What an amazing church this must be to photograph a wedding in! Its actually in my hometown. I went to visit it now on my last trip home for the first time since I think I left school (which to me feels like it only happened the day before yesterday but of course we all know this is not quite true…).
You think just because i flew off into the night I would keep quiet??? You should know me a little better by now! All the things one can do at night on an aeroplane!!! I mean, hellooo? check it out:
Wednesday 4 May – Country road, take me home
I guess I shouted too loud. Tomorrow came and with it the open road dragging me back to Johannesburg where near obscurity almost eclipses me!
But first, what better a start to a morning than waiting atop the Highlands Mountain Retreat to welcome the sunrise:
And for as far as the eyes can see, the wonder and beauty of nature slowly rolls from sleep to bask in the warmth of the new rays.
It’s a glorious time. And a befitting start to the last day out in the countryside.
When I’m all warmed up and have trapped the suns glow inside my body, it’s a quick dash down to the gardens for a little stretch and one last look at the night’s abode.
Not bad for a backyard I figure.
It’s all too much to bear: the thought of going…….going…..going home.
A hungry tummy soon sends me hurtling down the road in search of grub. Perhaps something exotic awaits me!
Oh how easily the miles go by! Soon I am nearing civilisation and all it brings. But there are no Cherokees to be found or even places to hide. I must be in…….
At the Valley Cats Espresso Cafe I chill in the shade – I guess you could say I have a hint of my future – forgotten in the shadows.
One last swallowing session – who is to say if this is my last meal – and one last look at comfy surrounds.
Oh, this is beautiful, but it’s all too much to bear. I am too fragile for this!
That darn road drags me away from tranquility. Oh how will I get through this?
As comfort for my weary soul, a short stop in Steynsrus to give thanks for the days gone by.
How blessed has this place been to have the NG Kerk for over 100 years!
And as the road again grabs a hold of me, sucking me back to the city, not even the comfort of a stranger can console me now.
Not even the traffic warden can stop the flow of the sadness……………
…… not even the extinguisher is within reach to tame it all.
So, its one last look out the window.
One last glimpse into the open wide spaces of fresh air and freedom.
One last shout into the wind.
One last look at the countryside.
And I close my eyes, too tight to see anything at all, as we whizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz back to the city.
Back to the concrete jungle.
Back to near obscurity for me!
Tuesday 3 May – Luxury, discovery and my first kiss
Don’t rush, take it slow. I will let you in on my smooch moment later!
But first, I wake in a cold sweat before the crack of dawn. “Where am I? Surely this is not the comfort of a hay bale out in the field?”
I’ve been so busy taking in the surrounds that I’d almost missed the Mahem Country Guest House lap of luxury that I’d feasted on: delicious oxtail and malva pudding, prime fillet and home-baked apple tart and full-on English breakfast, all in sure-fire succession. So I wander behind the scenes to say thanks to Lucy and Malindi who so ably assist Sylvia and Jimmy Saunders who own and run the guest house.
Fine outfits they have in this finely run outfit!
In the seclusion of the curio shop I discover so much local art that it really has me wondering just how much more is hidden in this beautiful place.
A step outside and I am surrounded by the treasures of the secret garden and fairies willing to hang around with me. Sweet!
And unlike other teary goodbyes, Jimmy shows me a new way that friends toast “adios and come back soon”.
I guess you could kinda think me a local now. Thanks to Jimmy, who is also active in real estate in the area, I learn to pronounce the town’s name “meer-mel” correctly and even know that the guest house derives it’s name from the two-syllable “maa-hem” call that that the Crowned Crane makes. Aha, and you thought I was just good looking!
As I leave Memel, I have the weight of a confession I need to make! It’s the kind of thing the twitchers would skin me for and make a pair of colourful clown shoes with. At the heart of the town is the Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve, a RAMSAR accredited site [#888]. It’s jam-packed with all sorts of bird life and the area is another of our country’s wetland protectorates.
But I did not visit it. Why? Well, let’s just say I didn’t want to tempt the feathertarian in me. It could have gotten quite fluffy and messy with all them eggs and feathers about. Probably not good for the snake image I am so trying to slide out of.
So I take one last look at the town, choosing to source my grub the legitimate way.
A quick stop at the local saloon to wash it all down with a glass of fresh water!
And finally, a drop a note for Mucho and Maya who are holding up the home base and then some rays before hitting the road.
Let´s go, down the dusty roads again!
And what is it about these hills? Is it that they border the Drakensberg that they have me heading through them again. I could do these views daily!
