STARGAZING IN SUTHERLAND


The crystalline sky and vast landscape of the plateau around the Observatories (AS)

A windswept, chilly Alison up on the plateau, ready to view SALT  (pc)

I had long wanted to visit Sutherland to see SouthAfrica’s massive optical telescopes, and the fact that Sutherland is a remotetown situated in the Great Karoo made it a doubly attractive destination. InOctober 2011 I managed to get there, by joining a U3A (University of the 3rd Age) coach trip, with 59 other members, shepherded efficiently by the genial, unflappable Derrick Rule, master organiser.

On the whole I’m not a fan of organised coach trips, however on this occasion, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I had the good fortune to have a friend from  the West Coast Writers’ Circle, Pauline Campbell, as room-mate at the  Sutherland Hotel. Most of the photos in this post were taken by Pauline and are indicated (PC). If the photo is over-exposed and not tagged, it was taken by me.

Wikipedia says (in part) :  Sutherland, 2,840 inhabitants, lies in the western Roggeveld Mountains in the KarooSutherland’s arid climate and remote location 1,450 metres (4,760 ft) above sea level make its night skies among the world’s clearest and darkest. The telescopes of the South African Astronomical  Observatory are nearby .These include the Southern African Large Telescope  (SALT), the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere.

Sutherland is among the coldest towns in South Africa, although Buffelsfontein holds the official honour. Winter snow is common. The coldest temperature recorded in Sutherland was -16.4°C on 12 July 2003. The average yearly temperature is 11°C. Sutherland has a semi-arid climate

Major economic activities include tourism and sheep farming. An NGK Dutch Reformed church in Sutherland was built before the Anglo Boer War.
Sutherland is also the birthplace of
NP van Wyk Louw, WEG Louw two famous Afrikaans writers …

Suffice to say that Sutherland is a very clean, very quiet little Karoo town with the cleanest, clearest air. The scenery is magnificent, the people friendly, the food is hearty country cooking – we ate like kings. We lunched at the historic Maatjiesfontein Hotel on the up journey and on the way back to Cape Town.

The photos will tell the rest of the story.

Post Office at Maatjiesfontein (PC)

Pauline next to the famous red, double decker London bus (AS)

Brilliant pinky-mauve Spring flowers along the roadside (PC)

Vast swathes of flowers covering hills and valleys (AS)

Wild tulips flourishing despite the arid, sandy soil (PC)

The beauty and tenacity of tiny wildflowers in a hostile environment (PC)

Standing outside, on a 3 degree night, stargazing (PC)

Enjoying the lush gardens of the Maatjiesfontein hotel (PC)

Pauline outside the pretty little Victorian style chapel at Maatjiesfontein; a popular venue for weddings.

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5 Comments

Filed under TRAVEL

5 responses to “STARGAZING IN SUTHERLAND

  1. Mari Lee

    It looks like you had a fantastic trip.Thanks for sharing the interesting photo’s The Karoo is a very special place.

    Like

  2. Glad you enjoyed it – what a peaceful place Sutherland is! I have an acquaintance who has moved to nearby Fraserburg, & I can quite see why she has chosen to do so.

    Like

  3. thanissara

    Marvelous – sounds great – tnx 4 sharing

    Like

  4. Great pictures!! Thank you for sharing

    Like

  5. Tony

    Very cool. Very Maude.

    Like

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