Leave no town behind (the end of an epic roadtrip)
As I mentioned earlier, my return trip home from the Western Cape was quite the journey, which took me through six of South Africa’s nine provinces! I had planned on doing the whole thing in one day but, soon after I started, that plan became less and less of a probability.
I don’t know at what point I decided to stop at every single town I passed (or drove through). Perhaps it was upon seeing the turn-off to Matjiesfontein – a name I remembered from my childhood.
While in Matjiesfontein I then decided that I would post just one photo from it and all the other towns. As beautiful and interesting as several of the towns were, if I posted more than one, you would be bored out of your mind, and here for hours wading through them all.
Feel free to look up the route on your map app of choice, or, if you’ve travelled this route often, you may recognise the places. And remember, only my 105mm Macro lens was working at the largest aperture, so I couldn’t get any wide shots, and I had very narrow depth of field…
(Click on images for larger versions and to read more about the places I visited.)
I was just passing by Touws River as the sun came up.
The Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein. The town, which has been declared a National Heritage Site, was established in 1884, while the hotel was built in 1899. It looks as regal as ever.
The rail bridge over the Buffels River outside Laingsburg. This dusty town in the semi-arid Great Karoo is best known for the flood on 25 January 1981, which swept away most of the town within minutes. In all, 104 people were killed and only 21 houses in the town survived the flood.
The only reason for the community of Leeu-Gamka is the railway line that runs through it. The town, which one would miss if one blinked while driving by, is situated on the confluence of the Leeu and Gamka rivers. Interestingly, both Leeu (in Afrikaans) and Gamka (in the extinct Khoisan language “ǀXam Kaǃkʼe”) mean the same thing: Lion. The original hotel opened in 1898.
A donkey cart in Beaufort West, which is known as the capital of the Karoo. Family of mine used to farm around Beaufort West, and my great aunt lived there for many years. I went looking for her house, and think I found it. I’ll confirm that as soon as I remember her address…
The Three Sisters – three distinctively shaped hills near Victoria West, receding into the distance. I did blink and so missed the farm on which they are situated and the nearby railway siding, also named Three Sisters.
The focal point of the town of Richmond is the Dutch Reformed Church, which was built to meet the spiritual needs of a growing farming community, and around which the town grew. But, nothing could beat this amazing scene down one of the smaller side streets.
Hanover, named after the city in Germany, was established in 1854. This was almost the middle point of my trip as it is equidistant from Cape Town and Johannesburg. This is the Dutch Reformed Church, which one can see from miles away.
I have no idea why I dislike the town of Colesberg but I do. So, for Colesberg, I give you an image of two tiny dogs.
The Gariep Dam lies on the border of the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces. It is 48 kilometres north-east of Colesberg and 208 kilometres south of Bloemfontein. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, my great-grandfather’s farm lies under it somewhere. The town was laid out in 1965-66 to accommodate the men building the dam, but obviously this was a prettier photo than just another town.
I never got any photos of Bloemfontein because I arrived way after dark, so here’s a photo of a sign pointing me in the right direction.
This bee and spotted maize beetle were shot on a sunflower in a huge field outside “Soutpan” which didn’t exactly have anything to shoot of its own.
I had never heard of the town Bultfontein before this roadtrip. I imagine few people have and, according to the Internet, there is absolutely nothing noteworthy about the place. I did love shooting its old buildings though.
Corn, wheat, sunflowers and peanuts are cultivated around Wesselbron, whose grain silos make up the biggest silo complex in the Southern Hemisphere. But the main complex was kind of boring, so here are some others in the area …
Bothaville is a small farming town at the centre of the “maize triangle”. This is their abandoned train station. Apart from being pulled over at a police roadblock, I remember nothing else about the town.
A few kilometres north of Bothaville one comes across NAMPO Park, site of the annual Nampo Harvest Day (a 4-day agricultural show that attracts up to 70,000 people annually.) Here you will find a monument erected in 2007, in remembrance of all the commercial farmers and farm-workers who have died in farm-murders in South Africa since May 1961. The memorial consists of nine pillars, representing each province, and this statue of a young farmer holding a Bible, which was sculpted by the late Phil Minnaar.
The sleepy town of Orkney is more famous for the television programme that bore its name in the 1980s and 90s than its rich gold mining legacy. Some of the deepest and richest gold mines in South Africa have been worked in the area for decades. It’s still a dull town, though.
This statue by Danie de Jager, which represents mining and agriculture, stands in front of Klerksdorp’s city hall. The statues apparently rotate but they were dead-still the day I drove through. Locals seemed amused at me lying in front of the city hall to get just the right angle. But I don’t care. I won’t be going back any time soon.
And finally, I visited Ventersdorp, which was founded as a Dutch Reformed parish in 1866. It is renowned as being a former-whites only town (during the dying days of Apartheid) and headquarters of Eugene Terre’Blanche’s “Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging” (AWB). This is the steeple of the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk. Apparently things have changed quite a bit over the last few decades: I didn’t see one white person.