17 Feb/14

Gorgeous South African Towns: Sutherland

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Take a drive to the remote town of Sutherland in the Northern Cape, people will give you the occasion odd look when you say you are going there, but never fear, you will be the one having the last laugh. The beauty of the Land and the people will make you fall in love.

If you are heading to Sutherland from Calvinia, you should definitely drive over the Ouberg Pass, beautiful spring flowers span the plateau, just remember that you will be needing a 4×4 with good clearance and don’t go near it if it has been raining. Make sure you stop to have a picnic, get out your car and stretch your legs. It must be added though that it can be a rather scary drive if you are with any nervous passengers, the drop offs can feel quite perilous, not for the faint hearted.

Sutherland is also known for having SALT – the South African Large Telescope, you’ll be looking through – a 14” Celestron and 16” Meade, if that means anything to you. It can be really cold even in October because you are literally under the stars; try to plan your visit for a time when the moon is small or absent altogether, what you see depends on what’s visible at the time you visit. With a very knowledgeable guide, you will see Mercury, Venus, Saturn with its rings and some prominent stars. Starting time varies from 18:00 to 20:00, depending on the season. Tours on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays last about 90 minutes and last we looked it cost around R60 per person. Booking is essential, phone 023-5712436.

Never seen the snow? Kids always wanted to make a snow angel? Well Sutherland may become your winter wonderland, it happens to be the coldest place in South Africa, the area gets heavy snow several times each winter, experience warm Karoo hospitality while huddling around a log fire, be quick, though although there are some 30 B&Bs in the town, they get snapped up very quickly every time it snows.

History nuts? There is the Louw museum in town, if you’re interested in Afrikaans literature, visit the house where NP van Wyk Louw and his brother WEG Louw were born, today it is more of a literary museum, with artifacts of the two brothers. Other famous people born in Sutherland are also given some space. One is civil engineer Sir Henry Olivier who specialised in hydroelectric power projects, working on both the Gariep Dam and the Kariba Dam, among other projects. With a special Karoo quirkiness, a sign instructs you to phone the number on the gate to arrange access.

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