Porterville Stargazing: March 2015

StarPeople and Snorre venture out into the countryside without Auke.

Nathalie from Porterville Tourism had been corresponding with us since late in 2014 after she heard about our activities during National Science Week from Clanwilliam Tourism. Go here to read about our activities during National Science Week 2014.  After a lot of juggling a date was fixed and we started getting ourselves all fired up but then, at the last moment, Auke had to pull out. Despite this setback Lynnette, Snorre and I packed the Vito and set off for Porterville shortly after nine in the morning.

The Vito, Loaded and ready to go.
The Vito, loaded and ready to go.
Top left: Intersection of Brackenfell Boulevard and Frans Conradie Drive. Top right: Turn right for the N1 and Paarl. Bottom left: Straight ahead for Wellington. Bottom right: Our destination appears for the first time, turn left for Porterville.
Top left: Intersection of Brackenfell Boulevard and Frans Conradie Drive.
Top right: Turn right for the N1 and Paarl.
Bottom left: Straight ahead for Wellington.
Bottom right: Our destination appears for the first time, turn left for Porterville.

 

Top left: On the R44 and ESKOM is fixing a pylon at the Hermon turnoff. Top right: I've always found it difficult to comprehend that at this point Ceres and Porterville are the same distance away. Bottom left: Must be a special fix-it-day because Spoornet is working on the railway line too. Bottom right: The R44 stretches out ahead of us toward the morning mist hanging over the Tulbagh valley.
Top left: On the R44 and ESKOM is fixing a pylon at the Hermon turnoff.
Top right: I’ve always found it difficult to comprehend that at this point Ceres and Porterville are the same distance away.
Bottom left: Must be a special fix-it-day because Spoornet is working on the railway line too.
Bottom right: The R44 stretches out ahead of us toward the morning mist hanging over the Tulbagh valley.

 

Top left: Approaching the turnoff where the R44 goes left to our destination and the R46 carries on through Nuwekloof. Top right: Right, here we are, left for Porterville. Bottom left: The grain silos at Gouda coming up on our left. Bottom right: Gouda station to the left and Gouda bids us welcome but we will give it a miss this time round.
Top left: Approaching the turnoff where the R44 goes left to our destination and the R46 carries on through Nuwekloof.
Top right: Right, here we are, left for Porterville.
Bottom left: The grain silos at Gouda coming up on our left.
Bottom right: Gouda station to the left and Gouda bids us welcome but we will give it a miss this time round.
Top left: A troup of babboons was spread out on either side of the road foraging for breakfast. Top right: This chap stopped for a morning scratch. Bottom left: Signpost to Saron the erstwhile Mission Station. Bottom right: 20 km to go and this hopeful chap thought we might be able to give him a lift.
Top left: A troup of babboons was spread out on either side of the road foraging for breakfast.
Top right: This chap stopped for a morning scratch.
Bottom left: Signpost to Saron the erstwhile Mission Station.
Bottom right: 20 km to go and this hopeful fellow thought we might be able to give him a lift.
Top left: Nathalie on teh phone organizing Porterville's tourism and Lynnette collecting brochures Background: The cheerful mural on the front wall of the Tourism Office and an unintentional "selfie", Bottom right: A notice announcing that Porterville has a twin in Belgium.
Top left: Nathalie on the phone organizing Porterville’s tourism and Lynnette collecting brochures
Background: The cheerful mural on the front wall of the Tourism Office and an unintentional “selfie”,
Bottom right: A notice announcing that Porterville has a twin in Belgium.

Once there Nathalie got us organized and sent us off to our guest house, the Rendezvous where we had a light lunch and, as the show was only due to start at 19:00, we figured that an after lunch nap would be just what the doctor ordered.

We pitched at the Golf Club just after 16:00 and were met by Chanelle who lent a very able hand with the unloading and setting up. She even produced a cup of coffee when I needed it most.

 

Background: The eye catching poster used to advertise the stargazing event. Top right: Lynnette, Chanelle and Lorenzo and the row of trees that got tangled with the setting moon a little later on.  Bottom left: The Vito, Chanelle, Lynnette and Lorenzo. Bottom right: The very useful open area with our A-frame display frames that really worked very well.
Background: The eye catching poster used to advertise the stargazing event.
Top right: Lynnette, Chanelle and Lorenzo and the row of trees that got tangled with the setting moon a little later on.
Bottom left: The Vito, Chanelle, Lynnette and Lorenzo.
Bottom right: The very useful open area with our A-frame display frames that really worked very well.
Background: the orange glow of a Porterville sunset. Top right: Lynnette giving Chanelle and two youngsters a preview of the Moon. Bottom left: These two were of to join their father who was hard at work polishing his golf shots. Bottom right:  Lynnette chatting with Ronel and Sybe Bakker.
Background: the orange glow of a Porterville sunset.
Top right: Lynnette giving Chanelle and two youngsters a preview of the Moon.
Bottom left: These two were of to join their father who was hard at work polishing his golf shots.
Bottom right: Lynnette chatting with Ronel and Sybe Bakker.
Top left: A Porterville sunset. Top right: The birthday table. Bottom left and right: Guests tucking in to their suppers.
Top left: A Porterville sunset.
Top right: The birthday table.
Bottom left and right: Guests tucking in to their suppers.
Top left: This shot shows the venue at the Golf-club which is really very nice except for the fact that there is a just a tad too much light for stargazing. The other three photos: various photographs of the guests listening to the welcome and introduction.
Top left: This shot shows the venue at the Golf-club which is really very nice except for the fact that there is a just a tad too much light for stargazing.
The other three: Various photographs of the guests listening to the welcome and introduction.

The rest of the guests trickled in and we tried to give as many as possible a glimpse of the crescent moon, that was going to dip behind the trees long before it actually set. Shortly after 19:00 the food parcels were handed out and the 50-odd people tucked into their suppers. When they were finished eating I gave a short introductory talk and after that people fetched chairs from somewhere inside the Club and positioned themselves around the telescopes, where I gave them a fairly comprehensive coverage of the visible night sky.  Although the sky was not absolutely dark I was pleasantly surprised by how dark it actually was. The Coal Sack was only just visible but with some concentration one could actually make out omega Centauri and the LMC. I think that if we had put of all the lights inside the clubhouse and put out the two street lights just behind the building, we might actually have had a really dark sky.

Background: guests during the introduction and one of our posters.  Top right: Myself and the guests out on the  lawn during the what's-up. Note the amount of light. Bottom left:  Some guests came well prepared to sit  back and enjoy the stargazing.
Background: guests during the introduction and one of our posters.
Top right: Myself and the guests out on the
lawn during the what’s-up. Note the amount of light.
Bottom left: Some guests came well prepared to sit back and enjoy the stargazing.

