March 7, 2018
Pretoria to Graskop
Time: 5 hours drive excludes 3 hours monument stop and lunch
After breakfast at Mugg and Bean in Menlyn Park Shopping Center’s basement, we stopped by the Voortrekker Monument at 9am. Apparently, he was going to take us to a mom n pop but then the shopping mall basement happened, and we crashed a Mugg and Bean team meeting breakfast.
For the past couple of days leading into the Monument Visit, the guide passionately spoke of it and said what a special place it was to him. When we arrived, he was all emo, needed a couple of moments, and then pointed at his great great grand father in one of the pictures displayed in the Hall of the Heroes. Anyway….
The building is impressive and sits on a hill top, built to honor the Voortrekkers. Because it profoundly shaped SA’s history, I copied this from Britannica.com:
“Voortrekker, Afrikaans: Pioneer, Leading Migrant, or “those who go ahead”, any of the Boers (Dutch settlers or their descendants), or, as they came to be called in the 20th century, Afrikaners, who left the British Cape Colony in Southern Africa after 1834 and migrated into the interior Highveld north of the Orange River. During the next 20 years, they founded new communities in the Southern African interior that evolved into the colony of Natal and the independent Boer states of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (the Transvaal). The “Voortrekkers” label is used for the Boers who participated in the organized migrations of systematic colonization—commonly referred to as the Great Trek—and as a term it is to be distinguished from “trekboers,” who were Boers who had moved into the interior prior to the mid-1830s but on an individual or temporary basis.”
The museum at the monument lived up to SA’s detailed way of exhibition. It’s the kind of place you spend hours taking it all in. There’s a ton of stuff to learn in chronological order and vintage relics related to the Great Trek on display. We took an elevator up to the roof and looked down at the Cenotaph, an empty tomb that symbolizes a resting place for all the Voortrekkers who fought. It’s positioned in a way where the sunlight is beautifully acknowledged, especially on December 16, the day of the oath and lights up the entire monument. It’s also a symbol of the sun’s religious significance. We were amazed by the architecture and the panoramic view of Pretoria from above.
We headed towards Graskop at 10am, but not before stopping at Dullstroom, a premier trout fishing area and craft beer brewery as the Dutch settled here back in the day and kept the most significant part of its history alive, Octoberfest. Trout was on the menu at the empty yet cool restaurant, so we each had one and drove through the beautiful highlands in the Mpumalanga Province. We then cut through the main city of Lydenburg and reached Graskop at 4pm.
Welcomed by barking dogs, we met our friendly host at the Autumn Breeze Manor, and whiled around. It felt like home and each room decorated differently. The rooms were cozy and we loved it. We took a walk down the main street or rather the only street lined by a couple of souvenir shops, a large hotel, a few restaurants and backpacker joints. In the past, it was a gold mining camp, so …. there wasn’t much to see apart from a large white bus dropping tourists at Graskop Hotel. We hung around the Manor until dinner. The guide showed up right before dinner, we knew he was out for a couple of hours because the van was no where in sight and the air was silent. He suggested a Mozambican restaurant. It was okay.
I was curious to know where he was because there wasn’t much to do in Graskop and he postponed the visit to God’s window 15 minutes away to the next day because he was tired. So, why disappear for a couple of hours with the car? He went to see his ‘friend’ and ‘get info’ on what the roads to Kruger were going to be like. Apparently, there was a demonstration because of potholes so he was advised to make a detour to Kruger. The roads in SA were full on first world so it was strange to go out of the way to ‘check the situation’. For reallzzz….So I asked ‘will it cause a delay?’. He responded with ‘No, but I like to ask people on the ground, I have friends everywhere, they give me info’. Like, this ain the bush, what difference does it make to us? We don’t know the roads and it looks straightforward anyway. Couldn’t he just call him? It’s SA!! Not Timbuktu.
We missed God’s window on this good day because…..wait for IT!