovered The Blue Cow restaurant situated on the edge of a farm and... you guessed it... a farm dam.  The best seats are on the deck overlooking the farm and the owner quickly brought Erenei and I two slices of bread to feed the koi fish that live in the dam while she chatted away to us.  True country hospitality.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Farm worker fishermen in the Gamtoos Valley

Spending time in a place is more than just staying in accommodation establishments, eating in restaurants, visiting attractions end enjoying beautiful scenery.  The buzz word these days are experiences and an experience doesn't necessarily have to be an formal one.  Sometimes you see something interesting and making a quick stop can turn into a whole experience on its own.  Spending a weekend Shot Left in Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley while staying at The Milk House we ventured out on the Saturday morning to climb up to the berg window at Vensterhoek.  That was a whole experience on its own, but it was on the return journey while crossing a low water bridge over the Gamtoos River that we spotted something interesting and decided to stop. 

A number of fishermen, all farm workers from the area, were fishing in the river with throw nets and I wanted to investigate some more.  The KidZ immediately perceived it as something boring and wanted to stay in the car, but a stern warning from the Damselfly telling them they can't stay behind alone made them drag themselves after us.  After good rains the previous few days the level of the river was slowly rising and for some reason (I'm no fisherman so don't ask me said reason) brought some bigger fish.  The throw nets were all home made using net, rope and chain and whatever got caught was destined for the pot or braai that evening.

Although not every throw (perhaps not even every 10 throws) yielded a big fish, every one did bring out tiny little silver fish that were shaken out on the road.  The children would then quickly move in and throw them back in the river.  Drama Princess didn't let grass grow under her feet and quickly joined in, picking up and throwing fish back with gusto.  I don't know what the farm kids thought at first about this blond girl in pink suddenly moving in on their space but she didn't let that deter her and it quickly became a game to see who got the most fish to throw back.  Most visitors probably would never have stopped but to Drama Princess it was one of the highlights of the weekend.  Something she would never be able to do back home in the city.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Koffiebus and Teebus

 The Karoo has a beauty that some admire in awe while others tend to just want to pass through as quickly as possible.  I love the Karoo landscape with its big skies, Karoo koppies, windpumps, sheep, karoo vegetation and its interesting people.  Returning home after a trip to Johannesburg I decided to drive via the Gariep Dam, Steysnburg and Hofmeyer before the last stretch from Cradock.  Outside Steysnburg are two very well know Karoo landmarks.  Teebus and Koffiebus, two Karoo koppies (flat Karoo mountains) that got their names from the fact that people say they look like a big coffee pot and a thinner tea pot next to each others.  I just couldn't help but to stop to snap a picture to post here and on Instagram.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A panorama of Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley... and some history

As visitors approach the town of Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley from the east, they have to pass Vergaderingskop before entering town.  This little koppie is the final resting place of Saartjie Baartman and worth a stop even if its just to enjoy a view of the surrounding valley.

The town of Hankey was established in 1826 (four years after the founding of the mission station in 1822 under the guidence of Dr John Philip ) and is the Gamtoos Valley's oldest town.  It was named after the Rev. William Alers Hankey who was the secretary of the London Missionary Society (LMS).  The purpose of the establishment of the village was to grow mielies and corn for the LMS main station at Bethelsdorp and also to carry out evangelistic work.  The town started with 25 families but was planned for 250 families.  The then inhabitants of the valley consisted of a large number of Khoi, a few Mfengos, a few (mostly Dutch) farmers and mixed "Gamtouer" descendants.
The first irrigation scheme on the Klein River was started by James Wait in 1827 and completed in 1830.  It extended for 3.5 miles and he was awarded 50 cattle and the use of 50 workers.  Part of this irrigation scheme can still be seen today and forms part of the Hankey Golf Course.
The second irrigation scheme on the Gamtoos River, a provincial heritage site in Hankey today, was carried out by William Enowy Philip, the son of John Philip.  His inspiration was the window in the hill between Backhousehoek and Vensterhoek and was dug using pick and shovel and wheelbarrows. The length of the tunnel is 228 meters and the speed of construction was very slow - about 1 to 2 feet a day. It was started in April 1843 and completed in August 1844 – 15 months later and was in use from April 1845 to 1970 - a period of 125 years.  This was the first ever tunnel scheme in South Africa.  William Philip drowned on 1 June 1845 in the Gamtoos River where the present low water bridge to Milton stands and not as is usually believed, on the opening day of the tunnel.  He and his niece, also a Philip drowned together when their small boat overturned at the Milton drift.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Karoo sunrise

A 4am departure on a road trip to Johannesburg meant that I was just south of the Karoo town of Cradock when the sun started to lick at the horizon.  It wasn't long for the clouds to be on fire and I couldn't help but to pull over to take a picture with my phone which I Instagrammed immediately.  The Karoo always has something breathtaking to offer visitors on a plate.