The view from the Anglo Boer War fort at Uniondale

Uniondale between the Klein Karoo and the Langkloof is famous for it’s ghost, but I’m sure most people know very little else about the town.  Visitors will also find a lot of history in the area.  Amongst that is the fact that the town was protected by 6 British Forts during the Anglo Boer War.  One of these have been restored and can be visited on a hill overlooking the town.  I’ve always looked up at it passing through but on my last visit I decided to go and look for the Geocache located at the fort and made my way up for a closer look. 

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.

Oudtshoorn’s CP Nel Museum

The CP Nel Museum in Oudtshoorn is one of the top town museums in South Africa with a fantastic range of exhibits representing the history of the town and surrounding area.  Most visitors pass through town on their way to the ostrich farms or Cango Caves and never see this Klein Karoo gem, but the few who do stop gets to learn so much more about the area.

The museum owes its origin to the private collection of colonel Charles Paul Leonard Nel, successful local businessman and collector of antiquities.  He’s collection was so valuable that by 1938 it had received full recognition from the Historical Monument Commission.  When he passed away in 1950 the newly constituted Board of Trustees took over administration of the collection.  In 1972 the C.P. Nel collection was brought to its present home, the C.P. Nel Museum on Baron van Rheede Street.  The sandstone building with its prominent clock tower was designed by Charles Bullock and erected in 1906 during the so-called second “ostrich feather boom”.  Before the museum took it over it used to be the Oudtshoorn Boy’s High School and taking it over saved the building from demolition.
In the main hall the cultural and natural historic aspects of the ostrich are depicted.  The exhibit takes visitors back to the ancient history of the ostrich where it was first discovered ten thousand years ago, carved into rock in the Sahara desert. The ostrich is known as the biggest bird in the world, but is unfortunately unable to fly because of its weight. It can run sixty to seventy km/h and weighs between ninety and a hundred kilograms.  The collection includes a big variety of feathers and feather products, something that played a big roll in the early boom of Oudtshoorn.

As you walk through the museum you encounter a street scene that includes an unique chemist as it was known in 1895.  The pharmacist himself mainly produced medicine making use of a Pill Machine, described as a pill roller and cutter. 
The CP Nel Museum also boasts the only Synagogue to be situated in a museum with an Ark that is one of the tallest in South Africa.  What makes the Synagogue so amazing is the fact that it’s still being used.

For those who appreciate the finer things in life, the museum’s collection of porcelain and glass will make a statement.  The original designs of Willow-Pattern crockery (1850), Cranberry crockery (1880) and Earthenware, originating in Tzechoslovakai (1918) surely enjoy the attention of most tourists.

Even though there are so much more to see in the museum which also includes a natural history side, the last display I want to show is one of a typical 1911 sales store.  Older folks would remember stores like this with the kids of today having never seen anything like it.

So next time you pass through Oudtshoorn for any reason, make sure you at least pop into the museum for a look at the town’s fascinating past.

Montagu view

For the last two summers we spent part of our December holidays in Montagu on both occasions and the town has crept deep into my heart.  This year we’re not heading that far west and I already miss this beautiful place.  On our last visit I actually said that if I could find something there in my line of work I would really consider moving there.  So as you can gather, this is a “I miss Montague” post,

The picture was taken from Kanonkop looking across Montague West.  This is the part of town the river flows through and where the caravan park where we camped is situated.  Thanks to the Leidam and irrigation canals there is a lot more water on this side of town and thus greener gardens and more trees.  I really wouldn’t mind a little place somewhere around there to escape to if I could.  Unfortunately it’s just a tad too far for a quick visit, but looking forward to the next opportunity to pass through and spend a little time.

Wilgewandel – something for the whole family

In all the years working as a tourist guide I drove past Wilgewandel near the Cango Caves countless times and never stopped.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, but there was just never time on a busy itinerary.  I often just referred to it as the place with the camel rides.  That was until a visit to the Cango Caves with the family while on holiday.  Drama Princess really wanted to ride a camel and the nagging started when we passed Wilgewandel on our way to the caves already.  Leaving the caves the tone of nagging became more consistent and there was no way I could drive past without having a major meltdown on the back seat.  And   that I stopped is quite evident in the fact that Drama Princess is sitting on the first camel in the top picture. Camel ride ticked off her very young bucket list.
What I did find out from my visit was that Wilgewandel is so much more than just the camel ride place between Oudtshoorn and the Cango Caves.  They have a host activities suitable for both big and small and all at very reasonable rates.  When we arrived I was afraid what the stop may end up costing me but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to sacrifice an arm and a leg for the KidZ’s pleasure.  The one thing I tried myself was the little paddle boats where you use your arms and not your legs to propel yourself.  Even the Damselfly ventured onto the water for this one.

Chaos Boy wasn’t interested in the camel ride and rather preferred to do the foofy slide across the dam.  I was kinda worried that he may end up in the dam but then I remembered that he is half monkey anyway.  The foofy slide is just one of many other activities that the kids can do while their parents sit down for a bite to eat or something to drink.  There are also go-carts, an obstacle course, donkey cart rides and, for the littlies, a touch farm where you can feed bunnies and other farm animals. 

After the KidZ had their fill of activities we sat down to have our fill of hamburgers on the outside veranda overlooking the dam.  I would show you what our yummy burgers looked like but I was so focused on it that I forgot to take a pic.  It was good, to say the least. Very good.  As for Wilgewandel, I now get it.  Its a great family attractions and well worth the stop if you have kids or if you don’t, just stop for the burgers.

Rust en Vrede Waterfall

When I was in primary school we did a tour to Oudtshoorn and one of the places we were supposed to visit was the Rust en Vrede (Rest and Peace) Waterfall.  The visit was cancelled due to bad weather and I’ve always wondered what I had missed.  When I started working as a tourist guide about 15 years ago I noticed the turnoff and sign to the waterfall on the way to the Cango Caves, but as it wasn’t included in any of the itineraries I still didn’t get the opportunity to go and see it.  That was until a visit to Oudthoorn with the family when on the way back to town from the caves I decided that today will be the day.

After paying a small entrance fee and driving a couple of kilometers on a fairly good dirt road we got to a small parking spot from where we proceeded on foot along a trail into the valley in front of us.  The environment changed very quickly once you are on foot and although it was close to 35C in the open it got cooler and cooler the further we went up into the gorge.  The valley into which the trail lead is covered with ferns, wild flowers and undergrowth with towering cliffs above.  Along the way we crossed over bridges and pass a small dam wall and pipes.  From later research I found out that water was piped from Rust en Vrede to supply drinking water to the town of Oudtshoorn from as early as 1900.  Apparently it still supplies water to a reservoir in town. 

The valley suddenly opens up to a stunning waterfall plummeting into a refreshing pool.  The photo really doesn’t do it enough justice.  It truly is a magical spot and the waterfall really lived up to its name.  If I was on my own without anywhere else to be I could easily sit there all day.  A group of Dutch youngsters stripped down to their cozzies and swam out into the pool to get a closer look of the waterfall.  I just sat on my rock like a Dassie cursing the fact that I didn’t have my costume on hand to enjoy the pool as well.

British Fort at Cogmans Kloof

On top of the Cogmans Kloof tunnel outside Montagu stands an old English fort built by the British in 1899 during the Anglo Boer War.  The fort has a great view of the approaching road and kloof through the mountains and one can immediately see why the British chose the spot.  To get to the top there is a steep little path from across the road from the parking area and after a couple of minutes of huffing and puffing you get to the top and that awesome view.