after another great stay in johannesburg, we ventured out to the rural areas in the free state province of south africa. it was amazing. the photo above is the busiest street corner in rosendal, the small town we held up in near the lesotho border. i recommend the cake and coffee: to kill for.
its a tiny old town, full of farms, little houses with large porches, a church, police station/post office, and cafe/shop. the house we are in has creaky floorboards, old windows that need to be propped open (i use a part of a tent pole), and plenty of nick-knacks hidden in every cupboard. the wind comes through the entire house, slamming doors shut and generously removing any lingering dust covering the furniture. love it. the summer thunderstorms that roll by outside keep it interesting, and the mountains and rolling grassy hills are a great foreground to the huge african sunsets.
the town is stuck in a lost period in time, filled with the artifacts of better years. i had to stop myself from buying too much enamel dining items, antique medium format cameras, or an accordion. i have too much enamel now anyway, too many cameras back home, and no idea how to play a piano, let alone an accordion. but this town is just saturated in nostalgia. i’m in heaven.
we then jumped the border and headed into lesotho- the mountainous, land-locked, hidden country hiding in the eastern side of south africa. it’s scenery is dramatic, the people fantastic, but the level of poverty crushing. with so little resources for industy or development, many of the basotos head to south africa (frequently down to the mines). but for our quick stay, we had perfect weather and great hiking conditions to explore the town and mountains, valleys, and river near our camp.
the valley was massive, and filled with the sounds of cow bells in the distance as well as the songs of the herdsboys as they watched their goats, cows, donkeys, or horses.
the people live off the land, and each other, so far from any sort of town with modern shops or hospitals. we discovered that white flags (made of scrap bag parts) on the roofs of houses meant they had beer made of maize or sorghum, and the yellow flags meant ginger beer. and where there were flags, there were people.
walking between the herds of sheep as we wound around the river, i made a promise to myself to return with a backpack and revisit much more of lesotho. it was a magical place, and the mountains, people, and remoteness of it all was too much to only experience for our time there. we sadly left, but the rain that was coming down as we were driving out was a sign that we made the right decision to move on.
and once back in south africa, we found ourselves in another bizarre corner of the freestate; bethulie. another small town, but this time, with a history that can get very grim. this town had a ‘concentration camp’, set up by the british while fighting the boers (south african farmers) and it was inhabited by the women and children of the local towns and farms. they were all put in the camps to prevent them from helping (food, etc) their husbands during the war, but the plans for running it never really came into place. disease and terrible living conditions ended up killing many of the women and children, and the field above was where they were originally buried. an unfinished monument now erirely stands on those grounds, but the graves themselves and the headstones were moved above a floodline to a new location, which still displays how young some of these kids were.
our host for this time is restoring the town’s old hotel, filling it with what quite possibly will be the largest book and vinyl collection in south africa, southern africa, or even all of africa. the hotel has a ‘the shining’ kind of feel to it, and has some ghost sighting stories to it as well. i look forward to coming back in time, to see his addiciton-filled hotel complete.
his house is where he keeps all his favorite pieces though, and it’s amazing being in a house with every foot of wallspace converted into shelving. i didn’t either bother to estimate the amount of books, and only after estimating one room to contain 21,000 records, did i find out there were another two ajoining rooms and more in the storage rooms in the roof space. addiction to a level i have never seen before.
our drive back down from the freestate, through the karoo, and to the western cape was dramatic- the first half filled with empty landscapes of scrub, the last half of huge mountain passes on a one-way dirt road winding the mountains. my ‘i-almost-died’ count for the trip got two more notches in it on this road.
and back to the familair view that i fell in love with early on our trip. it was our second stop on the road, within the first week of leaving cape town. and back to the indian ocean, which i haven’t seen since i left lamu in august. i miss the ocean so much after being through so many dry landscapes the past four months. those places almost made me forget that water this big really still exists.
i can feel cape town around the corner, just a few stops and a handful of days away. and home: 20 days… i can’t believe it. but i still haven’t figured out why christmas carols are already playing on the radios. whats up with that?
hope all is well,