Follow the Owl Route
Did you know?
Helen Martins committed suicide in 1976 at the age of 79.
If the idea of combining mountain biking, art and history appeals to you, then the Owl Route in the hot Great Karoo region - including a stop at the famous Owl House museum - is a trip well worth taking.
The route, in the Sneeuberg Mountains, is reasonably flat and the journey is more about the scenery and serenity than the physical challenge.
Nieu Bethesda, a small rural town 305km north of Port Elizabeth, was established in the 1870s by a group of innovative farmers, lead by BJ Pienaar, who established the farm Uitkyk ("lookout"). Many of his descendents are still prominent in the area today and will greet you with a wave as you cycle by.
The town has retained its historic charm and has shunned modern technology and systems. The town does not even have a bank, let alone credit card facilities or petrol station.
Arid, unspoiled grassland surrounds the town which features some beautiful old buildings, such as the white Dutch Reformed Church building that was inaugurated in 1905.
The Owl House museum is Nieu Bethesda’s best-known attraction, with its garden full of statues (the Camel Yard) that were created by Helen Martins, the lady who inspired Athol Fugard’s play, The Road to Mecca.
Historians refer to Martins as a reclusive, yet immensely talented and passionate person who devoted the majority of her latter years to her sculptures of cement, glass and wire. owls and camels were among her favourite subjects.
The Owl House was declared a national monument in 1991.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Nieu Bethesda Community Tourism Organisation
Tel: +27 (0)82 865 2699