Early morning I get woken by a very persistent knock on the door. I have to get up fast and be ready to leave in 5 minutes. There are lions at the fence of Madikwe reserve, right along the road I am supposed to be taking past the border toward Zeerust.
I managed to get shoes on and the sleepy look off my face and we were off to the fence to go see the King of the jungle. What amazing creatures. We managed to spot a male and a female with her two cubs. I was able to get one blurry photograph of the male before they decided to leave us and head back into the reserve. It is amazing to stand so close to these ferocious beasts – luckily separated by a fence – but still, within 20 meters of them. My hosts for the last two nights have been up since two in the morning doing patrols, and then chasing six kudu back into the farm. The kudu managed to get out somehow, and now, spooked by the lion being so close to the fence, are not eager to be herded down the road and back to the farm. But after a two hour struggle, five of the six are back. One jumped the border and is now a Botswana kudu.
After a long, exhausting but rewarding morning, I got a ride through the reserve to be dropped off at the tar road heading to Zeerust. I would have had to survive a potential lion attack, and torturous roads with boulders and flood damage, so I was relieved to get the ride through Madikwe, instead of around it. It is also not safe to cycle the road around the reserve I am told. Besides the terrible condition of the road, the lion here are known to charge through the electrified fences after prey. And I might have become just the tasty morsel a lion needed to fill a hungry tummy. Our drive through the park turned into quite a successful game drive in the end. We saw giraffe, zebra, elephant and impala, to name a few.
Back on tar after nearly a week of dirt roads and a very sore bottom, I made good time getting to Nietverdiend – meaning, for those of us that did not know it, not deserving. I like to think of it as undeserving, seeing as I am so undeserving of the amazing places and people I have come across. About 15km outside Nietverdiend I pulled into Mopipi B&B.
Mopipi is the name of the trees that come across in the area, a Mopipi tree is a ‘Stink Wit Gat Boom’ or, poorly translated to English by yours truly, Stink White Hole tree, or, Stink White Bottom Tree. You can decide which atrocity is better or live with the Afrikaans name and we call it even.
The evening, after watching the horses being watered and the sun setting over the very dry, very beautiful landscape, I had a braai with two new friends that are also staying at the B&B for the night. We had a funny and enlightening discussion about cultures and the diversity of our country, and drifting. Not drifting like I do as I travel, drifting, the motorsport where over-powered cars slip and slide around a track and someone tries to contain and control them. We enjoyed some pipe-steak, which is now my new favourite name for ‘wors’ and a delicious meal under a two thousand year old Mopipi tree with a big, warm fire cracking behind us and lion roaring about fifty meters away. I might have mentioned before how amazing the Bushveld is… I say it again, this place is breathtaking and untamed.
Just outside Zeerust I am staying on a farm in a little metal hut under a tree at the back of the motorcross tracks. The hut is made of roofing sheets and a metal frame with a bed in one corner and space to put my bags in the other. If I stretch my legs straight, my head touches the one wall, and my toes the other. But it is dry and warm and I have good company for the night. The shower and ablutions are under a different tree and it is a rock building with no windows and the door does not close properly, but I am glad to have warm water and I guess if someone wants to watch me shower, it is at their own risk. #paleginger
Two of the guys that work on the farm and for the owners electrical company also stay in what has the feel of a holiday resort that was never completed, the little huts, the ablution block and the pool all spaced out vaguely like the beginnings of a camping resort. With the motor cross race course and 4X4 routes, all outlining the place. And in the middle of everything is an open air Church building with a kitchen in the back room and place to braai and sit and visit around the fire.
We had more pipe-steak and all kicked in to made a meal of the night with wors, two minute noodles, fish fingers and bread. Washed down with coffee and discussions of what would be for breakfast. The verdict: Tasty wheat porridge.
The bushveld is dry, this is one of the worst droughts in a long time, and rain is always welcome. Even as a cyclist heavily affected by the weather, I would gladly take one for the team and cycle through a torrential down pour. Some time during the night it started raining, I woke up from the noise on my tin hut and managed to get the bike and bags into the tiny place with tremendous difficulty. I did not see that one of my straps was caught in the back wheel, and being fast asleep on my feet, and generally a grumpy sod if I am woken up before it is time to be awake, I grumbled and stomped about until I had everything inside the hut. And then the rain cleared up and the sky opened up for the full moon. Murphy
Tasty wheat and coffee in the AM after unpacking my house again and I was on my way to finally meet the man who let me stay on his farm. We had driven past each other twice already, unknowingly, but not actually met. So I was able to do introductions, thank-you’s and farewells all in one before I took on the road again.
On the road to Lichtenburg. I stopped for a chat to three giraffe on the side of the road and had a near splash experience with a bottle of coke that has been rattling along in my bottle carrier. I came out unscathed, but it took focus and patience to open that bottle without being covered in sticky, sugary refreshment.
Now I find myself in a little place called Ottoshoop. I stopped for a rest and some water. Luckily I decided to stop. I found out that about 30km down the road I am planning to take, there is bad protest action where some locals have hijacked a truck, pulled it across the road and are prohibiting anyone from getting in or out. Not too sure what the protest is about, but I am not taking chances. I also have no idea when it will be safe again. Perhaps this is the perfect time to take a detour.
Ottoshoop was meant to be Johannesburg. The problem was that back in the day, it was not possible to get the diamonds out of the ground due to water tables and the terrain. So inevitably, when gold was discovered, prospectors packed up and moved toward what is known today as Johannesburg. The main road going through Ottoshoop is called Commissioner Street. I went for a stroll down Commissioner Street and met some of the locals. Everyone here is so friendly and I stopped at a few places for a chat. It is such a nice little town, almost completely hidden from the rest of the World. There is one shop, one bottle store, one Church, one tiny post office and about 30 little houses. There are kids playing soccer in the street and people chilling on their verandas as they day comes to a close.
Basically if the technology we have today in the mining industry was available back then, I would be in Johannesburg now, and Joburg might have been something else, or nothing… curious proposition.
My tired bones will be resting in a ghost house tonight – Oh yeah, a haunted house that the owners do not even go into at night. The main house is the oldest Freemason building in South Africa and has its own jaw dropping story. I have been told that quite a few tourists come here specifically to stay in this house for the experience. I for one do not really believe in this kind of thing, but it is still unnerving to know where I am. If this is the last post you read from me… well, I guess that means that I did not survive to tell the story of tomorrow.
And I do hope to see tomorrow. Besides the obvious inconvenience of being removed from the land of the living by Casper and his friends, tomorrow I have been invited to a pooitjie-kos day tomorrow and the guys will be brewing mampoer. It is a local pastime here, among other. Such as organic chicken farming, organic vegetables and herbs and so many other, shall I say off the grid, things that make this town so self sustaining and unique. Everyone plants their own food, and lives off the land, and people walk across the street to visit neighbours for dinner and just to pop in. And everyone knows everyone. I like it.
More about mampoer, the amazing history of this place and my experience in the haunted house coming soon, if not…