“Tricia is coming! Tricia is coming!” Those were the words echoing through the house the week before Spring Break started for us. Not only was Tricia coming, but my friend and colleague, Bronny, had arranged for a trip out of the city–hoorah! With a night arrival, Tricia got here just in time to repack so we could head out to the airport to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.
Having read about the Owl House in a travel magazine, Bronny convinced me that this was a not-to-be-missed location, but with 5 of us, there wasn’t space in the small town (read: village) of Nieu Bethesda for us to stay. So after a three hour drive inland past views that made us question whether or not we were in Arizona, we weary travellers arrived at Ganora Guest Farm.
This gorgeous sheep farm lies on the bottom of the Sneeuberg foothills where the owners have lived and sheered for the last 15 years. On the site, Hester has educated her children and sold real estate in Nieu Bethesda while her husband Jan ran the farm and fulfilled his paleontologist cravings by walking the riverbeds of his property. Jan took us on a tour of his small museum where the kids held skulls that pre-date dinosaurs by 50 million years. The skeletons of this area belong to a mammal-like creature called the Gorgonopsia. When we weren’t oogling at the 7,000+ year old bushmen cave paintings or playing with the resident water mongoose, we were dining on amazing farm-to-table delights or lying on the grass and gazing at the constellations.
From Ganora Guest Farm, it was a quick jaunt to the “town” of Nieu Bethesda where we explored the Owl House, the home and art garden of the mentally afflicted, Helen Martins. Though she only lived until 1976, the amazing concrete, metal, and recycled glass creations in the garden were so cutting-edge and ahead of their time. Walking amongst the art gives one a sense of hope and excitement, while the inside of her house felt eerily hopeless despite the colorful crushed glass walls and painted glass.
The village of Nieu Bethesda was incredibly charming and abounding with artists known around South Africa and beyond. After shopping at Annette’s The Cow Jumped Over the Moon shop, we heard that The Brewery and Two Goats Deli was owned and operated by her brother. So we headed over there enjoyed delicious hand-crafted brews with homemade beer breads and goat’s cheese. The kids loved The Brewery because the seats were made out of old tires and the hammock was a double-wide bed hanging from the trees which entertained them for hours. From the archaeologist dig at the Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre to the pottery creations of Charmaine Haines–Nieu Bethesda was a total African experience!
After our time in the Karoo, we drove another couple of hours to Port Alfred, a small town in the Eastern Cape. This being the regular vacation destination of my South African colleague, Jackie, we were sent with a list of a dozen places to go, people to see, and locations to dine at. The town is steeped in British colonialism with a contemporary mix of Xhosa artists. The area is home to the oldest pub in South Africa (the Pig and Whistle) and a dozen beautiful craft and artisan shops. The oddest peculiarity of the region is the Big Pineapple of Bathurst. The Big Pineapple honors the first crop that was successfully grown in the region–the pineapple. It was also home to the International Pineapple Symposium in 2005–who knew such a thing existed?!?!
A selfie with Tricia
Cave paintings at Ganora Farm
Literally “chillin'” at the beach
Sunset at Ganora Farm
A GIANT pineapple
A Guiness for his papa
Chillin’ at the Owl House
The highlight of the kids’ journey was the downtime spent at the coast in Hangklip-Kleinmond. From our stay at the Purfikt House, the kids were able to play in the cold ocean waters, explore the beach’s tidepools, (attempt) to sand board down the dunes, and dip their feet in the (slightly warmer) East and West River that lie parallel to one another just a stone’s through from the house.
All in all, we had a great excursion and we look forward to continuing our exploration of the outskirts of South Africa!