Quentin and I had an unusual day of work on Friday as we set off on a mission to deliver two of our Boran bulls to a fellow farmer in Barkly East, which is about 4.5 hours south of us in the Eastern Cape. Our route hugged the Lesotho border and passed towns like Hobhouse, Wepener, Zastron, Sterkspruit and Lady Grey. I was keen to go along for the drive because I’ve never visited this part of the country, which is quite remote and not really on any of our main driving routes. My sister’s best friend from school days grew up in Barkly East so I’ve heard a lot about it and the magnificent farm gardens in the area. Unfortunately drought conditions were evident all along the way, but there was an encouraging build-up of clouds as we approached the town.
The bulls were well behaved and by lunch time they were loaded onto another truck en route to their final destination in Matatiele in KwaZulu-Natal. We stopped at the local home industry for a bite to eat and couldn’t believe it when the only other person having lunch was my sister’s friend’s mother! I had never met her before, but as soon as she introduced herself the penny dropped. Their farm is 50km out of town so it really was a huge coincidence to bump into her like that. In typically friendly farmer style she invited us to visit next time we pass through.
We stayed over in Lady Grey on the way home and took the scenic route over the Witteberg via Joubert’s Pass. It’s supposed to be the 4th highest pass in the country (2236m above sea level) and was built entirely by hand in the early 1900s by a group of farmers looking for a short cut into Lady Grey. It was a spectacular drive through a deserted valley framed by majestic mountains. We came across one farmer herding a stunning group of Nguni cattle – such an unusual sight that we couldn’t resist stopping to take photos. The next day we also stopped to capture some Ankole cattle with their characteristic large horns grazing alongside the road.
Lady Grey itself is quite a sleepy little town and we hardly saw any people on our walk on Saturday morning. We stayed in a lovely B&B called Comfrey Cottage set against a dramatic mountain backdrop. The town ran out of water a few weeks ago, but the guesthouse fortunately has a borehole. I can only imagine how lovely the garden would be in a normal year with its abundance of fruit and nut trees and old roses. They also have a herd of very charming Alpaca sheep which add a lot of character!
We got home to a cloudy day and a forecast of rain for Sunday. We waited and waited and waited and the heavens finally opened with pouring rain yesterday evening. This morning everything feels fresh and bright and clean. Such a great change from the dust and wind. The veld and animals are rejoicing along with my farmer love who left home this morning up with an unmistakable spring in his step!