Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The trip of awesomeness part 3: Road trip cont.

Nieu Bethesda to Montagu.

Nieu Bethesda is only a few hours from Colesberg along a dirt road. It is a tiny dorpie that only got electricity in the 90's. I know people who spent childhood holidays there, and I am sure it is like a city in comparison to what it was, but there can't be more than 60 people living in the town itself, and apparently about 900 in the township section. The local kids there ride around bareback on horses. Everyone is so open and friendly. It is probably the safest place in the world. My statistic.

We went straight to the Owl House museum to see the art that Helen Martins had left behind in her yard and in her house. This place blew me away. I loved it so much. Partly because I have a fantasy of living far away from everyone and making funky colourful paintings all over my house.

I took about 1 million photos of the place. Unfortunately I filled up my flickr quota for the month, so will have to keep adding them later. But if you want to check them out, you can mail me for my flickr name.

The entire interior of her house is covered in ground glass. There are so many sculptures of weird and wonderful things in her yard, it takes hours to try and look at them all. It was definitely worth the trip to the middle of nowhere.

Then we read our books under a tree, walked around the entire town (it didn't take very long), read some more, walked some more, then I had a Karoo burger at the pub and we went to sleep. Such party animals.

By the way, zoologists (Helen, Luke, EEbEE?) I need your help. We saw the weirdest animals (to me) in Nieu Bethesda. The were roughly squirrel sized, yellowish gold in colour, had tails but not quite like squirrels, much fatter and sturdier tails than squirrels, more like skinny hairy beaver tails(??) and their bodies were similar to meerkats. They even did the upright standing thing. But their tails seemed quite unmeerkatlike to me. Does this make any sense? I didn't manage to get any photographic evidence of these meerkat beavers.

On the way out the next day I saw my first dassie!!!!!!!!!!!! and a baboon. Oops apparently BFG saw a dassie in Harrismith so I lied on yesterday's scorecard.

Man that day was hot. Apparently it hit 40 degrees. And we had no aircon. Poor BFG. He drove 10 hours that day. But we stopped constantly for orange lollies, which appear to be his kryptonite. I also had him stuck on 20 questions for about an hour trying to come up with "marshmallow". He got as far as, they are man made but not an appliance, and come in herds, for aaaaages. It's so obvious, innit?!

The most memorable part of the day's driving was Magdalen. We picked up a tired lady walking somewhere along the N9 before Graaf Reniet. It turns out she was walking to a job as a domestic worker in Swellendam (about 500km)! She had been walking for 2 days to cover ground that we drove in an hour. It was Saturday and she had to be at work on the Monday. No one had picked her up in that time. She had no money, but she told us that it didn't matter because God was looking out for her. She had two kids back in Aberdeen, which is a minute farming town in the Eastern Cape.

Magdalen was a pretty cool chick; we told her that in Oxford for some reason they pronounce her name "Maudlen" and she was highly amused by that. She told us stories of her holiday in Joburg and schooling in George.

At the time we were planning to stop in Oudtshoorn, which is a far far walk to Swellendam, but she was happy for the ride. We hit Oudtshoorn at midday in full 40 degree heat and decided it was too early to stop for the day. We figured we could camp the night at Barrydale. There is some pretty spectacular scenery around there along the R62 I have to say. Love that route.

At Barrydale, we dropped off Magdalen on the road to Swellendam. BFG decided he had the juice to drive to Montagu after all, which was our hoped for destination. We sat at the corner, watching Magdalen walking slowly away...

then we realised that if we went via Swellendam it was still only about 2 hours to get to Montagu!

We ended up taking her to her sister's doorstep in Bonnievale. I was very happy that we could do that, because I was thinking while we were at Barrydale, imagine we bring her all this way and then leave her to walk for the next day or two and she gets raped along the way?

Now I know that the route is very quiet and the area probably really safe, but would you feel happy letting any woman you know, wife, sister, girlfriend, whatever, walk alone from Barrydale to Bonnievale (roughly 100km)? Maybe you would, maybe it is just me, but I just could not feel sure that she would have been safe. And when we drove along there were hardly any cars, so the chances of her being picked up were very slim, and then I worry about strange men driving alone...