And then, as if on cue, from behind the hills and bumpy roads, out pops “Smiley’s” the general dealer store in the town of Verkykerskop!
Get a cup of coffee; this may take a few lines.
In times gone by, before you were even a moment of passion, the town was one of the last post hide-outs during the Anglo-Boer war. It is told that the women and children hid on the nearby mountain because it also offered a 360 degree view. And when the dust had all settled and the squabbles were a thing of the past, Verkykerskop became a hidden away farming community.
And so, for a rather long while, it became a beef, sheep, potatoe and apple farming community nestled a shade over 40km from Harrismith. As its hub, the one-stop general dealer.
Until, a day in 2005 when Matt, Beth and musician Chris Chameleon passed through to discover a place that they fell in love with. Together they have transformed the old store and become instrumental in the revitalisation of the dorp.
Sporting a major facelift, the wifi-linked store now offers a roadhouse that even offers pizza on the menu, a much sought-after Sunday buffet lunch, weekly post-office services and a monthly pension pay-out station in the community.
And it’s jam-packed with characters too!
Stefan, the manager of the store, shares that he escaped a year ago from the loud world of music journalism. He’s rather chilled out now and double steps in key as though he has always been here.
Everywhere I look, I’m captivated. The yesterday-was-awesome look about the main restaurant is just special. It’s just my kinda colour scheme.
Why, they even have custom seating for me and accessories to check on the status of my hot bod. Nice!
I’m so fired-up now that I even take to an industrious stint at the till, racking up mega-sales in the process.
Oh, I guess you chuckled at my mega-salesmanship? Ok, beat this: you try and rack up a percentage improvement to rival mine. I went from zero to R1,35 in sales in one shot. Yeah, beat that!
But all work and no play makes for a brown snake, so I take to feeding my IQ in the most charming country library I have yet seen.
And when I’ve got all my lines sorted, head out to the patio and hiss sweet serenades to Chisel who, rather sadly for me, is soon fast asleep in creamy dreamland. I wonder why they refer to cuddly Chisel as “the Old Man”?
Now just as one hottie goes to sleep, another appears. I must be a magnet for chicks!
Beth, co-founder and co-owner of the joint works her way up to me and fills me in on the details. She oozes passion for the changes to what was an almost forgotten town.
It’s all about top-notch service with Beth, who’s past life as a music production exec has been traded in for this creative out-burst, as she shows me about The Venue, a magical fuel-inspired wedding and events joint they have created.
It easily seats over 120 and together with the accommodation available in the town for up to 80 people, makes for a real hip joint to book and get hitched. Tipex, who is Beth´s friendly labrador is an optional extra at functions.
But while I am lost in my fantasies, I miss the one-on-one-session that’s going down. By the time I get to peep through the door, the best shot’s been taken.
And as if all too soon, it’s time to say goodbye. But it ain’t no teary event. Its rather up-close and personal – full contact, shall we say.
Oom Tokkelos, as he tells me after my first kiss, is rather tall for the legend but the truth is in his embrace. Too much, too soon for me and I am instantly racing for the furthest hills I can get to!
Just to be sure and safe, I wander aimlessly around the countryside and then finally crawl into my overnight abode at the fall of dark. The folks at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park are sweet and graciously have on hand a round and grassed hide for me – something I am familiar with.
After settling in, its the short trip down to the hotel for a bite and more.
Still a little rattled after my embrace, I share my story with Robert Qhekoana who promptly suggests a stiff shot of lime and lemonade.
Nice place this is. Moody and comfortable, just the way I like it.
And as always a friendly soul to share dinner with. After a great buffet and some really interesting conversation with Hans Reuter who is from Germany and is visiting South Africa corner to corner, we cosy up for our playboy shot.
Afterall, I have had my share of embraces for the day.
Back in my room, I take cover. Much to think about, much to be thankful for.
Come on tomorrow!
Monday 2 May – On top of and out in the untamed world
There are good days and there are days to really remember. This is one of them.
Breakfast in style and a few turns down the road and the call of the open spaces shouts it’s greeting!
My venom is racing and I’m all go-go-go when what do you know, over the horizon and as if straight out of a timeless novel come Tredoux (11) and Christian (9) Willemse, cowboys to the core.
And if you’re wondering what’s in a name, then eat your heart out: this is an authentic pair. The boys were heading home having taken their family’s beef herd out to pasture. Home schooled and kitted the way cowboys ought to be, even their steeds “Savannah” and “Chivas” boast fitting names.
“Can you speak Zulu?” they ask. But after my fumbling and learning that “Jeanette” is teaching them the local lingo at home, they figure galloping away is best. Eish!
