A visit to Graaff-Reinet isn't complete without a trip up to the Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park. It's hard to say when the best time would be for such a visit though. That depends if you would like to enjoy all the views in bright sunlight, want to take photos in the early morning light or want to see the sun set on the distant Karoo horizon. Personally I like to go up in the late afternoon to go and see the sunset. The biggest drawback of that is that the view of the town from the first lookout point is totally in the shadow of the mountain. This off cause is the total opposite in the morning. But shadow or not, its still so worth the short walk to the top.
Its also from here that you get to see the back of Spandau Kop, the well known natural landmark you see on your left as you enter Graaff-Reinet from the south. Spandau Kop is a typical Karoo koppie which, to somebody who doesn't know what that means, can be described as a flat topped hill and iconic to the Karoo.
A short drive later and a quick walk up the hill brings you to the view site from where the Valley of Desolation can be seen. I'm no geologist and (probably) neither are you so I'm just going to give an basic explanation of what it is. The Valley of Desolation consist of sheer cliffs and precariously balanced columns of Dolerite rising 120 metres from the valley floor. All of this against the timeless backdrop of the vast plains of the Camdeboo. The formation is the product of volcanic and erosive forces of nature taking place over 100 million years. Again I was there too late to get the full sunshine on the columns...
... but I did get this and that is what I was there for. Sunset over the distant plains of the Karoo. Truly Big Sky Country!