This year was a family holiday and we have spend most of our time in Mosselbay and Cape Town, but as usual took many backroads as part of the journey. Once again, how we got in Mossel bay that year, I can hardly remember and this just emphasizes how important it is to take that pics along the way. I did not do that. Let this then be a reminder to myself and others, to take that pics.
Look, I HATE cell phone cameras. After all, I do have the DSLR that takes nice pics, but lets be honest: A good cell phone pic is still a 1000 times better than nothing. I think I have finally come to accept that cell phone cameras, does have a place in this world. Sigh.
Mossel Bay and Glentana
Early in the holiday, I was fortunate enough to hook up with one of the 4x4Community forum members and we did Vleesbaai Dunes for a day. I stopped the previous day to buy myself a new wheel compressor as I never replaced the old broken one. The new one works surprisingly well, in spite of a significantly smaller body size. It pumped the tyres in almost the same time, is silent, does not vibrate and does not heat up as furiously as the old one did.
Vleesbaai Dune route is not a particularly difficult route and as an inexperienced sand driver, I found it fun. There were some obstacles that needed more than one try to conquer but we made them all. However, neither of the vehicles managed to make the last long dune and after a few tries, we had to call it quits and took the escape route. The little compressor made quick work of inflating the tyres from the 0.9 Bar back to 1.6 Bar and we concluded the day with a beer at the Point.
For the rest of the holiday me, SWAMBO and the kids worked in a few long walks on the beach, build some puzzles, ate too much and read books. Al those things that one does not get time for in the year.
In Mossel bay, we have one standard visit each time we get there: The Diaz Museum. The museum actually have four separate exhibitions – three buildings and an outdoor part all done with a lot of care. When one enters the museum after paying a minor entrance fee, the first section is dedicated to fynbos plants in the surrounding areas. This part alone, can take at the very least, half an hour or more if one wants some of it to sink in.
When one exist this building, you find yourself in a large garden. The first attraction is a solar clock and each time, I have the children check it out and get my eldest to determine from the graph on the copper plate, what the time is. It is stunning how accurate this device is. This garden section is sort of a small botanical garden home to selection of plants with identification plates and some information near each. A part of this exhibition is also dedicated to the blind with Braille plates as aids. However, as one find so often at sections like this, the Braille plates are vandalised. I wish I could understand why some people are like that. This section also protects the old post tree.
The big surprise of this museum, is a building a little disguised by the garden plants, which exhibits a small aquarium, and one of the finest sea shell collections in the country, that I know of. Since the Diaz Caravel is the main attraction and in another building, this exhibition could easily be missed, but is well worth the visit. There is enough in this place to see to spend an hour at the very least. We still need to spend more time there, as it happened each time that we approached lunch, and being on holiday, it usually is one the most important events of the day.
The main attraction, is of course the exhibition of the replica of the Diaz Caravel, build in Portugal and sailed to Mosselbay to celebrate the journey of this remarkable man in 1488. I am ever fascinated by this generation of adventurers and the incredible amount of guts they had to make this journeys happen. Perhaps this is why this place have a sort of magical attraction for me, being a traveller with some aspirations. I cannot deny that I romanticize and dream of it to go back in time and experience what they did. These guys were Greek Gods in their own right with their outstanding navigational abilities, using the sun and stars. Today, total idiots can get anywhere they like with modern GPS devices.
Apart from the big ship, there are numerous little models of ships, which shows how it evolved over the years. There are a couple of versions of sextants, pictures and paintings. The problem that we as a family normally have, is that we need to tear our selves away from the one item to get to the next in order to get through the place. The ship is obviously a must stop and as an engineer with deep appreciation for things old, the complex arrays of ropes and pulleys provides for visual entertainment for as long as I want to stay on it. The kids can get up and down the ladders and they too find it riveting.
At the top level of the museum, is another collection of old items, not all related to the marine world. Once gain, there is a lot to see, from old cameras to old dentist chairs and a host of other little bits an pieces. For us, the visit is worth it each time.
