We left Nieu Bethesda at around lunch time and made our way to Murraysburg to spend the night. We arrived in the late afternoon and drove around looking for some available accommodation and were directed to a place called Tuishuisie. We settled in and took a walk over the road to Kay’s Corner Kaffee to stock up on some supplies and had a short chat to the locals on which route to take to Sutherland the following day. To our surprise, some of these people have lived here for over 30 years and never even left the town! I’m all for small town living but it takes a different kind of person to live in a place and never leave. I suppose some people are just so tired of the rat race that they just avoid it at all costs. These little towns really are in the middle of nowhere with no less than around 100-200km between main towns with decent amenities.
Tuishuisie was clean and comfortable and a great place to clean up and get a good early nights’ rest, which we most certainly did.
We woke at about 7am, had some fresh coffee and rusks, packed up and were on the road by 9:30am for the long drive to Sutherland along some of the most desolate gravel roads I have ever been on.
We drove for around 300km and only saw 2 other cars pass us by! If you get stuck out here, you’re pretty doomed for a while, so make sure you have extra tires, fuel,water to drink and a good dose of patience. Between Graaf Reniet and Sutherland we passed numerous homesteads which had no power or telephone lines and truly showed how remotely some people live out here. If Telkom and Eskom don’t even know where to find you then you know that you really live in the back and beyond of nowhere!
We arrived in Sutherland in the late afternoon and also drove around searching for some comfortable accommodation and landed up at the beautiful little Baroe Self Catering Cottage. We didn’t have much time before needing to head off to SALT (South African Large Telescope) for our night tour of the stars, so we popped in to Jupiter Restaurant for a quick bite to eat beforehand. My poor steak obviously had an awful death as I could barely cut through the thing with a Knights’ sword! Anyhow, I’m not one to complain about much so I quickly swallowed it down merely due to the blind anticipation of going to see the stars in one of the most incredible night skies in the whole of South Africa!
We arrived at 20:00pm for our tour and were guided to a small building with an open roof where 2 telescopes were set up for us to view the heavens above. Our guide showed us various constellations and even showed us Saturn! Do you know how incredible it is to actually see the real deal through a telescope with the rings around the planet?
When we were finished we decided to try our hand at doing some star trails so we drove down to the main entrance gate of SALT, parked to one side, set up the gas stove to make some hot coffee and I set up my camera on the tripod to start clicking away at the night sky.
As we lay there wrapped up in a blanket on the tar, we couldn’t believe how many shooting stars and satellites we’d seen. We’ve actually never seen so many in our entire lives before! After incessant yawning and the temperature dropping to a mere 7 degrees celsius we decided to call it a night! The boys had fallen asleep in the car hours before snugly wrapped up in sleeping bags and we needed to hop into bed with our hot water bottles to try and defrost our toes. The cool temperatures and lack of light pollution really make for the clearest night skies you’ll ever see.
We ended our trip in Sutherland the next morning with a hearty breakfast served by the owners before heading down to the local superette to stock up on supplies for out trip to Tankwa Karoo National Park and Verneukpan. As reports of shortages of supplies ahead reached us, our shopping list included 9 bags of firewood, 24 liters of water, 50 liters of spare diesel and 1 bottle of Jerepego Port. If we could drive, eat and drink we knew we would be okay. We managed to squeeze everything into the Fortuner like pros before setting off for the 6 hour drive to the park!