As luck would have it, our mid-winter rains arrived on the eve of our departure to the Lephalale Bosveld Show. Woken up by the pitter-patter on the roof I rushed outside to cover the top of the already packed trailer that had the “Fossils, Light & Time” display. Unfortunately the display is just too long and wide to fit inside the trailer and has to be strapped to the top. That done and a few hours of sleep later I was up making a go / no go decision due to rain. The forecasts on three weather sites all showed overcast 5/8th cloud cover clearing later with no rain forecast. It was still raining in Louis Trichardt but the decision was made to go. The next hurdle to overcome was motivating James so early, but surprisingly it proved to be quite easy and he was up and dressed within a few minutes. We hit the road, driving through rain until just after Polokwane, stopping at Mokopane for some take-away breakfast.
Approaching the Waterberg Mountain range, we were once again greeted with overcast skies clearing slightly as we drove into Lephalale. I could not recall exactly the last time I was in the small town that I remembered, but it must have been around 35 years ago. What a change, it is not such a small town anymore, loads of shops, lodges, hotels, shopping centres and restaurants greeted us. Completely different to the one small hotel, garage and corner café, that I remembered all those years ago.
After freshening up at the lodge we were to stay at, we drove to the Bosveld Show and had our display setup with the telescope aiming where the Sun should be by mid-morning. The lead up to lunch time was slow with only a handful of show-goers stopping at the display but it picked up once the modeling to pick the Lephalale Queen of the Show and her princesses began. The solar disk was often obscured by cloud but when it was visible we were rewarded with fantastic views of the huge and still growing sunspot AR 1785 that stretched more than 40,000 km. and was more than 11 times as wide as Earth. We had an interesting mixture of patrons, some journeying all the way from Pretoria and Johannesburg to visit the show including a couple who hailed all the way from Cape Town.
The evening stargazing was also hampered by cloud but we did enjoy views of Saturn every now and again. We were setup close to the evening’s entertainment area and when we had one person at the telescope looking at the ringed planet, word quickly got around and we had adults and children queuing for a look. When the planet was obscured by cloud various astronomy related clips were shown on the screen until it was visible again and the process repeated itself. Around 20:00 we decided to begin packing up leaving the telescope till last before finishing up. It had been a long day which started at 4am and after finishing a late meal it was not long before James and I were fast asleep.