And now for something a little different…
I was in a reflective mood as I reversed my car out of the driveway and headed off into the early morning sun. Road trips can be tedious, but as a travel writer, they are a part of my stock-in-trade. This baboon seemed to encapsulate all that I was feeling on a recent 6-hour drive that I undertook alone as it was work-based. Short of playing mind games, which I do very successfully, and listening to copious amounts of music and the several scheduled comfort breaks, with or without coffee, our National roads can be boring and tedious. Turning off them to take back roads where possible is one solution. Another is to stop and take pictures along the way, which is something I do on a regular basis when travelling by myself.
For those, like me, who travel the N4 northwards on a regular basis, will have experienced the mist/fog that seems to descend as you approach the Belfast turn-off. On this particular trip, the sky had been a clear blue with not a hint of cloud. As I approached the turn-off I could see the fog bank building up and causing the N4 and the turn-off to the R36 to almost vanish! Thank goodness for Goole maps who directed me to take the exit that I almost missed.
Fact: It was interesting to note that while I was stopped on the side of the road to get the correct camera and lens combination for this shot, a passing motorist stopped to see if all was OK or if I needed assistance. Others just passed at speed, perhaps reticent to get involved. Or, if I give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they did not see me in the mist! Personally, once out of the safety of my vehicle, I felt like I was in a John Carpenter horror movie…
I decided that given the fact that the next 86km could be in conditions like this, I decided to stop and take some pictures. Hoping that by liking time here would give the fog time to lift further down the road. Wishful thinking on my part. The 33km from Belfast to Dullstroom can be very dangerous to drive under these conditions. It seems that very few motorists obey either the 80km speed limit or the “No overtaking” signs along the way.
Fact: On my return journey a few days later and in perfect weather conditions, I drove past a car that had rolled! No other vehicles seemed to be involved and on a straight section of the road. By the time I arrived on the scene, the driver had been extricated from the vehicle and was sitting forlornly on the side of the road while others came to her aid.
Dullstroom was shrouded in a fog and it was hair-raising trying to negotiate streets, where the stop signs loomed out of the opaqueness at the last moment. For those who know the town, this was taken outside the Beans about Coffee roastery and coffee shop. And the road from here to Lydenburg was not much better. Given the extremely misty conditions, windy roads and crazy drivers, the 55kms to that metropolis was a white-knuckle drive.
With all the town/city and street names that have been or are in the process of being renamed to remove South African history pre-1994, I am amazed that this tunnel, together with others on this stretch of road, have not had their names changed as yet. (The other name that surprised me are the Hendrick Verwoerd Tunnels on the N1. He was the final Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa before declaring us a Republic in 1961. He continued as Prime Minister until 1966 when he was assassinated. Given his place in South African history, I would have thought that this would have been one of the first name changes to be authorised.) There are some local curio shops that motorists can stop at, but not much else to do here. That being said, the scenery is breathtaking and taking a moment or two to stop and enjoy that will not add too much time to a journey.
Fact: This tunnel, on the R36, was opened on May 8th,1959 and was named in honour of J.G Strydom who was the South African Prime Minister between 1954-1958.
In a hollow, on a bend in the convoluted mountain part of the R36 are the remains of what looks like an old farmhouse. I have driven past it on numerous occasions, but on a recent trip I decided to stop and investigate. Peeling paint in what could have been the kitchen was literally all that was left. Aside from some broken walls and the reminder of old plain white tiles that still cling to some of the surfaces. How anyone lived here is beyond my imagination. There must have been a water source to the house, as I discovered the remains of plumbing in the kitchen, but I could see no electrical connections even close by. It is the remnants like this that make me wonder as to who lived here. Where did they come from, what did they do and, more importantly, what happened to them? There is no town close by so whoever they were they must have led a very isolated existence. Or perhaps that is exactly what they were looking for?
Maybe, just maybe, the owners of that abandoned house were attracted by views like this that abound along this stretch of the R36? this vista forms part of what travellers can enjoy while traversing the Abel Erasmus Pass.
This young Bushbuck ram had taken up occupation in the parking spot I had been allocated at my destination. But with him being on bush time, I had to wait patiently until he decided to move off and allow me into the shade of the carport. I had reached my destination, but my journey was not over. I still had people to meet and a return drive to complete in just a few days time. Is our journey ever truly over?
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