We live in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. This is towards the north east and adjacent to Mozambique and the Kruger National Park game reserve. Early autumn days in May are some of the best for motorcycling in our area. Early morning when the shadows are long, the temperature is low, but soon increases as the sun rises.
In order to prevent ambiguity and trouble at home, the Old Lady is the old 1150RT approaching 114,000 Km. The Brunette of the house is named Ina.
Today we wanted to travel the route over Steenkampsbergpas to Roossenekal, Laersdrif and Stoffberg. Most of this area falls within the Mpumalanga province, however a small section is in the Limpopo province. We attached the top box and panniers as there was a possibility that we may return via Schoemanskloof where we normally buy oranges from a farm stall.
On a previous visit to this area, we were unable to buy refreshments. The shops only stock basic necessities like mealie meal, washing powders etc. The Brunette therefore prepared homemade pies and pizza. We also had some lamb ribs from the previous evening’s braai, Coke, Bavaria, flask with water and instant coffee mix.
This is what grub the Brunette initially put out in the lapa for loading. After complaining she eventually doubled the rations.
Grub for consumption on a road trip and early rising and leaving is synonymous. There is also an air of anticipation and excitement, new places to see and experience associated with the grub.
Where we grew up, grub like meatballs and hardboiled eggs were treats prepared by our parents in the 1960’s when we visited drive in theatres. Later visits to the drive in theatres when one had your own first jalopy, hamburgers and Coke were the grub of choice to impress the girl. The movie was not that important. The experience was normally so enjoyable that one needed to concentrate in order not to forget to replace the speaker before driving off. That was before the advent of Bluetooth. Speakers were connected with wires. And young girls had a tendency to start giggling about any silly incident.
But I digress. When we reached the top of Long Tom pass, Sabie village was still covered by its fog blanket. And most of the holiday makers were probably still in bed.
We then followed our long shadow down towards Lydenburg, 50 Kms into the journey .
On top of Steenkampsberg pass, 30 Km’s further on, we took a break and had our first cup of coffee. The smog over the Highveld is clearly visible on the horizon. This is the highest tarred road in South Africa.
Look how the extreme climate at this altitude eroded the timber spacing the Armco railing.
The village of Roossenekal is named in honour of two Boer soldiers who died here in 1882. There was not much to see in the village.
Autumn could clearly be felt in the air and was notable in the surrounding area. We started our journey on the Eastern escarpment, travelled through Highveld and were now in Bushveld adjoining the Steelpoort river, obvious from the flora in the picture. All this in 70 minutes of riding.
Washing in some of the rural areas is still done by hand (or foot) on rocky outcrops in the rivers. This was approximately 500 metres upstream of a village that was dependant on its water from this river. Hopefully the effect of consuming the washing powder contaminated water is nothing more than a well cleansed digestive tract.
Found this plant growing next to the river.
The railway line serving this area, terminates at Roossenekal. As most of our railway infrastructure has fallen into disuse over the past 3 decades in favour of road transport, we wanted to have a look at the station. Found the infrastructure in a state of neglect.
Condom wrappers, locally referred to as candy wrappers, littered the place. Condoms are supplied at no cost by the government in an attempt to control the spread of HIV/AIDS. We pay for plastic bags packaging bags at the local supermarkets.
However, the music made by the powerful diesel powered loco’s shunting was good, and we ignored the neglect. We took heart at the limited railway activity, despite the obvious signs heavy sweet consumption.
We have often driven past the old church building in Laersdrif on our way to and from the farm, but decided that today we would drive into the village and have a closer look.
Just look at the detail. Obviously high quality workmanship.
We dressed in thermal tops before we left. The heat was now getting to us, so we decided to change. While I did so while having coffee on the church lawn, the Brunette decided to do so on the rear steps of the church. She stated that her reason for doing so was to have privacy, not to brag.
