Sometimes taking a detour along the way leads to special unplanned experiences like this side trip to Nieu-Bethesda.
After the worst night ever at a poor excuse for a Caravan Park in Bloomfontein we cut out at the break of dawn for the 265 mile (425 km) drive to Camdeboo National Park near Graaff-Rienet.
Traveling for seemingly endless miles on the N1 through the flat, rolling grassland and crop fields of the Free State brought us into the Great Karoo’s semi-desert. Summers can be a bit warm through these open landscapes offering very little shade.
When Joan saw a sign for fossils she knew I’d be interested. So we took a side trip on a gravel road 15 miles (23 km) towards Nieu-Bethesda. Turned out this also took us to Owl House which I had read about and wanted to see.
Joan got really excited about seeing the Blue Cranes, the national bird of South Africa. Usually found in dry grasslands the population is in decline due to poisoning, habitat alteration, and power line collisions. All cranes engage in dancing, which includes various behaviors such as bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing, and wing flapping. These unfortunately seemed too busy eating to dance.
Plus HUGE grasshoppers, 3 inches (7 cm) mind you, stopped us to investigate what was crawling on the milkweed. Joan posted about these Green Milkweed Locust as part of her South African biological data base.
This semi-desert environment with very little running water still displays a scattering of brilliant flowers.
The Candelabra lily is appropriately named and stands out against the land growing 16-20 inches (40-50 cm) across. I actually recognized a couple plants like the wild Gazania and Morning Glories. And this Snake Aloe almost looks like a rising cobra. Thank goodness we didn’t see snakes.
The owners of Ganora fossil site were in town when we stopped but would be back in an hour so we continued on to the Owl House and then returned. While Joan went in search of bugs I toured JP’s collection of fossils in awe and totally forgot to take photos. The fossils are on average about 280 million years old, a time when mammal-like-reptiles roamed the earth, pre-dinosaur time.
JP brought out a longhorn beetle he’d caught in a jar the night before and Joan identified it for him. She really knows her bugs.
Ganora Guestfarm is a working sheep ranch offering a variety of overnight accommodations and soon a camp area. I really want to return, camp, visit Bushman rock art, and go fossil hunting with JP.
Nice way to spend an afternoon taking this side trip to Nieu-Bethesda. Have you taken a detour lately?
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