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After Church on Sunday – which I might add was a bit out of my comfort zone… I am used to a charismatic type of church and I happened to pick a very traditional Afrikaans Church to go to. But despite my jeans and takkies, they welcomed me and made me feel right at home. The biscuits and coffee after the service were great too – I said farewells to my friends in Middleburg and started the trip to Hendrina. There is a perfectly clear sky above me, and I have some new found energy after my stop in Middleburg. The country side is still nice and flat, mostly farmlands with flowing hills of mielies and grass lands. So no mountains to conquer just yet.

I have decided to do a chilled day, maybe do 50 or 60 kilometers and then call it a day. Nothing is rushing me, so I can take it pretty easy. I pulled into a farm about 10 kays before Hendrina and asked to pitch my tent on the lawn, or crash under a barn somewhere. But, true to South African hospitality, I was invited in to stay in the guest room, and join my hosts for dinner. I did work for my stay, I drove along to help get the cattle in for the night, and then helped (by standing very still, in a gateway) to get the sheep into their ‘kraal’ for the night.

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A huge thank you for the hospitality, again, I was blessed to have a place to sleep and get cleaned up for the evening. We spoke about farming and the drought. And the fact that on 4 June Hendrina celebrates it’s Centenary. Pretty cool, I was a few days from joining in the celebration of a town turning one hundred years old. I love hearing the history of places, not the standard history we learn in school, the history of the people and funny stories that took place in the past – each person’s interpretation and experiences of days that have passed. It brings colour to every person I come across.

As I drove along to round up the cattle for the evening, I listened to some amazing stories of the good old days, life in Hendrina, the people and how things have changed over the past four decades. Hearing the history told from someone who grew up and raised the next generation in a town is inspiring and enlightening. The stories brought a spectrum of colour to an otherwise unknown place for me.

In the morning we shared breakfast and I got handed a bag of scrumptious home made rusks and some sandwiches. And then I was off to tackle the next stretch of open road.

The trek toward Carolina starts, but my first pit stop is in Hendrina, I was told to go to a place called Antiek Sjiek to have a look at the place. It was totally worth it, it is an amazing antique shop and coffee shop. The place is a treasure chest of history. Everything from old farm equipment, a collection of match boxes, dolls, old signs and basically anything you can imagine. I took a walk through time as I got lost exploring the place. I found Hendrina’s love tub, a chapel, and one of the best kept ox wagons in our country. The wagon dates back to the very start of the town. Interestingly, the manufacture date, materials list and the names of the builders are engraved into the axle of the wagon – as with all ox wagons. So if you have a wagon hanging around and want to know the age and who made it, just take the front wheels off and check the axle.

 

 

I had a mug of boere-troos – coffee so strong, my eye might twitch for a few days, and as I got speaking to the owner, I was offered a famous sandwich to give me some energy for the road. Not your regular sasko sam sarmie. The loaves weigh 3.5kg each, the sandwich is the size of an Ipad, and as thick as a dictionary. Absolutely worth the uncomfortable feeling I had after eating breakfast twice in one morning. Do I feel guilty for my over indulgence? No, and I would do it again!

On the road again and heading to Carolina. The road is quiet and I see mostly tractors and combine harvesters – Random thought, I want to drive a combine harvester. It looks super fun. The horizon is getting shorter as the hills are becoming steeper and the plantations are covering all the slopes. It is green as far as I can see and the fresh air is refreshing after living in the city for so long.

Carolina is a small, scruffy place. I went right through, only stopping at a statue erected to honour fallen soldiers from the Anglo-Boer war. Unfortunately the plaque has been vandalized and I could not see the names or dates. The town is a sad relic of what used to be. It is heart breaking to see the destruction and neglect that has faded these small towns. Buildings are falling to pieces, there is trash everywhere and the only way I can think to describe the place is to say the town is sighing, a heart breaking sigh that echoes the glory that once was. Carolina has the basics of every little town – a Co-op, Spaza shops, a liquor store and a pretty old church. Other than that, it is just a little dorpie.

Outside of town, I turn into a coal mine road that leads to farms behind the mine, and I decided to try for a place to stay at an idyllic sheep farm. It is a guest farm, the owners are out of town (I guess that is what you say, even on a farm) and I get to pitch my tent on the lawn to sleep in safety behind six foot electric fences. My first night camping. And it is freezing. I shivered myself to sleep and was constantly woken by two adorable cats that could not resist attacking the ropes of my tent. So I had a long cold night of regularly being woken up by pouncing cats, bellowing sheep and aching legs. I got some great photos on the farm, most of the buildings are very old, and there are endless fields of neat, sheep-trimmed grass. Next morning I had some rusks and after packing up and saying farewell, I headed back past the mines and on towards Badplaas.

On the way out, I spotter a cool worm, and took my first Macro photo, I got a pretty cool angle with the bike in the back. Check it out:

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Badplaas is a small town, basically a BP garage and a Forever holiday resort. It is pretty and neat. and the old hotel looks like it is being restored and might be something to look at on the next trip. Just outside of town, I was told to look for a place to stay, because from the outskirts of Badplaas to Barberton is plantations. No farms and minimal place to sleep for the night. So I pulled into a farm and met a young couple that offered me a place to crash for the night. We watched Shrek and I played toy cars and threw a ball around the house (They have a son, I was not being naughty and childish at random). Thanks you guys for everything and I will definitely be back to go on that tour of the plantations and waterfalls on another trip. It sounds pretty awesome.

The road goes on and I am on my way to Barberton now, through forests and hills and my first very steep mountain to cross. Let’s hold thumbs I can get up the thing.

I have been absolutely blessed with the people I have met along the way. The kindness and hospitality of South Africans is often clouded by the negative things we read and see in the news. But truly, we have some amazing people in this country.

 

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