But I soon learn that I am not the only one left behind and after a little bit of neighing with the onlookers, I canter on down the dusty road as they watch me, probably wondering if my bright coat will keep its colour in these sandy surrounds.
My ego is dented. But this place is teaming with views to beyond and further.
And while I am still thinking over this whole “Zulu” thing, I wander straight into a steak-out.
There are soloists
[Rather cosy] duets
And the [shall we say, unruly] mob.
And there is loads of evidence of their lack of concern for the environment. But I’m not about to get drawn into a meaty argument about greenhouse gases!
Further down the road, I come across donkey, ass-ing about in the distance.
I shout. I call. I whistle. No response. I give up. It’s no wonder this particular specimen did not make the Shrek cast!
Trying to communicate with animals is not proving to be much fun or even remotely successful. It’s so bad, I even consider striking up dialogue with some rocks.
But these fellas won’t budge for anything or anyone.
I head higher up the hills to get some clean air and freshen up my thoughts. Its peaceful here, 2005 metres above sea-level
And I am not alone. Nor am I the only colourful one here.
Did-not-get-his name is a tad grass-stick-jumpy and does not seem keen on idle chat or taking in the scenery, so I head down to the lowlands again in search of anything to hook up with.
A few miles later and as if heading into nowhere-mans-land, I come across “Boing-Boing”. That’s not really his name, but Richard sure does walk with extra spring in his step.
Richard “Boing-Boing” [sorry, I just had to say it one more time] tells me he is travelling from Memel to Mount Pelaan……………………on foot…………….over 25km! In between sharing some interesting tit-bits about the area, he hitches a lift with us down the Normandien pass where we even stop to greet a local visitor who has his motorcycle, fishing rods and bed on the back of his bakkie!
And a short while later, as if getting a serious chuckle out of it all, Siphamandla Sibaya is on hand at the Normadien filling station to confirm that it’s closed.
Ain’t much point in hanging around a joint that’s all caged up and so it’s further around the loop to the little village at Koenigsberg. There the locals are all smiles and eager beavers for pics.
I even get to meet someone with a smile and a wardrobe just like mine!
I also get to make Google eye friends with little people my height
Fezeka (7) and Asanda (3) Mathebula are as wide-eyed as can be at the sheer sight of me and its quite some time before they are so much as cosy with me. But not being no slouch myself, and also to fit in by doing something of use for them, I wander over to the water pump and put in some honest work for the day.
A little while later, and still about work and good deeds, I use duct tape, some bubble gum and my know-how to soon have the broken down van back on track.
But there has to be a limit to all this hard manual labour, so I catch my hissy breath – by the bale – before soaking up the warm glow of the end of the day
And then the open road escape to the comforts of my abode at the Mahem Country Guest House for some serious dining!
Today I did it all. The lows, the highs, the ups and the downs. And I showed my mettle as an avid explorer, a smile-maker and a do-gooder. Try and beat that!
Sunday 1 May – Moving on down the road
“Anton you going to come and play with me?”
Now if you don’t think that’s funny, then know that at three years old, Jenny has a much more inviting sense of humour.
Can there be anything more joyful than sharing laughter and bacon first thing in the morning? Jenny tickled me silly and showed me up close how she could put away one slice of bacon after another. Perhaps it’s the influence of all the horsing about here. Her siblings and parents, Julie and Douglas Welsh who own and run the Hilldrop Bed and Breakfast, are very keen equestrians with countless national and Olympic awards!
And then there is also Terry and Chipo, always close at hand to keep a steady supply of eats and an eye on our mischief too.
Chipo comes from Masvhingo and Terry comes from Radcliff in Zimbabwe. Oh what lovely people they are and it’s sad hearing them reflecting on their home country. “Most people just want to go home.”I hear them say.
I browse about.
Not everyone here is all that athletic!
But what’s with all the quiet and absence of activity. Isn’t “workers day” when all the workers are about and showing what it is they really do.? No? Oh well, I am always the faithful hand and so I set about doing what I do for work. And that is play!
Oh this is fun and I have a jolly good go at it! When I coil my tail and use that too, I can soon see over the tree tops! But I am quickly springed-out and so I take a moment to practice the Dog words that Snoopy taught me. But I am not o sure if Ridgebacks are quite into friendly conversation.
I gotta make my mark here too. So I take to the net and try my hand …..don’t be silly now… at mini-tennis. That sounds a lot nicer than calling it volley ball with a bat don’t you think?
It’s time to go, but I just have to check on the award-winning steeds [oh, that’s a real word for real deal winning horses, not like those coin operated mutes at Shell Ultra fuel stops].