Most of the people were very enthusiastic and appreciative of the fact that we had come all the way from Brackenfell to entertain them astronomically. Jupiter and its moons got a very warm reception from everyone.  Some people were less impressed with the Orion Nebula but somehow the Tarantula tickled their fancy as did eta Carina. Omega Centauri and 47 Tuc weren’t as popular as I thought they would be but the Jewel Box was exciting for most people. The Southern Pleiades didn’t cause much of a stir though. Between Lynette and I we scored a lovely bunch of flowers and two bottles of Porterville’s grapes in liquid form; thank you Porterville. We started packing up around 22:00 and were very thankful for the assistance of Nathalie and her friends and also off Chanelle. Without all that help we would not have made it out of there before midnight.

Left: The guesthouse cat sniffing around as she tries to figure out where the "stranger"  is. Right: The "stranger" aka Snorre.
Left: The guesthouse cat sniffing around as she tries to figure out where the “stranger” is.
Right: The “stranger” aka Snorre.
Top: The guesthouse's front garden and the welcoming stoep at the entrance. Bottom left: Lynnette in a pensive mood at breakfast. Bottom right: Our bedroom at the guesthouse. Background: The guesthouse's eye-catching notice board.
Top: The guesthouse’s front garden and the welcoming stoep at the entrance.
Bottom left: Lynnette in a pensive mood at breakfast.
Bottom right: Our bedroom at the guesthouse.
Background: The guesthouse’s eye-catching notice board.

The next day, after breakfast, we popped round to the Tourism Office to say goodbye to Nathalie and then went off to Houdconstant to buy figs before heading home to Brackenfell. Lynnette and I think the presentation was successful and will certainly take Porterville Tourism up on their invitation to do it again.  Next time Auke must come along or Ronel Bakker will boycott us.

Top left: On our way home and to the left the latest addition to the growing number of wind farms in the Western Cape. Top right: The pothole warning is best heeded as some of them were quite serious. Bottom left: At the intersection where the R46 joins the R44.  Bottom right: Coming up to the Hermon turnoff where the R46 and the R44 part company again.
Top left: On our way home and to the left the latest addition to the growing number of wind farms in the Western Cape.
Top right: The pothole warning is best heeded as some of them were quite serious.
Bottom left: At the intersection where the R46 joins the R44.
Bottom right: Coming up to the Hermon turnoff where the R46 and the R44 part company again.
Top left: Sonkwasdrif  turnoff coming up. Top right: Signpost to Voëlvlei dam, one of Cape Town's water sources that also supplies towns on the West Coast and also serves as a major water sport, recreation centre Bottom left: The treatment plant is just visible low down against the backdrop of a section of the Limietberg mountain range. Bottom right: The photos clearly show that this is wheat country with the yellow stubble of last years crop stretching for miles.
Top left: Sonkwasdrif turnoff coming up.
Top right: Signpost to Voëlvlei dam, one of Cape Town’s water sources that also supplies towns on the West Coast and also serves as a major water sport, recreation centre
Bottom left: The treatment plant is just visible low down against the backdrop of a section of the Limietberg mountain range.
Bottom right: The photos clearly show that this is wheat country with the yellow stubble of last years crop stretching for miles.
Top left: Hermon turnoff and now we are well on our way home. Top right: I am not sure what the point of the large green refuse drum is next to the road sign. Bottom left: The yellow wheat stubble makes abice contrast against the blue backdrop of the mountains. Bottom right: A spot of Rugga anybody?  Actually the signpost directs you to the Stormers stalwart's father's farm
Top left: Hermon turnoff and now we are well on our way home.
Top right: I am not sure what the point of the large green refuse drum is next to the road sign.
Bottom left: The yellow wheat stubble makes abice contrast against the blue backdrop of the mountains.
Bottom right: A spot of Rugga anybody? Actually the signpost directs you to the Stormers stalwart’s father’s farm.
The turnoff to the Anglo Boer War (Anglo South African war/South African War) blockhouse as one enters Wellington.
The turnoff to the Anglo Boer War (Anglo South African war/South African War) blockhouse as one enters Wellington.
We made it through Wellington despite the potholes and the extensive roadworks and were well on our way home by now.
We made it through Wellington despite the potholes and the extensive roadworks and were well on our way home by now.
At last a sign that says Cape Town and directs us onto the N1.
At last a sign that says Cape Town and directs us onto the N1.
A busy N1 and we are getting really close now as we pass the Stellenbosch/Klipheuwel flyover.
A busy N1 and we are getting really close now as we pass the Stellenbosch/Klipheuwel flyover.
At last we get of the N1 and as we join up with Brackenfell Boulevard we will turn right and then we are almost home and dry.
At last we get of the N1 and as we join up with Brackenfell Boulevard we will turn right and then we are almost home and dry.

 

Leeuwenboschfontein: March 2015

A venue with a huge amount of potential for all sorts of things an especially astronomy.

Leeuwenboschfontein is advertised as a 4×4 venue but it is a lot more than that. It has a lovely, well-grassed camping area, provides excellent guest house facilities, has ample space for large groups in a well equipped barn, has lots of walking potential, is a nature lovers paradise, boasts a landing strip and, last but not least, it is dark enough and high enough (just over 1000m) to do some quite decent astronomy, despite non-ideal horizons to the southwest, west and northwest.

The signposts at the turnoff from the R318
The signposts at the turnoff from the R318

The normal way to get there from Cape Town is to turn off the N1 onto the R318 shortly after you have ascended the Hex Pass. Continue for 25 km until you get to the turnoff to Leeuwenboschfontein on your left and leave the tar. The next section can be tricky after heavy rains. At about six km after leaving the R318 you pass the entrance to Kopbeenskloof on your right. Go here to read about our previous visit there. Another six km and Leeuwenboschfontein is on your left. Go here to read more about Leeuwenboschfontein. We were coming from Sutherland and not from Cape Town, so our route took us through Touws River and then onto an unsurfaced road past Njalo-Njalo Safari’s. Go here to read more about their activities. After passing through Nougaspoort about 25 km after leaving Touws River, there is a signposted road for Leeuwenbosch turning off to your right. You pass Drie Kuilen Private Nature Reserve on your left and just over seven km after turning right, Leeuwenbosch is on your right. Go here to read more about Drie Kuilen.

Kopbeenskloof is very well signposted
Kopbeenskloof is very well signposted.
Kopbeenskloof also provides a wide range of activities.
Kopbeenskloof also provides a wide range of activities.

Top left: Entrance to Njalo-Njalo Safari's. Top right: View through the fence of Njalo-Njalo's setup.  No entrance unless you have a booking.. Bottom left: part of Njalo-Njalo's signage along their front fence. Bottom right: Personal welcome to expected guests

Top left: Entrance to Njalo-Njalo Safari’s.
Top right: View through the fence of Njalo-Njalo’s setup. No entrance unless you have a booking.
Bottom left: Part of Njalo-Njalo’s signage along their front fence.
Bottom right: Personal welcome to expected guests.

Background: The Vito parked at the entrance to Leeuwenboschfontein. Bottom right: Leeuwenboschfontein's signboard and logo
Background: The Vito parked at the entrance to Leeuwenboschfontein.
Bottom right: Leeuwenboschfontein’s signboard and logo.

