Cowboy breakfast at Bloemhof Dam… It’s Johanette’s secret bulliebeef recipe plus beans… I’m alone, except for the meerkats so it won’t matter.  ūüėģ

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Angels & miracles

I'd just patted Nyati & myself on the back for getting this far so easily when that irritating little "putter putter putter" sound became a grinding, clacking noise straight out of the worst nightmare.
Here we were, Sunday afternoon, strangers in a strange land, 10 tons of hurting Nyati, getting close to becoming disabled.

Amazingly, 300 meters ahead, a "Star" rest stop sign… "thank God, if only we can get up the offramp, we might find some safety".

Heart in mouth, Nyati & I ground into the truck stop…Thank you, thank you, thank you… Imagine being stranded out on that lonely road, completely at the mercy of some of the world's most discompassionate¬† creatures… My worst fear had been averted but now to find out what, & how bad, the damage was.

Eish… Nyati's right hand rear wheel was a bloody mess. A wheel stud was missing, broken off,¬†some wheel nuts where loose with stripped threads & grease & oil was dripping everywhere. My breathing became shallow, a steel band tightened around my chest, this could be terminal. If the damage went deep into my faithful old workhorse, it could be the end. I needed a miracle. If ever there was a time for those much loved Guardian Angels to make their presence felt, this was it.

Before trying to remove the damaged wheel, I desperately needed a sandwich & some coffee. I was hardly breathing properly, fear & despair were draining me both physically & emotionally, I couldn't face the hardship that I knew lay ahead.

I turned toward the coffee shop & BANG, it happened AGAIN.  It's happened to me before, but NEVER so quickly. There's been the "needle in a haystack" episode involving a gearbox, gypsies & a scrapyard with Carolyn. The "broken suspension" incident deep in Zimbabwe's bandit country with Helen & the kids. Helen & the kids again, with S.Y. Enigma anchored in shallow water on a lee shore off Mozambique, with a broken C.V. joint.

Those "miracles", amongst others, happened over a period of time, this was immediate  ! ! !

Parked at the coffee shop entrance was an Angel. In truth, I didn't actually see the angel,¬† I saw the signwriting right across the side of the bakkie she was driving…


I almost fell over. The only vehicle in the entire place… 2 minutes either way & I would've missed her. I told her of my predicament & she said, with the greatest pride & conviction "Ag, don't worry, my husband & his brother can fix ANYTHING… They're the best mechanics in Bloemfontein".

Call it what you like, I was in SERIOUS & very deep SHIT.  How is it possible that at the very moment, & at the very place I needed one, a very specialised technician was available & willing to help right there & then ?  Reading this, you might scoff, or feel a smirk coming on, but whatever you call the God you pray to, I believe it was His guiding hand.

Thys (the husband) came straight out & started ministering first aid to Nyati.¬† Within an hour we were safely back at the Mayfair Gearbox yard where I met the brother…¬† "My God, another one". Identical twin Charles,¬† also 6 foot plus, a lot of Vry Staat beef. Very difficult to tell apart except that Charles wears a cellphone blue tooth most of the time.

The boys are mentored, supervised & generally harassed by Johan, their Pa, & supported by Johanette their sister, as well as being helped by their uncle… A REAL family affair.

They do everything "by the book" & never allow an "untrained" hand to touch their work apart from lifting, carrying or washing it. ūüėȬ†

This story's getting long enough without going into the details of what was done or why it happened…¬† Fingers can be pointed in all directions,¬† but as Henry Ford said, "Don't find fault. Find a remedy"… I LOVE that… It's the only way forward.¬†

So the boys replaced both sides with genuine Merc. parts. Seals, studs, washers & nuts, machined the wheel hubs to sit flush. (They were damaged previously, we think.) & after topping up with diff. oil & going for a test drive, it was time to pay the bill & leave.

I drove away with a lump in my throat… They had taken me into their family.¬† Feeding & housing me & repairing Nyati to the very best of their considerable capabilities. My God bless them, their families & their business.


I left the wildlife at the mountain top Hunters camp in time to have a traditional boere breakfast of pap 'n wors with coffee strong enough to stand the spoon up in at Di bus stop, & drove towards Bloemfontein where, tomorrow, I want to find a battery fundi to check out why the house batteries aren't performing as advertised. (Any bets on what the recommendation will be  ?)

