Jacques son Zayne had given his dad the weekend off work. We decided to take newly checked up Zimba for a drive through the spectacular heart and soul of these mountains.
The weather forecast was close to perfect again and once early morning fog had disappeared, the sun came out to shine on all colors.
There are still a few pockets of native bushland left here, not nearly enough of these tall timbers are still standing.
Frikkie had spotted a leopard in these caves before, I had to investigate.
Just like early Voortrekkers, we made our way to Pilgrims Rest, the first gold mining settlement established in 1873.
The golden age left the township but brought tourism due to its location and history.
These mountains roads are particularly popular with motorcycle enthusiasts, for obvious reasons.
‘Johnny’s Bar’, an extremely rustic but friendly South African version of an Irish pub,in Pilgrims Rest and had seen some endless parties over the years, according to Jacques. That I can imagine.
Well, until about 5 years ago. That was when the government decided to cancel all shop leases and renew them to mostly city slickers from Johannesburg. Original owners were given the marching orders within weeks.
Johnny, an original icon in this area, and a few other senior citizens, who could prove their income from their shops, were allowed to stay in this now ghost town.
Listening to Johnny’s stories of old, whilst having hearty South African pub grub,
boerewors and Millie Pap, (boerewors is a typical spicy South African sausage to bbq, Millie pap is made out of the millet grain and has a similar consistency to rice pudding, is cheap and therefore a staple diet) sure was eye-opening. And depressing at the same time.
We jumped back into the zebra wagon to explore further more. We passed clear rivers along oak and gum trees into farming valleys over generations. Jacques wanted to show me something special, he said. And that it was.
Imagine driving into a driveway, driving alongside tall gum trees,
and also a freshwater creek down to a well run, profitable and beautiful farm that was
build from granite rock more than a century ago.
Only to find this. Ruins! The toilet!
The guest room!
And my favorite, the kitchen in this state. The land claim saga in full swing. The neighboring indigenous community literally showed up with a tombstone, dropped it on the property and claimed this land belonged to their ancestors.
This particular farming enterprise was valued at 400 million Rand, with an equal amount of value for crop and stock. All modern machinery, every asset in and around the house had been either dismantled and sold, or broken and damaged, leaving only walls and half a roof to rot. Even electrical cables have been stripped to be sold as copper content, plumbing pipes to be sold at the scrap meter yard. The crops on this fertile land had never been harvested and been left to waste. And never will be. This is only one of the around dozen farms in this area, hundreds in the whole of South Africa.
What is the point of this from government granted land claim? I can’t mistake the obvious! Incompetence to farm this land, greed, and jealousy is what Afrikaner farmers have established. The farms are too far away from townships, too far to travel for booze and tobacco. Everyone grabs what they can to make a quick buck and leaves ruins behind. What a waste is a clear understatement. Jacques motion and emotions changed to vast disbelief. It is hard not to notice. All this doesn’t make any sense in any way.
There is a loss of crop and food for either local or overseas markets, a huge economic loss individually and nationwide. Also a loss of employment, not only by farmers and manager, but loss for up to hundreds of farming helpers per farm. No work equals no money. No money equals crime, boredom and booze. A vicious circle. But most importantly, the loss off faith in politicians and government. It is ridiculous what some people get away with, whilst others get punished whilst defending themselves or loved ones.
Imagine living in this nightmare day in and day out, for the rest of your life. Always with the back against the walls, being prepared for the unexpected. The hardest part to understand is though, that even when caught, the crook gets off with a 50 Rand bail deposit to roam free again. Beat and repeat. Protecting security services are seen as corrupt or too lazy to reduce the danger.
Surely governing bodies around the world are aware of this critical situation. Yet, no sanctions or warnings are sent out. I just don’t understand. No one does.
I met some great new friends off all colors here, I don’t discriminate. It seems that just seeing the opposite skin color on the street, automatically sends out a warning signal from the brain. Watch out, the other color! Shame, shame.
We moved on through more spectacular countryside.
Both of us were in deep thoughts, wondering what the future has in store. It is hard enough to hear about it, devastating to see. One can just hope for the best.
We planned a braai for Sunday as my farewell, before crossing the border over to Mozambique next week.
As it is in emergency recovery business, a call can come in at any time. It did, around 2 am in the morning. Police called, who spotted the lights of a car 70 meters down the embankment of the treacherous ‘Pilgrims Rest’ road. We had just returned on that road yesterday.
The driver was so drunk, that he fell asleep whilst being walked up the hill. Due to foggy conditions, the team had to postpone car recovery until early morning. A long and exhausting day for all involved.
That meant that the Pitbull ‘Rocky’ and mixer bitzer lady ‘Poppy’ were most energetic. For obvious reasons, smelling the food on the Braai.
It’s been an exciting and chilled week here in Sabie. I am very grateful to Jacques and Dolla, Frikkie and Tanya, Zane, Monche-Lee and cute offspring Miles, for their hospitality and friendliness towards me and Zimba. Stay safe and well until we meet again. Cheers.
2 thoughts on “Pilgrims Rest, Northern Drakensberg Mountains”
It seems that some things haven’t changed since I was there late 70’s, only turned in the opposite direction. A sad story in such a beautiful landscape. But also some treasured memories of meeting a great and hospitable bunch of people
Heya Mim, it is the way it goes in Africa… there’s never a harmonious way living together… it doesn’t take much for the minority to stir up an uproar, and there you have it… fast changing landscape, fast changing politics…
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