Well, this is my last night on this farm in the Free state. Again, I am moving on with mixed impressions and emotions. Talking to a lot of people of all ages and skin colours, it is heart breaking how this country is running to the ground. Once a powerhouse on world stage, now a victim of corruption, laziness and and simple uselessness. It’s not that there is a lack of clever people with common sense, they just aren’t in power in those positions. Anyone in the free world thinking their institutions are slow and make no sense, have a holiday here. A lot of people moved away to foreign countries, leaving their home and country behind. And a lot of people are thinking about it, but currency and the thought of leaving family and friends behind are reason enough to stick it out, for now. But on the flip side, I am just as amazed on how helpful and friendly people are towards me.
In particular, thanks to Dina and Dirk, who have ever so much helped me on my quest, traveling Southern Africa with Zimba. A big big thank you once again. Admittingly, without their help, I would have been most likely on the plane elsewhere fed up with the jurisdiction, which is absolutely useless and senseless. And all I wanted was buying a car and traveling around. Imagine you live here and having to deal with this every time you need to organise something. I find the name, Free State quite ironic, as nothing seems to be free in this country, from what I have noticed so far. The wild game is locked up on farms and National Parks for their safety, and the farms are in lock up to keep you and your belongings safe, including your freedom and your life. Many farms had been raided and destroyed by an angry mob, many farmers killed.
But let’s start at the beginning of my stay here on this fabulous farm, so you get an idea. The next part was put on paper a few days after arriving on Dina and Dirks farm.
I was somewhat anxious and excited to meet up with Dina and her family. Dina stayed with us, our family in Halstenbek, as an exchange student back in 1986. Mom and stepdad Jürgen, always happy to meet new people and with a fair history in Africa, were happy for a change of routine. Us four teenage kids enjoyed her stay as well, but kept busy with school, apprenticeships, and just growing up in fast paced Germany. My parents kept Dina busy on trips around the area or around Europe. Apart from a quick visit in 1992, I have not seen or heard from Dina for decades.
When I decided last year to go on an African adventure, I was hoping to get Dina’s details from Mom. I didn’t get to ask her personally, but found correspondence between Mom and Dina. We did manage to exchange a few emails, both sides happy to meet again.
After I realised that the farm is located near the small town of Memel in the Free State, not far from Durban, I booked a bus from Durban to Harrismith. I was happily greeted by Dina and husband Dirk, who took me back to an enormous cattle farm. Wow, what a place. Grazing cattle, herded by farm helpers on horses, surrounded by the greater escarpment of The Drakenberg mountains, a hikers paradise and UNESCO world heritage site. The three puppies, Itty, Daisy and Tessa occupied me as well; as a friendly welcome.
It was an unusually warm and calm today ( I had my own theory on that), Dirk said as we sat on the veranda watching the sunset. I couldn’t resist to take a few photos. We had a typical Afrikaans braai, with boerworse, tasty organic lamb chops and my homemade carrot salad and a beer or two. We had a lot to catch up on and I felt very comfortable in my skin, yet a bit overwhelmed. “Your mom looked after me for a year” Dina said “so please, make yourself a home”. How can I not, in my own bungalow style guesthouse. Wow.
I didn’t know what to expect and thought that we would get along well, but am still amazed by the lengths Dina and Dirk go to, to make me feel at home. In particular helping me to sort out my transport registration number, which literally is a big pain in the butt. All I want is to buy a bakkie ( 4WD) and cruise around Southern Africa. To do so, one needs a registration number, to get in to South African transport system. No one really knows what needs to be done or what papers are needed.
Meanwhile, I experienced a happy farm lifestyle, which included puppy walks on the property, clay dove shooting and plenty of great food, which I was happy to include my knowledge and recipes.
Even had a night out at ‘Memel Hotel’ with happy and pretty company.
The social highlight was the Octobeerfest, which doesn’t need any introduction in any country. I agreed to make and bake home made pretzels, only if a sufficient production area was found. I visited the farm bakery the Friday before, realising it won’t be easy to make and bake 200 Pretzels there.
But what the hell, it was a challenge and new people to meet. The rest of Friday, we tried to organise all ingredients in nearby Newcastle, which was a frustrating but also fun experience thanx to friendly company. Ingredients were hard or impossible to come by. When we picked up the printed leaflets, I found out about a pretzel making demonstration at the Octoberfest. Ha ha, really?
Early start next morning, when I made my way to the Adendorff farm, where I was friendly greeted. Father Pieter showed me his bakery and him and his son Ruhan gave me a hand on production.
Being a perfectionist, I wasn’t too happy with the result. But we gave it a good crack and I made some new friends. Zimba was slipping and sliding on the gravel road as we drove though a large thunderstorm cell to the Octobeerfest. Zimba got covered in thick mud. After dropping of the pretzels and setting up my tent, it was time for the pretzel swinging demonstration with dough I’ve taken to the festival. Ha ha, it was quite amusing showing the ladies on how to roll and swing the dough.
Plenty of beer and food, chatting and laughing followed after, just like in good Octoberfest tradition.
Whilst driving to and through Newcastle following Monday, tying up a few loose ends, Pieter Adendorff reckognized Zimba and myself. After a quick chat, he took me under his wing to organise my day. Being well known in Newcastle, he introduced to me to to a lot of people, who already knew, that I was the pretzel baking traveler. Ha ha, it almost felt like being a celeb. It sure was a fun day,. And most productive day, I encountered here. Again, I am humbled by pure friendliness and helpfulness. Thanx again to Pieter and all friendly people in Newcastle.
Where I am standing now is that Zimba is registered in Dina’s name, and as of today insured in her name too. I even had a hard time getting insurance. Zimba was added two cheetahs in form of new license plates and I hopefully have all papers and enough copies of them, to cross the borders without hassle. The idea (still no plan) is to drive via ‘Sani Pass’, Southern Africa‘s highest pass thru the Drakenberg’s, in to Lesotho. After a few days there, off towards the eastern coast, towards Cape Town. I have to keep an eye on my 3 month visa, which runs out first of December.
As I am not allowed to return to South Africa, after my visa expired, Dina and Dirk offered, to meet and greet me in Mozambique’s capital Maputo and lead Zimba back to the farm whilst I fly out. One thing becomes obvious, this coming adventure wouldn’t be happening as it is, without the help of everyone I met so far,and particular thanks again, to Dina and Dirk. Somewhat anxious on what to come, but I am looking forward to a new challenge.