Leeuwenboschfontein is owned and run by a father and son team, Johan Roux (snr) and Johan Roux (jnr) from Ceres. On-site management is done by Joan who manages the reception office and her husband John who does the outside stuff.

Top left: A lovely campsite for two groups situated above and away from the main campsite. Top right: View north over the landing strip from the lawn in front front of the larger of the two guest houses. Bottom left: Another secluded campsite for two groups close to the reception area. Bottom right: The reception area.
Top left: A lovely campsite for two groups situated above and away from the main campsite.
Top right: View north over the landing strip from the lawn in front of the larger of the two guest houses.
Bottom left: Another secluded campsite for two groups close to the reception area.
Bottom right: The reception area.

The following photographs tell the rest of the story about our visit there with Iain Finlay, Willem van Zyl and Snorre.

A panoramic view taken on the road from Touws River. South is looking down the road, past the pole toward the hilles and Nougaspoort in the distance.  Leeuwenboschfontein lies behind those hilles
A panoramic view taken on the road from Touws River. South is looking down the road, past the pole toward the hilles and Nougaspoort in the distance. Leeuwenboschfontein lies behind those hills.
Panoramic view of the main campsite. this is a well equipped, shady campsite with lots of grass.
Panoramic view of the main campsite. this is a well equipped, shady campsite with lots of grass.
Panoramic view taken from the landing strip. West is toward the pointy hills in the middle of the photo and south  is toward the left.
Panoramic view taken from the landing strip. West is toward the pointy hills in the middle of the photo and south is toward the left.
Sunsets are fantastic at Leeuwenboschfontein, as are sunrises.
Sunsets are fantastic at Leeuwenboschfontein, as are sunrises.
Top left: The lawn in front of the larger of the two guest houses. The barn's roof can be seen in the middle and there is a pool just beyond the last pillar.  The landing strip is to the left out of the picture. Top right: The trees at the main camp site. The strucure furthest to the right is Willow Cottage which sleeps four and the other structure is one of two ablution blocks. Bottom left: Sunrise taken from the grassy area west of the main camping area. Bottom right: Sunrise over the dam in the main camping area.
Top left: The lawn in front of the larger of the two guest houses. The barn’s roof can be seen in the middle and there is a pool just beyond the last pillar on the left. The landing strip is to the right out of the picture.
Top right: The trees at the main camp site. The structure furthest to the right is Willow Cottage which sleeps four and the other structure is one of two ablution blocks.
Bottom left: Sunrise taken from the grassy area west of the main camping area.
Bottom right: Sunrise over the dam in the main camping area.
Top left: There is an abundance of bird life. Top right: Lynnette relaxing and doing nothing, for a change. Bottom left: The traditional braai with Willem and Iain. Bottom right: A beautiful sunset which also meant no observing.
Top left: There is an abundance of bird life.
Top right: Lynnette relaxing and doing nothing, for a change.
Bottom left: The traditional braai with Willem and Iain.
Bottom right: A beautiful sunset which also meant no observing that night.
Snorre took  a very dim view of the fact that some campers pitched up with a dog. Ghastly aniomals that leave their poop lying around all over the place.
Snorre took a very dim view of the fact that some campers pitched up with a dog. They are ghastly animals that leave their poop lying around all over the place.

SALT: March 2015

We visit SALT and get educated.

The visit to SALT was organized primarily to get Alan deep inside the telescope so that he could figure out some stuff he was unable to resolve from the drawings he had. Alan needed to know this minute detail because he is building the best model of SALT the Universe has ever seen for StarPeople’s outreach activities.  However, just when everything was organized disaster struck, because Alan’s employer withdrew his leave for complicated “technical” reasons. The rest of us decided to go in any case and give Alan all our photos afterward and then organize a second visit later in the year for his benefit.

In the end it was only Lynnette and I, Paul, Lucas, René, Wendy, Ross and his son that undertook the trip because Auke, Leslie and Martin couldn’t make it. Paul, Lucas and René camped at Sterland. You can go here to read more about Sterland. Lynnette, Wendy and I were put up by Ester Jordaan at Alpha B&B and Ester put up Ross and his son at one of her other guest houses, The Sutherland Guest House. Go here to read more about Alpha B&B and here if you want to know more about The Sutherland Guest House.

Top left: Paul on the prowl against the background of the building that houses the SAAO's visitor telescopes Top right: Wendy and Lynnette on their way to the Visitor's Centre. Bottom left: A very ingenious model of SALT by not quite what StarPeople have in mind for outreach. Bottom right:  Paul becomes almost double jointed when he gets behind the camera
Top left: Paul on the prowl against the background of the building that houses the SAAO’s visitor telescopes
Top right: Wendy and Lynnette on their way to the Visitor’s Centre.
Bottom left: A very ingenious model of SALT but not quite what StarPeople have in mind for outreach.
Bottom right: Paul becomes almost double jointed when he gets behind the camera

As arranged everyone made their own way to Sutherland and all of us pitched up on time at the SAAO’s Visitor’s Centre, where we paid our dues to Anthony Mietas before he led our convoy up the hill to SALT, where our guide, Chris Coetzee, was waiting. Go here to find out more about the SAAO’s Visitor’s Centre. The first thing we learnt was that we all had to be wearing closed shoes otherwise we would not be allowed to enter specific areas. General safety and the need to stay in a group where he could see us all, were stressed by Chris before we went in.  Next we were all issued with hard hats and I remember thinking that all we now needed, to really look “official” and have the run of the place, was a white coat and a clipboard.

Top left: Wendy and René in matching yellow hard hats and Lynnette in a white one to match her blouse. Top right: Up on the catwalk without Lynnette and Wendy.  It really is a long way down to the floor. Bottom left: Lucas and in the background one of the housing of the High Resolution Spectrograph situated right below  the telescope on the floor above. Bottom Right: Everybody making their way through the Spectrograph Room toward the Control Room.
Top left: Wendy and René in matching yellow hard hats and Lynnette in a white one to match her blouse.
Top right: Up on the catwalk without Lynnette and Wendy. It really is a long way down to the floor.
Bottom left: Lucas and in the background the housing of the High Resolution Spectrograph situated right below the telescope on the floor above.
Bottom Right: Everybody making their way through the Spectrograph Room toward the Control Room.
Top left: Paul looking a bit bewildered against the background of all those files.  Top right: Lucas and Chris discussing a point or two. Bottom Left: Paul on Saturday lurking around Sutherland with his camera Bottom right: Paul and Lucas discussing some finer photographic points against the backdrop of the Artist's Cottage in Jubilee Street
Top left: Paul looking a bit bewildered against the background of all those files.
Top right: Lucas and Chris discussing a point or two in the Control Room.
Bottom Left: Paul on Saturday lurking around Sutherland with his camera
Bottom right: Paul and Lucas discussing some finer photographic points against the backdrop of the Artist’s Cottage in Jubilee Street

I am not going to run through the tour step by step, as there is just too much to tell. So you will have to get the story from the photos. Lynnette and Wendy had to dip out when we went up on the catwalk as they both have an extreme reaction to heights.

