Friday, October 8, 2010

Via Orania


We woke in "Booktown" to a beautiful Karoo day.

The name "Booktown" comes from the Richmond residents' initiative to have several libraries, museums and festivals in Richmond and to convert it into a sought after destination for lovers of Books, Poetry and the Arts. The Groot Karoo Kunste Fees is being held this year from the 16th to the 23rd of October. Also see their Facebook Page here.

From Richmond we literally hop over the N1 and start with gravel immediately. We have another long stretch today, around 400km, mostly gravel.

And guess what is the first thing we see...

Early morning in the Karoo, fresh air & open roads. What could be better than this? The world we left yesterday around this time literally seemed a world away. Wide open spaces are exactly what we needed. Freedom.

Karoo Gravel Highways:

The first town we ride through today is De Aar. Neither of us have ever been here and we're surprised at the size of this town. Definitely not a small "Karoo dorpie" with all the banks and shops you'd expect to find in a decent sized town.

And as usual we photograph the church:

The history of De Aar is essentially tied up with the history of South Africa's railway system. It used to be the second-most important railway junction in the country (although it is now closed ). It was here that the lines from the Eastern and Western Cape, as well as the northern provinces, Zimbabwe and Namibia met. This junction was of particular strategic importance to the British during the Anglo-Boer War. There is a Garden of Remembrance which honours the British troops killed by the Boers during the war. Had I known this at the time I would have gone and had a look.

As noted earlier I worked an interesting town into every day's route. Today that town was Orania. But we still had 224km of riding to do from De Aar!

Not surprisingly the roads mostly run along the railway lines.
(Note to self - roads along railways seem to be heavily corrugated!)

More gravel highways - you make good time on these. The Karoo is extremely dry at the moment.

At Kraankuil we turn east on the R387 (which turns out to be tar) and as we approach Orania we come apon this oasis in the dry karoo. Look at the difference between the left and right sides of the road:

Lush green farmland:

Approaching Orania:

Orania is unique in that the entire population is made up of Afrikaners. The aim of the town is to create a stronghold for Afrikaans and the Afrikaner identity by keeping their language and culture alive. Anyone who defines themselves as an Afrikaner and identifies with Afrikaner ethnicity is welcome in Orania - Wikipedia.

A lot has been said about Orania. Almost everybody has an opinion although few have ever been here. We specifically came with open minds, to observe without being judgmental. I have read reports of people who have already made up their minds about Orania before they got here and they saw exactly what they wanted to see. I did not want to make the same mistake.

First impressions are great. Who would not like to arrive in an oasis in a very dry Karoo. Lush and green, neat and clean and the people very friendly. It's a town like any other with people moving around, kids playing etc.

And another interesting road sign:

It was lunch time and we bought something to eat at the supermarket and had a picnic next to the Orange river, or Gariep as it is now known.

This is an excellent camping spot! I'll remember this for future rides.

We rode around town and had a look around. Without fail people were friendly and greeted where-ever we went. At the Spa near the Hotel I spotted the wall Tok-Tokkie posted about when he was in Orania (post here).

We also saw the straw bale house being built and stopped for a photo. The owners spotted us and insisted to show us around.

A lot of people out there seem to have this idea that the Orania community must be a backward crowd of conservative right wingers. That's not what we found here at all. There are innovative practices all over. There seem to be quite a few free thinkers around who are encouraged to try new ideas, especially around "green practices".

This being a lush, green and eco-friendly town of course the bird life around here is plentiful too. Some birds even ate out of Mrs.TR's hands.

The community in Orania of course tries to promote and preserve the Afrikaner culture. As part of this practice they save the monuments being torn down by the currant government. Despite any opinion of South Africa's past, these monuments form part of the History of South Africa. Being some-one with a particular interest in history myself I applaud Orania for saving and preserving these. Tearing down a county's history (or part thereof) is like burning books - extremely short sighted in my opinion.

First prize would have been to have a government or heritage department committed to preserving ALL the history in South Africa.

Having cultures trying to save their own is second prize I guess. It's just a pity that EVERY culture in South Africa does not have a community or movement preserving it's history. We are losing so much.

A monument to the Irish that fought with the Boers in the Anglo Boer War:

"Monument Hill" houses several more monuments saved from destruction.

And Orania's own Koeksister monument:

We both agreed that we had waaaaaay to little time to spend here. We will come back. I will refrain from voicing an opinion about Orania after having seen what I have seen. Firstly, I am hardly qualified to have one after having spent mere hours here. Secondly I would rather encourage others to come and have a look for themselves. It will be an interesting visit - that much I can promise you!

For more observations on Orania I encourage you to read Tok-tokkie's remarks when he visited Orania during his Burchell Ride.

We left Orania much later than expected and crossed the Gariep river into the Free State for some more gravel before we join the N12 towards Kimberley.

Barely into the Free State we saw this:

It is well known among most rugby supporters in South Africa that a great many Springboks originate from the Free State provence.

On this gravel section we unexpectedly hit a thick patch of river sand and had a very close call, but we managed to save it and Mrs.TR held on nice and tightly for the remainder of the gravel.

The day ended with a boring stretch of tar and traffic along the N12 before we arrived at our destination in Kimberley.

Tired, sunburnt and happy!

After two long days in the saddle we'd have a "rest day" tomorrow while we attend a family wedding and the festivities that go with it.

Our stats for today:


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