Rearview sunset

A week or two ago I had to go on an urgent work-related road trip and popped into two of my favorite villages, Nieu-Bethesda and Hogsback, before heading down to East London for the night. It was literally whistle-stop visits with no sightseeing. All business. Barrelling along the N2 between King William’s Town and East London the sun was setting behind me and the best I could do was snap a pic in the car’s side mirror at a hundred and mumble mumble kilometers an hour.

Sunset at Sardinia Bay

The dune at Sardinia Bay is probably the best and most popular spot in Port Elizabeth to enjoy a beautiful sunset. We haven’t been for ages and I got tired of seeing other people post photos of it on Facebook, so on Tuesday afternoon I made a suggestion to go when I got home from work and was still putting down my bag when I heard the door close as everybody headed for the car.

Sunrise over the Bay

Yesterday morning I was slightly earlier on my way to work than I have been because of levels 5 (work from home); 4 (still working from home); 3 (back at the office but in no rush to get up in the morning) and 3.86 (ii) section G, subsection purple with a tint of green, paragraph the doorbell is ringing but there is nobody there, line do they even know what’s going on, I think I’m hungry now, I don’t smoke but just give them their cigarettes. Oh and when can tourism establishments open, stop dragging your feet. But I’m digressing. Coming down La Roche in Humewood the sun was right in front (excuse the dirty window) and I just had to pull over in front of Bayworld to enjoy the moment.

I love the wide angle lens on my new phone. Makes for awesome photos. My thought was top try and get there before sunset this morning. I failed. Oh well, here is yesterday’s sunrise.

Lions Head Sunset

Last week I spent some time in Cape Town attending the annual World Travel Market Africa tourism trade show.  The one afternoon after the show I headed up to Table Mountain Road for a walk just before sunset and could kick myself for leaving my camera at the guesthouse the morning.  My phone had to do and I caught the sun setting between Table Mountain and Lions Head through the wild grasses.
Moments later as the sun disappeared past the mountain towards the horizon

Sunset from Signal Hill

They say that you can’t really say you’ve visited Cape Town if you haven’t been up Table Mountain. We’ve done Table Mountain before and with a family of four it’s a bit of an expensive exercise so on our whistle stop visit to the Mother City for the Cape Town Mega event we decided on the next best option.  Signal Hill.  Even better, Signal Hill at sunset.

The one thing we didn’t quite think of was that it was a Saturday afternoon and the weather was great so just about half of Cape Town had the same thing in mind.  Traffic up was hectic and parking is limited.  Add to that a coach parked in the middle of the turning point at the top and cars squeezing into every available spot so the clever option was to park on the far side and cut across the top of Signal Hill on foot.  Something which turned out to be a wise move as leaving later on was much quicker from that side. 

The material covered take off area used by the paragliding outfit based up on Signal Hill makes for the ideal viewing site and as the sun started heading towards the horizon over the Atlantic Ocean, people took their places. 

There you have it, a beautiful Cape Town sunset over the sea.  Not many clouds, or more accurately just about nothing at all, meant no beautiful colours and painted skies, but still stunning never the less.  
The options to watch the sun setting over the Atlantic in Cape Town is many but I prefer Signal Hill because of all the added views of Table Mountain and the surrounding city.  But lesson learned.  Don’t go on the weekend in peak season.

Sunset and scenic views at the Valley of Desolation

What is the first thing you think of if I had to ask you to name one thing to see or do if you visited the Karoo Heartland town of Graaff-Reinet?  I don’t know about you, but my answer would be the Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park.  For some reason every time I spend the night in Graaff-Reinet I end up visiting the Valley of Desolation and that reason is that the Valley is one of the Eastern Cape’s most iconic must see scenic attractions.

This time around I didn’t make my way up to the Valley by myself but was hooked up on a tour led by Oom Buks Marais of Karoo Park Guesthouse in town.  Karoo Park offers tours up to the Valley, historic walks around town as well as night drives in the Camdeboo National Park.  Unfortunately this time around I only had time for one of them though.  Once in the park the road climbs quite drastically up to the escarpment with great views back over the town and adjacent Nqweba Dam before Spandau Kop and ultimately the Valley of Desolation itself is seen.

Once at the parking spot it’s about a 200 meter walk to the first of the lookout points with paths and trails taking you further along for to a couple more view sites.  One of the things to keep in mind is to always wear comfortable shoes even if you’re only going as far as the first viewpoint.  The path isn’t a boardwalk or properly paved path so trying to do it in heals may just lead to a broken ankle. 

At the top of the path the Valley of Desolation lies right in front of you.  It’s more a gorge than a valley, but not sure if the name Gorge of Desolation would have worked.  The Valley of Desolation consist of sheer cliffs and precariously balanced columns of Dolerite rising 120 metres up from the valley floor below.  These are the product of volcanic and erosive forces of nature over 100 million years and stands against the backdrop of the vast plains of the Camdeboo which makes for a stunning sight.  

I once heard somebody say that they don’t know what the fuss of the view was about.  I stood there looking like I was trying to catch flies with my mouth and just stuck my hands out towards the view and made big eyes.  Some people just don’t appreciate true beauty if it slaps them in the face.  
Often it’s not just a case of come, see and leave, with a lot of people bringing a picnic basket and sun downers to enjoy while watching the sun go down over the Karoo plains.  All of this means that it can actually be a very romantic spot as well plus it never really gets crowded so it’s not like you are competing for your space in the sun(set).  I’m told early mornings are a good time to visit as well although I haven’t done that myself yet.
On our visit though the wind was pumping and although we were the only people up there, Oom Buks suggested we go down the mountain a bit to a another slightly more sheltered view site once we had out fill of the Valley itself.  
Once there Oom Buks broke out the cooler box and and it was time to enjoy a cold one while watching the sun go down.  Plus take photos.  Lots and lots of sunset photos to work through later.  
I really like this photo of Oom Buks standing on this rock enjoying the view.  A view he has seen thousands of times and just about every day.  It shows a man who really has a passion for the Karoo.
I may be a forest person and really enjoy the bush, but the vast open spaces of the Karoo stays a very special place and one I always enjoy to experience.  If you’ve never been to Graaff-Reinet (which means you’ve never been to the Valley of Desolation either) then I think it’s time for a road trip and while there, make sure you take the road up to the Valley late one afternoon to go and enjoy a sunset.  And don’t forget to bring your camera… and a picnic basket… and a loved one.