Ann's Villa & Zuurberg – a day trip

GeelKameel's picture

Points: 5

I heard about Ann's Villa at the foot of the Zuurberg pass quite a number of times and included it in a long trip during December 2015. When I first saw Ann's Villa during that trip, I was intrigued by the old Victorian style building. I knew that there was a museum that I would have liked to see. However, on that day all seemed to be quiet and deserted. I had to ride on without seeing more than a passing view, but a re-visit went onto my bucket list.

December 2019 I had an opportunity for a day ride from Port Elizabeth. I would have liked to ride the Bedrogsfontein route near Kirkwood. Their booking office told me that motorbikes are not allowed. Quite sad! sadAnn's Villa and Zuurberg was the obvious alternative.

So, two of us set off on a circular route that would take us past the Darlington dam to Ann's Villa and back to PE via Zuurberg pass.

I also tried my hand at a videoclip from the Relive application

See  https://youtu.be/GPLoOiIv0UA

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 50km of tarred road, we turned onto dirt and lowered tyre pressure.

The road was wide and well maintained.  

There was very little wind, which caused a wide dust gap between the two motorbikes.

Besides passing through some cuttings, a low water bridge and occasional bend in the road, there was not much to see.

Some snap shots taken from the helmet camera video are a bit hazy because of the dust settling on the lens.

 

About 40 km into the dirt we passed along the Groot Winterhoekberg, admiring the Cock's Comb peaks. Beyond Cock's Comb is the very rough Antoniesberg pass, winding towards Patensie​

Turning North towards Kleinpoort

Passing through the Wolwefontein mountain range

 

At Kleinpoort padstal we saw the first of many loads of fodder being transported to the farms.

And water carts transporting water to animals in the scorched veld.

A short bit of tar on the R75, then turning off onto dirt through the Western section of the Addo National Park. No entrance gate or fence here.

Most sections of this road were tweespoor, but well maintained and easy to ride.

Other sections were wide and equally well maintained.

 

 

More evidence of the drought was this water point where Angora  goats were drinking from a dripping tap. All around the water point were plastic containers, presumably for the local people to carry water home.​

 

Turning East towards the Darlington (Mentz) Dam

 

A short rest below the wall of the Darlington dam

All sluices were lifted and a bit of water was flowing in the central area. This dam is built in the Sondagsrivier that carries water to Port Elizabeth area. The water in this dam is augmented by water from the Orange river supply system.

 

Soon we passed through an automated gate into a fenced section of the Addo Park.

Good driespoor roads followed.

An unplanned race with an ostrich provided some excitement. I noted 65km/h when I slowly passed him.

 

Ten minutes later we went out another automated gate, followed by a very long, wide and straight stretch of dirt.

The twenty minutes of close formation riding towards Ann's Villa was a bit boring. Riding very close to each other eliminated the need to form a dust gap.

 

At noon we reached Ann's Villa.

An entrepreneur named John Webster from PE bought the farm in 1854. He built Ann’s Villa in its present form in 1864, four years after the Zuurberg pass was opened. The building was named after his wife Ann, who died at the age of 46, having borne 14 children in her lifetime. Situated at an ideal spot at the foot of the Zuurberg route to PE, Ann’s Villa provided accommodation (seven rooms) and boasted services like blacksmith, wheelwright, bakery, post office and a shop.

I was very happy to actually find that the place was not deserted.

A pleasant young man opened the gate and invited us for a guided tour of the blacksmith's museum and the "shop". At R20 per person it is quite a bargain.

Our tour guide introduced himself as Clever. Well, clever or Clever, his tour was very relaxed and informative.

I found the museum very interesting. In Fort Beaufort where I grew up, there was a blacksmith adjacent to the school grounds. Mister Aylesbury.  We used to be fascinated watching him doing his trade.

His workshop was dark and bit scary to us. It had a dirt floor, low zinc roof and so much stuff all over the shop that it appeared to have footpaths in between everything.

His tools and basic workshop was later relocated to the Fort Beaufort Museum (another important visit for my bucket list) (https://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/bldgframes.php?bldgid=11955)

Today I understand much more of the mechanics of steel work and can much better appreciate what those blacksmiths achieved with very basic and simple tools and controlled heat.

