Western Cape, Jan/Feb 2016 - Cape Peninsula to Richmond

After out time in the Winelands and Cape Peninsula we made our way back to Richmond via Sutherland as we hoped to be able to do a night tour at the Observatory.

It may look like a long way round from Gariep to Richmond but necessary because of the mountains in Lesotho.


On our way from Worcester to Sutherland we stopped at Matjiesfontein which is a small, beautifully preserved village just off the N1 highway with a railway station (on the Johannesburg to Cape Town route), a hotel, cafés, a shop and 2 museums. It's well worth a visit.

The Lord Milner Hotel.

Matjiesfontein railway station

The Transport Museum.

Some cars inside the museum. There were also cars outside.

The Marie Rawdon Museum is housed in part of the station and has several rooms plus the downstairs cellars which are filled with a huge collection of Victoriana.

One room has victorian medical equipment.

Kitchen equipment.

Sutherland Observatory.

We were lucky this time and were able to do the evening tour(R80 pp) despite a few clouds that were around. It started with a film show and then, once it was dark enough, we walked across to the building housing 2 telescopes. There were 14 of us in the group so we took turns to view a variety of stars which were clearly explained by Willem.

We started by looking at the 2 brightest stars, Sirius (the "Dog Star") and Canopus and then 2 red super giants, Aldebaran which is the brightest star in the constellation Taurus ( the "Eye of Taurus") and Betelgeuse, which is in the constellation of Orion. We were told that red super giants are stars that are close to the end of their life - they may only survive for another few tens of thousands of years!

We then went on to look at Open Star Clusters, Globular Cluster and Nebulae. All very interesting. well worth R80 each

Open Star Cluster.

The Pleiades, also called the Seven Sisters, are the best known open star cluster.

There are hundreds of stars in the cluster but only six can be seen easily without a telescope. Like typical open cluster stars, the Pleiades are relatively young, and they formed at roughly the same time.

Globular Cluster

is a spherical collection of stars that orbits a galactic core as a satellite. Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centres.

Karoo Back Roads.

Between Sutherland and Melton Wold we followed gravel roads. We travelled 250kmwhich took about 5 hours, passing through 2 small town, Fraserburg and Loxton (both looked clean and tidy) and only saw 3 other vehicles on the road.

If you see a group of trees while driving through the Karoo there's likely to be farm buildings amongst them.

It was good to see that there had been some rain in the Karoo in the last few weeks.

We saw a few groups of sheep.

Sad to see this road-kill, a bat-eared fox.

We were very surprised to see a group of flamingoes!

Melton Wold Guest Farm.

Melton Wold is a little oasis in the Karoo has a range of accommodation options, including a campsite and plenty of activities on offer. We only spent one night here and could easily have stayed longer but we wanted to get back to Richmond.

One of a pair of tortoises that were around the campsite.

This sheepdog spent most of the afternoon and early evening with us.

Gariep Dam Nature Reserve.

The Reserve is located a few kilometres from the N1 on the shore of South Africa's largest dam. It was only at about 50% capacity so some 'islands' had become peninsulas.

I got up in time to take this photo of the sunrise over the dam.

1. Richmond to Cape Peninsula via Golden Gate National Park, Karoo National Park, and the Sutherland Observatory.

2. Cape Peninsula. Kommetjie, Cape Point Nature Reserve, Table Mountain and Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens.

3. Cape Winelands. Tulbagh, Stellenbosch and Worcester.

4. Cape Peninsula to Richmond via Matjiesfontein, Sutherland, the Karoo, Melton Wold and Gariep Dam.


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Driving down Van Reenan's Pass (SE of Harrismith) we had lovely views. It was great to see that there had been rain since we drove up the Pass 4 weeks previously - then the fields were brown.