If it was me I would have been a bit scared. And dying of heat. And she had no money. Just saying.

When she left she asked us for our cell number and we gave her our SA one. Now I feel like such an idiot because we are back in the UK and our MTN number will expire and she promised to phone to tell us how she was doing and to answer "Maudlen" but she can't. I feel really sad about that. Maybe she will think we gave her a fake number. Wah. But you know what, I actually know where she lives, so you never know, maybe this is not the end of the Magdalen files. Anyone live in Bonnievale?

Anyway, after all that we got to Montagu, where we wanted to be, BFG was toast, and the rest is for another day.

trip scorecard:

Dassie score:

BFG: 2 (apparently, including his mystery dassie in Harrismith)

strange beaver-meerkat sightings: too many to count

awesome trippy statues: hundreds

random strangers with biblical references picked up: 1


LadyFi said...

Wow - love the funky statues. And that photo of the red stained glass window is just gorgeous!

You certainly seem to have had an awesome trip!

Helen said...

not mongoose(s)/mongeese/whatever the plural is... maybe?

Cam said...

Po, loving this trip report. You guys did so well seeing the country! Awesome.

Were they not Ground Squirrels? So says Game Ranger Cam but Helen might be correct. Yellow Mongooses are quite long and slender, ground squirrels do look like fat little beavers...use their tails to prop themselves?

po said...

Ladyfi: that house was very photogenic, even for my dodgy skills!

Helen: nope it didn't look like that, I am thinking Cam might be right about the ground squirrel, well that is the closest, they were really fat dudes though.

Tamara said...

You guys are awesome for giving "Maudlin" a ride. Snaps for Po and BFG!

Prixie said...

ah these shots remind me of a place in Cullinan called JAN HARMGAT SE SPA...seriously.

Dora said...

Wow, that's great story! Unbelievable to think that she was gonna walk all the way! Makes me rethink my whiny journey to work every morning!

6000 said...

Mongoose? Or was there more than one - in which case, Mongeeses?

Do I have you as a friend on Flickr?
Um - no I don't - add me, please - ballacorkish

Damnit - just notice that Helen got there first.

Oh - and word verification: Amachav. Nice.

6000 said...

OK - yes I do.
Nice photos. Am enjoying.

Spear The Almighty said...

God I miss SA.

po said...

Tamara: we nearly didn't being lazy and selfish, but then we figured it was so bloody hot. And if it wasnt for the golf she wouldnt have had space cos all our stuff was scattered allover the Kia!

Prixie: really? Will have to do some research!

Dora: well, I dunno, it sounds like you have tough time with closed stations and stuff like that!

6000: nooooo it was the ground squirrels! I had never seen or actually even heard of a ground squirrel before, but there you go.

Like the word verification, kind of like a Saffa chav, and they do exist!

Spear: I am 100% with you on that one.

Prixie said...

really! :) there is also Jan Harmgat se Agterplaas.

see here:

po said...

Prixie that place looks pretty funky! Have you stayed there?

Prixie said...

not at Jan's, we were there for the day. But i have stayed in Cullinan. it was so charming.

EEbEE said...

(i am a zoologist! and will towards ground squirrel were the animals very social or solitary?)

Anyways we went to the owl ladies house back in std 9 when we did the Grahamstown festival. I have to admit, living in that house would totally freak me out. I'd guess that the old bat was probably possessed by a crazy demon child or something. The only thing that actually impressed me was the sheer quantity of freakish art (if thats what you'd call it).


(just being honest...)

po said...

Hehe that house didnt freak me out at all, i thought all the statues looked friendly. although it was really dark inside, so i guess that was a bit creepy.

Champagne Heathen said...

I don't really have anything constructive to say, but just wanted to say I'm enjoy this trip log!

Luke said...

It's so cool that you got to got to the Owl House! I went there when I was about 16, but I think that the significance of it all might have been lost on me a little...

EEbEE said...

Also, is that Bigbird trying to squeeze into an extra tight pair of cement jeans? (she WAS crazy!)

po said...

Champs: thanks!

Luke: you should revisit! Maybe this time it will all make sense. Which will probably mean you are a bit crazy, because I think she was.

EEnEE: Hehe it does look a bit like that.