On 27 April we drove to Graaff-Reinet, and were struck by the deterioration of the road and rail infrastructure caused by road transport deregulation — – the Free State roads were particularly bad. We stopped at Aliwal North for lunch and Val ate a venison pie under the reproachful gaze of a gemsbok whose head was mounted on the wall above. In Graaff Reinet we stayed at Villa Reinet, run by Hannan cousins Nick and Ailsa Grobler, but Ailsa was away, visiting her son in Dubai. We spent two nights there, and on Thursday visited the Valley of Desolation and Nieu Bethesda, which is famous for its Owl House, but deserves to be more famous for its beer, which is much better than the insipid chemical concoctions produced by SAB-Miller.
On Friday 29 April we drove to Barrydale and stayed overnight at the Watercourt Lodge, and saw an old friend Dick Usher, whom I had known when he was a journalist on the Daily News in Durban in 1969, and a member of the Christian Institute youth groups.
On Saturday 30 April we had a shorter trip to Robertson, where we visited cousin Sandy Struckmeyer (nee Vause) and her daughter Kerry, and then went to the Orthodox Centre established by Fr Zacharias van Wyk, who has converted an old packing shed into the last homely house, with a chapel attached, where we stayed the night and had Vespers, Matins and Divine Liturgy in a mixture of Afrikaans and Dutch.
After Liturgy on Sunday 1 May we drove to Hermanus, where we stayed at the Volmoed Community for four days, and I spend a lot of time with John de Gruchy, another old friend, discussing our proposed book on the history of the charismatic renewal in South Africa.
On Thursday 5 May we went to Villiersdorp, where we spent a couple of nights, and visited Val’s sister Elaine Machin and her friend Averil
Anderson, and on Friday went with them to Genadendal and Greyton where we had lunch, with magical misty mountains all around.
On Saturday 7 May we went to Cape Town and stayed at the Formula 1 hotel on the Foreshore, and visited Richard Girdwood, now Rector of St Michael’s Anglican Church in Observatory, whom we had known in Durban North in the 1970s. We had supper with Val’s first cousin Gail Stierlin (formerly Farqhuarson, formerly Alldred, born Terblanche) and met her husband Gustav Stierlin for the first time, and Gail’s mother, Val’s aunt Pat, was staying with them.
On Sunday we went to the Divine Liturgy at St George’s Cathedral in Woodstock, where I served with Fr Nicholas, and afterwards had lunch with Renfrew Christie at the Foresters Arms in Rondebosch. I wasn’t sure whether I had met him before or not, but I certainly knew of him from the 1970s. Then we went to Simonstown to visit more Hannan cousins, Arthur and Jean Vlok, and met their daughter Anthea for the first time. We had met their son-in-law Julian Buys on an earlier visit in 2003.
The next three days we spent mainly in the archives, doing family history research, and had supper with Erica Murray, another old friend, whom I had first met in 1964, but had not seen since she went to Canada in the 1980s. We also saw His Eminence Metropolitan Sergios, the Archbishop of the Cape of Good Hope.
On Thursday 12 May we left Cape Town early in the morning on our return journey, travelling eastwards on the N2 to Knysna. It was misty much of the way, and at one point we saw three bright lights, which we at first took for lights on a mountain, but when we didn’t pass them and as they went higher in the sky realised were stars or planets. No other stars were visible, just those three in the east, which were quite magical. One was certainly Venus (Lucifer), but I’m not sure what the other two were. We caught the tail end of a news item on TV saying that it was a quite rare conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mars (or was it Mercury?).
We spent a couple of nights at Knysna, and saw my first cousin Glenda Lauwrens (nee Growdon), her husband Brian and daughter Joanne, whom we hadn’t seen since they moved to Knysna from Ladysmith 21 years ago. We also saw Val’s father’s first cousin, Patrick Clark, and his wife Carol, whom we had never met before.
On Saturday 14 May we drove to Port Elizabeth, and were forced to use a toll road (boo! hiss!) for the only time on our trip, as the Bloukrans
Pass was closed. In PE we had tea with David and Mary MacGregor. David was formerly the Anglican Dean of Pretoria, and we had not seen them since the 1980s. We had supper with Val’s aunt Nat Greene, On Sunday we went to the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Dormition, and afterwards went to lunch with Dimitri and Marguerite Paizis, and stayed talking with them the whole afternoon.
On Monday 16th May we drove to Stutterheim via Port Alfred. At Bathurst we tried to visit Lindsay Walker, an old BBS friend, but did not have his address. We got a phone book at the post office and called the only Walker listed in Bathurst, but there was no reply. At Stutterheim we stayed with Growdon cousins, Hamish and Monica Scott. Their son Robbie runs a nursery and an eco-lodge called “The Shire”, and we spent the night in one of the splendid cabins at The Shire.
On Tuesday 17th May we travelled to Burgersdorp via Cathcart, Queenstown and Molteno. We had driven through Burgersdorp on the way down, and wanted to see more of it, and so spent the night there.
On Wednesday 18th May we retraced our route to Clarens over the horrible Free State roads, and Wepener was as dirty and run-down as Burgersdorp was neat and well kept. This time we stayed with Toni Badcock-Walters (my second cousin Peter was away again, this time in Namibia), but we met their son Craig, and Peter’s half-sister Louise Philp, and caught up on a lot of family history information. It was election day for the local government elections, but there was no way we could get home in time to vote, in spite of a flurry of urgent SMS messages from the Democratic Alliance urging us to vote for them so they could take the City of Tshwane. I thought it was a bit presumptuous of them to assume that we would vote for them.
On Thursday 19th May we drove the last leg homewards, via Petrus Steyn Heilbron, Vereeniging, Heidelberg, Nigel, Springs and Bapsfontein. We stopped in Petrus Steyn to visit church friends Danie Steyn and his mother, who gave us mushroom soup for lunch.
Well, that’s the outline, but we will also be posting more detailed accounts, with pictures, on our various blogs, perhaps after the pattern
of Cobbett’s “rural rides”.