Having attended many Indaba exhibitions since the 1980s, it has become routine to either fly down or rush the N3 freeway. So this year, I was tasked to drive down one of the 4x4 exhibition rental vehicles.
At the risk of being accused of using the overrated ‘less-travelled road’ cliché, I decided, nevertheless, to take the less-journeyed route to Durban. Cutting out the Free State stretch, I opted for skirting through dense fog into Mpumalanga. The toll road to Leandra is dreary but the scenery changes dramatically when entering the Wakkerstroom expanse. You would be forgiven for mistaking this for a quaint foreign village. Surprisingly the prices are ‘country folk’-related too. Certainly not the exorbitant franchise rates. The board markings show several accommodation establishments. A farm-life brashness permeates the place. Methinks a family weekend breakaway is on the cards.
Continuing south, the KZN Natal Midlands await. This place is steeped in Anglo-Boer War nostalgia. I only remember ‘Pomeroy’ as Sir Pomeroy Colley in our school history books, from the battle of Majuba. A rural village, Pomeroy, is named after him. Friendly schoolchildren wave as you pass by their classrooms. Shortly afterwards, you ascend to the town of Tugela Ferry. Now, this is a sortie worth the detour. Locals trade on the side of the road. It’s a typical market atmosphere, experienced daily in many countries north of us. Even a ‘street butchery’ retails its products – yes, you can buy fresh meat at the side of the street. At the end of the main road, you come to a narrow bridge that only allows one-way traffic. This is fine, as the river, mountains and surrounding green landscape are awe inspiring. You just want to get out, walk around, chat with locals and take a few pictures. The problem is, there is not much traffic, so you need to proceed over the bridge as soon as possible. The pedestrians walk on both sides as you cross. A totally different way of life.
On leaving Tugela Ferry, you instinctively wonder if, before the bridge was built, you probably had to use a ferry to cross the river. The school history books did not talk about this but Google confirms it.
Although the traversing did not take an hour, as with the ferry days, the detour route is already seven and a half hours. Passing through Greytown, it is difficult to imagine that over 200 000 men descended on this farming community to visit Uncle Angus’s farm three years ago. The streets are clean and clearly well administered by the locals. After a brief refreshment stop, you can continue to Durban via Ballito or hop on to the N3 and be at the sea within an hour and a half. I chose the latter.
Maybe on the way back, Zululand beckons?