Tsitsikamma cattle roadblock

We decided to break away to the Tsitsikamma for the day and rather than just driving in and out on the N2, we took the scenic R102. The three biggest industries in the area are forestry, tourism and dairy so everywhere along the way you pass plantations, dairy farms and accommodation and activity establishments. What we didn’t expect to encounter was a roadblock made up of cattle. As we crested a little hill I realised that there was something in the road about a kilometers ahead. And not something like a car or a person, but a lot of somethings. A herd of cows being moved down the road from one farm to another with the herdsman in front leading the way.

Rather than just sitting in the car I pulled over and we all hopped out to experience something that is very unusual for city slickers like us, being surrounded by a herd of cows in transit.

Being an 18 year old teenager, Chaos Boy didn’t really show any interest, but Miggie was a lot more excited and inquisitive about the whole thing.

We barely got going when the next herd appeared in the road. This one was moving a little faster with the two guys in the lead breaking out in a jog every now and then with the cows nipping at their heals.

This is what road trips and exploring on country roads is about. Experiences that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

Driving the Woody Cape dirt road between Kenton and Alexandria

I have always just driven the R72 between Alexandria and Kenton-on-Sea and have only just seen the coastline and Alexandria dune field from the air on the occasion that the plane did fly this way en-route to or from PE airport.  I have also always just heard how beautiful the drive along the loop past Woody Cape is and during a weekend in Kenton-on-Sea decided that it was time to go and see it for myself.  

We turned off the R72 just outside of Kenton-on-Sea and headed down towards Cannon Rocks before another turn to the right onto the dirt road just before town.  My biggest concern was the condition of the dirt road but my mind was quickly at ease and the Polo only had to negotiate two or three slightly rough spots on an otherwise excellent gravel road. The highlight of the drive is definitely the stretch where you see the Alexandria dune field stretched out along the coast in front of you (and thus the reason why I would say the best direction to do this is from east to west).  To the left and out to sea you can also see Bird Island with it’s very distinctive lighthouse, something not visible from Port Elizabeth.

The general scenery along the road is made up of rolling green hills, sea scapes and dairy cattle.   It isn’t often that you get to see dairy cows grazing with the ocean in the background.  I’m sure if somebody had to be blindfolded and dropped here from space, they could easily guess that they are in Ireland somewhere.  

The Alexandria dune field forms part of the Addo Elephant National Park and just after the view of the dunes the road swing inland and you get to drive through a small section of coastal forest located inside the park.  A few kilometers later the road delivers you back on the tar road just outside Alexandria and we were on our way back home.

Taking the Woody Cape road wouldn’t add more than probably 40 minutes or so to your journey so if you are spending a little time on Route 72 and the Sunshine Coast or not in a hurry getting to your destination, then it’s well worth the drive.  Just another reason to Experience our Eastern Cape. #ExperienceEastCape

Roadside gnomes in the Karoo

I always go on about all the treasures one get to discover when road tripping.  Well known landmarks, inadequately marked but well worth taking turnoffs, interesting attractions, beautiful views, fascination people, lekker food, unusual sights and so much more.  Driving back to Port Elizabeth from Graaff-Reinet the other day I passed through the town of Jansenville and a few kilometers outside of town spotted something from the corner of my eye.  My head swung to the right and I had to make a double take.  Was that a garden gnome I just saw next to the road?  “Full stop, Mister Chekov.” Or Mr Sulu if you’re still an old school Trekkie fan.  Sharp turn to starboard, u-turn made and back for a closer look.

And no, I wasn’t mistaken.  Two garden gnomes sitting on an old drum next to the road, one in Springbok colours and the other wearing the Southern Kings colours, watching the traffic go by.  I seem to remember reading something about a gnome that used to sit around here that was broken off by some passing idiot, so this must be the spot and they’re probably his replacements.  Two, so that they can keep each other company and chat about rugby and the weather. 

The beauty of the Langkloof

The Langkloof may not be a developed and marketed tourism route, but it is very scenic and has tons of tourism potential.  Its biggest disadvantage though is that it runs parallel to the world renown and very popular Garden Route.  I really enjoy driving through the Langkloof which stretches over a distance of about 200 km between Kareedouw in the east and Herold, just north of George.  But who wouldn’t?  It is flanked by mountains on the north and south and the scenery changes from fynbos to summer fruit orchids and back at regular intervals.  The Langkloof was named by Isaq Schrijver in 1689 but wasn’t thoroughly explored until 1752 by an expedition led by August Frederik Beutler.  The valley has been farmed since 1760 and some families have been there several generations by now already.

Icons of the Karoo – Roadside Aloes

During the hot dry summer the Karoo veld can be somewhat of a bleak affair, but during the winter it’s a different matter.  Aloes bloom in all their fiery glory decorating the landscape like Christmas lights.  Aloes, like proteas, are often found in the most unlikely and inhospitable places, growing in hot temperature and low rainfall areas and not needing the delicate hands of somebody with green fingers to nurture it.  One of natures natural wonders.

The post is part of the Icons of the Karoo series including Quintessential Karoo,  Farm Gate and Sweet Thorn Sunset.

