Nieu Bethesda - The tenth step ... SISA Episode II - CycleBlaze

March 18, 2021

Nieu Bethesda

Nieu Bethesda is a a small town along the Gats River that was established in the late nineteenth century when a Dutch Reformed Church congregation was established here for the local farmers.  It is still pretty small, about one and a half thousand residents, divided in the sad old way between the town (mostly white) and the township (mostly coloured).  It has become far more developed over the years but there is s sense of peace here that seems only to be found in isolated places.

This sign gives an indication of the changes in Nieu Bethesda. When we were last here there was the Owl House and there might have been a guesthouse and perhaps a place to eat. Now there are three museums, eleven eateries and a hundred and thirty tourist beds.
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The town became famous due the creations of Helen Martins and Koos Malgas which developed into what is known today as the Owl House.  A good description of the Owl House can be found in its Wikipedia entry.

I first visited Nieu Bethesda as a child, coming here with my parents on a number of occasions to visit the family of my mother's Teacher's Training College room mate.  The last time Leigh and I were here was more than twenty years ago when we brought my kids and that was the first time I can recall going to the Owl House. I must have gone there as a child because my mother had spent time talking to Helen Martins during my childhood visits.

The first thing we did today was visit the Owl House.  There is now a new museum attached along with the usual gift shop and video production.  The Owl House itself is much the same and just as moving.

Here are some views of the Camel Yard.  Apart from the owls, lots of camels, Magi, worshipers, naked maidens, sphinxes and a whole lot more.

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My eye was drawn to these two depictions from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam because it reminded me of the Japanese custom of never pouring ones own drink.

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Once again I was more taken by the Camel Yard than the house itself.  The house was the first of the dramatic changes Helen had made after her parents had died, opening it up to light of different colours.

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After the Owl House we visited the Kitching Fossil Exploration Center, the highlight of which was a short walk in the bed of the Gat River being shown fossils there by a local guide.  The Karoo is probably the best place in the world to find fossils and James Kitching was a local who became the collector for Robert Broome.  It was his work that provided the proof needed that the continents drifted at a time that it was doubted by discovering the same fossils on Antarctica as what existed in the Karoo.

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Then it was back to the brewery for lunch, a couple of beers and a good chat with Andre.

A platter full of bread, cheeses, pickles and salami made by Andre and his staff accompanied by some of his beer.
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The bees tried to reclaim some of their honey.
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We are hoping for an early night and a good sleep because tomorrow we have to head out early to tackle more than a thousand meters of climbing on a mixture of gravel and tar roads to take us to Middelburg.  

Today's ride: 4 km (2 miles)
Total: 356 km (221 miles)

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