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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

The Weird and the Wonderful (Part 2 of 2) - Day 356

The day continued meeting the weird and wonderful, both people and places.

Getting to Nieu-Bethesda, the scenery was incredible, again with the backdrop of mountains with interesting rock formations. We finally arrived at lunchtime. There wasn’t too much choice, so we entered a somewhat dilapidated cottage called The Village Inn and walked around the small rooms trying to find someone to serve us. Eventually, a lady came out of the kitchen and gave us the menu. Not too many options for a non-meat eater; we are in South Africa, famous for its meat braais!

In the main room, there was a family with three children finishing their lunch. Was that an English accent I detect? We got chatting to Harry and Anna Stopes and found out that they have been travelling for nearly 2 years, first around Asia, including Sri Lanka and have been in South Africa for, I think, 7 months. Harry is a GP and has been working in a hospital around East London, a city in the Eastern Cape. What a delightful family. We talked a bit about travel and education, plus Dr Chatterjee’s book The Four Pillar Plan, Harry agreed that so many people’s health issues would be resolved with better diet and not living a sedentary life. We said our farewells, they were off to find some fossils. What an excellent education for their children, having real-life experiences like that.

Off to The Owl House next. What a weird place! It was owned by a lady called Helen Martins. After caring for her elderly parents who both died in the 1940s, she turned her home into a place of colour using coloured glass for the windows, painted the rooms a rainbow of shades and decorated these with ground glass. The walls were like multi-coloured sand-paper! What an interesting character she must have been. Outside she, and a local man called Koos created more than 300 statutes in the small garden, some near-enough life-sized. These included the nativity with the three kings on camels, etc., some pyramids, many owls with eyes made of glass and quite a few maidens with glass bottle dresses. Mmm..not my cup of tea. And talking of tea, we then went to visit Auntie Evelyne for a nice cuppa and a slice of homemade bread.

What a delightful woman Auntie Evelyne is. Larger than life, she is a profoundly religious lady and believes in the power of prayer. From my own personal spiritual experience, despite not being religious, and talking with my sisters about prayer, it is incredible what transpires when prayer comes from a place of selfless love. Auntie Evelyne shared how in one year she lost both of her two sons who were both killed by drunk drivers. Afterwards, she prayed and was told to care for children. She fosters 4 orphan children and feeds over 50 children daily, often not sure where the next day’s food will come from. Through prayer, either money or food turns up. What an amazing and inspiring lady. It was such a humble experience and an honour to have met her. Each day we read the news of hate and violence in the world, yet there are thousands of people, just like Auntie Evelyne who selflessly change the lives for so many. Why doesn’t the media focus on people like this?

Later she proudly showed us around one of her huts which is being transformed into a hostel. The main room has a couple of beds in it, and cardboard is being used as insulation. How resourceful.

It was time for us to leave. We wanted to get to the Valley of Desolation before sunset. This is a 14km drive the other way from Graaff-Reinet inside the Camdeboo National Park which has been declared as a National Monument of geographical and scenic significance. When we arrived, we were surprised by the excellent tar road taking us up towards the breathtaking views. On the way up we stopped off at the Toposcope, giving us a fabulous vista of Graaff-Reinet, “set like a jewel within a horseshoe bend of the Sundays river” as the pamphlet described. We carried on up the mountain, climbed up the rock path to a fantastic view. Superlatives don’t give it justice!

Rows of gigantic natural cubes of deep orangey red Dolerite rock precariously balance on top of one another stood before us. I wondered if we were standing on top of a similar landscape. Behind these sheer cliffs was a mountain that looked completely round with a bare rock cylindrical top. Was this the volcano that caused this incredible sight over 100 million years ago, we wondered.

While waiting for the sun to set, snuggled up in the freezing temperature, a large group of Germans arrived with two local guides. They got out boxes of red and white wine, beers and juices for the group and then kindly offered us a drink. We had such a lovely chat with the two guys, bantering about the rugby, sharing about our travels, making them jealous. One was working out how long it was before he could do something similar. Eight years was the answer.

We were fortunate with the sunset as the sky was full of large cumulus nimbus clouds, however, had kindly left a gap just above the horizon for us to see the sun dipping down causing beautiful golden and red sky. What a lovely end to a weird and wonderful day.

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