South Africa CycleTour 2011 (Part 1: Bruce) travel blog

Lieb on the phone with his wife at breakfast - must be...


Owl House



























Feb 18

Up early as usual........... Lieb's wife calls him at 5 almost every morning and he has a big, booming voice that carries his conversation to all and sundry!

We were on the road by 7:30 am, with Lieb and I having a good ride into Nieu Bethesda. It was about 94 kms with some washed-out climbs and serious downs with some very rough surface. Charles started out driving, but rode 50 - 60kms at the end of the day.

We saw South Africa's national bird - the blue heron - and quite a few meercats running around. Lots of vados to cross - some of them 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep.

There's lots of agave growing around this area, but the tequila factory shut down two years ago. They do sell pickled agave buds, however, and they also have a prickly pear. We saw buds being picked from them. Cattle eat the prickly pear in time of droughts. We also had some fig jam, which is canned locally.

Feb 19

In the morning we rode around the tiny town of Nieu Bethesda - now something of an artistic centre - that is the home of the Owl House which has achieved some minor worldwide fame. The home was that of Helen Martins (1898-1976), an eccentric lady who decided to lighten her drab life by, over a 30-year period, transforming her home into an incredible 'work of art', using crushed glass and brilliant paint colors, then filling her garden with giant cement owls, camels, acrobats and mermaids, which she created from everyday, locally-garnered materials such as cement, broken bottles and wire. She committed suicide at age 78............... hmmmmmm.

From there Charles, Lieb and I rode 75kms, mostly on some tough dirt road, before we hit a beautiful downhill that took us into Graaff-Reinette, which is called the "Jewel of the Karoo". Graaff-Reinette is a heritage town - the fourth-oldest in Eastern Cape - with a fantastic church and many (over 200) preserved homes & buildings which range from Cape Dutch style to flat-roofed Karoo cottages and Victoria villas. Hector Rupert's house is now a museum. He was a very wealthy South African individual (& his son) who has been providing funds to help preserve the town.

There is a very small area locally that looks similar to the Bryce Canyon (in the USA) with raptors flying about and baboons playing on the eroded dolorite rock. We left around 8pm and headed back to camp for a braai.

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