This workers day holiday thing is taken seriously I guess and it’s all rather quiet.
So I take my queue from that and figure, Ant’s gotta slow-down for the day, take it easy, keep it on the down low, chillax and kick back. I take to the dice and then head for the hills.
Later that evening and after another more-than-full-tummy of delicious grub, I settle in at the Mahem Country Guest House in Memmel.
A cuppa of the fine tea on offer and a spot of reflection on my travels and then its lights out.
Saturday 30 April – Moving on down the road, up the road, down the road, up…
Have you ever started the day with that feeling that you got to hold on to something real tight? Well in my case, the simple sight of lacey laces had me knotted and clinging for dear life.
And then it was all just too much for me. Unable to swallow breakfast, I just coiled there while fellow guests at the lodge, Maurizio, Antoinette, Nicholas and Angelo, tried to cheer me up. Not even a hard-boiled egg could go down.
Maybe it’s the 5 1 5 6 dice throw plus the ladder to 91 that now sends me 91km South West!
So I browse around the guest house, searching for my mojo.
And what do you know, thanks to the icon of cartoon character-makers, I find the inspiration to get my groove back!
Now there is no stopping me and its back to my ensconced celebrity persona! First off, face-off with Nicholas. He can’t hold his expression long enough and so I win.
Next stop, at the coalface, with Lizzie who has been so kind in sorting the housekeeping.
And even some down on the ground time with the hoofed ones. Now Snoopy – aka, Snoop Dog –is just that and holding his attention for an instant is quite a feat. His is a world of run, run, jump, lick, hug, run, run. Hardly the makings for any form of intelligent conversation.
I guess Juju and and Sponky have long figured Snoop’s issues as they just hang background, never so much as licking their thoughts on his jump-pa-dee-doo-ness.
But the road is calling and I have the gut-wrenching task of hissing goodbye to our host, Wendy. Oh what a fab lady she is and what a darn awesome host too.
Wend’s, I hope you get a great offer for the sale of your guesthouse and see you back in Jozzi!
Oh goodbye’s are always so depressing, they can take the life out of anyone. And that sure leaves me feeling morbid.
So my short stop at the local cemetery – and no pun intended, as it’s also at the dead-end of town – has me looking beyond the hills, sending a chill down my spineless body. What’s out there and what awaits me?
Another short stop, this time at St Mark’s and I have a big piece of the answer!
I’m back on track, just like that. Nothing like a church fix to put the spring, bounce and colour back into my soul! Even my new friends are delighted to meet me.
Pam, who breeds and trains Appaloosa horses in Wakkerstroom, sisters Grethe and Anita from Jozini and Gabby from Pretoria soon share saddles and a trot with me. Nice! I tell you, if these gals were about in the
mid-west era, we’d never have said adios to the cowgirl age. We’d all still be slinging it out there, donning [lacey?] boots and spoors!
Heading out of town, I can’t help but notice how peculiar behaviour is out in the country side. It’s either dead still, or frighteningly fast
Fortunately, its darn beautiful none-the-less.
Some way between two places with no names, guess what? Nothing! Yes, nothing but hills, hills and grass!
And everywhere you look it´s just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful nature.
Well, and local beauties Sameketsiwe and Nomphumelelo
The girls are a bit tall for me, even though they are only 12years old, but it’s interesting to learn that they received their new bicycles a month ago through the Shova Kalula Bicycle Project which gifts rural children with
bicycles to travel to school on. Now their morning commute to Sinqobile Primary School only takes them an hour!
More hills and more valleys and without no announcement, the village of Ingogo is staring back at me.
How it got its name remains a mystery…..but the locals and I are “in” – we’re mates no less.
And just to make me red-green-orange-blue-purple-brown-yellow-white-black-teal-aqua-turquiose with envy, a KZN mamma sports a beanie that I can´t find, yet!
And because I am still lost, Google don’t work here and there is no cell phone access, I do the millionaire thing and call a friend.
No prizes for guessing how long – I can’t say the telco’s name in case I get sued – it took the operator to give me the wrong location and wrong directions. My snakes and ladders board is more reliable!
So I slide down the highway and escape to the nearest location with mass civilisation. And even there I am misled. It ain’t everything new nor are there any castles here. Luckily, the smart and cosy finishing’s
at the Hilldrop B&B put the real meaning back into calling this town Newcastle.
Time to shake off the day’s countryside dust
And slither between the sheets for some serious civilised movie time. But what all the fuss is about blue movies I may never know.