We then left for Stoffberg. I last visited the village 12 years ago. As a result of increased heavy vehicle road traffic and neglect of maintenance, the road condition is appalling. We were almost taken out while driving when an approaching driver instinctively swerved for a pothole, right into our lane. Fortunately, the resulting adrenalin stains in our underwear, was since then soaked out successfully.
We found nothing of interest in Stoffberg village, except this donkey cart, transporting cases of beer as well as some local brew.
The two dogs were waiting, well disciplined under the cart, for the return journey.
Just outside Stoffberg, we saw the sign “Station”. On the spur of the moment we decided to have a look. There are a few grain silos next to the station. I suspect that grain sourced from these are transported by rail, and is the reason that the disused buildings, although in a state of neglect, was not completely demolished and the material reused in informal settlements
We recalled how, when we were kids in the 1950’s and 60’s, the elder artisans used to boast about how many bricks they “laid” that particular day. Rarely since then have I heard such proud boasting about productivity and quality of work done. These buildings were built in that period, and although maintenance was completely neglected over the past 30 years, no structural defects can be seen.
We found approximately 12 houses of which probably 6 were occupied. Some sections of the terrain were well kept.
As I said, even the unoccupied houses were still intact, although in a state of neglect. This is uncommon here, as such structures are rapidly demolished to use the materials elsewhere, primarily in informal settlements.
We planned to enjoy sweets at the next town, Belfast. But before then, on our way there, we would find a place to have the grub we packed in the pannier. We again stopped to have a break. Granite was previously mined in the area. The remains can still be seen.
Thirty metres away we found Elias, a local farm labourer that was awaiting a lift alongside the road. We had a chat and learned of his experiences.
We are mid in government and local elections at the moment. Sad to say, when looking at Elias, the words “character” and “integrity” jumps to mind. So much for the quality of some of our current leadership, with quite a number of scandals locally. However, despite this and anticipation of more to come, I earnestly hope the conditions for most of the population improves over the next few years.
On our arrival in Belfast, we stopped opposite the local NG church, had a look around and then ended up, sitting flat on our bottoms, enjoying our grub like a pair of hobo’s.
We now aimed to have our ice creams at the local restaurant alongside the Eastern N4 highway. However, when we got there we realised it was a long weekend, the place was packed. We decided to drive 30 Km’s further on the highway and have an ice cream at another restaurant called Milly’s. The road was busy with some slower heavy traffic. But as always with the bike, it was easy to safely overtake and maintain our speed at the local limit.
After we had our ice cream, we decided to return to Belfast and take the route via Dullstroom and again Lydenburg back home. We have not driven this route the past 5 years, as there is a much better route. But with the good weather conditions, it seemed the right thing to do.
At Dullstroom, a popular holiday destination, we bought a 500 ml Coke at a ridiculous price. On the way to Lydenburg we took another break. Again opting to sit alongside the road, trying to get value from the Coke by sipping it very slowly. Most of the car occupants travelling this route seem totally unaware of the scenery, with drivers not noticing us and passengers mostly asleep. The exception being heavy commercial vehicles which travel at lower speeds. These drivers hooted, smiled and ‘thumbs upped’ us.
We noticed these rocks that were ‘peeling’ off layers.
The Brunette will be undergoing major foot surgery within the next few weeks. This is probably the last motorcycle trip she will do for a while. She had similar surgery done last year to the other foot. On that occasion she started motorcycling six weeks before the due date. Perhaps I will consider allowing her to pillion again, even though she kept on giggling 44 years ago when I drove off from the drive inn without replacing the speaker!
We then went on to the top of Long Tom pass where we had our first break this morning, and had our last break for the day. The shadows were once again long, however, now casting in the opposite direction from this morning. We had another 30 Km’s to cover, then we would light the barbeque fire at home.
We had done 435 Km’s, experiencing lovely weather, enjoying a lot of laughs, and lovely riding. We sat on our backsides alongside the roads, saw a lot, waved at passersby, felt the wind in our faces and had a general good time for two 64 year olds. My Brunette was happy and smiling, and because of that I was too. Life is good.