Friday, June 24, 2011

Sterkfontein Dam to Harrismith - Verkykerskop - Jhb

The Sterkfontein Dam is part of the Tugela-Vaal Water Project.  It is in the upper catchment area of the Vaal River and is very deep, resulting in little water evaporation.  It has a surface area of approximately 67.2km and is the third largest dam in South Africa.  The Driekloof Dam next to it does not form part of this dam.  It boasts an earth/dirt dam wall of 93 meters which is the second highest in the world!
The huge amount of traffic passing between the Drakensberg and Harrismith has taken it's toll and there were extensive road works taking place. It was lunch time when we passed by, as can be seen by the sleeping steamroller driver in the picture above.
As we neared Harrismith, the Platberg Mountain's incredible 'table top' of 9km came into view.  It is 2 394m high.
The road into nearby Harrismith with the Platberg Mountain on the right.  The town has a number of monuments which commemorate times dating back to the Voortrekkers, The Boer War, The First and Second World Wars, together with other important events.
A monument to the many women and children who died at the hands of the British in the concentration camps during the Boer War.
'To the Glorious Memory of those of Harrismith and District who gave their Lives in the Great War 1914-1919'
'In Memory of the Officers N.C. Officers and men of the 2nd Batt. Grenadier Guards and 2nd Batt. Scotsguards who gave their lives for their country.  South Africa 1900-1901-1902'

After looking around, we headed out of town, filled up with petrol and consulted our map - get on the N3, and then take a right to a 'dot' called, Verkykerskop, and see what is there.
While we were leisurely taking in the stunning scenery, a Police van sped past in a blurr!!
Coming into Verkykerskop - if you're going too fast you'll probably miss it!  The tar ends here and if you're to go any further, it is dirt.
Under this red corrugated roof is a restaurant, general dealer, post office and coffee shop. The little village also boasts one petrol pump and Police Station - this is where the Police van was going!!!
... and a new little hotel with internet.

After being shown around, we were very impressed - in the middle of nowhere a bit of civilization - incredible!  We decided that we would carry on from here taking the dirt road which would eventually meet up with the N3 and take us back to Johannesburg.
Vrede is closer to Jo'burg than Memel so we went left here (however, the road is in bad condition).
Believe it or not, this 'track' is on the GPS so we weren't lost!
Although these birds fly fairly slowly due to the weight of their tails, they are not easy to photograph but eventually I was lucky enough to get this one as he lifted off the barbed wire fence.
Further up on the right side of this road a huge chunk had broken off and fallen down into the ravine.  Apart from a high rainfall, there is plenty of water in these rolling hills and wherever we went little streams of water ran down next to the road.
When we reached the top of the plateau, (+-1900m above sea level) we were greeted by these two very lucky farm workers who were only to happy to pose for a picture and then galloped away down the road.  The scenery was spectacular up here and sadly no picture seems to capture it's beauty.
We watched the GPS climbing and climbing till eventually we got to 2 032m above sea level.  The buck started to walk away when we got out the car to take pictures of the view - we were on top of the world!  From here we descended.
This was the first STOP sign we had seen for many miles, we turned left and now we were on tar.
Although it was getting late we chose to go back on to a dirt road to get to Vrede which was about 10km away.  Stopping to take pictures on country roads was much, much easier!
We swopped dirt for tar at Villiers and turned onto the N3 and headed for home but with still about 100km to go.  What an incredible trip it had been - we had seen parts of South Africa that we never knew existed....
Merle.  Canon 5D Mk 2.  17-40mm L, 28-80mm L, 100-400m L