271km South East from base and loving every moment. Am I really living this or am I dreaming!
Friday 29 April – The morning after the day before
The perfect start to a morning after a big night out, even in a small town is to: a] start early and go out for a jog; b] grab a camera and dash out to take sunrise pics; or c] sleep in late?
Well I will have you know that this morning, not even every single chirping bird in the nearby wetland could so much as rouse me from my slumber. As it is, the local rooster is now taking his 5th Lozenge after his failed attempts. That’ll teach ‘em!
At a shade after 1pm, I wound into the Wakkerstroom Country Inn planning on some grub. But before I could so much as case the joint, smiles and the lens were being pointed at me. First off, Helen Sikiti rubs up on me against a wall ……..of hats and even out-smiles my sleek looks.
A burger order later, I am chilling with Tania on the patio and wondering to myself why it is that there aren’t any goggles that would fit me like hers.
Now it’s all good having fine looks like mine, but I gots to keep my hot bod in check and so I gave Theresa, on holiday from Hannover in Germany, the opportunity of a work-out on her bike:
And seeing as I am also quite the gentleman, I also let her have the joy of pedalling and steering while I rest my weary noggin a little.
But all that wind blowing through my hair [oh come on, just imagine it!] has me hankering after the open space again. So I head over to the vlei in search of, …..things to see, …… things to do, …….and, …..
because I am feathertarion, the thought of a bird haven has a rather soft ring to it.
This place is just teeming with stunning vistas!
To the untrained eye, you’d mistake me for goofing about. But this is serious stuff. I search the highs and the lows of the wetland. I scope the scenery and even keep an eye for the nocturnals at sunset
But it’s not my day and as I leave, I touch sides with Thulani Mbtha and Sphamandla Luvono at the gate.
After a rather confusing exchange between us in Zulu and Snake, I concede defeat and tail it to the guest house.
But this exercise thing is stalking me. So I do the Frank Sinatra – my way – and sit me in the saddle seriously thinking about my victory speech at the Tour de France. Problem is, my ride ain’t got pedals, tyres, brakes, gears, a bell, handgrips, a chain, a saddle, tubes, a light, ….and some other stuff.
But never you mind, just the thought of it all has me all worked up and what do you know, I am soon needing a scrub down, especially as it´s Friday night!
Quite the outdoor beauty I am; au naturelle.
Laventaba Guest House is a far cry from my regular den but I can handle it. Jam-packed with antiques and art, it oozes character and old-world charm; just the place for me, my antics and heart
A flash later and a short trip down the drag, and I am soon dining in style at The Bistro@Metamorphis Gallery. Nothing but the best for me and the menu leaves me spoilt for choice.
In fact, it’s all so good that I call in afterwards on Chef Lizzie to land my personal thanks.
Now don’t get this all wrong and stuff, but that ain’t me about to wash dishes. It’s just a friendly cleaning of some of the excesses of a fine night’s cuisine……complements of the chef no less!
And so weary and worn, I slither to bed, to the comfort of a fire-warmed room and soft down feathered pillows. I may have missed my chance at the wetland, but we feathertarions like our birds any which way we can lay them down.
Thursday 28 April – Choked, poked and stroked
Life is not always about basking in the sun and soaking up them rays. Every so often, life curves you a throw-ball and the breeze calls in. From the warm and cosy lap of indoor luxury, 2/3 of me was soon thrust into the back of the car, jostling for curl space between cameras, notebooks and maps and all the while, the remaining part of me was stuck out-door! Travelling down the motorway at over 90km/hr with your head wedged outside between an almost closed window…….had me, let’s say, choked. Lots of wind, lots of scenery whizzing by and lots of fruit flies too. Not the time to be wide-mouthed, complaining too much!
Thankfully, the miles went by quickly and my prayers were soon answered…..at the NG Kerk in Morgenzon:
And after a little browsing, it finally dawns on me what the relationship between “Donderdaag gesluit” and the big padlock on the door is. Another notice not written in Snake.
Then all of a sudden, I think my luck is in! The sound of hissing has me fantasising about a mate and what the damsel looks like. And will she be swept off her feet by my colourful looks? Frantically I slither all around in desperate search for her. Nowhere to be seen. Around the car, under the car…….only to face the grim disappointment that the sweet hissing that lures me is nothing more than a tyre loosing air. What goes in must come out: and them particles [see, I did learn woodwork at school] were eager to escape the confines of the wheel into the wide-open air.
A short trip to the Shell garage for repairs. And just as quickly, my luck is out again. Wedged in the window, this time there ain’t no scenery going by either. With little if any venom in my veins to keep me alive–the widow is now closed fully – all I can do is watch the repairman get on with their work.
