After an amazing stay at the Kruger, we had an overnight stop in Pretoria, the administrative capital of the country. We stayed at a 24 year old couple couch surfers. We visited the city the next day before leaving for a few days with the family in Johannesburg.
We then took the road to the “Free State” province which is in the very center of South Africa.
The border of Lesotho
We wanted to make a first stop in the small town of Clarens, located on the northern border of Lesotho, a landlocked country in South Africa. We left Johannesburg in the afternoon to be able to arrive at Clarens early, but nothing happened as planned! On leaving we were first confronted with famous traffic jams of the big city, but also with its famous electric storms. Indeed, Johannesburg is known for its frequent and very powerful storms and floods, which can happen suddenly. So, on the road to Clarens we were caught in a huge storm that lasted all the way. In fact, we were going right in the storm. The lightning struck everywhere and fell on the road in front of us. A moment as magical as it is anxious. Added to that we gad to drive though big potholes on the road and with only one headlight that was working, it took us six hours to reach our destination, instead of 3:30, as the Tata does not like rain, the trip was not easy.
We finally arrived at 9pm at our couch surfer, Nic, 65 years old, who kindly welcomed us on his farm, with a delicious meal. The next day Nic showed us the farm which is actually a big reserve in the middle of the mountains with zebras and buffaloes. We also did a short hike on one of the hills. From the top, we could discover Lesotho, the country of thousand mountains! One more step and we were in the neighboring country with its amazing landscapes. In the evening we enjoyed the small town of Clarens and its inhabitants. Our host invited us to a small bar-restaurant and we met his friends over a drink and had a great evening.
The next day we bought for our Tata a new tyre to store the spare one that has been very useful from Mpumalanga! We then took the road to Ficksburg, on the western edge of Lesotho. Before that we wanted to make a stop in the little city of Fouriesburg and go in a coffee shop to look for campsite. Sadly, it wasn’t a good experience …
Once we arrived in Fouriesburg, we started looking for a place with Wifi. There was no internet in the first bar but the barmaid directed us to another one. A beer and hot chocolate ordered and we were ready to look for a place to sleep! After ten minutes, a big tall guy entered in the pub. We recognized him because, earlier he was in the first bar drinking his beer. He was obviously looking for us, as he came towards us to engage conversation.
He asked us where we come from and explained that he knows our country very well and told us that he has a mining company in Mauritius and that he receives $ 100,000 per month. Strange ! Then he asked us what we were doing here and we told him that we were looking for a place to sleep. Suddenly he wanted us to come to the cottage where he lives in the mountains and we explained that we didn’t have the budget. He insisted to pay our night there because “he loves Mauritians” and that we need to come in his car. All that were so weird and even more when he stared to say that he is a “pure” South African, that he is from a farming family and proud to be a “true boer” (Boer refers to the descendants of the white colonists in South Africa, also use to for Famers). He was insisting and he phoned his contact at the cottage to ask if we can come. A surprising detail is that he was speaking English and not in Afrikaans, weird, because Afrikaans do not often speak English between them. But Noe realized that he was not making a call, he was still on the phone menu and just pretended to be on a phone call. We decided to leave quickly. We said goodbye, very ironically with a big smile and putting a hand on a shoulder, he told us to have a very good trip. We took our Tata and drove to Ficksburg, but after a few minutes, our tyre that we have put on the same day, exploded in the middle of the road. We quickly understand that this man has tampered our wheel … Panicked, we hurry to change it because we were afraid that he maybe following us. At Ficksburg, there was no camping or couchsurfing. We decided to spend the night in a small guest house with the money left. The next day we went to buy a new tyre and we shared our story to the garage manager who told us that it was: “normal here, in small towns, Afrikaans do not like tourists or anything that is not Afrikaans or Boers. The same thing happened to a French couple one month earlier. ”
We were very sad about what happened to us. We are just two unpretentious young people who are making this trip to learn more about the country and its people, we want to open our minds and discover. Unfortunately, as everywhere in the world, there are extraordinary people but also malicious people. We must be careful in everything we do and the saddest, be suspicious and not trust everyone.
Finally, we found on Airbnb another guest house cheaper than where we were. We had a nice and relaxing time. We were able to tell our mishap to our host who contacted the owner of the bar to explain our story, she apologized for what had happened to us.
The next day we went away and tried to forget the negative experience. It was only a small black spot in all the incredible adventure that we live. We left for Bloemfontein to spend a family weekend that would make us feel good.
Bloemfontein – The Family
South Africa has three capitals, Cape Town is the legislative capital, Pretoria is the administrative and Bloemfontein the judicial capital.
We could not wait to get to Bloem to see the family. We first went to aunt and uncle: Lettie and Jannie and in the evening, we went to Aunt and Uncle, Marita and Paul (Angie’s Mom is South African!). The next day we had a family day, all the cousins together, a great time. Jannie prepared us a traditional meal, the Potjiekos (pronounced “poy-ke-koss” which means “little pot of food”). In fact you have to put in a pot : meat, different vegetables and alcohol (wine or beer), all will cook for two to four hours, outside, on charcoal. The atmosphere of the Potjie is particularly nice. Everyone is out around the pot talking, drinking and eating Biltong (a typical type of dried meat).
After the meal, the family made us try something special, sniffing tobacco! Some powdered tobacco is put on a bar consisted of a small metal rod above. We place the nose on the rod and someone gives a light tap on the other side of the bar and the tobacco enters in the nose! At first, we were septic, but the tobacco is minty and gives a very very refreshing effect throughout the nose to the head, a bit like those balm that you put on you in winter. The effect is not so bad, it’s surprising! A technique used before by travelers and sailors, which today serves as entertainment in the evening.
We enjoyed Bloem for three days and learned a lot about the beautiful city. In Dutch, Bloemfontein means “flower fountain”, it is also called the city of roses. It has more than 256 000 inhabitants and it is the judicial capital since 1910.
We could visit beautiful places but also have a good time with family; Noe had the opportunity to try gun shot with the cousin Nico or the jet ski with the cousin Duane and enjoy very old pictures of the family. The Tata was a little tired, damaged wheel or no headlight but “Oom” (uncle in Afrikaans) gave us a nice gift and offered us new perfect tyres and new headlights. Tannie (Aunt in Afrkiaans) prepared us a big bag with sandwiches, fresh water and lots of little treats. So, we were ready to go with a Tata on fleek and a full cool box!
And we took the road to enter the Karoo desert: Hello Heat!