I survived my night in the Ghost house, and stayed an extra night in the spooky, creaking place. But I loved it. I had such an amazing time in Ottoshoop. I did not even know the place existed, never mind that it was the planned location for Johannesburg.
After my first night in the ghost house, which was strangely eerie, I will admit. I spent a lazy Sunday helping to brew Mampoer and visited with some of the people in town. The house makes a lot of noise at night, and you get a strange feeling that someone is watching all the time. It might be the fact that everyone was warning me about the place and told me some stories right as I headed in for the night, or it might be haunted, I am no expert and choose to believe that ghosts are not real. But I felt funny being there. I bathed with the door open, and slept with the lights on. Just in case.
Making mampoer is a very relaxed day of work, the kettle does most of the work and we just sat around making sure everything was working smoothly. The mampoer starts out as 100% proof alcohol. And as the bottle fills up, the concentration decreases and eventually evens out to which ever proof you require. This particular batch is being turned into Whiskey, so a good 40-50% is the estimated end result. I love that everything in the kettle is grown right here. Pure organic perfection. Later the clear liquid is stored in wood casks to bring out the brown colour of Whiskey.
I tasted a range of flavours, from liquorice, (which, dangerously, tosates nothing like alcohol) to peach, apricot and then of course the variants that become whiskey. There was also a lemon flavoured one, honey flavour and so many others I dared not taste. The few I did taste, I was able to only have a small tester, I cannot imagine how I would feel if I had a full shot of each one, and starting at eight in the morning as well… I might end up behaving like a teenager at his first party with alcohol.
After the amazing day and a walk around town to see the last of the attractions, I stopped at Daan se Gat, a bush pub where new comers are made to drink a shot of mampoer made of chillies. I had half the little shot glass and my eyes were watering, my sinuses were cleared and my breath was knocked out of me. I gathered what was left of my dignity and walked back over the train tracks to town and spent the evening discussing music, life and what our purpose is on earth. I have had many conversations like this on the road, but I still am clueless about what my actual purpose is…
I decided to take a longer route to Lichtenburg via Buurmansdrif and Rooigrond, to avoid any protests that might start up again. The two little towns consist of a church, two schools and a bottle store, combined. The road was alright, but I had a buffeting wind the whole way. Now, I usually average 18km an hour, today, I managed 37km total in about five and a half hours. The wind was soul crushing and I truly had my first blue Monday on the road. I was exhausted and angry at the wind… at lunch time I pulled into Mooimeisiesfontein and asked to stay for the night. Mooimeisiesfontein is a farm that was owned by a man who had twelve daughters, all apparently very beautiful, hence the name ‘pretty-girls-fountain’. I love the names people gave places in the old times.
I had a great afternoon hearing all the stories of this place and others, and a T-bone worthy of any steak house. I even got to catch up on some Big Bang Theory. In the morning I had breakfast, a lot of coffee and had to fix a flat tyre. This little sucker, or blower, has eluded me for a week. I keep having to pump my back wheel. Now I finally found the tiny hole and hopefully I will be riding on air from here on out…
Second day of blistering winds, a cold front from dead ahead and lead in my legs, I am finally in Lichtenburg, which is actually a detour on my way to Kuruman, which still has another detour toward Christiana. But I am staying here for the night, and had an interview with the local paper today. Pretty cool, I felt so self conscious when the guy arrived, I was at a restaurant and had my picture taken. Then was taken inside and had to walk past all the other patrons again… I am not sure I like it… But it is part of the adventure I guess.
I am staying at the owners of Die Ouwerf Restaurant in Lichtenburg, I was taken on a drive to an old diamond mining town called Bakerville. The town of Bakerville has a rich history and was a bustling town during the diamond rush. I got to see the foundations where the old church stood as well as the school and hospital. The mine bosses and, shall we say management, stayed in a town settlement just over the road from the main town. It is like a cut out from history. Unfortunately there is no plan for any upkeep or preservation of the town and the history of the area. Although some houses are still in use, the majority of the town has disappeared into the surrounding bush and has been swallowed up by blue gum forests and grasslands. The foundations of some of the houses are still visible and give an idea of the size of what was, in it’s prime, Bakerville.
Back home I got to page through books of old photographs of the area, and the images of how the prospectors ran to obtain claims fourteen meters square are surreal. It is sad to imagine that so little of this historic place has survived the elements.
Back at Bakerville, I got to wander around one of the three major pits that were dug in search of the precious shiny rocks. Vertigo inducing heights from rough cement walls built to prevent cave-ins offer a vantage point from which you can see the place that prospectors climbed down to find that one big stone that would set them up for a life of wealth and luxury. The other pits are not easily accessible and as we were driving s little car, I was lucky to see this one. As far as you can see the world has been dug up and relocated into small piles of dirt as it was sifted and scrutinized for diamonds.
As my two guides, Toto the dog and I head back to Lichtenburg, I was overwhelmed by a sense of possibility these people must have felt while prospecting the area. How exciting the times must have been, full of adventure and anticipation, and crazy bar fights like in western movies.
Tomorrow I have been invited to a private game collectors’ farm with more than sixty five species of wildlife. It is a few kays in the wrong direction, but well worth the detour. After my visit to the park, I am heading toward Kuruman through the friendly province of North West. I cannot wait to see what the next few days brings on my adventure through South Africa.