At the first opportunity, I escape into the workshop. I am drained and need to recharge:
And just like clock-work, to the rescue come CR, Marisa and Mika! Their enthusiasm to meet me works wonders for the much needed restoration of my pride and dignity. Now I know why they call this the workshop.
Gotta luv Mika’s pink bow and it has me wondering how I’d look in Yorkie fashion mode!
Darn, its lunch-time: gotta eat! And Ta Doris’s Coffee Shop is just the place to be. Bubbling over with treats, eats, jewellery and curios, I slither in, cause the usual chaos and yet find myself captive for over an hour.
It’s the raucous laughter and hearty smiles of Doris, Jacqui and Alicia that have me thinking of what a nice place this to be. Even slippery me would want to curl up in this place:
But it´s Princess Delia that steals the day. And if you are reading this William, I think you missed the girl!
But I gots to go!
Ok, sit down, take a breath. It’s about to get dirty!
An hour later its hills, fields and valleys in all directions. And dusty, dirty gravel roads are all it takes to take one’s fresh breath away.
And when I am feeling truly out in the wild, wild west [this is after all, out in the wild and west of the start of my day], on the horizon appear three rangers and their steeds:
Ok, “rangers and steeds” is probably stretching it some, but give a guy some room to horse about now will you! Mvulane Khoza shares that he is in Grade 12 at Mzamo High School in New Castle. He hopes to go to university next year to study marketing. Schweet! Both his brother, Thembekani, in Grade 9 and his friend, Bongani Mthethwa, in Grade 12, school at Kuthake Secondary School in Wakkerstroom. Spirited trio these are and after some chitty-chat-chat, they trot out into the distance leaving me again to my own adventures.
So you still think me a sissy do you? Well then, try this: poked and balancing on a barbed wire fence with the sun blazing in the background and a mountainside on your back:
And as if that was not pain enough, I even have to go, somewhat uncivilised, in the grass:
Sometime later, feeling like it’s time to change up my mode of travel, I find myself waiting, waiting, waiting and waiting for the train that never came.
I guess you could say, I came off the rails.
So I wander further into the magic wetland of Wakkerstroom.
And what will you know, I figure out why the gravy train never showed: it’s stuck in transit:
Its along story, really it is, and even my candidature lasts longer than I would like to. So, when forgotten about on the fence, I watch in despair as the car goes away leaving me there alone. Luckily I learn that I am the only snake on the fence as when out of public sight, the fence debates are all friendly and about constructive and productive exchanges. These guys would do well to be the same when the lights are on them!
Never soon enough, the car returns in great haste and I soon am being placated by excessive stroking for the grave oversight. How could I continue my travels if the local folk had voted me in to office!
A while later, it’s our hostess Wendy who runs the Laventaba Guest House that strokes my aches away with a trip to the local joint. On her top-notch recommendation, I am soon gorging-out at the Mucky Duck Pub & Grill to delightful dishes of coq au vin and beef stir-fry. It’s the local club night and the hostess Pat has me in stitches. Not a bad thing, she being the local nurse too.
It’s a wonderfully raucous place in the heart of Wakkerstroom – the drinking village with a birding problem – and the folks are all ablaze with laughter and smiles. That there is also a resident Mucky Duck Family to pose with, soon has me draped over “a box of friends”.
I remember that these folks did all sorts of charity and fund-raising for the area and that they were also active members of Bird Life – the town being the home its head quarters- but honestly, that’s about all my wine-head can recall. “Don’t blame it on the sunshine, don’t blame it onthe moonlight, don’t blame it on the good times, blame it on the ………..boogie”!
Wednesday, 27 April – I bet you did more than me today
“Lazy” [lay-zee] – adjective – averse or disinclined to work, activity or exertion; indolent
Need I say more?!
My dreamtime fears about Nero and Pucca were seriously misplaced. If anything, Nero could lick me to death and Pucca’s short-term memory would kill me with laughter.
“A Gem”, that’s the way to describe this beautiful place. So beautiful in fact, that the dice got the day off. So I chilled and ambled around the farm.
“Slow down and smell the roses” you say? Well I did that and more. And if you thought my Google eyes were just for good looks, then you have never used them to peep through a crack in a wall.
Playing on the safe side, I took no chance at idling across the courtyard. Who’s to say what may be lurking overhead and I’m not about to end up on Mrs Hawk’s dinner table.
Over at the dam I stumble on some trees, just standing there and blurring in the wind. Why they have to have their feet soaked in water all the time just makes me weep. Willows are rather odd thinks I.
