Baine’s Insane Lane

Sir Thomas Bain (did I just inadvertently knight this deceased gentleman?) was a legend. Maybe I’m biased seeing that I am an engineer, but he was the most prolific road builder South Africa has seen. Yes, he has been dead for many a decade but it is through his visionaries that so many of our mountains are navigable. Wherever there was a seemingly impossible mountain to cross, he gathered up a handful of convicts and blasted his way through it. Leaving sometimes little reminders about the dangers of the area, he is responsible for some of South Africa’s greatest mountain passes. The fact that none of the EIA’s would get passed nowadays is beside the point.

With this as my guide, I see a road sign pointing towards Baine’s Vlei. The history behind this great man suggested to me that this lake (or dried up salt pan – it is winter!) would have something special about this. It didn’t occur to me that this being the Free State, nothing really is spectacular. I drive on [1]. I drive along for ten or so minutes at a considerable speed passing several farms along the way. I approach a gate with a rusted sign post. I drive on [2].

I drive on and encounter a military land submarine type device thing that is parked of in some bush looking as if it’s on a rather important mission. I also see an indecipherable Afrikaans sign with the word “skiet” meaning that they are shooting something. I drive on [3].

At this point, I should tell you that in the 1800s, one Thomas Baine came to Africa with some of his contemporaries, such as David Livingstone. He was an artist and explorer – I doubt he had any idea how to build a road! He is famous for documenting a famous Baobab island in Botswana which has proved useful in our understanding of these majestic trees. He also has a small town in southern Zimbabwe named after him and the nature reserve just outside Grahamstown bares his name. Back to my story…

I come across another apparent stop point with a gate. It’s opened. I drive on [4]. All of a sudden I am in a military compound straight out of a Soviet nuclear test facility where they torture people and hybridise them with primates. I flee. I have learnt not to be an idiot. Well, hopefully.

[1] SIGN ONE: He is an idiot
[2] SIGN TWO: He is a dumb idiot
[3] SIGN THREE: He is a full-time idiot. When he fills in form and it asks for his occupation, he must write IDIOT.
[4] No comment