Top left: Three of the refrigeration units used to cool the inside of the SALT building down to the expected temperature when the louvers are opened at the start of a night's observing. The cupboard with the grey door is an Igloo. It houses banks of electronics and keeps them cool an also prevents any light they may generate from interfering with the telescope's observations.  Top right: The framework that supports mirror structure. Bottom left: One of the giant feet supporting the telescope's structure/ The yellow section houses the rubber discs which form the air cushions on which the telescope moves when it rotates   Bottom right: A closer look at the underside of a mirror section.  The mirror rests on the blue bits and the grey cylinders are part of the system that control the movement of each mirror section during the alignment process.  The background photograph shows the segmented mirror itself.
Top left: Three of the refrigeration units used to cool the inside of the SALT building down to the expected temperature when the louvers are opened at the start of a night’s observing. The cupboard with the grey door is an Igloo. It houses banks of electronics and keeps them cool and also prevents any light they may generate from interfering with the telescope’s observations.
Top right: The framework that supports the mirror structure.
Bottom left: One of the giant feet supporting the telescope’s structure. The yellow section houses the rubber discs which form the air cushions on which the telescope moves when it rotates.
Bottom right: A closer look at the underside of a mirror section. The mirror rests on the blue bits and the grey cylinders are part of the system that controls the movement of each mirror section during the alignment process.
The background photograph shows the segmented mirror itself.
Top left: The wheel in the centre is part of the drive system that rotates the entire structure once it has been lifted on the air cushions. The small vertical cylinder measures the height of the structure above the concrete surface. The concrete is sealed with an epoxy layer to make it as smooth as possible and prevent it generating any dust. Top right: The cable housing that prevents the mass of cables leading up to the giant instrument beam above the telescope from becoming mangled or tangled when the telescope rotates. Bottom left: A gap in the mirror where a segment has been removed for cleaning and resurfacing. Bottom right: One of the motors that drives the rotation of the dome.  This yellow conduits carry high voltage power lines.
Top left: The wheel in the centre is part of the drive system that rotates the entire structure once it has been lifted on the air cushions. The small vertical cylinder measures the height of the structure above the concrete surface. The concrete is sealed with an epoxy layer to make it as smooth as possible and prevent it generating any dust.
Top right: The cable housing that prevents the mass of cables leading up to the giant instrument beam above the telescope from becoming mangled or tangled when the telescope rotates.
Bottom left: A gap in the mirror where a segment has been removed for cleaning and resurfacing.
Bottom right: One of the motors that drives the rotation of the dome. This yellow conduits carry high voltage power lines.
Top left: The instrument carrying beam at the top of the telescope structure. Top right: The eye or shutter in the dome that has to be opened for the telescope to see out into the night sky.  Bottom left: The "cherry picker" that is used to remove mirror sections.  Bottom right:  This motor is part of the system that opens the shutter. The background photo shows the mirror and part of its support structure.
Top left: The instrument carrying beam at the top of the telescope structure.
Top right: The eye or shutter in the dome that has to be opened for the telescope to see out into the night sky.
Bottom left: The orange device down on the ground floor is the “cherry picker” that is used to remove mirror sections.
Bottom right: This motor is part of the system that opens the shutter.
The background photo shows the mirror and part of its support structure.
Top left: A closer look at the instrument beam and the instruments it carries. Top right: A mirror section being prepared for cleaning and resurfacing. The large doors behind the technicians leads outside and the notice on the door is to remind anybody opening them that the hill is a windy place and that the winds can be quite ferocious. Bottom left: The underside of a mirror  section with all the trimmings removed and only the blue support framework left in place. Bottom right: The mirror section mounted and ready for placing in the vacuum chamber to start the refurbishing process.  The vacuum chamber is evacuated all the way down to one hundred thousandth of an atmosphere, which is quite a serious vacuum.
Top left: A closer look at the instrument beam and the instruments it carries.
Top right: A mirror section being prepared for cleaning and resurfacing. The large doors behind the technicians leads outside and the notice on the door is to remind anybody opening them that the hill is a windy place and that the winds can be quite ferocious.
Bottom left: The underside of a mirror section with all the trimmings removed and only the blue support framework left in place.
Bottom right: The mirror section mounted and ready for placing in the vacuum chamber to start the refurbishing process. The vacuum chamber is evacuated all the way down to one hundred thousandth of an atmosphere, which is quite a serious vacuum.

Later that evening, after dark, Paul, Lucas, Ross, his son and I were taken up the hill again by Chris to take photos. The one and only rule that Chris stressed repeatedly was that we were only to use red lights and very dim ones at that. On the way up we encountered Peter Haarhoff, the photographer’s group.  They were spread out across half the road surface right on a bend creating an extremely dangerous situation. Some of the group were using red lights that were definitely not dim ones and one in particular was more like a red spotlight. After the rather chilly photo session Lynnette and I joined Paul, Lucas and René for a very late braai and some red wine, courtesy of Paul, at Sterland.

On Saturday morning Lynnette and I took a set of photos in Sutherland’s Main Street and around the town.  Click here to read more and see the photos or you can go here to find out about Sutherland’s Solar System model and, if you want to know how many guest establishments in Sutherland have astronomy connections, you can go here. On Saturday afternoon Ester accompanied us on a rather bumpy ride out to their farm, Orion/Matjesfontein, on the road to Calvinia.  You can go here to read about that visit. On Saturday evening Paul, Wendy, Lynnette and I went to a dark spot about 15 km from Sutherland to do some observing and take photos.

What are these chaps building?  Bearing in mind that the local DRC congregation had held a prayer meeting for rain on the Friday I though they might know something I didn't and be building a large boat. Turns out this is part of a large sphere for the upcoming Africa Burn in the Tanqua.
What are these chaps building? Bearing in mind that the local DRC congregation had held a prayer meeting for rain on the Friday I though they might know something I didn’t and be building a large boat. Turns out this is part of a large sphere for the upcoming Africa Burn in the Tanqua.

On Sunday morning we packed up and, while everyone else made their way back to Cape Town, Lynnette and I went off to Floris and Annami Steenkamp’s place, Klipdrift, to do some observing there.  Click here to read about our visit.  You can also click here to read about how to own a piece of Klipdrift.

