Day 57: I drift…

So it’s a Tuesday and we finished up at the plant yet again. This time, though, it was the last day at the Plant. The Electrical Reticulation didn’t really take that long so hey, no more ash-covered overalls (and other body parts) until I need to come here for actual work. We do visit National Control later this week but that’s not really part of the plant. Nevertheless, I did enjoy going up and down the monstrous plant a lot. ANYWAY, back to the blog – today was, well, a drive of necessity I guess. The reasons for this will come up in later blogs but these little roadtrips do tend to allow the mind to float away into the beauty of this amazing country of ours. Now, the one problem was that I had no idea where to actually go as Kruger National Park is WAY to far away for a single days drive and I had gone through a good part of the coal-seams of Southern Mpumalanga. So, North it was and BAM – Groblersdal. Take the N11 to get there and I can do a circular trip by taking the R25 and R544 back. I expected a drive mimicking the elements of the other drives – little did I know that I was in for a big surprise…

I don’t know if anyone remembers that dreaded series on SABC3 called “Avenues.” Avenues are basically tree lined streets and I found this out when I was a kid – one of the trillions of bits of information I did pick up in my formative years which I am rather thankful for. The main road near my house is an avenue and, well, over the years, the trees have been felled with special mention to the one really old tree which was uprooted when they widened the road. I was quite sad when it did happen hey. Anyway, I got to the outskirts of Middelburg and came across several of these avenues. They are really beautiful and have such a sense of serenity to them.

The first revelation of the trip was the greenness of it. Compared to my journeys south, this trip actually didn’t have mine dumps and coal trucks breaking the road to shreds. On the side of the road, I saw this device. Tractors rule!

I saw this brilliant sign on the way. There actually is this bottle store in the middle of nowhere. I actually wanted to stop and get something but, well, I analysed the risk and stayed in my car. Besides, there were dogs sleeping outside.

Another thing I realised during this trip was that South Africa is blessed with this amazing network of National N roads. This road ran around 100km with twists, turns, dips and mountain passes yet there was not a single pothole on the entire route. I will agree though that the N roads are kept in tip-top shape as compared to other roads. The delays between maintenance is shorter than those of R and municipal roads and as a result, some of the R roads, like the one in an earlier blog and the R25 that I encountered later on this trip were in quite bad shape. These are taken care of as is the case with the R544 – the tar was freshly laid upon this barren stretch of scarcely used tarmac. The number of cars that I encountered there was minimal yet the road had been renovated. I have heard somewhere that our road network is one of the world’s best. And yet, people complain…

And then I saw it…the Loskop Dam. All the greenery and curvy, mountain pass type roads of this route had to mean something and the answer was that these led one onto the breathtaking Loskop Dam. The approach to the dam had several signs telling one about this dam but I was not prepared for this heart-stopping sight. The drive, from Middelburg, takes one up and down a mountain pass and then onto a false flat before flinging you back up another mountain pass. When one reaches the summit, the beautiful blue hits brandishes one’s eyes and you can’t help but be awestruck by this site. I was lucky that the day was a marvellous, summer’s day and the dam’s true beauty was not lost. Originally built in the 1930s, it now is around 30km long and is used mainly for irrigation of the farms around Groblersdal and Marble Hall. There is a nature reserve in the conservancy area of the dam with accommodation and what promises to be a rather awesome holiday only about 150km away from Johannesburg! Looking back at the photographs, they really don’t do the dam justice. Guess you just need to visit it for yourself 🙂

This was erected next to the dam wall. Oddly enough, the graffiti in the palm was not evident when I took out the photograph.

Just north of the dam are the vast farms that provide the country with its vital food source. I also encountered the farms that supply McCain with vegetables. Although it is almost a fake greening of the landscape, these farms do give the Northern parts of Mpumalanga this touch of beauty not evident in the South.

Groblersdal is the typical small town in Mpumalanga. Next to this liquor store was what appeared like a cross between a pub, club and shebeen. Situated on one of the main roads, this uh, establishment had some banging tunes resonating from the speakers and the distinct smell of Black Label that has been spilled. Did I mention this was at 2pm on a Tuesday…

Just before I took the R25 guiding me towards Bronkhorstspruit, there was this curiosity on the side of the road with around 500m of make-shift stalls on the side of the road with people briskly doing trade of fresh fruit, vegetables and curios. It really did look odd hey. Anyway, just after this flea-market was the turn-off onto the R25. This road starts of in Johannesburg and takes you all the way here. So, whereas most people join the R25 at the other end, I joined it at the opposing end. It greeted me with a dead cow on the side of the road. I did not take a picture!!!

I mentioned the newly-laid tar on the R544, which I branched off onto from the R25. Travelling down the R25 would take you to Bronkhorstspruit which is around 50km away from Witbank towards Pretoria. The R25 would then take you through Kempton Park and onto Johannesburg. It’s not an impressive road by any measure though unlike the road above – smooth roads taking you into the horizon…

I’m not really sure what this monument commemorates. If I had to hazard a guess, it would be some war memorial. Then again, anyone with eyes would associate the old coat of arms and antique shotgun to a war memorial!

This was truly the weirdest thing I have seen in my entire time here. It is, what appears to be, a truck tyre graveyard. Old tyres don’t get retread or melted down to make new ones – they travel from far and wide all the way to Witbank to die in peace on a farm 25km from the town. I somehow thought about the Elephant Graveyard from The Lion King and then realised that apparently Glenwood in Durban is actually an old Elephant Graveyard which explains why there are so many ants there. Not sure how true that is though!

As dusk crept up on me, I concluded my journey by driving into a derelict part of Witbank that I had not encountered before. At this point, one has to use gut instinct and prior knowledge of the town to figure out where to go and how to actually get back home. Nevertheless, as darkness fell and I reached home, it seemed, for once, an ending that I wouldn’t have liked. Whereas the day allowed these gems of realisation to shine on me, I ended up in a dirty metropolis at night with carbon spewing from the multitude of vehicles rushing home after an equally polluted day. I guess everything doesn’t end with a happy end but you need to cherish the memories that you gained on the way – even though they were fleeting drive-bys or short-stops like I made at the various attractions on the way. Nevertheless, it has been something I don’t want to forget J

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