Friday, May 6, 2011
After we left Kruger Park this morning, we headed out the Phalaborwa Gate about 2/3 of the way down the park to the West. This gate put us out into the region that is often called the Panorama Route. The scenery here is incredibly beautiful, in part because of the Drakensberg Mountains, and in part because of all the river canyons. It is right in this area that the continental divide occurs, and we can actually see the rift as Africa is splitting apart. What? Yes, there is a giant tectonic fracture zone going down the east side of the entire continent of Africa, where the earth is grinding together as the continent slowly crashes and splits. In the Panorama area, we can see that there is almost a mile difference in height between the eastern part of South Africa and the western part. There is literally a giant cliff drop-off. We stopped to take some photographs and it feels like actually being as high up as the clouds, and we could feel the moisture in the air, like we were breathing clouds as well. It's very dramatic.
We also got to see the Blythe River Canyon, which, while smaller, reminded many of us of the Grand Canyon. The river has worn away layer after layer of rock, revealing a huge open canyon with painted layers on down the sides. We stopped to see a special rock formation called The Three Rondevals, which are rocks shaped like giant roundhouses. The view is amazing!
In addition, we had the chance to see the amazing river rock formations called Bourke's Luck Potholes. These are not actually potholes, but rather huge round holes in a river bottom as well as down the sides of the river canyon. The river has worn a deep and narrow groove into the earth (100 feet straight down but only about 30 feet across). But stones large and small were caught in the river current and couldn't move out of the narrow canyon, and acted as drills, making some very deep and round holes in the rock. The bridges crossing the gorge are narrow and offer some amazing views. We could also see a below-ground waterfall, which was fascinating. We got to walk all around the site and take some really fabulous photographs.
It is easy to get the sense of the power of nature in this area of South Africa.
We are now staying overnight in the little town of Graskop, which used to be a frontier town back in the gold rush days. It actually looks a little like an old frontier town in the American west, with low wood buildings and raised sidewalks. Now it is a bit of an arty town, with a number of local artists selling artwork, and lots of beautiful crafts for sale. We arrived just in time for about an hour of sightseeing and shopping, and I believe some lovely gifts are headed home with some of our students.
The highlight of the day, perhaps because we were all so tired from such early safari mornings (4:15 AM starts!), was our happy and delicious dinner at Harrie's Pancakes. This old time dutch pancake house serves only pancakes served the traditional Boer way, thick but with savory or sweet fillings. Somehow this seemed to be the perfect end to this portion of our trip.
Tomorrow, we fly from here to Johannesburg, change planes, and head to Port Elizabeth on the east coast and much more to the south. We'll see the Indian Ocean and be on to the next phase of our adventure...
Posted by Martha at 12:58 PM