This is Lisa Marques's photo of the structure several days later with the builders Top Row: Quinton Maans, Jeff Whitlow, Benny Geduld and Julia Eszter Oláh. On the Floor:  Monique Schiess, Lollie Visagie, Karel Klein, Enrico Maans, Afrika Oncke, Davish Klein, Kosie Oncke, Kobus Klein, James Hayman, Koekie Prins, Nathan Victor Honey and Nicholas Raphael.
This is Isa Marques’s photo of the structure several days later with the builders
Top Row: Quinton Maans, Jeff Whitlow, Benny Geduld and Julia Eszter Oláh.
On the Floor: Monique Schiess, Lollie Visagie, Karel Klein, Enrico Maans, Afrika Oncke, Davish Klein, Kosie Oncke, Kobus Klein, James Hayman, Koekie Prins, Nathan Victor Honey and Nicholas Raphael.
A further updated photograph of the progress made with the structure. Photograph by Isa Marques
A further updated photograph of the progress made with the structure.
Photograph by Isa Marques

Sutherland’s Solar System: March 2015

The unhappy Solar System in Sutherland’s Main Street.

In Sutherland’s Main Street there is a scale model of the Solar System. It consists of stone pillars with the names of the planets attached to the front of the pillar and a brass disc on top of the pillar giving the name of the planet and its distance from the Sun. The model was conceptualized and its construction supervised by a past president of ASSA (Astronomical Society of Southern Africa), Professor Case Rijsdijk, while he was employed by the SAAO in an outreach capacity. What very few people realize is that each disc was also designed for use by visually impaired persons. That is why there is information in Braille on each disc and the planets in the centre were also intended to convey information to the visually impaired more than being an aid to the sighted visitors. At that time there was still a visitor’s centre in the pipeline, which was to have been constructed on the vacant property across the street from the Sutherland Hotel; next to Jupiter’s pillar. The centre unfortunately never materialized.

The brass was a magnet for thieves and at one time an unsightly cage was placed around each pillar and the door to the cage secured with a large brass padlock. Now the padlocks and cages have gone and a tall pole has been planted next to each pillar and on top of each pole there is a structure with four vanes that is supposed to rotate in the wind. It appears that some of them rotate and some don’t and some have already been removed. I could also not quite figure out the significance of the colours of these rotating devices but the poles and their rotating tops are intended to draw the attention of visitors to the planets.

Take a brief tour with me as I walk the Solar System in Sutherland’s Main Street.

Mercury the planet closest to the Sun is located across the street from the Ou Meul Restaurant.  Note that there is no rotating device on top of the pole
Mercury the planet closest to the Sun (0,4 AU or 60 million km) is located across the street from the Ou Meul Restaurant. Note that there is no rotating device on top of the pole and the name of the planet is also missing.
Venus the second planet from the SUN (0,7 AU or 105 million km) is in front of the OK-franchise
Venus the second planet from the SUN (0,7 AU or 105 million km) is in front of the OK-franchise. It has a yellow device on its pole which only rotates by fits and starts.
The earth is next (1,0 AU or 150 million km) with a green rotating device that does not rotate
The earth is next (1,0 AU or 150 million km) with a green rotating device that does not rotate.
Now we are at mars (1,5 AU or 225 million km) and appropriately it has a red rotating device which rotated quite readily in the stiff breeze.
Now we are at Mars (1,5 AU or 225 million km) and appropriately it has a red rotating device which rotated quite readily in the stiff breeze.
For Jupiter (5,2 AU or 780 million km) we cross the street and walk down to a point straight across from the hotel. Note that the planet's name is gone as is the large brass disk that should be on top of the pillar.
For Jupiter (5,2 AU or 780 million km) we cross the street and walk down to a point straight across from the hotel. Note that the planet’s name is gone as is the large brass disk that should be on top of the pillar. The device on the pole was also static.
Saturn (9.5 AU or 1425 million km) is in front of the Co-op but on the opposite side to Jupiter.  Here everything is intact and the device on the pole rotates.
Saturn (9.5 AU or 1425 million km) is in front of the Co-op but on the opposite side to Jupiter. Here everything is intact and the device on the pole rotates.
For Uranus (19.2 AU or 2880 million km) we have to go right out to the edge of town. Here the planet's name , the brass disc and the rotating device on the pole are all gone.
For Uranus (19.2 AU or 2880 million km) we have to go right out to the edge of town. Here the planet’s name, the brass disc and the rotating device on the pole are all gone.
For Neptune (30.1 AU or 4515 million km) we have to hike out all the way to the entrance to the showgrounds and the home of the Sutherland Stock Car Club. Here everything is gone and only the base of the pillar remains.
For Neptune (30.1 AU or 4515 million km) we have to hike out all the way to the entrance to the showgrounds and the home of the Sutherland Stock Car Club. Here everything is gone and only the base of the pillar remains.
Now I know Pluto (Average 39 AU or 5850 million km) is no longer a planet but it was when the model was constructed. To get there we have to walk out all the way to Sterland's gate.  Here everything is intact and the thing on the pole even turns.
Now I know Pluto (average 39 AU or 5850 million km) is no longer a planet, but it was when the model was constructed. To get there we have to walk out all the way to Sterland’s gate. Here everything is intact, but the thing on the pole does not turn.

Next time you visit Sutherland take a walk through the Solar System even if it is a bit tattered. Walking the Solar System does give one a real feel for the vast distances involved in space travel. Bear in mind as you walk from Earth to Pluto that it has taken New Horizons, the fastest space craft ever launched, from January 2006 to July 2015 to get from Earth to Pluto travelling at a speed of 58 536 km/h.

Perhaps if more visitors paid attention to the model the local Municipality might take better care of it.

Sutherland’s Main Street: March 2015

High noon in Sutherland’s main street on a Saturday in March.

On a recent visit to Sutherland I was struck by the fact that the town’s main street was all but deserted by lunch time on Saturday. There was very little vehicular traffic and not much more pedestrian activity either. By 15:00 the only place you could buy a cup of coffee was the Sutherland Hotel’s Karoo Kombuis and possibly The Jupiter. Perhaps I just wasn’t looking hard enough, but then places to have coffee shouldn’t be hard for visitors to find. When I asked somebody why there was so little activity (and no coffee), I was told that Sutherland’s “Season” ‘doesn’t really start until late April or early May!

Anyway, I did a quick overview of the Main Street and the town in general with my camera and here are my impressions.

The entrance to Sutherland's Golf Course.
The entrance to Sutherland’s Golf Course.
That hobbit-like structure partially hidden among the trees is Sutherland's Golf Clubhouse.
That hobbit-like structure partially hidden among the trees is Sutherland’s Golf Clubhouse.
Top left: Main Street in Sutherland at about 13:10 looking south Top centre: Main Street in Sutherland looking north. To right: Crossroads in the centre of town. Bottom: How many people in Sutherland know that their twin-town is Fort Davis in Texas and how many people in Fort Davis know Sutherland is their twin town?   When do the population statistics get brought up to date?
Top left: Main Street in Sutherland at about 13:10 looking south. Top centre: Main Street in Sutherland looking north at the same time of the day. Top right: Intersection in the centre of town. Middle: How many people in Sutherland know that their twin-town is Fort Davis in Texas and how many people in Fort Davis know Sutherland is their twin town? When do the population statistics get brought up to date? Bottom left: This street leads out onto the road to the SAAO. it passes the only filling station which is only open for about an hour each Sunday. Bottom centre: The intersection in the centre of town from a different angle. Bottom right: The road out of town toward Calvinia and Willeston.