Ann’s Villa

Although cars cross over the Zuurberg mountains from Port Elizabeth into the Karoo via the Olifantskop Pass within minutes these days, the journey was a much longer, slower and bumpier one if you go back 150 years or so.  Back in those days travellers had to make use of the Zuurberg Pass which snakes it’s way over the mountain.  These days the old pass isn’t the best road around anymore and even though you can drive it in a sedan (very slowly though) it’s much more advisable to do it in a 4×4.  On the Karoo side of the pass, just off the (in a much better condition) R400 dirt road stands the historic Ann’s Villa.  I have passed by Ann’s Villa a couple of times, but I’ve never stopped before. When one of the local tourist guides heard that I was going to Kuzuko Lodge close by he urged me to make a quick detour and pop in for a look. We were met at the gate by Talent Nyamusa who is the manager of Ann’s Villa and also act as the guide. She gave us a very thorough guided tour of the Blacksmith Museum (which I will post about tomorrow) before showing us around the house itself.

Scottish baker John Webster and his wife Ann Elizabeth Whall came to Port Elizabeth in 1849 and lived in town until 1854 when Webster bought the farm “Kleinplaas” in the Commadagga Valley in the Zuurberg.  The family lived in an old cottage on the property and Webster baked for the road builders at Stebbings Convict Station 10 km away who was busy building the Zuurberg Pass.  The pass was officially opened in 1858 and Ann’s Villa was built and opened in 1864.  Unfortunately Ann died a year later at the age of 46.  Ann’s Villa became on of the stops on the route north and specially after the discovering of diamonds in Kimberly in 1867 the Villa boomed.  

Ann’s Villa consisted of seven rooms and with its blacksmith, wheelwright, bakery and shop was ideally situated at the northern foot of the Zuurberg Pass.  In 1896 a post office was added to the shop while a school was also built for children from the area. The property also had a corrugated iron shed with a sprung floor that was ordered from England in kit form and used both as a shearing shed and for local dances.  Ann’s Villa’s rooms are still available to the public as self catering accommodation and although not luxury accommodation it’s the perfect spot to escape from the city if you need some alone time. 

It just felt like behind each door that Talent opened for us was another piece of history waiting with the biggest surprise being the fact that the original shop is still intact.  Now having the imagination that I do, one of the questions I asked while walking around the upstairs passages of Ann’s Villa was if the building is haunted.  Without a pause or batting an eye lid she said no.  But if you ask me you probably need to stay a night to find out cause I did get a shiver down a spine once or twice.

Karoo roads

Driving through the Karoo should be an adventure, not a rush.  It has so many interesting nooks and crannies to explore, but to get there one has to travel many interesting roads and paths. Travelling is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.
 Travelling through the Karoo one firstly encounters tar roads. On these we depart the big towns and cities, but from them, somewhere along the way, you have to turn off onto …
 … a dirt road.  It is along these dirt roads that a lot of the interesting sights and sounds reveal themselves, and even then you may still need to turn off them… 

to open a gate and proceed along a two wheel track that will lead you to even more interesting destination.  I think that is deep enough for today. I drive a Chev Aveo, so not far beyond that gate I will have to turn around or I may never see that tar road again.

Poort-Pourri Kontreiwinkel

Driving towards De Rust and Oudtshoorn from Prince Albert takes one through Meiringspoort. Just before you enter the poort the road passes the little hamlet of Klaarstroom which has remained virtually unchanged since the days of Queen Victoria. As we were passing the turnoff into Klaarstroom my eye caught a peculiar sight and I nearly left the road as I spun my head around. A number of man sized dolls were sitting on benches, on bikes and just standing around next to the road.

It turned out to be a gimmic to get people to stop at the Poort-Pourri Kontreiwinkel (country or farm stall). The shop sells antiques, bric & brac, fruit end veg and of cause cold drinks which was very welcome on a day the temperature topped 40C. I asked Drama Princess to sit in between two of the “ladies” to get a good idea of their size. At first she didn’t trust them thinking that one may just move, but eventually sat down and posed for a pic.
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GPS: 33°20’5.19″S, 22°32’24.83″E

Gamtoos Valley Farm House

The Gamtoos River Valley around Hankey and Patensie is an absolutely stunning area. This last weekend we went camping next to the bottom section of the Gamtoos River at a camp site called Wackey Woods. Saturday morning we drove to Loerie and Melon, but unfortunately not all the way up the valley to Patensie. The area is mainly a farming area and I couldn’t help but to stop next to the road leading to Loerie to take a photo of this farm scene. The orange trees are Silver Leave Oaks in flower.

Karoo skies

Today’s post is the conclusion of our drive through the Karoo (featured in Karoo Roads and Windpompe and Karoo Koppies ) from Gariep Dam (also see Gariep Dam Sunrise) to Cannon Rocks (posts still to come). And to link in with Skywatch Friday.
As stated before, the Karoo is often referred to as Big Sky Country. “Why?” you ask. “Several reasons”, I say. It is a fairly flat countryside with few hills and mountains and even fever big trees. This means that you often have uninterrupted views all around and specially of the sky. Also because of the very dry climate, mostly these skies are blue skies with no clouds.
When there are clouds, they do make the sky something to be hold just after sunrise and before sunset.
And when the sun is down, the lack of light pollution makes for some of the most awesome night skies you can imagine. Ok, so I don’t have a night sky picture, but the clouds do become even more beautiful just after sunset.

For more great Skywatch photos from all over the world, why not pop in over here.