For many of us who live in the city, there’s nothing more exciting than spending time in nature. When I go on a road trip, I’d much rather stay in a nature reserve or on a farm than in any city hotel. Ganora Guest Farm, Nieu Bethesda, ticks all the boxes by adding historical interest in the form of Bushman rock art and fossils.
As far as activities go, the big three at Ganora Guest Farm are Bushman rock art, fossils and hiking.
Go on a walk to see Bushman paintings in one of a few shelters on the farm. When we visited, guide Henry Witbooi explained how three shamans make a fire and call on the ancestors, praying for rain, good hunting and healing. For their paintings, they used various things like plants, berries and ochre, but the most important are animal urine, blood and stomach acid. For white paint, they used the albumin of ostrich eggs, bird droppings and fat they scraped off the inside of hides. The paintings here – estimated to be some 7000 years old – depict animals such as lion, cheetah, eland, gemsbok and tortoise.
You can tell by the teeth whether the animal was a predator (canines) or herbivore (tusks). See small insect-eating hunters like modern-day lizards or shrews, with their needle-like teeth preserved in stone, and the skulls and jawbones of dog-sized herbivores. There’s also a collection of fossilised leaves of Glossopteris trees, water ripples preserved in stone and – the pièce de résistance – a complete fossil fish called Compasia de la Harpi. Although there are three pieces of different fish of the same kind at Wits, this is the only complete one in the world. Quite a coup for JP.
Work off some of the good food at Ganora on one or two of the marked hiking trails, from short and easy to longer and more taxing. Varying from 4-21km, they give broad views over the farm and the surrounding Sneeuberg mountains. On the canyon route you might spot a pair of Verreaux’s eagles (one of 182 bird species recorded on the farm) or swim in rock pools before you reach the end at Nieu Bethesda. You can arrange to have your car dropped off at the end point.
Join Henry Witbooi on a guided walk around the farm to discover some of the plants that have medicinal uses. Henry has San/Bushman ancestry and learnt about the value of plants from his grandfather.
Or take advantage of the swimming pool in the guest farm’s attractive garden, a great place to relax with a good book or to cool down on hot summer days. But if you want to enjoy something more ‘farmy’, take a dip in the cement reservoir or one of the river pools.
Ganora is a Dohne Merino sheep stud farm – a breed that’s used for both its wool and meat – so you (and your kids) might also enjoy watching farm activities like shearing, and sheep and cattle herding.
Finally, remember that Nieu Bethesda and Helen Martins' intriguing Owl House and Camel Yard are just a 7km drive away. Have coffee or lunch in the village and make a day of it before returning to the peace of Ganora.
17 things to do in Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo
The Owl House Nieu Bethesda: a world Helen Martins created
Drostdy Hotel, Graaff-Reinet: changing lives through hospitality training
Copyright © Roxanne Reid - No words or photographs on this site may be used without permission from roxannereid.co.za