Old cemetery containing several Anglo Boer War (Anglo South African War) graves.

Old cemetery containing several Anglo Boer War (Anglo South African War) graves.

Old Commando Headquarters now a private school.
Old Commando Headquarters now a private school.
Top left & right: The telescope donated to the Tourism Office by the SAAO. Top centre: The previous home of the Tourism/Information office
Top left & right: The telescope donated to the Tourism Office by the SAAO.
Top centre: The previous home of the Tourism/Information Office now housing the local office of the Independent Electoral Commission
Kambrokind guest house and the now non-functioning Halley sê Kom Eet Coffee Shop
Kambrokind guest house and the now non-functioning Halley sê Kom Eet Coffee Shop

Halley sê Kom Eet is apparently now an extension to the dining room used to serve breakfast for the guests at Kambrokind Guest House and no longer serves coffee or anything else after that. What a pity.

The White House has undergone a bit of a face lift.
The White House has undergone a bit of a face lift and at least their flags are no longer in tatters..

The Tourism Office or Information Centre has moved with the Municipal offices to a small building, just off the Main Street, in Northumberland Street.  The previous Tourism Office is now the office for the Independent Electoral Commission and the Municipal Offices now house PEP Stores. It is a pity that the telescope in front of the previous Tourism Office was not moved as well and that it is not better maintained.

The Co-op seems to survive against all odds.
The Co-op seems to survive against all odds.
Roggeveld Handelaars also seems to be an indestructible institution
Roggeveld Handelaars also seems to be an indestructible institution
The Police Station is always a hive of activity and crime does not seem to have a specific season
The Police Station is always a hive of activity and crime does not seem to have a specific season
The building housing the Standard Bank is one of the "Jewels" of Sutherland's Main Street with its well kept garden and well maintained building
The building housing the Standard Bank is one of the “Jewels” of Sutherland’s Main Street with its well kept garden and well maintained building
The previous Municipal Offices now house PEP Stores
The previous Municipal Offices now house PEP Stores
One of the newer faces among the Main Street's shops is Zellie se Winkel
One of the newer faces among the Main Street’s shops is Zellie se Winkel
The APK's (Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk) building. I am reliably informed that they intended calling themselves the Afrikaanse Konserwatiewe Kerk, but somebody  pointed out just in time, that the abbreviation would be disastrous.
The APK’s (Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk) building. I am reliably informed that they intended calling themselves the Afrikaanse Konserwatiewe Kerk, but somebody pointed out just in time, that the abbreviation would be disastrous.
Top: The Beautiful building of the historic Dutch Reformed Church. Bottom left: The Church Hall. Bottom centre and right: Advertised church activities.
Top: The beautiful building of the historic Dutch Reformed Church.
Bottom left: The Church Hall.
Bottom centre and right: Advertised church activities.
The town boasts two very busy Liquor Stores
The town boasts two very busy Liquor Stores

There are a few new shops and the townsfolk must be overjoyed that one of them is a hardware store; something that was badly needed in Sutherland.

Ester Jordaan's shop Die Trommel is an institution in Sutherland.  When you visit take your time there are plenty of hidden treasures on its shelves
Ester Jordaan’s shop, Die Trommel, is an institution in Sutherland. When you visit take your time there are plenty of hidden treasures on its shelves

 

An interesting shop in the old Perlman House.
An interesting shop in the old Perlman House.
The new hardware store (and much more too)
The new hardware store (and much more too)
The hardware store from the Calvinia-end
The hardware store from the Calvinia-end
The municipal offices and the information centre are now in this side street.
The Municipal Offices and the Information Centre are now in this side street.
The Louow House is not in the Main Street but is clearly signposted as is the Information Centre
The Louw House is not in the Main Street but is clearly signposted as is the Information Centre
The old lawyer's office converted into up market restaurant.
The old lawyer’s office converted into an up market restaurant.

Andre’s Cafe has been replaced by an OK-franchise and the Old Mill has been beautifully refurbished and now houses a restaurant.

The OK-franchise that has replaced Andre's Cafe
The OK-franchise that has replaced Andre’s Cafe
The renovated Old Mill now the Ou Meule Restuarant and just next door the Kamamma Coffee Shop which I am led to believe no longer opens
The renovated Old Mill now the Ou Meule Restuarant and just next door the Kamamma Coffee Shop which I am led to believe no longer opens

I am sure that all of Sutherland is looking forward to the day when the hospital, which has not functioned for so long, is refurbished and functional again.

Top: The notice announcing the refurbishing of the local hospital. Bottom: A fcillity not much noticed by visitors but essential for those who enjoy their Karoo Braai Chops - the local abattoir
Top: The notice announcing the refurbishing of the local hospital.
Bottom: A facility not much noticed by visitors but essential for those who enjoy their Karoo Braai Chops – the local abattoir
The local weather station down a dusty side street near the hospital.
The local weather station down a dusty side street near the hospital.

I was left almost speechless by the devastation of the beautiful old house that used to be the Magistrates Residence. What an absolute waste and a total disgrace to let it fall into such a state of total disrepair. I did not photograph it as it somehow felt disrespectful to exhibit such a stately structure’s demise to the public at large.

My general impression is that Sutherland, despite valiant efforts from some of its residents and the restoration of some of the buildings, is slowly but surely becoming more and more run down and tattered. I get the feeling that if the stream of visitors, that keeps the guesthouses, the hotel, the eating places and the smaller shops functioning, were to dry up, Sutherland would simply wither away and die. There does not seem to be enough basic economic activity in the town to keep it going without the influx of visitors during weekends and holidays.

I would suggest tarring the road between Sutherland and Fraserburg so that one has a loop from the N1 and back to the N1 again for both north and South bound traffic. That would give easy access to the palaeosurface and good Museum in Fraserburg and include the truly spectacular Theekloof Pass. This step is should increase the tourist traffic to both towns quite considerably.

Orion, an appropriately named potential stargazing destination: March 2015

A farm north of Sutherland with potential for affordable stargazing.

Sutherland is a problem for amateur astronomers because, hospital although it is quite correctly considered to be the astronomy capital of South Africa, there are no facilities in the town for amateur astronomers to indulge in their passion. All the farms around Sutherland are potential observing sites and some farmers, like Nicol van der Merwe on Blesfontein, have already capitalized on this potential.

A panoramic view from the top of the small hill immediately behind the house which offers the best site for setting up telescopes
A panoramic view from the top of the small hill immediately behind the house which offers the best site for setting up telescopes. One can drive up from the house (about 300 m) to here.
This site is right next to the first one and both are situated in low walled, disused sheep kraals. The walls are just high enough to afford protection from the wind,
This site is right next to the first one and both are situated in low walled, disused sheep kraals. The walls are just high enough to offer some protection from the wind but not high enough to hamper viewing.