Nyati loved driving on the dirt roads… No need for speed & the pneumatic seat made life a breeze. Clocolan, Ficksburg & Fouriesburg all slid past surrounded by unending mealie fields. I thought I could hear "duelling banjos".

In my formative years, this's the area our liberal Durban newspapers loved to "skinner" about so much… The naughty church leaders, bridegrooms running off into the mealie fields… & my all time favourite, the paintball whore hunts.¬†¬† Oh Man, I wanted to live here. Excelsior is where the papers said it all happened… Yup that's the route I took.

It was after noon when I stopped at the farm "Wonderboom" & asked the owner, Mnr. Hendrik Bester for a place to park for the night. What a wonderfully hospitable gentleman he was, & very proud of the area, especially the 200 or so LIONS on the neighbouring farm. Certainly no naked paint balling going on here. ????

Early next morning (Sunday) Nyati was gobbling up the road into Bloem. a perfect day, flat road, rev counter stuck on 2200 rpm when the soft putt putt putting sound that I'd been ignoring by incrementally turning up the radio, gradually became a gut wrenching clup CLUP CLATTER… Oh SHIT… DISASTER.

Mountain hide away.

I'd noticed "Di bus stop" on the road to Clarens… A bright red bus, advertising art, adventuring, food, camping & everything in between.¬†

They had a small campsite, high up in the mountains next to a dam, with a rudimentary stone hut that hunters sometimes used… Empty now… Perfect.

The dam water level was very low, testament to the long dry season they've had this year.¬† Which also meant that it's one of the few watering holes in the area… Next morning, after being visited by the local farmer with a packet of magnificent, home made, red¬† hartbeeste boerewors… "He'd seen me braaing the night before"… (Oh, so I AM being watched… But what GREAT Free State hospitality¬† ! )… in the hour between 8.00 & 9.00, the water was visited by baboons, geese, guinea fowl, francolin, horses, eland, a pigeon was taken by a hawk less than 3 meters from me & a pair of coots calmly added to their nest the whole time… So lekker I decided to stay another night… I had plenty to braai, so,¬† why not?


"Hey Boet, you up for a flash" ?

"WHAT" ?

A BIG black dude, dressed in shiny black leathers, astride a monstrous black harley.  A leather covered, German 2nd world war helmet with horns attached, perched on the back of his head.


Slower & louder…
"Fuck me, how times've changed", I thought… "Sure", I said.

He handed me something the size of my old school slate, &, pointing to a huge flashing icon, said… "CAM ER A". Parking the harley beside Nyati, he smiled a perfect pouting smile at me. I took the pic, possibly with a finger obscuring the lens,¬† handed the chalk board back, & he thundered off without another word.

Nyati was parked in the main square of Clarens,  the "jewel" of the Orange Free State.  A peaceful & beautiful tourist trap of a place. Like Pilgrims Rest, formally a working town, now a cute kind of theme park, crammed with "must have" objects de art & running with weird characters like the floppy horned,  bike riding Darth Vader. Thank God I was alone. A "shopper" would need a week, at least.

After visiting the knife making shop, something every visitor to Clarens  should do, & downing a savoury pancake, I bought a hat & left, heading back into the mountains looking for somewhere spectacular to stop for a few days.

Dark Nights

I’ve said it before, but now it can be put into writing… Whoever invented the headlamp needs a medal. It was probably an underage Welsh boy, carrying a canary in a cage, or a filthy tin miner in Devon clutching his lunch by the rolled up crust… Whoever it was… Hats off to you.

How could we have managed braaing in the bush on a moonless night without one?

The Golden gate.

