I got up early this morning because I couldn’t wait to see what animals might be outside the fence. We are able to look out directly from our bedroom window and I could see there was lots of activity. Mostly impalas, but a warthog and her family came by and then about 15 zebra came parading down there in a single file to the water trough.
We had a leisurely breakfast then Bruce and I packed up to leave Charles and Anschu to enjoy their return home for a couple of days. They are part of the 'Group of 6' Cyclists who rode from Middleburg, ust south of Johannesburg, to Cape Town, starting out mid-February.
Anschu and Charles have been more than kind: they have lent us their Toyota Hilux ‘bakkie’ (pickup) with a canopy and we are off to visit Lucia and Andre where they will be staying at their game farm for the weekend (they live in Johannesburg but also have a share in a farm). As we left Anschu and Charles, the weather at their farm was lovely, but not more than 10 Kms away, the heavens opened up and we were deluged in a downpour that prevented us from seeing out of the windows to the extent that we couldn’t read road signs and missed our first turn in the nearby town of Bela Bela. The streets were flooded and, as we drove through, a huge bow wave erupted from the front of the truck. We were fortunate, it seems, because the streets of Bela Bela were shut down shortly after that and, eventually, we outran the rainstorm as we headed north.
Our journey was about 90 kms to the little town of Vaalvater via Modimolle. During the Second Boer War, the British operated a concentration camp at nearby Nylstroom where Boer women and children were interned as part of the British Scorched Earth policy so as to prevent them from providing food and supplies to Boer fighters. 544 people died at this concentration camp and were buried at Modimolle - and this was just one of many concentration camps in which 27,000 individuals died - mostly Boer women and children - between 1899 & 1902. A very ignominious part of British history, I think.
We were asked to call Andre and Lucia at Vaalvater so as to give Andre sufficient time to get to the gates of the farm to meet us (about a 15 to 20 minute drive from their house). They were getting a bit concerned because we were running late (due to the rains and flooding) so they called us and he was waiting there at the gates to Nyathi Reserve when we got there. We followed him along the twisting, turning, dipping dirt roads until we came to the loveliest thatched-roofed house set deep in the bush and where we were made to feel SO welcome! The house has a wonderful indoor/outdoor configuration which can be opened up completely to the elements or it can be closed up with sliding glass-paneled doors.
After a light lunch and a drinky-poo, Lucia took us off on a 3-hour game drive to check out their neighbourhood. Another vast reserve owned by a number of people (sort of like a bare land strata set-up). It’s a fabulous idea because it’s conserving huge tracts of land and the joint owners are populating the land with animals. It was pretty dark before we got back to the house and Andre was just getting set to come out and look for us. In fact, he was in his car and heading out just about the time we arrived. Lucia knows the property like the back of her hand though and she took us to see a huge chunk of it. We were going to do an outdoor braii but the rains had caught up with us again, so Andre moved his operation indoors. He has a wonderful indoor barbecue in their separate, thatched guest house/recreation room area. We were both very impressed with his indoor braai – we could all use something like it in Canada in winter!
There was a huge thunder and lightning storm that night, but we were cozy in our thatched roof room, courtesy of our very hospitable hosts.
We awoke early again – about 06:30 – to a very lovely morning after the stormy night.
We had our de rigueur coffee and rusks then hit the road again with our trusty guide, Lucia, while Andre stayed home to fix breakfast. Again, we were gone for another three hour game drive – always wanting to check around the next bend or loop in the road to see what might be there. This morning we saw a mother giraffe (I love the giraffe and zebras!) with her tiny baby – probably no more than one month old – and numerous zebra.
Back at the house we had a terrific breakfast, then Bruce and I got ready to hit the road again, returning to Bela Bela. We have been overwhelmed with kindness and hospitality by everyone here and this brief stay was no exception. Lucia is due back to work (in Johannesburg) on Tuesday (Monday is a holiday) after being away for about six weeks doing the cycling trip with the group so she needs to get back home and get herself squared away. It was good of them to make time for us to see their lovely place at Vaalvater.
Got back to Bela Bela around 4pm where we were again warmly welcomed “home” by Charles and Anschu. Charles and Bruce immediately took off on a ride around the Farm, Bruce champing at the bit again for an endorphin rush and in the evening we had another lovely braii and more really nice South African wine.