Albertus Jordaan farms on Matjesfontein about 35 km from Sutherland on the road to Calvinia and Albertus and his wife Ester have also recognized the astronomy potential of their farm. Those of you who visit Sutherland regularly will no doubt have seen Die Trommel also known, tongue in the cheek, as the Sutherland Mall. Go here to see more information about Die Trommel. Ester is the owner of that interesting establishment. Anyway, under the appropriate name of Orion, Ester and Albertus have established a self catering facility on their farm. It is a large house with three bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen and all the necessary bathroom and toilet facilities, as well as electricity. It will sleep eight comfortably and 10 with a bit of effort. I think going there is well worth the effort if you want to do some serious and undisturbed observing over an extended period.

This panoramic view shows the farmyard which could also be used if one did not want to drive up the hill to the sheep kraals
This panoramic view shows the farmyard which could also be used if one did not want to drive up the hill to the sheep kraals
Top left: The signpost at the entrance to the farm.  From here it is about 300 m to the farmstead. Top right. A view of the house from the northwest. Bottom left. View of the house from roughly due west.  Bottom right. A view from the jhouse to the north and the sheep kraals can just be seen to the far right more or less in the middle of the photograph
Top left: The signpost at the entrance to the farm. From here it is about 300 m to the farmstead.
Top right. A view of the house from the northwest.
Bottom left. View of the house from roughly due west.
Bottom right. A view from the house to the north and the stone wall of the sheep kraals can just be seen against the skyline to the far right more or less in the middle of the photograph against that small strip of cloud.

The property is situated at -33°13’03”, 20°30’46”E & 1317m and interested parties or persons can contact Lynnette at foster.lynnette@gmail.com or on 084 512 9866. I would be unfair not to point out that fairly long sections of the road to the farm are very corrugated or as the locals say – sinkplaat!  Lynnette and I made it there and back in the Vito and the key to survival is to drive slowly, very slowly, over these sections. Slow means less than 20 km per hour. At that speed you will also have time to admire the magnificent dolerite hills and boulders you pass through. Pack your telescope carefully and it will be fine, proof of which is the fact that we had the 12” Dobby in the Vito on that trip and it survived. On the way back to Sutherland there is a nice, if somewhat distant, view to the east of the SAAO site and SALT’s iconic shape.

Sutherland guest house names with astronomy links: March 2015

How many guest houses in Sutherland use astronomy to lure visitors?

Sutherland has a large number of guest houses. I was informed that there are at least 30, but I am not sure if that also includes those on farms in the surrounding area. Out of sheer curiosity I decided to find out how many have astronomy linked names or advertise astronomy as part of their service to the visiting public.

Sterland, on your right as you approach Sutherland from Cape Town, has a definite astronomy ring to the name, but it is not a guest house.  However, there is a camping facility so perhaps we could stretch the guest house concept a bit and include it. Sterland is without doubt the best known establishment in Sutherland that provides an astronomy service to the public on a regular and continuous basis. I was, however, disappointed to find that the well known Halley sê Kom Eet coffee shop attached to the Kambrokind Guest House had closed its doors. Go here to see more details about Kambrokind guest house.

Linked to Sterland is Kambrokind Guest House where Hally sê Kom Eet no longer functions
Linked to Sterland is Kambrokind Guest House where Halley sê Kom Eet no longer functions.

I could only find one other establishment that actually advertised astronomy as part of its services. The Cottage clearly says, on the large notice board next to its front gate, that it has a telescope. My inquiries revealed that it no longer has one or no longer uses it. I wonder if The Cottage still supplies all the motorcycle parts and services that it advertises. Go here to see more details about The Cottage.

The cottage advertises motorcycle parts and services and a telescope.
The cottage advertises motorcycle parts and services as well as a telescope.

Arriving from Cape Town you encounter a signboard on the left advertising Galileo. Go here to get more details about Galileo. Shortly after Galileo on the right there is a notice for The Galaxy. Go here to get more information on The Galaxy.  On the same corner is the signpost for Alpha B&B. Go here to see more details about Alpha B&B. This is one of Ester Jordaan’s establishments and it does not, at first glance, appear to have an immediately apparent astronomy link, but there is alpha Centauri as well as the fact that all the brightest stars in each constellation are prefaced with “alpha”, so let’s include it. Next there is a large sign for Skitterland. Go here to see more details about Skitterland. Skitterland does not necessarily have to be astronomy related, but let’s also give it the benefit of the doubt.

Galileo's notice board could do with some TLC
Galileo’s notice board could do with some TLC.
Alpha B&B and The Galaxy share a pole in Sutherland's main street
Alpha B&B and The Galaxy share a pole in Sutherland’s main street.
Skitterland has by far the largest signboard of all the guest houses.
Skitterland has by far the largest signboard of all the guest houses.

The next notice we encounter is for Jupiter and The Jupiter. Go here to see more details about Jupiter. I was assured that the two names definitely refer to the same establishment, as pictures later confirmed. As one is about to exit the town in the direction of Calvinia and Williston we find Andromeda’s signpost on our right. Go here to see more details about Andromeda. A little further on, to our left is a notice board advertising Venus Sisters. Go here to see more details about Venus Sister. However, Venus Sisters is situated way out other side the Observatory so perhaps they shouldn’t be counted here among the establishments based in Sutherland, but their notice board is here and we’ve been lenient in other cases, so let’s include them.

Jupiter and The Jupiter are one and the same place
Jupiter and The Jupiter are one and the same place.
You have to drive almost right through Sutherland before you are directed to Andromeda
You have to drive almost right through Sutherland before you are directed to Andromeda.
Venus Sisters has a notice board that is almost out of town and is definitely not in town
Venus Sisters has a notice board that is almost out of town and the Sisters are definitely not in town.

Southern Cross used to be up near the school hostel, but seems to have fallen by the wayside. A fairly new place has popped up on the western edge of town called Starry Night. Go here to see more details about Starry Night. Their name definitely sounds astronomical and also has a distinct ring of Van Gogh to it.

Starry Night presently completes the line-up of astronomy linked guest houses in Sutherland
Starry Night presently completes the line-up of astronomy linked guest houses in Sutherland.

My initial assumption that there would be many guest houses with astronomy related names was incorrect. There are, in fact, only nine, if I include the ones about which I expressed reservations (Sterland, Skitterland, Alpha B&B and Venus Sisters). Apparently only Sterland offers an astronomy experience on a regular basis to visitors.

Enjoy your next visit to Sutherland.

Klipdrift: March 2015

Two farms with the same name.

Klipdrift is situated at the foot of the Verlatenkloof Pass 35 kilometers from Sutherland on the R354. The one Klipdrift (on the right) belongs to Floris and Annami Steenkamp and Floris is developing the Bobbejaankrans Wilderness Resort on that farm.  You can go here to read more about that development.