For all its wild appearance, & in your face nature, there’s actually nothing natural about Sterkfontein dam. It’s a beautiful, gigantic man-made bathtub. A massive reservoir of water, pumped in & out as required to produce hydro-electric power… Eish, bloody clever, these umlungus. However, the pass up & into the heart of the Free State beckoned… The Golden gate… Nothing man-made here, except for the ribbon of tar dissappearing into towering sandstone heights. Driving through the mountains is a very humbling experience. The well maintained road twists & turns through hundreds of millions of years of history. At times like this I envy the geologists, & wish I could read the ancient stories told in the huge, multi-coloured striations standing out like mountainous billboards. There’s a rest camp towards the Clarens end of the reserve, its nestled in the bottom of a canyon, all shiny & squeaky clean… Paved roads, perfectly symmetrical camping sites with trimmed edges… Mmmmm, nothing wild here. Not so lekker for Nyati, but, for tonight, it’s home. The receptionist asked what my residential address was, I told her, “NU 11399”. Hee hee, I love it.

Moving on

Nyati & I bade farewell to Midmar dam & it’s very accommodating camp sites, & headed for the OFS. It had been a great place for the first stopover. Close enough to home for disbelieving friends to drive up to, to make sure I was REALLY going. Can you believe it ? :-).

No more N Roads if it can be helped… back roads from now on.

Immediately, I recognised the forgotten beauty of the Nottingham Rd, Mooi River & Estcourt farmlands all along the old R103. How had I forgotten so quickly ? Our new, but soulless tollroads have put another, unforseen price onto fast road travel… WOW… I remember now, slow down, if you can, take the old routes…meander… We live in a very special place.
At one time I thought perhaps I was on the wrong Road, then I remembered… there isn’t one. ūüėČ

Through Winterton & Bergville & onto the daunting Oliviershoek pass. Nyati’s most daunting hurdle so far. Water temperature up into the 90’s, slowly, very slowly we crested the mountains & were rewarded with breathtaking views all across Natal. This’s a sight no one can ever forget. I can’t get enough of it…from sitting in a berg cave, or in Nyati’s warm & comfortable embrace… Soul food.

No, before you ask, I couldn’t see your house from there!!

Finally, onto Sterkfontein nature reserve, similar to Midmar, but very much wilder. Nyati’s 4wheel drive capabilities took us to an otherwise inaccessible spot in the wilderness where the truck was surrounded by all sorts of edibles… Tempting, but the fridge’s still well stocked. :-S

Hey, hey…altitude + sunset = bloody cold. The moment the sun went in, so did I.

Life’s new chapter.

08.30 Friday, 14th of August 2015… Nyati set sail headed due East. Oh, the emotions… The memories of taking S.Y. Enigma out of the safety of Durban harbour, all came flooding back…Exciting, terrifying… hoisting the genoa, the mainsail… Feeling the boat settling into the swell… Mmmm, then the moment I switched off the diesel engine & we were one with the sea… Unforgettable. But this wasn’t Enigma, designed & built for the deep blue ocean… This is Nyati, just as tough & ready for Mother Africa.

This time there was no family standing by my side, all wide eyed & wondering what the hell we were doing, but doing it anyway… Starting a new chapter in our lives. Driving away from Kloof, my mind was filled with confusing thoughts not least of all… “what the hell am I doing this time ?”… Conclusion… “I don’t know, but I’m doing it anyway”

The first stop was “industrial chainsaw” in PMB to fit a new blade & chain to the Husquvarna. If ever proof was needed that size really does matter, try fitting a piddling 450mm blade onto the mighty SP694 husky. Eish, talk about a rat on a pumpkin or a dehorned rhino. My faithful old 694 is a ferocious beast of a machine that used to work nonstop 8hrs a day for months on end cutting huge gum trees into manageable 300x50x6m long roofing timbers. Now fitted for cutting firewood or obstacles blocking Nyati’s “off the beaten track” progress. It looks unbalanced, but, oh how wonderful to hear that familiar 2 stroke growl again.

Nyati drove up to ‘Maritzberg easily & then onwards & upwards. Climbing town hill took considerably longer than when I was driving the “silky”. Ah, my wonderful SLK… Now gone to pastures new. May they treat you with the respect you deserve, my trusty old cowcatcher.

So, here we are, Nyati & I, parked on the leeward shore of Midmar dam. It’s much higher than Kloof & there’s a chilly wind picking up, changing the very pleasant experience of sitting out, under the stars, what to do?

It makes me think of Confucius who reportedly said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”. So I’m going to chuck another log on the fire & sit closer. Here begins a new chapter in life.