Over on the other side is yet another tree. Rather lonely looking and I think it wise not to go over and disturb what may be quiet time. What’s with all this meditating and solo stuff out here? These folks should branch out more and hang out in a bunch!
My itch needs a scratch and so I slip away for a little more adventure around the surrounds, checking on the locals and what they get up to. I guess Mary didn´t go to school today…
These velvet clad types huddle closely and whatever they mean by constant moo-mooing remains a mystery to me. It’s hard not to notice who wore the wrong suit today!
And it’s also impossible to miss, shall we say, the weary photographer trying her hand at whispering. Say, was she trying to tenderise the fellow?
But fame stalks me! Wherever I am, it’s never too far from people who know a celebrity when they see one!
Hardly a spin it was, given the speed of travel in that watcha-ma-call-it. I’ll stick with my coil-system so long!
Aaah, never enough excitement in one day is there? But on this, trust me. No rumours. A three course meal and fire-side snooze is how I curled my day towards its end. You probably did more than me today, but did you dine like King Cobra?
Afterwards, at the fire-side, I entangle with my hosts and learn some interesting things about them. Dineke leads a double life! A hostess farmer by weekend and an Afrikaans and Dutch lecturer for UNISA and the University of Pretoria by week. Lekker ek se! Her weekly trip out there also entails an evening out with her choir while Cor hangs back at the farm, kinda not sliding into retirement. In all of a few minutes, he downloaded so much rich history about the farm and the area around Bethal that my mind was soon in a twist. That is the stuff of encyclopaedia, guidebooks and reference works.
I mean,….. I even came to learn that my not-so-friendly-as I-am, cuzzie Rinkhals, hangs out in the surrounds. But he is no shade on the magic of sightings of Crested Grebe and Blue Korhan out here. Ask the folks at Pasella and Peter Lawson who have been out here recently for just that!
Dineke and Cor are truly outstanding hosts and their guest house could not be run any better. Who else would let a stuffed cloth like me end the day in such style?
Am I living the life, or what? Oh, what dreams are made of!
Tuesday, 26 April – So I met a girl, another girl, another girl and yet even another!
Sparrow fart, and I am up in no time flat. Problem is, it’s just me so I kill time at the snooker table.
And in case you are wondering, I put that 8 ball straight in the pocket……..on my 23rd attempt! Not my finest skill.
The morning peace is interrupted by the shout of “Mealies! Mealies!”……just kidding, but girl #1, Blessing, came by early to get on with the housekeeping. Of course that’s the fastest way to send me on my way and soon enough the two of us are posed outside her house [if you consider that the owner, Boro, spends less time there than she does!] and then, …….like, even I am surprised that I kipped in such a larnie place for the night. Say, am I living the life or what?!
But is already after 11h00 and I am starving!
Can you imagine a cafe? Well I did more than dream it, I slid over to Imagine Cafe and got tangled in the visual art feast on offer.
After 5 minutes of squinting at the menu, I still haven’t ordered. Why? I can’t read the menu: it’s not in Snake. It’s in Afrikaans!
And while they fashion- up my kos I head in to the Hot Gossip Hair Salon and let girl#2, Marelize work me over. They ain’t got dreads so I settle for a no-wash’n’go.
I browse some more. This place is bursting with all sorts of gems.
And I even get to meet starry-eyed Sune and Jeandre who were chilling and sipping sodas.
They smile so kindly at each other that soon I too am feeling fuddly-duddly inside. So I glide away and search every nook and cranny!
Fresh from the disappointment of a girl that does not talk back, I am soon back in the salon shooting the breeze with Chane’. Girl#3 smiles at me,…..she even looks me in the eye…..but what’s that rock she’s wearing on her finger? Darn!
Who threw the dice again! 5 5 5 3……I guess I got to go 108km South East!
It’s so tough having to leave that I end up doing some soul-searching in the gardens. “How do you get such fine looks? I ask of all these beauties.
“Anton. Anton” that’s all they reply. Who is this Anton Smit?
Aaaaaah, the bush and countryside!
I am so tempted to just crawl into familiar surrounds, but that would mean no one to share stories with Mucho and Maya back at the base!
Two hours later and I am unstuck [again]. Round-and-round-and-round-and-round in circles looking for the tourist information office in Witbank!
Luckily Trevor Noah is the background reminding me of the humour in all of this and Girl#4 is soon wrapped around me too. Gloria tells me she is from Harare in Zimbabwe and that she has been in South Africa for a year. She smiles! Mara on the other hand is serious and after 5 mins of him spelling the name of his village in Congo, I think I have figured why he moved here. You don’t believe me? Ok, try pronouncing “Komin Matete Q.Kinda”!
