On holiday, Free State and Eastern Cape
Last Tuesday we left Pretoria for a holiday, travelling around seeing people and places. On the first day we drove to Clarens in the Eastern Cape, where the trees, especially the Lombardy poplars, were in their yellow autumn beauty.
We left Clarens at 9:54, and drove to Fouriesburg, but did not go in to the town, and from there the road deteriorated, with lots of potholes. We by-passed Clocolan, and saw Modderpoort in the distance — the new tarred road is quite a bit further east than the old gravel road, though when I say new, it is a relative term, since the tar road was here when we last passed this way 26 years ago, in 1985. It was a beautiful day, with more Lombardy poplars in their autumn beauty.
We arrived at Graaff Reinet at 6:45 pm, 710 km from Clarens, and it was already dark. We went to stay at Villa Reinet, run by Nick Grobler, the husband of my second cousin Ailsa Hannan, whom I have never met, and didn’t
meet this time, as she had gone on the bus to Cape Town to see their son there, and then fly to Dubai to see their other son who worked there as a chef. Nick said they had moved here about five years ago from Johannesburg.
Thursday we spent visiting the Valley of Desolation and Nieu Bethesda. The valley was a lot smaller than I had expected, and the main scenic feature was that it provided a foreground for the view over the plains of Cambeboo beyond. It was vaguely reminiscient of Meteora and the Vikos gorge in Greece, though on a much smaller scale.
We then drove back along the way we had come yesterday, along the N9 national road, seeing it in daylight this time, and there was yet another abandoned railway line running beside the road. We turned off west to Nieu Bethesda, which Fr Zacharias had recommended that we visit, and drove over some mountains, and it was a village in a narrow valley, basically built on the flood plain of a river, which was a pleasant stream now, but i had read that there had been disastrous floods in the past. It was a pleasant place
with lots of trees; green willows and yellow poplars, and evergreen pines lining the streets.
We crossed the river and drove down to a brewery Nick Grobler had recommended. It was a kind of farm shed, and with concrete floors, and we went into a room that looked as if it had produce for sale, and a bloke came and asked if he could help us. We said we had been told that this was the place to come for beer, and he said he had Karoo ale, which was bitter, and honey ale, which was sweeter, and a dark ale. I opted for the Karoo ale, and Val for the Honey ale, and he opened taps at the side of what looked like an old fridge, and filled two glasses for us, and charged R15.00 apiece for them. He waved airily at an adjoining room, and said we could sit anywhere, inside or out.
The next room had some crude wooden tables and chairs on the bare concrete floor, and a couple of windows with broken panes, and outside was a green lawn where childrewn were playing with a plastic soccer ball while the adults sat at a similar crude table and drank beer, and a border collie dog joined in with the football. It felt rather hobbit-like, a bit as I imagine the Sign of the Prancing Pony at Bree. The Karoo ale was good — there has been no real ale in South Africa since Lion Ale was withdrawn from the market about 25 years ago.