An exciting visit to the KAT-7 site: Day 3 Returning home

We were up fairly early again on Sunday morning, had a quick breakfast, packed our bags, and then said goodbye to our toasty warm (thanks to a working heater/aircon!) home-from-home. I discovered that the building we’d stayed in had been constructed in 1869, which means that it’s now 140 years old!

Goodbye to our flatlet

Goodbye to our flatlet

We trudged down the road, enjoying the just-post-sunrise play of light on the clouds, the trees and the houses. Magic.

Our street

Our street

When we reached the camping site, most of the tents had been packed up and almost everyone was ready to leave. But then we saw a group of people clustered around one of the rear tyres. Apparently, one of the tyres that had been repaired was leaking air again. Oh dear…

Tyre trouble again

Tyre trouble again

Chris was struggling to find the right spot to place the jack underneath the chassis. It was quite tricky: the first time he jacked up the bus, he merely succeeded in compressing the shock absorbers. Eventually, both Willem and Chris crawled underneath the bus to identify the correct spot.

Willem and Chris under the bus

Willem and Chris under the bus

Once the bus had been lifted up enough (difficult, given the sandy soil and the sheer weight of the bus), the nuts were loosened with superhuman effort, and the partly deflated tyre was taken off. In its place, we mounted one of the tyres that had been repaired yesterday – hopefully, the seal would hold until we made it safely back to Cape Town.

While the men were labouring to change the tyre, I wandered around with my camera. A couple of people were playing a game of boules. Here are Ludwig, Venkat and Nada squaring off:

A game of boules, anyone?

A game of boules, anyone?

Niesa and Adriaan were fooling around:

Adriaan and Niesa

Adriaan and Niesa

What a glorious sunrise!

Morning sky

Morning sky

At last, the tyre was on, and all the bags had been stowed away in the luggage compartment. Tom did a headcount of the passengers, and identified those who would still have to be picked up at the hotel. Along the way, Chris drove past the museum to show us a reconstructed corbelled house.

Corbelled house

Corbelled house

In case you’re curious to find out a bit more about these odd-looking houses, the excellent Getaway Guide to Karoo, Namaqualand and Kalahari describes the method of construction of these buildings and a bit of their history:

“In the early 1800s, the trekboers (pioneers) crossed the northern boundary of the Cape Colony and settled in the vicinity of the Sak River in the Karoo. With not a tree in sight,the only materials available to build a shelter were flat rocks, plentiful everywhere. Using these they built beehive-shaped huts known today as ‘corbelled houses’. The name is derived from the method of construction known as ‘corbelling’, an ancient technique carried out by layout courses of flat stone, each successive one protruding a little further inward than the one preceding it, and no trusses to support the roof. This continues until the walls almost meet at the apex where the final opening is closed by one or more large slabs. Originating with the megalithic builders of the Mediterranean region over 4000 years ago, remains of this style of building can be found as far afield as France, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and even Greenland.

There is a certain amount of mystery surrounding almost all of these Karoo dwellings, as no one is quite certain when they were built. The most popular theory is that they first came into being between 1811 and 1815. Most, however, date to between the second and third quarter of the 19th century. Furthermore, it is not certain who built the first one, or how the technique arrived in the area. Did an immigrant impart knowledge of this building method to the locals, or was this 4000-year-old technique reinvented here? Today, examples exist around the towns of Loxton, Fraserburg, Williston and Carnarvon.” (Brent Naudé-Moseley and Steve Moseley, Getaway Guide to Karoo, Namaqualand and Kalahari, 2008, page 95)

This was one of several churches in the village:

A church in Carnarvon

A church in Carnarvon

I wonder what happened to the weathercock on the top of the steeple, though?

The steeple

The steeple

We stopped at one of the hotels to pick up our remaining passengers, when these two little boys came out to have a look at us and to proudly show off their wire car and – rather alarmingly – a penknife. The guys in the bus cracked a few jokes when they caught sight of the open penknife, speculating humorously whether this innocent looking little laaitie might have been the one who slashed our tyres!

Two little boys at the hotel

Two little boys at the hotel

Around the corner from the hotel, this low wall was covered in messages – “Stop Crime” – “Crime is not a solution”, “Prevent HIV and AIDS”, “Use a condom”, etc.

Wall

Wall

At long last, we waved goodbye to Carnarvon:

Goodbye, Carnarvon!

Goodbye, Carnarvon!

