Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Spring? You coulda fooled me!!

We have had an interesting couple of days, so the rest of the trip to Capetown is still on hold.

A massive cold front swept through the southern part of the country, causing havok along the coast. As you might know by now, I ADORE foul weather, so I have been running around since Sunday like a kid in a candy store, snapping away and trying to capture images that convey the conditions. In the process I discovered a fascinating place and met one of life's unique people.

On Sunday Mr Farty and I bundled up warmly (not warmly enough if his hunched shoulders were anything to go by!!!)

..... and went out in the howling gale to see what the sea was up to. As the storm coincided with very high spring tides, warnings had been issued about rough seas and freak waves. Even as we were leaving home in Richmond Hill, we could see that the breakwater was taking a pounding.

Usually a pretty good gauge of the waves is the New Brighton Pier. On normal days you will see fishermen all along its length, and the pier is high above water level, but on Sunday the waves were engulfing it as they rolled by.

On Monday it was WAY worse, see our Spring Day post on Port Elizabeth Daily Photo for some spectacular shots taken from the freeway.

Because there was an offshore wind, the breakers were being whipped back and the spray was catching the lowering sun, and making lovely rainbow colours.

We went along to Kings Beach. Beach? What beach? The water was all the way up to the access road!

.... and the sand was blasting off the top of the dunes. The lifeguards tower was wallowing forlornly in the water.

Further along Restaurante de Mauro was taking a hammering too, and the spray being whipped off the waves was really beautiful.

Returning home, we spotted a huge flock of terns circling above Kings Beach.

The following day dawned cold and clear, and Max phoned to say the news was mentioning that there was snow in the Eastern Cape. On an impulse, I phoned K and asked if she and wee E would like to go off looking for it. On the way it struck me how different our sense of distance is in Africa, because we are so used to huge open spaces between towns. To us it is quite a normal practice to hop into the car and drive somewhere 300km away for the day. I realise most people who live in Europe will think it is totally insane to drive the equivalent of London to Scotland for a day's outing, but that's Africa for you!

We decided to head for Hogsback, and stopped on the way for breakfast in Grahamstown. Then we started towards Fort Beaufort, winding our way up the passes as we climbed inland.
We rounded a bend and squealed with delight as we spotted snow on a distant mountain.

So off we headed enthusiastically towards it. We passed through Fort Beaufort, and Alice. But as we left Alice, heading towards Hogsback, I could see that there was no snow on these mountains, the one we had seen was much further to the North East. So I phoned Mr Farty to send me the number of the delightful Granny Mouse house in Hogsback, where we have had some really nice stays. (And by the way, as I was hunting for a link, I realised that I promised in MAY that I would show you this magic place, and somehow time and events overtook me, so that is another journey we must do soon!) The ever friendly Ingrid laughed when I told her we had driven all that way to see snow, apparently it had snowed there the previous day, but had already melted by the time we got there, RATS! So we turned around and headed back to Alice, where we filled up with petrol. At the garage there was a guy in a really well maintained old Porsche, rather an unlikely car to see in this remote country area! I asked him about the snow, and he said it was FAAAAAAR away on the Winterberg Mountains. He lives there, 8km from the snow, and said even in a really powerful 4x4 it would take 2 and a half hours to travel that 8km because the terrain is so rugged. So that was the end of that! But as we headed back through Fort Beaufort, we decided to make the best of it, and as we passed the museum, we decided to pop in for a quick look around.

Boy did we underestimate that place! It was absolutely fascinating, and a well laid out balanced display showing the history and lifestyles from the point of view of the original tribes who lived there, as well as the British soldiers and Settlers who were tasked with establishing it as a frontier for the Colonial Government. Room after room of well labelled and well kept artefacts greeted us. Just as we were leaving, having taken in a fraction of what is there, because it would really take several days to see and absorb it all, a rather shabby looking man shuffled up to us. He asked what our interestrs were, and we said just general history. So he said that the museum was about to undergo a reshuffle, and would we like to see something else.
Now don't forget that we are city girls, who live practically under seige to criminals back home, and had a 4 year old with us. So every defense mechanism was bristling.... was it safe to go with this man who, although he looked like a hobo, seemed to be in posession of the keys to the museum? My natural liking for eccentrics took over, I didn't want to offend him, so we followed him into a little courtyard, with a lovely view across a river to the mountains beyond.

