Monday, November 12, 2007

midlands madness

Have just spent two incredible days in the Midlands.

It's funny hey, growing up somewhere, you often don't realise how beautiful a place is. Until you go back as a now Vaalie-dwelling holidaymaker. Honestly, I rate the Natal Midlands the most beautiful part of this entire country.

When the folks ask us where we are from, I have to bite my tongue and say “Joburg..." 'Cos really, I'm as much a tourist as the china from Roodepoort now.

The Midlands is breathtaking. For starters, the hills are so green, it makes your eyes sting. The towns are fraught with agricultural outposts like Notties Pub and Rawdons (Which we simulatenously ate ourselves senseless at).
You feel like you're tripping half the time, no wonder hippies love this place.

Everywhere you look, there are fields of daises, horses, bovines, and gurgling streams. Along windy roads, which run parallel to a train track. It's a little slice of England right in SA, where wild roses and cascading weeping willows dot the countryside.
(It's made me all whimiscal-like, how're these chocolate-box descriptions here?)

And England, quite right, what what what what what. We ventured off the beaten track – and did a little Midlands Meander over the weekend. Hired mountain bikes and did a ride from Nottingham Road to Rosetta, stopping for some Earl Grey at the local pub.

I think I'm high from seeing too many green hills: Drove down a dirt road, reaching Fort Nottingham, a tiny dwelling in the middle of achingly pristine green mountains, laced with purple fields where horses grazed.
We stopped often, to take it all in.

Fort Nottingham, is a bastion on the foothills of the Drakensberg. A Scottish Fort, built in 1845 to ward off the San from stealing the farmers cattle. You go there today, and a man with a lip as stiff as concrete regales one with stories about kilts, guns and cattle. It's magic.

Our treehouses were crafted intricately by an eccentric farmer – set on stilts, and therefore high in the oak trees. Complete with tub, and an interesting ceramic red leg as part of the decor.

We even made some holiday friends. Love that. When you dine with everyone else, and a few bottles of red get thrown around the table, you tend to make long lost friends with people you ordinarily never speak to. All from Natal, we had an interesting chat about how this part of the world – from the Midlands down to about Westville, you don't hear Afrikaans.

It really is a slice of the UK in all manners of speaking.
For instance, Botha's Hill – a small dwelling near Hillcrest, is pronounced Both-ah's Hill. Booit-ha's Hill is not acceptable, the locals look at you funny. (It's named after a Cedric Both-ah, go figure.) The suburb of Kloof – is clue-f, not klooif. Even Boom Street in Maritzburg is pronounced boom, not booim. And Kerk Street is kirk, not the Afrikaans pronunciation thereof. It really is the Last Colonial Outpost – and now I realise why my Afrikaans is up to shit.

It's magical. And growing up there was special, I really was lucky.


fush and chips said...

Ah yes, a midlands childhood. An english mate used to call it Somerset under a huge sky. Rolling green hills that look like Kate Bush's Cloudbusting sounds. Swoon. I now live in Joburg, but shudder at what the locals considers pastoral up here.

Was there last week. When you're back, go to La Lampara, a 150 year-old red brick farmhouse/restaurant about 15 minutes off the Lidgetton road.

Peas on Toast said...

fush and chips - ooh, yes I've head of La Lampara! We spent most of our time near Fort Nottingham/Not Road and Rosetta, so next time, I think a bit of Lidgetton and Dargle is in order :)

Revolving Credit said...

I'm high from seeing too many green hills....when you take the green, roll it and smoke it, that tends to happen!

Peas on Toast said...

Rev - yip, that tends to happen. Makes your eyes sting if the smoke gets in them too. :)

Anonymous said...

Peas.. Im in the UK and coming back to SA in a month. Just spent the weekend road tripping through Hampshire and thought out loud to myself that this reminds me of the Midlands...

Cant wait to call PMB my home again! And when Im looking for a little of the UK, Ill remember to take a meander...

Insane Insomniac said...

Living in Jozi really makes you appreciate the beauty of the rest of the country, and its great to be able to actually go on holiday away from the city.
I'm usually happy to get back to the madness.
Another amazing area I'd heartily recommend, is Mabalingwe outside of Warmbaths.

Peas on Toast said...

Anon - wow, Hampshire sounds pristine. And yes, when you need to get out of the smoky dazzling lights that is PMB, pack a picnic basket and head for the hills - enjoy your trip home!

Insane - I've never been to Mabilingwe, but have only heard good reviews, I must say. My next trip - I HAVE to HAVE to go to the Transkei. I haven't done that coastline, can you believe it? I'm sorting it out asap, it's high time!

Mel said...

My most memorable Midlands Meander experience was a few years back with my mom - we stopped at this place that makes all kinds of goats' cheese. It had the whole Swiss vibe to it. We got out the car, had a look at the goats for a second and walked into the shop. The lady behind the counter looked us up and down and simply said "Please do not disturb the goats, they're pregnant." Apparently we look like the goat-disturbing type...

Storm said...

i loooooove the midlands:-) come from a bit more north myself(still in Natal tho), but i've always loved going down that way! its gorgeous!

My Gran still lives out that way, i get to go there as often as i get to go and visit her:-)

Glad you enjoyed it peasy!

Peas on Toast said...

Mel - that's hilarious, like what you gonna do, smoke near the goats? Feed the goats frothing great tankards of beer?

Storm - bless, it's the perfect little place for a gran, innit? Perhaps when I'm an old timer I'll head back there - one can be all eccentric there and nobody really bats an eyelid :)

Champagne Heathen said...

Hmm... my most memorable (only) Midlands meander involved arriving 4 hrs later than I was meant to, infamous N3 chaos, in Nottingham road, where I directed straight from the N3 to the local pub where I met up with my uncle & we drank till 4am, then a few hours later had to attend a kids party, then attend a wedding that I left at 5am, then the Sunday brunch & I drove 5hrs home.

I enjoyed your Midlands.

Peas on Toast said...

Champs - yeah most Midlands is like that :)

Involving funnels in Notties pub, the stripping off of clothes and wonderful boozy memories. Lots of fun!

Mel said...

I think she was more worried of us making a huge noise and setting the goats into premature labour - she seemed to be the only sould around and I guess she just didn't feel like playing midwife to a herd of goats! :)