Friday, March 6, 2015

Morning view of Graaff-Reinet

Graaff-Reinet is one of my favorite towns to visit for so many reasons.  I spent a night in this beautiful Karoo Heartland town a week or so ago arriving on a Sunday afternoon for a Monday morning meeting.  Getting up early the morning I headed out to one of the view points looking out over the town before doing a little sightseeing to still be back in time for my meeting.
 
Graaff-Reinet is the fourth oldest town in South Africa and has more national monuments than any other town in the country.  Over 220 of them in total.  One of these is the Dutch Reformed Church (Groot Kerk) that looms up in front of you as you drive through town on the main road.  The town has a number of very good museums and if you have to choose only one to visit I would recommend Reinet House where you will also find the oldest grape vine (planted in 1870) in South Africa.
 
Graaff-Reinet is also very in that it is surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park and it is here that visitors flock to see the magnificent Valley of Desolation.  I got to go up to the valley the Sunday night on tour with local guide Chantelle Marais and if you want a fountain of information about the town and its surrounds, she's your girl.  The word Camdeboo, comes from the Khoi word meaning ‘green pool’ or ‘green hippo pool’.  In the Khoi language Cam-/Kam- means ‘green’ and -debo(o) ‘pool, hippo pool’.
 
I seriously need to come and spend a few days in Graaff-Reinet on a Sho't Left and give the town a good exploration.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Gideon Scheepers Monument

Most people visiting the Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet take a drive out to the Valley of Desolation to enjoy the magnificent views  of the town and surrounding Karoo plains as well as the very sheer cliffs and unique Dolerite stone columns of the valley.  I wonder how many people have spotted the monument on the left as you pass the dam just after leaving town.
 
The Gideon Scheepers Monument remembers  Commandant Gideon Scheepers who was a Boer scout and commanding officer during the Anglo-Boer War.  Scheepers and those under his command wrecked trains and burned the farms of those unsympathetic to the Boer cause.  He was captured in October 1901 by the British and found guilty by a British military court on charges of murder and arson.  He was buried at the place of his execution by a firing squad in the veld near Graaff-Reinet.  He was only 23 years old.  That same night his body was apparently exhumed by British troops and reburied at an unknown spot.  Efforts to trace his grave and approaches to the British authorities to reveal its location was unsuccessful.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Karoo railway signals

This railway signal at Cockscomb Station on the R75 to Graaff-Reinet really tickled my fancy for some reason.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cockscomb Station on the R74

Railway Stations used to be quite significant with station masters stationed there who was very proud of their workplace and kept it spick and span.  These days most of these small stations are abandoned with very little other than a sign, some signals and an abandoned, often ruined, building.  Driving up to Graaff-Reinet on the R74 from Port Elizabeth I made a quick stop at Cockscomb Station to find a Geocache and just had to snap a couple of pictures.  If it wasn't for Geocaching I would probably never have stopped here and I was better for it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Local is lekker....

The last few weeks have been a challenge.  It wasn't just my car being stolen with my backpack and everything in it which was locked in the boot.  It was also the fact that my backpack contained my camera which meant that I haven't been able to take photos lately except for a few pics with my phone.  It also means that my blogging hasn't been as frequent as it should be as I have been without any pictures to blog.  

Last Sunday I had to drive up to the Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet for a Monday meeting and to avoid coming back empty handed I snapped a bunch of pics with my trusty Samsung.  I love Graaff-Reinet.  It's one of my favorite towns and I never mind spending a bit of time there.  One of the other people who were there for the meeting saw this sticker on the back of a bakkie in town and snapped a pic which they sent to me.  I think it says it all. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Kuzuko cheetah experience

Kuzuko Lodge in the Greater Addo Elephant National Park is one of my favorite lodges to visit.  Because its on the Karoo side of the Zuurberg mountains the animal sightings may be slightly less than on the coastal side, but I have had some magnificent encounters and combined with their lodge and service it has been a recommendable experience every time.  A Karoo Heartland Marketing Association meeting brought me back to Kuzuku and during my stay I got to do one of their activities I haven't been able to do before, their cheetah experience.

As our luck would have it we found the two cheetahs right next to the fence on a kill so we quickly hopped off the vehicle and approached on foot to a safe distance.  Well, safe is perhaps not the right word.  Let's rather say a comfortable distance for the cheetah.  Kuzuko's cheetah aren't tame but they have learnt to tolerate the presence of humans and allow visitors to get fairly close to them without entering their space.  Our ranger kept us behind him at all times and you could see he had an eye on them constantly just in case.

Seeing them this close while on foot is so much better than sitting on a game drive vehicle or looking at them through a fence.  The lifted their heads for a look at us once or twice but otherwise didn't even bother about us.

Kuzuko may charge an additional fee for this activity which goes towards the Kuzuko Foundation to assist funding their Wildlife Rehabilitation efforts, assisting them in their endeavours to preserve Africa’s wildlife legacy.
 
Disclosure: I stayed at the reserve as guest of Karoo Heartland and Kuzuko Lodge.  I received no further remuneration and keep full editorial control over the post.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Discovering Lauries Bay in Port Elizabeth

The South African coastline stretches over 2500 km (give or take a couple of km) from the desert border with Namibia to the subtropical border with Mozambique.  I say give or take a couple of km as I have seen exact distances given of between 2798 km and 3751 km.  Whichever it is, its a heck of a piece of coastline varying between long sandy stretches, rugged inaccessible areas, rural and uninhabited beaches and developed pieces in populated areas.  This all means that there are big parts of our coastline that most of us will probably never get to see.  Closer to home, Port Elizabeth has over 40 kilometers of beaches.  Beaches, not coastline.  This means that I haven't even seen the whole of my home town's coastline.  I recently got to tick off another piece of that from my list when I visited Lauries Bay on the Wildside near Kini Bay and Seaview.  Lauries Bay is a group of "shacks" (as their owners call them) located on private land.  The only way to get there is if you know somebody who has a "shack" there and they open the gate for you - which was how we got to go in - or to walk along the beach from Kini Bay.