It was full of all sorts of bric-a-brac, which is going to find its way into the new displays.

He unlocked a door and ushered us into a large room, which turned out to be the old blacksmith's workshop. I still had ash in the fireplace and an ENORMOUS set of bellows, and a fascinating assortment of tools. He also showed us his magnificent collection of vintage clothes and uniforms.

I asked his name, and at this point he disappeared, leaving K and I looking at each other with slack jaws.He returned wearing a cap with a moose on it, told us his name was Moose van Rensberg, and proceeded to tell a long and involved story about how he had decided in his youth to become a professional bum, and earned the name on his travels. He eventually settled down in Fort Beaufort, married, and has now been the curator of the museum for the past 20 years.

He said we must go for a walk with him as he had something more to show us. Again the defences sprung up, and I tried to excuse us by saying we needed to find Ethan some lunch. He said "well you are wasting time then, come on" and Ethan said "granny, you are wasting time!" So we had no choice but to follow!

We walked along the street, enjoying the lovely old historic buildings,

....and came to one with the original old curved veranda, which turned out to be Moose's home, which he calls the Mooseum.

The dining room has no curtains, just a stunning collection of old bottles covering the window.

Moose led us through the kitchen and into a back garden that was like entering wonderland.

It was a menagerie of animals and birds in interleading aviaries, with bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, chickens, pigeons, budgies a tortoise, dogs, cats and many other types of birds co-habiting happily together. Ethan was delighted.

There was an outdoor pub in one corner, called the "Horny bar"! .....

and a door covered with old Apartheid era signs......

By this time we had long since had the feeling that we had entered a time warp, and moved back in time a couple of centuries......but t his feeling was completely confirmed when we left his house, and there across the street was a man taking photographs....

with an old bellows camera and a red cloth draped over his head! We returned to the car in a daze of sensory overload, and tucked into some 'padkos', (literally food for the road)
and the little guy was gone for the trip home!

What a magic day of dropping off the planet. We returned to a bit of harsh reality, in the form of a monster traffic jam caused by the freeway being awash with monster waves. You can read all about that on the Port Elizabeth Daily Photo blog if you follow the link near the top of this post.


Ali Honey said...

I enjoyed the journey. My favourite photo here has to be that graduated blue sky with the mountain.

dot said...

Wonderful pictures. The guy with the camera is unbelievable! I love the bottles in the window. My mother has such a bottle collection but hers are all on a shelf.

Janet said...

Once again you've got so many beautiful photos!! The trip sounds like such fun....chasing after the snow only to find an interesting museum! And Moose sounds like quite a character!

Firefly said...

An epic adventure. Must have been loads of fun. Pity about the snow though.

Katney said...

Expecting end of summer weather here, we traveled to the mountains on the weekend and were snowed upon. Not all that long ago upon a trail we encountered the twin of that camera. And we also, here in the American West, find long distances in a day to be quite normal.

The parallels end, though. Your journey was awesome, and wrapped so much serendipity into the day. I want to come next time.

Sheila said...

What fun..!
I love trips like this, and I feel as if I was with you. I like eccentrics too, and this one was a real find. It will be snowing here soon, but I think this is a little bit TOO far for a day trip.

Neva said...

I love how you captured the waves.....what an awesome day you had! spring or not....I love this kind of weather.

Cathy Gatland said...

What a great trip - both sets of my grandparents lived in Alice, my dad and his 8 siblings were born and grew up there, and my parents met and married there. Your journey and the fabulous photographs make me determined to get back to that part of the world and mosey around - soon I hope... Thanks for sharing!