 

Note the ratchet teeth on the hub of this wheel – a pawl and ratchet was used to prevent the wagon running backwards when going up steep inclines.

Clever demonstrating the foot operated lathe for making spokes.

 

Roll forming a steel band intended for making the tread of a wagon wheel.

 

This door is covered by branding marks made by customers. For a long time farmers would mark their cattle by burning a unique shape/pattern onto the hide of their livestock. When a customer had his particular branding iron made here, he would test it on this door.

 

This device in the foreground was inserted into the mouth of a horse, then expanded (see the threaded shaft) to force the mouth open so that the overly long teeth can be filed down ("floating" the teeth).

As a horse ages, the teeth keeps erupting (extending from the jaw bone). At the same time the crowns wears down, usually slower than the eruption (extending) process. So, older horses have longer teeth (if not floated). This phenomenon is the source for two expressions "long in the tooth"  and "don't look a gift horse in the mouth".

 

Two vertical drill presses against the wall.

The "shop" is at the opposite end of the main building. It is quite authentic, especially the little post office in the corner. Complete with an old telephone instrument.

Most of the items are for display only, not much was for sale.

The tiny post office.
 

Unfortunately we could not see the inside of the main homestead because it was booked out by guests. According to their website (https://www.annsvilla.co.za/) it has four guest rooms and is self-catering. Linen is provided.

I found two sites that you may find interesting to read:

https://sallyscottsart.wordpress.com/tag/anns-villa/

https://fireflyafrica.blogspot.com/2014/10/historic-anns-villa-in-zuurberg-turns.html

Zuurberg pass

The Zuurberg pass starts immediately when you ride past Ann's Villa.

The Zuurberg pass is quite long – best part of 20km. It starts with a very rocky climb. Not difficult to keep your line, but quite rough on the bike and legs. From memory I expected the rocky section to end soon, but I was mistaken --- the rocky twee-spoor lasted about 8km. This section of continuous standing to ride the rough road was very taxing on my unfit legs. I had sore and stiff legs for three days! cheeky

While climbing, you regularly see a vista to the left (North and East).

Eventually you reach a more civilised twee-spoor, taking you on a very pleasant winding road all along the edge of two valleys.

A panorama towards the South. Note the airstrip down there.

In about 30 minutes we will be riding on the far opposite side of this valley.

First you circumvent this wide valley overlooking the Elephant Lodge (?) game farm, complete with airstrip way down below you. Last time I passed through here I actually saw an aeroplane taking off far below me.

Beyond the first valley you ride over a short plateau until you reach the edge of another valley. Much smaller and not quite as deep, but beautiful vistas into the far distance. Here are some unprotected drop-offs and tight corners. The drop-offs are by far not as intimidating as those in Baviaanskloof.

 

 

The Zuurberg pass ends at the Zuurberg Mountain Village. The hotel was a welcome stop for a cold beer and something to eat.​

Immediately beyond the Village is a remarkable cutting through the mountain.

This marks the start of the Doringnek pass that winds down towards Courney, Addo and Port Elizabeth. From here the road is in great condition, clearly well maintained. Besides the better road, the vegetation is markedly more lush.

 

Somewhere beyond Courney we were caught in a sudden cloudburst. It did not last long but it was quite exciting to feel wet after the dust of the previous hours.

 

Back home we were welcomed by a hyper excited small dog that tried to drown out the sound of our motorbike engines.

I was surprised to see the battering that the rear wheel took. Going up the rocky back stretch of Zuurberg pass was not easy on tyre and bike and rider.

And so ends another great ride on two wheels!

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The history of the Zuurberg pass is very interesting. Imagine that for about 100 years it was the main route between PE and the hinterland. Today it is pretty much forgotten and seemingly not maintained.

More detail on the Zuurberg pass and Doringnek pass can be found on the Mountain Passes site:

https://www.mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za/find-a-pass/eastern-cape/item/229-suurberg-zuurberg-pass.html

 

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