Monday, April 9, 2012

The Karoo!

A few weekends ago, a group of twelve of us decided to go to the Karoo, which is the vast desert land that makes up about 60% of the country. We were picked up on Friday morning by our 70-year-old tour guide named Peter, who has lived in SA his whole life. He brought us to a Cheetah reserve, where we pet a female cheetah and played with baby lions (so cute!)

We continued our journey and stopped at Graaff Reinet, a quaint town full of architectural wonders and beautiful landscape. One of the people who grew up in the town is now a successful businessman and he paid for all of the houses in Graaff Reinet to be restored and declared official historical spots, so the houses are in the great condition and had quite unique designs. We then checked into our campground-type accommodation, which was located at the believed place of the Gondwana explosion (the explosion that separated one mass of land to the continents today). After we were settled in, we went on a game drive and saw some more giraffe, kudu, springbok, and other various African animals. The Valley of Desolation was our next stop, which was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. We hiked up to the top of a peak and spent the evening there enjoying the sunset over a glass of wine.

We were famished when we got back to the place we were staying at so we made a feast! We had a braai with three whole chickens, which we stuffed with cans of beer to keep moist, potatoes, sausage, and bacon-wrapped armadillo. By the time we ate (about 9:30pm), many of us had fallen asleep already from our full day’s worth of activities. Nevertheless we woke up just for enough time to eat and then crashed for the night.

The second day was St. Patrick's Day! It consisted of travelling to New Bethesda, another small town where we visited "The Owl House," the house that Helen Martins lived in. She was a lady who decided to decorate her house with an immense amount of color and statues. Her yard was covered with sculptures and her walls were decked out with broken glass crystals that she imbedded into pretty much everything. It was interesting to see, but completely creepy as there were weird dolls, manikins, and sculptures lying around her home.

When we were leaving, there was a game of bowls going on in a nearby field. It is a combination of golf, croquet, bocce ball, and bowling. It was mostly older people standing around, talking, drinking, and playing bowls.

We stopped at a brewery for lunch to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. We spent the afternoon drinking homemade beer, eating cheese, kudu sausage, and homemade bread. We made our way to Ganora, where we were scheduled to sleep in a sheep shearing shed, but since we didn't bring sleeping bags, we were upgraded to their swanky suites. While they braaied a freshly slaughtered kudu from the farm just for us, we hung out in the sheep shearing shed since it was raining and chatted and played ping pong. They also had a room full of fossils that the man who owns the farm found on the land along with his son. He loved telling us about all of his fossils and we were even welcome to touch them.  We went for a short hike to some cave drawings as well. Dinner was fabulous – kudu stew on rice, some sort of pumpkin and cinnamon concoction, potatoes, and salad.  And of course, malva pudding for dessert.

The next morning we made our way back to PE, stopping in Craddock for lunch at Wimpy, a popular fast-food restaurant.  We also stopped at the place where the Pebco Three were tortured and killed at a small farm just outside of Craddock.  We were reading about it in one of our books for class at the same time so it was cool to be able to see the location in real life.  Our last stop before getting back to PE was a “drug rehab center where we could visit with recovering alcoholics and druggies,” as it read on our itinerary.  When we stopped in a small town, we asked Peter where we go to visit with the drug rehab people and he said, “Go to the tavern – the lady working there is one.”  Behind the tavern there was what looked like a homemade zipline so a few of us climbed a janky-looking tree house and swung along the river.  It was great to come back to PE and share our stories with everyone!