Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wakkerstroom - Chapped, cracked and chilly.

Mpumalanga's Wakkerstroom, a remnant of its former glory, is just one of a plethora of country-towns reminiscent of days long past when farming communities gathered at the common to swap stories, share anecdotes and reaffirm friendships. Failed infrastructure, a pitted complexion and baseless architecture is, at best, an obsolescence lacking in charm. Facilities are poor, accommodation is limited and entrepreneurial spirit a wistful figment of the imagination.

Excluding 'Wetlands Country House & Sheds' which is outstanding, most accommodation options are fairly basic. Birdlife's manicured facility in the Wetland Reserve is ruggedly adequate. One or two of the better B&Bs offer something similar. Even so, most could do with a coat of paint or two.. If Wetlands is fully booked, like it was this last weekend when we arrived, you might be tempted to opt for the Wakkerstroom Country Inn. At face value it's the epitome of  the classically charming village-inn. Fireplaces, ball & claw furniture, old fishing magazines and draught on tap served in pewter tankards. Don't be fooled! It's a veritable case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde! A VISA-swipe reveals rooms so dastardly that it defies belief..

Bathroom - mould & grime
Ceiling - mould & grime

Bedroom - damp & peel
Garage - filth & graffiti

Out of time; out of options and considering it was only for the night we reluctantly stayed.. If the rooms were nasty the dining area was warm & cosy. The food isn't exactly cuisine but it's well-prepared and well-presented. The locals are deliriously entertaining and the log-fire is a welcome relief from the winter chill. Before too long however, curfew is imposed (I kid you not), guests either exit or retire and the alarm activated. At 7am next day inmates are free to come and go - but not before.. It's a twilight adventure, insanely usurous, magnificently ridiculous and sadly negligent!

If the accommodation is rubbish, exploring the countryside is little short of a catharsis. Winter hues are saturated in both wetland & moor and in the hills of purple and gold. Although refreshingly chilly, the crisp air is perfect tonic for the soul. On this occasion a bout of rain settled the dust and cleansed the soul..!

Well known among the birding fraternity for its accessible grassland-specials and for its other rarities of which the localised Giant Girdled Lizard, Sapphire Bluet, Kastrolnek Widow and the very localised Wakkerstroom Geranium are just a few of many, Wakkerstroom offers the outdoorsman an unencumbered glimpse of the world as it was and it's for this reason only that many visitors return, time and time again.
Bokmakierie - one of many 

Birdlife's 'Flufftail' hide

Abandoned farmstead - more evidence of urban migration

Ossewakop a backdrop to the village at its base -  wrapped in a winter rainbow

Late afternoon is bitterly cold. Winter woolies, good company and a dram or two are welcome..