Ann's Villa - The tenth step ... SISA Episode II - CycleBlaze

March 10, 2021

Ann's Villa

The view westwards from our room this morning.
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We were the only guests in the hotel last night.  This didn't prevent the staff from pushing the boat out for us and we were treated like royalty.  The menu was pretty good and the quality of the food matched it.  So we tucked in and over-ate resulting in a rather poor night's sleep.

The foyer has facsimiles of various documents that describe the history of the Zuurberg Inn better than I could.
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Our restless night obviously didn't teach us a lesson because we tucked in again at breakfast.  We waddled out some time after eight o'clock and quickly discovered that the road conditions weren't as good as yesterday's.  After a few kilometers we also discovered our hotel room key in my handle bar bag.  This didn't prove to be too much of a problem - after five kilometers we stopped a vehicle coming from the opposite direction and they kindly agreed to drop the key off at the hotel.  This vehicle turned out to be one of only two we would see the whole day!

Heading down the hill from the hotel, room key safely stored in my handle bar bag.
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Today's ride consisted of two main climbs and three descents.  Even though we only covered 28 kilometers, the rough road made it pretty tricky and energy sapping.  My hands are more tired than my legs after struggling to control the bicycle.  Leigh walked her bike for at least ten kilometers, particularly on the downhills because she didn't want to risk another fall.  We also had a very strong north-westerly wind blowing that, while making riding a bit difficult at times, kept us reasonably cool the whole way.  As tough as the ride was, the views certainly made up for it.

Parts of the old pass' retaining walls.
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The hills were covered with these beautiful Ericas (not sure which species).
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The view from near the top of the first climb.
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Zuurberg Inn in the distance.
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We were told by Henri, the hotel owner, that the road was reasonably good until the turnoff to Kromrivier, about fifteen kilometers into the ride. It was pretty rough until there but at that point it got a lot worse.
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Climbing up from Kromrivier.
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Enjoying the cooling wind.
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Near the top of the last climb, just short of a thousand meters above sea level.
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Once at the top we had panoramic views of the Kommadagga valley with Ann's Villa visible a few hundred meters below us.
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Then it was a tortuous descent where discretion was the better part of valor.
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As we got to Ann's Villa we saw this sign. Apparantly the road from here to Somerset East is partly tarred so we will get some relief tomorrow.
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A bit of background to Ann's villa:

Scottish baker John Webster and his wife Ann Elizabeth Whall came to Port Elizabeth in 1849 and lived in town until 1854 when Webster bought the farm “Kleinplaas” in the Kommadagga Valley in the Zuurberg.  The family lived in an old cottage on the property and Webster baked for the road builders at Stebbings Convict Station 10 km away who was busy building the Zuurberg Pass.  The pass was officially opened in 1858 and Ann's Villa was built and opened in 1864.  Unfortunately Ann died a year later at the age of 46.  Ann's Villa became on of the stops on the route north and specially after the discovering of diamonds in Kimberly in 1867 the Villa boomed.  Ann's Villa consisted of seven rooms and with its blacksmith, wheelwright, bakery and shop was ideally situated at the northern foot of the Zuurberg Pass.  In 1896 a post office was added to the shop while a school was also built for children from the area. The property also had a corrugated iron shed with a sprung floor that was ordered from England in kit form and used both as a shearing shed and for local dances.

Ann's Villa is still operational as self-catering accommodation.  While much will have changed over the years, it still feels as if one steps back in time as you walk through the door.  For many years I have wanted to spend a night here and I am so glad that we are finally getting the chance to.  It's rough and ready and quite different from last night's experience but it is just the tonic after today's hard ride.

Apart from the accommodation there is also a small museum of blacksmith and wainwright equipment in the original blacksmith while the old shop is also preserved as a museum.

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The original key to the old shop.
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Today's ride: 28 km (17 miles)
Total: 91 km (57 miles)

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