Google to the rescue again! Dashing down the R550 towards Bethal, a glance eastwards and the power behind the power is in full view. No shortage of power stations in this locale!
18h15 I am safely at Poplar Grove Guest Farm. Nice!
But heck, I am toast. 191km for the day and 96km South West from the start of the day. Yeah, I am finally out in the real countryside and now 146km South West of home!
But before I sleep, I remember the others I have just seen on the farm: the scary sight of burly Nero, who must be an exotic mix of Boerboel and St Bernard and the never-stopped-barking miniature Doberman “Pucca”. What will the morning bring thinks I?
Monday, 25 April – End of Day
Oh what drama!
After a fair flow of tears, I eventually got Mucho and Maya to understand that even if they could hide in the trunk of the car, they still could not go with me. What is it with those two trying to slither away on my ride!
So I stretch out for the obligatory portrait.
And at a shade before 15h45, crack the dice on its maiden roll:
1 2 2 4 = 36 GREEN and that’s 36km SOUTH EAST. But wait, my luck is in and a ladder boosts me through to 44! And so its 44km SOUTH EAST at the start of my escapade. Nice!
The going is real easy without the normal traffic and soon we are running out of road. At 53km from home, its time to pull in at the Total 1-Stop shop.
Not for ice-cream – silly – but to wow the locals with my slinky looks!
First out the starting blocks, an ecstatic Mzwakhe Kubheka is so taken by me that he wonders if our pic will appear in the Sunday Times! Some folks are just…….well, lets say, too happy to meet me.
Another shot at the dice …6 1 3 3 and its 76km NORTH EAST.
Soon it’s a quick stop in Nigel and I am lost in thought at the fantasy of an all-winter snooze in those warm grain silos.
Aaaah, the sunset in the rear window is just awesome.
It’s getting dark and I gotta lay my head down some place. So with Delmas in sight, it’s the task of finding a comfortable and cosy corner for the night. But whoa!, after an hour of going to and fro, three B&B’s bomb out. Perhaps I should have packed a pot-plant to cradle in.
Without a place to sleep, I figure a drink or two will do.
While Nathi stirs my favourite poison and the kitchen hustles up my grub, I shoot the breeze with Shady, the manager of Mike’s Kitchen in Delmas.
After a little fumbling on Google and a call or two, it’s back in the car and sliding through to Bronkhorstspruit Dam where I can lay my head at the Terrace View Guest House. Although it’s dark on arrival, all indications are “real nice place”…………but I guess morning will prove itself.
Sleepy time…….after the hard choice of which of five rooms to sleep in …ha, ha, ha….and then its bedtime prayers and this note for you.
Two cracks at the dice today, 5hrs and 192km of travel and I’m – as the crow flies – all of 73km from home! Go figure!
Monday, 25 April – Why you looking at me like that?
No more slithering in the garden for me this week ahead. The pot plants will have to keep themselves company because I won’t be here to slip the debris and rain off their leaves.
Oh, yes, the name’s Anton!
Yeah that’s me and I’m hittin’ the road come mid-Monday afternoon. Sliding out’a town for a break! Where am I going? Well, let’s say, I’m going to play snakes and ladders around the countryside!
No kidding that’s my compass for the week and it goes like this:
- Up to 4 spins of the dice:
- 1st spin: EVEN numbers send me NORTH, ODD numbers send me SOUTH
- 2nd spin: summed with 1st spin, gives me the first digit on the board
- 3rd + 4th spin: summed, give me the second digit on the board
- First and Second digit are my marker on the board and set the boundary of my travel
- WHITE sends me EAST, GREEN sends me WEST
- Let’s say I throw; 6, 3, 4 3 | that’s 97 which is green on the board = 97km North West. It’s that easy!
So here is the low down: I’ll be up to all sorts of things this week – popping in to some yet unknown places, trying out local cuisine and attractions and even taking pics with the people I meet. You get my drift?
So check back her on Nat’s blog, as I will drop a post every evening. You may be surprised what I may get up to!
But first I got tell Mucho something important. He’s been waiting patiently:
Well, I guess the news that he does not get to head out with me didn’t go down well. Poor fellow is floored!
Cheerio for now!
Behind the Stories
My name is Nathalie. I am an official Fujifilm X-Photographer and a professional corporate event, portrait and lifestyle photographer. In my spare time I love telling stories and pursuing personal creative projects.