Another place in Mosselbay to visit, is a small little aquarium a the Point. The place is old and kept together on a shoestring budget. It is right in front of your eyes, yet it can be missed being over powered by the Dros and some of the other entertainment around the car park. - like soft serve. The aquarium is home to a few small sharks and although it is probably only about half an hour of pleasure, it is worth a visit for anyone who finds the magical world of waters, a treat.
It was time to move on to the family in Cape Town. To work in a little bit of backroads in order to miss the rush of the N2, I worked out a small route plan with a few objectives. The two most important ones, was to cross over the Malgas Pont, and to pass through a tiny little town, called Tesselaarsdal.
The first part, before the turn off on the gravel roads, was all on tar and we stopped in Riversdal in order to find some place to fill up stomach and sole. The GPS did come in handy and we worked from one place to the next, judging them all by the cover of the book until we found a guest house with a small restaurant, more on the perimeter of the town.
The place was exactly what we were looking for, with a nice garden to explore and we took a cosy table on the stoep. Exactly what we ordered, I cannot remember, but the food and coffee was splendid and we inevitably stayed over for longer than intended. We eventually hit the road and shortly after, we turned out left to work our way to the Malgas Pont. As far as I know, this is the only manually operating Pont still in operation in the country.
The Pont Crossing was a highlight for the children and my eldest volunteered his illegal child labour to help propel the floating device. It takes a couple of tons with ease and loaded farm trucks regularly makes use of this service.
We then worked our way toward Tesselaarsdal. The first challenge, was to find it on a map and it took me quite some browsing on the Internet to get a position close enough so that I could zoom in Mapsource and find the coordinates. Tesselaarsdal is near Caledon and without doubt one of the most interesting places I ever passed through. Originally, it was only a coloured community living there, but eventually some open minded whites discovered the place and by now, a couple of the old houses are bought up for holiday homes, and for retirement homes. The people living here, are not attracted by frills and I wish we had more time for a stop over and to have a chat or two. I was so enchanted by the place, that I apparently forgot to take pictures, as I can find none in my archives. And perhaps it is better that way. I want to go back there and spend time.
By now, it was becoming late and we still had long stretch of road to Cape Town as we had to go to Kleinmond and work our way through Betty's Bay, Rooi-els, Hangklip and that wonderful pass running almost on the high water mark, to Gordon's Bay. This must be one of my personal most favourite stretches of coast with that incredibly harsh, rough white rocks that simply makes it impossible for houses to stand close together. I simply cannot get enough of all the different sort of beauty this lovely country offers us.
In Keinmond, we managed to find a restaurant that makes proper home made hamburgers and it was every bit as good as we hoped it would be. I also took our Shar-Pei for a walk. Now if you know these dogs, then it will be no surprise that I had my hands full to get her into some ground clear of other people. The problem with them is that they are beautiful dogs with that rumpled faces and because of that, people naturally want to assume they must be as adorable. So it comes as a shock to most of them if they want to touch (normally just at the moment when I turn my back and not being able to warn them) and this dog greets them with a powerful, thundering, deep growl that one would expect from something at least three times the size.
Anyway, with no more hungry ones in the car, the last part went a little bit easier, but we were a little travel worn. Eventually, we ended up in Durbanville with probably just enough light left to unpack our things.
Thanks heaven, my Brother in Law have three very well socialised dogs and the Shar-Pei – against our expectations, fitted in immediately. For a few minutes at least... Ahem. in the backyard was a cage with some bunnies in and as she went through the sliding door, she stopped, noticed, focussed, rumpled the face even more and in typical Shar-Pei silence, she shot like a ball out of a canon, hitting the large cage so hard that it took off and touched ground a metre or two further. Needless to say, the little mammals in there was instantly traumatised and I still had a couple of yards to cover to get hold of my dog.
