South Africa – Karoo – Sutherland
Most South Africans knows Sutherland as the small town with the hottest weather in summer and coldest place in winter, and also the place where the star gazing telescopes are.
So as a tour guide I needed to check it out and with a couple of friends took the tar and dirt back roads to Sutherland from Cape Town. We wanted to stay on a guest farm called Blesfontein but at the time of the booking it was fully booked.
Luckily the owner Nicol said they got a there winter farm house available. The winter farm means that in winter the top of the escarpment is too cold for the sheep so they move down to the warmer part of the area. Summer time they have to move back as the temperatures can get up to 50 degrees there where higher up it is not to hot then.
BUT the there was some warning with the booking, beds are old, no electricity and the water is obtained by “ stook the Donkey” meaning make fire under a type of urn and this give you hot water. We missed one warning however, not to make too much fire as this can cause problems with the pipes as they get brittle in the summer months and if too much warm water gets into them can cause bursting pipes. This got fixed the 1st evening but had now water issues due the fact that the water storage tanks has run dry and the bore hole pump is run by a solar pump. So night time no sun meaning no water. Lesson learnt and the next evening we did everything perfect.
We had gas to cook on and a nice old coal stove and we brought loads of candles, gas lamps and used the oil lamps for light.
The road up to Ceres was tarred and we had great scenery through the different mountain passes. As we started navigation our way past ceres into the Karoo we got on the very good gravel roads and saw almost nothing. Open spaces here and there a farm house or sheep, Wind pumps (to get water from the earth into dams by wind power). This is really a different type of beauty.
Almost at the end of our traveling driving about 2 hours on the gravel we saw cars parked next to a round structure called the bossie skerm. Outside there were drums with wood where people could braai(BBQ) and inside sweets, home bakes, cold drinks some other beverages and art work for sale. By the looks of it was just another farm stall, but no one asking for money just a board saying what the items cost and where you must leave your money( in the cream can).
We really could not believe that South Africa had an Honesty farm stall. Was really great to have seen it and of course we had to buy things;-).
On a high note we reached the ‘De Hoop’ farm were the sheep are in their winter residence, 3 horses and 1 worker looking after the house and doing all the farm things.
As the neighbours is far off no electricity and no lights the stars in the sky was stunning. The part of the Karoo falls under the winter rainfall season but still the plant growth are small hardy plants and only in the river beds were thorn trees. Other parts of the Karoo have even less plants and are very very dry.
The Saturday we headed off to Sutherland ( town/village). Luckily we did run over a chicken as the whole town would have been under feathers;-0.
Really not a lot happening there accept a nice old stone church and some old architecture and houses.
15 km outside the town on one of the many hills you can find SART where one of the largest telescopes in the world is stationed.
Unfortunately the visit there was a waste of time and money as you pay to on a tour of the telescope and end up standing inside the telescope building in a glass cage and can see only bits and pieces of the structure and the guide talking but do not have the proper knowledge of what’s going on there. He was however very friendly and had some good jokes. We could see pictures that was taken from what the telescope can see and that’s it.
But Nicol from Blesfontein outside Sutherland had another surprise for us. He got his own 10/15 mm? telescope on hi guest farm and he was going to show us some interesting things in the sky.
The farm is about 30km before Sutherland and you have to travel a 25km dirt road to get there and then you have another couple of km to travel through the farm to the escarpment where we were met with an awesome view and sunset. The farm also got some blue and black wildebeest and as the sun was going down we spotted some rabbits running away from the car lights.
Nicol and his wife Marina met us with open arms a cup of warm coffee as at the escarpment it was freezing. 7pm the star gazing show started. Nicol had a green laser which showed exactly which star he was pointing at. He gave a lot of information and then we had the chance to view the stars, a planet and the moon. Saturnus was really interesting still very small from the view founder but you could see the planet with the rings around it WOW. We in SA got the Milky Way and I always thought the whitish shimmer was gasses No, it is millions of stars. On the moon we saw craters and holes. The viewing of the moon was a bit bright but well worth it. Learned and saw a lot of other things that I have not seen before.
All and all the trip was stunning and will do it again.