One entrance two farms. The two homesteads can bee seen peeking out from among the trees on the left and right in the far background
One entrance two farms. The two homesteads can be seen peeking out from among the trees on the left and right in the far background.
The left hand signpost directs you to Hosea and Mari's farm.  At the second gate turn left and take care because there are dogs; one of which is a Rotweiler.
The left hand signpost directs you to Hosea and Marie’s farm. At the second gate turn left and take care because there are several dogs; one of which is a Rottweiler.

The other Klipdrift belongs to a very friendly retired couple from Kuils River, Hosea and Marie Verster. They came over and introduced themselves while we were visiting Floris and Annami’s place, as the two houses are just a stone’s throw apart. Marie used to be in the nursing profession and Hosea was involved in project development at Kranskop just outside Wellington. On the farm Hosea has focused his skills on farming and his years of experience and not inconsiderable expertise, are very evident in the many projects on the farm.

Hosea and Mari's house looking west.
Hosea and Marie’s house looking west.
The house looking southeast.
The house looking southeast.
Marie and Lynnette checking out the farmyard
Marie and Lynnette checking out the farmyard

These two absolutely delightful people overwhelmed us with hospitality and we will definitely be going back to visit them and do some observing from their farm.

Klipdrift/Bobbejaankrans, an opportunity in the Karoo: March 2015

Have you always wanted to own a piece of the Karoo? This might just be your tailor made opportunity.

When Lynnette and I first heard about the development, we immediately got in touch with the owner of the farm Klipdrift, Floris Steenkamp. When Floris heard that we were also keen amateur astronomers he and his wife Annami promptly invited us to spend a few days at their home on Klipdrift. That way we could see the properties that were for sale first hand and also get in some stargazing in the dark skies of the Tanqua Karoo.

The background is a sunset taken from Klipdrift as is the bottom left photograph. The upper right photograph shows the earth shadow to the east of the farm after sunset
The background is a sunset taken from Klipdrift as is the bottom left photograph. The upper right photograph shows the earth shadow to the east of the farm after sunset.

The 10 properties are situated on a 42 ha tract of the farm Klipdrift. These own title, individual plots form the Bobbejaankrans Wilderness Resort and are being marketed by M2A Investment Properties who can be contacted at 082 446 9950 and 082 372 4690 and asking for Wayne McDuling. They can also be contacted via their website if you click here.

The entrance from the R354 about 35 km from Sutherland below the Verlatenkloof Pass.  The background photograph shows the large billboard of the marketing organization handling the sale of the Bobbejaankrans Wilderness Resort's plots. Top left is the sign for Klipdrift and the lower left photograph is a view of Floris and Anami's farmhouse.
The entrance to the property from the R354 about 35 km from Sutherland below the Verlatenkloof Pass. The background photograph shows the large billboard of the marketing organization handling the sale of the Bobbejaankrans Wilderness Resort’s plots. Top left is the sign for Klipdrift and the lower left photograph is a view of Floris and Annami’s farmhouse.

We had a wonderful time at Klipdrift, courtesy of Floris and Annami. It is very dark and presents excellent opportunities for amateur astronomers. It is quite dusty, but that is the nature of the Tanqua Karoo when the wind blows and it was also quite hot, which again is part of the Tanqua’s climate in summer. Generally the wind died down toward midnight leaving us with beautiful clear skies to explore to our heart’s content.

Floris has uncovered and restored an old dipping kraal which must date back to the early 1900’s if not earlier. It is actually an exceptional structure, of which there can only be a few, if any, left in this area.  Floris and Annami are keen conservers of the early Karoo farming traditions and if you are interested in participating in a four day trek with sheep along the Flocksberg pass, contact Floris (083 285 3231).

Top left shows the pit into which the sheep were dumped and the bottom right the steps and narrow exit ramp for the sheep. The background photograph depicts the actual kraal itself.
Top left shows the pit into which the sheep were dumped and the bottom right the steps and narrow exit ramp for the sheep. The background photograph depicts the actual kraal itself.

The plots are situated in a variety of landscapes but all command magnificent views of the Karoo landscape and are placed in such a way that one will not be aware of one’s neighbours. Despite this apparent total isolation, the furthest property is probably no more than two kilometers from the R354 and another 35 km from Sutherland up the Verlatenkloof Pass. All the properties are placed in such a way that one will not be aware of the activities on the farm. Peace and quiet and just the place to recharge those run down city batteries.

Plots one, two, three and four . The large black tanks are part of the sewage system being installed. Take a close look at the background to gain a general idea of the different views from each of these plots.
Plots one, two, three and four. The large black tanks are part of the sewage system being installed. Take a close look at the background to gain a general idea of the different views from each of these plots.
Plots five, six, seven and eight . The large black tanks are again part of the sewage system being installed. Carefully compare the different backgrounds of the plots to gain an idea of the different views from each of these plots.
Plots five, six, seven and eight . The large black tanks are again part of the sewage system being installed. Carefully compare the different backgrounds of the plots to gain an idea of the different views from each of these plots.
Plot nine and a view from the point at which the road forks. One section leading to plots one, three, four and five while the other leads to the others.  The veld was exceptionally dry when we visited as those of you who know the Karoo will be able to see from these photos.
Plot nine and a view from the point at which the road forks. One section leading to plots one, three, four and five while the other leads to the others. The veld was exceptionally dry when we visited as those of you who know the Karoo will be able to see from these photos.

From Floris and Annami’s home the road to the part of the farm on which the Bobbejaankrans Wilderness Resort is situated, crosses a tributary of the Tanqua River and the crossing probably gave the farm its original name, Klipdrift.

These four photographs, are an attempt to show you the river crossing from which the farms name, Klipdrift, probably originated. Top left is a cemented section as you enter from the farmstead. Top right is the section immediately following and bottom left is the central part before one climbs out on the rocky section at bottom right on the side of the Bobbejaankrans Wilderness Resort.
These four photographs, are an attempt to show you the river crossing from which the farms name, Klipdrift, probably originated. Top left is a cemented section as you enter from the farmstead. Top right is the section immediately following and bottom left is the central part before one climbs out on the rocky section at bottom right on the side of the Bobbejaankrans Wilderness Resort.

Geology talk at Brackenfell Library: March 2015

Once upon a time, ask  in the  distant past when the Western Cape was young ….

A tale of why everything isn’t just flat everywhere

The talk, viagra sale which lasted for just under an hour, was attended by a small group of people and afterward there was coffee, courtesy of the Brackenfell library and some discussion on the topic.

A view from the listeners angle
A view from the listeners angle
The audience: John Skinner, David Skinner, James du Toit, Marlene van Niekerk, <arlene le Roux, Susie Thorburn, Marie Eygelaar, Maida Ackerman, Rentia Rabe, Billy Brits, Errol Swanepoel
The smallish audience: John Skinner, David Skinner, James du Toit, Marlene van Niekerk, Marlene le Roux, Susie Thorburn, Marie Eygelaar, Maida Ackerman, Rentia Rabe, Billy Brits, Errol Swanepoel
Coffee and talk afterwards. The Moon? I just added that for the fun of it.
Coffee and talk afterwards. The Moon? I just added that for the fun of it.