Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kathy's 44th Birthday, Part VI: Eastern Cape & Lady Grey

Alas, that we had to leave Mbotyi...

Our first stop before we began to turn toward our home in Maseru was in Port St. John's, a small city at the end of a river valley on the Wild Coast, just south of Mbotyi.

In all honesty, I think Port St. John's looked much bigger on the map than it did in person. Nonetheless, it was a quaint little coastal town.

But we were soon on the road again...

This time, we traversed the full breadth of the Eastern Cape. It was marvelous - grand and rolling and colorful (even in winter).

We ran through more of the smoke from burning fields, which gave the expansive landscape less depth than it might otherwise have had. It was, nonetheless, spectacular.

Little villages dotted the landscape, with much of the housing similar in structure to that found in Lesotho. But in South Africa, the residents tend to paint their homes, mostly in pastels. In Lesotho, they are typically left in the natural color of the stone used for construction, with the result that they blend into their surroundings much better, thus seeming to be a part of the landscape, rather than something added to it.

I lost track of time as Kathy drove us across the province, where we never seemed far from mountains and ridges, vistas of depth and splendor, with each change in the light recharging my captivation...

Sunsets in South Africa are immense, seemingly greater than the sky in which they glow...

We eventually drove into Lady Grey for the last night of our journey in celebration of my wife's birth. We stayed at the Comfrey Cottage, a quaint and incredibly comfortable set of cottages set on the outskirts of town.

They raise alpacas on the grounds, which were worth wandering just to admire the fauna and flora.

The main building held the dining area, where one of the owners, Grant, served us the best meal we had during the entire trip. Indeed, the service we received at this family-owned enterprise was top rate and always friendly.

Besides, the alpacas were just so cute!

After we reluctantly left our cottage, we explored the town of Lady Grey a bit. This was my first full experience of how the legacy of Apartheid has played out in the places of South Africa, as only minutes from the cozy comforts of our cottage we encountered an entire section of town consisting of shacks. The contrast in standards of living was stark, to say the least.

We then drove to one of the local sights, a dam, which actually looks more impressive in these photographs than it did during our visit - mostly because the pictures do not capture how poorly maintained the site was. It could have been a nice spot for picnics and perhaps even swimming, but not so when we were there.

In leaving Lady Grey, we took one of Kathy's famous turns - when she decides to try an "alternative route". While I must confess to having been quite nervous about the quality and narrowness of the roads she found, the sites were quite gorgeous.

Though traffic was a bit of a problem:

Once we returned to the main road, we were Maseru bound. Hard to believe it was only a long weekend, with so much seen and experienced and felt. But so it often is with us and our life together. So much beauty, so much living.

Happy Birthday, Kathy! Happy Birthday, love of my life!

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