If it was not for the fact that it was family with a mutual love connection, I think we would be on our way to look for other accommodation before we had coffee.
The Cape Town holiday went like most others. We visited the aquarium, and found to our surprise on another day, that the MTN science centre was not operating any more. A great pity as it was a full day of entertainment with some great, working scientific models to stimulate the interest of children. However, the plans were quickly revised and we decided to go to the Planetarium.
The Planetarium is in the City Centre of Cape town and it is a bit of a chore to work through the traffic and narrow streets to get there. On the one street corners, just in front of the planetarium, I was suddenly struck by a few painstakingly dressed girls with some of the heaviest make-up on I have ever seen. I almost drove over the pavement in amazement that any girl willingly wants to double her weight with plaster, but the confusion was soon cleared up when a couple of camera man with expensive glass and lighting umbrellas came running along and within a few seconds, the devices were planted and the girls started cat-walking up and down for the shoot.
After a bit of exploring, we found the entrance to the parking lot and wormed in the two Landy's. With five kids between us, of which two needed prams for starters, I am not going to elaborate too much about the daddies who had to buckle under the weight of bottles, dypers, jackets, biscuits, water and juices to cater for the special needs of the diversity young ones. As usual, mine both lost their shoes halfway to the entrance and I had to find place to carry that too.
The planetarium is a big place and for us, there was too much to see for one day and we left for a late lunch at the fanciest burger restaurant I have ever seen. The burgers were good and although at least double the price than any other burger I could remember, it was worth every cent.
With the Cape town Holiday coming to an end, we decided to go home a few days earlier and take the long way home via Sutherland and sleep over there, and in Victoria West. With everything packed, we left the morning with coffee and rusks to take us some way and in Ceres, we decided to make a proper breakfast. Once again, we used the GPS to help find a place and by the looks of it, we ended up at a Restaurant, which seems to offer some accommodation too. The tea garden is a spacious and there was a big jungle gym and swings for the kids to spend some of the energy. I managed to fetch the dog later and kept myself a bit away from the people. Once again, the food and coffee was very satisfying.
Back in the Landy and we headed east. Sutherland is a full 180 km from Ceres and there is not a single stop in between. Luckily, the road was busy and a single Mitsubishi Pajero passed us somewhere on the road - clearly in a different mood for travelling than I was.
Literally halfway between Ceres and Sutherland - 90km walk to the closest town, 85 km to the nearest cell phone signal and with the threat of a mad Frenchman and his wife walking around the area - the smoke suddenly came out under the bonnet and the Madman shouted "voltage low".
I was a bit worried that it was indeed the alternator and opened the bonnet, only to see the serpentine belt ripped in pieces. Walking to the trailer, I pat myself on the back for always having this spare with me. However, when walking back to the car, I got the creepy thought that a serpentine belt don't ever break. I could not remember or even knew of someone breaking one, which told me there must be a reason for it.
Deep in thought, I stood in front of the motor and almost as if to aid the thinking process, I sub consciously started to turn all the pulleys by hand. One by the other until I got to the tensioner pulley and it was completely stuck - the bearing seized. The evidence was all there where the belt melted off around the pulley.
I knew I was in a bit of trouble. There was no way I could refit the belt so I started loosening the pulley hoping I could dope it a bit with oil but as the washer came off, the little balls also fell out and I collected them all from the dirt trying to imagine if a bearing can work without a cage. It seemed pretty risky considering I could not control the tension on it.
My eye caught the tensioner pulley of the aircon compressor. It was a lot smaller and also did not seem to have a chance to work, but I thought just maybe the British engineers were kind enough to use the same bearing inside. Then I knew why I am always having G-clamps with me. It was a quick job to remove that, push out the bearing and I was lucky. The bearings were exactly the same and I pressed it into the big pulley.
Belt on and we could make Sutherland safely where I could find new bearings and get the aircon going too. And obviously this will be a spare in my toolbox - the 6203-2RS1 ball bearing.