As it was difficult to take photos through the window of the bus, I jotted down some impressions, as we drove through the Karoo landscape: a range of flat-topped mountains on the horizon; a flock of light-brown sheep surrounding a stone basin filled with glittering water; small birds swooping and dipping across the blue sky; a large black-and-white bird perched ontop of a telephone pole; a dusty two-wheeled trailer, waiting at the side of a gravel track to nowhere; a line of tall trees leading to an isolated farmhouse on the vlakte.

A line of trees

A line of trees

I saw black-headed dorper sheep with gambolling lambs, scattered amidst grey-green shrubs in the distance; a gate with a sandy track leading off to … somewhere; a bird’s nest, like a heap of hay tossed carelessly onto a telephone pole; rocks covered with red lichen, that looked as though someone had sloshed paint over them; and hayricks piled high.

Hayricks

Hayricks

I saw piles of black boulders with sharp edges as though they’d been sliced through by a knife; carpets of smooth green interspersed with fields of tiny yellow flowers; a rusting old automobile abandoned in a ditch; clusters of reed fronds signalling underground watercourses; eroded edges of a river that must have flash-flooded sometime; dark-green bushes huddled low against reddish-brown soil; a hill with rocks lining the top like broken teeth, silhouetted against a cloudy sky; and windpumps spinning lethargically.

Windpumps

Windpumps

It’s an extraordinary landscape.

We stopped briefly at Calvinia in the hope of having a bite to eat. Unfortunately, there was a power failure in the entire village, so the 250 Myl Restaurant could only offer us some tea and coffee (boiled with a gas cooker). This was most welcome! And Richard even managed to organise a chocolate muffin for me – divine!

Chris and Richard

Chris and Richard

Keen to stretch my legs a bit after sitting for such a long time, I joined Jasper for a walk around the block. He obligingly took a photo of me in front of the famous giant postbox of Calvinia (the slot for the letters is around the side). 🙂

The giant red postbox of Calvinia

The giant red postbox of Calvinia

We walked a little way along this sandy road to … I wonder where? Don’t you just love these kinds of roads? I find them so enticing…

Road to somewhere

Road to somewhere

Shortly after we’d passed Nieuwoudtville, we were enveloped by thick fog.

This is seriously dense fog

This is seriously dense fog

Chris stopped the bus at the top of the escarpment, explaining as he did so, that this stop was compulsory for heavy vehicles, to make sure that their brakes worked before they descended the steep pass down the other side. It was fortunate that we had taken our photos at the viewing site on Friday, because there was NO view today. To my relief, we made it safely down the pass onto the vast expanse of the Knersvlakte.

Descending Van Rhyns Pass

Descending Van Rhyns Pass

Amazingly, we left the fog behind us as soon as we reached the foot of the escarpment. And soon we arrived at the outskirts of Vanrhynsdorp.

Township outside Vanrhynsdorp

Township outside Vanrhynsdorp

Here we turned left onto the N7, towards Cape Town. I took advantage of the slow speed of the turning bus to take a photo of this church on the opposite side of the N7. I’d passed this so many times en route to and from Namibia, but hadn’t had an opportunity to photograph it before.

Church on the N7

Church on the N7

As we approached the Clanwilliam dam (which was 98% full), Chris explained that there were plans to increase the height of the dam wall, which would mean rerouting the existing road (the N7) to the right behind the little hill. I wonder when this is going to happen, and what impact it will have on the surrounding area? I love the area around Clanwilliam – it’s so picturesque that I kept wanting to stop the bus to take proper photos! Anyhow, here are my attempts to take some piccies through the windows, as we hurtled through the landscape.

Open fields:

Fields near Clanwilliam

Fields near Clanwilliam

A cluster of houses:

A cluster of houses

A cluster of houses

The fertile river valley with the mountains beyond:

Valley and mountains

Valley and mountains

We had our final pitstop at the now familiar garage outside Citrusdal, where we bought some tea, coffee and choccies to reinvigorate us for the remaining 2 hours’ or so drive to Cape Town.

Our final pitstop

Our final pitstop

It had been an incredible weekend.

The group vibe was great, the guys had a wonderful easygoing camaraderie, the Karoo landscape was just breathtaking, and the realisation that we were witnessing (and participating in) a little part of history-in-the-making was quite extraordinary.

But it also felt really good to be home again.

—-

Click on the links below for the other days:

5 thoughts on “An exciting visit to the KAT-7 site: Day 3 Returning home

    • The sky in the Karoo is spectacular and just so varied from one hour to the next, one day to the next… Perhaps it’s the vast open spaces, the 360 degrees horizon, that makes both the earth and the sky feel so huge and dramatic, and us human beings so tiny and insignificant.

  1. Pingback: South Africa’s strangest attractions in Pictures | Greyhound

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