After our overnight stay at Matjiesfontein, GO-Tourism took the further 1.5 Hour drive on the R354 up to Sutherland, in the Northern Cape Province. It was a journey into the unknown, through the dry, barren landscape of the Karoo Desert. The scenery and wide open spaces were reminiscent of a classic American road trip movie and there wasn’t a car in sight for most of it so we took it slow and enjoyed feeling far from it all.
We arrived in Sutherland by midday on a Friday and were the first tourists to arrive for the weekend. We stayed at the Whitehouse Inn, situated opposite the famous Kambrokind Guesthouse on the right hand side of the main road as you drive into the center of town.
The main reason for our stay in Sutherland was to visit SALT (Southern African Largest Telescope), an absolute must-see and well worth travelling the 400kms from Cape Town to experience! The roads are tarred all the way except for the last 15 kms which is gravel road) SALT is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and among the largest in the world. It has a hexagonal primary mirror array 11 metres across, comprising 91 individual 1m hexagonal mirrors. It’s imperative to book your tour a couple of weeks in advance via their website, http://tours.saao.ac.za. We booked an afternoon tour as you are taken into the main telescope, as against an evening stargazing session with the smaller telescopes. The tour started in the interactive museum mid-afternoon and ended at SALT. It lasted for about 1.5 Hours.
Later on that evening we experienced an evening of stargazing in “Sterland”, (The Land of Stars in the Afrikaans language), situated just before entering Sutherland. Jurg, a passionate space enthusiast, was our host and shared his wealth of knowledge with us as we discovered a myriad of constellations and planets using his hi-tech telescopes. We highly recommend booking Jurg when you plan your stargazing trip to Sutherland, once again you will have to book in advance, as he is extremely sought after. http://www.sutherlandinfo.co.za
Besides stargazing and visiting SALT there is not much else to do in Sutherland and one day is more then enough time to get everything done. On our last evening we treated ourselves to dinner at the Cluster d’Hote restaurant, situated on the main road. It’s one of the oldest houses in Sutherland, dating back to 1880 and the quirky, vintage décor adds to the impression of finding oneself in a time-warp. They are renowned for their tasty Karoo cuisine and people have been known to travel great distances for their famous lamb shank. We concur!