To the Town of Happiness
! !"# $%!" ¿ so happy when he arrives in the Drakensberg hamlet of Geluksburg that he almost buys a plot
Where the Berg hamlet of Geluksburg is all smiles
Anyone who lives in Joburg’s Parktown suburb and has two old ox wagons, a mampoer distillery and a nine-metre-high Vetsak windmill in his garden is eccentric, to say the least.
This man is my friend Johan, a collector of Afrikana and South African knowledge, and a vintage-car enthusiast. His knowledge on the Great Trek and Anglo-Boer War is so extensive I sometimes get the ghostly feeling he actually took part in them.
When he is not being a world-famous gynaecologist, he is continuously telling me about small country places that I haven’t been to. Swartwitpensbokfonteinberg? Dronkvlei? Crook’s Corner? We carry on like this, quoting weird little place names till we get to Geluksburg and then stop. I tell him that I’ve been there, done that, but knowing very well that I haven’t.
So the next day I shake off my lie, the
¿ cameras, intrigue and my wife Lynn, and go. Simple. In fact, the nearest sounding place name to Geluksburg is Ongeluksnek, which I wrote about previously in this magazine’s Parting Shot.
The hamlet of Geluksburg lies beneath the high Tintwa Ridge and other strange timewarped Drakensberg mountains, just across the Free State border in KwaZulu-Natal. Coming in from Bergville, the gravel road takes a long bow-shaped dip down over a across the Njongola River, and then swings up a hill past
¿ village, an abandoned zinc-roofed butchery.
Next to this rather lovely building, a sign reads ‘Bergville 27, Ladysmith 47, Middledale Pass 20’. So dearest travellers, now you know almost exactly where we are. Sorry, for the super-duper-Country-lifers you are now standing at 28° 31’10. 60’’ south and
29° 21’07. 09” east, at an elevation of
1 199 metres.
I am always enthralled by place and
¿ and situation is to do a visual surround of my whereabouts – a kind of full-throttle 180-degree pictorial scan. But full throttle
¿ the one horse and be out of town in a canter.
The village seems to dwell in peaceful
stillness, almost, it seems, living in slow motion. The place has a couple of streets
(most untarred and fairly raggedy) that intersect with another couple of streets.
The earliest of Geluksburg plans are dated circa 1914 when the farm Schoonspruit was divided into 300 residential stands, a market place and school site. There were no building regulations and no rates until the township was adopted by the Okhahlamba (Bergville) Local Municipality in 2007.
About 45 to 50 of the plots now have dwellings with a permanent resident population of about 150. All the plots are enormous when compared to modern urban landscapes and
I was indeed very thankful for that.
The village is administered from Bergville, so there is no town council, mayor or police station. On the one corner, behind two defunct petrol pumps and overgrown with razor wire is a building that acts as a small shop and a kindof-bar-type-shebeen.
Across from this, and a little ways down, stands the church. I like that. Die kerk en die bar is langs mekaar (the church and the bar are next to each other). The only tarred road through the village, called School Street, heads northwest past the cemetery to the Middledale Pass that snakes up over the escarpment.
We stay in Marmalade Cottage, owned by Phil and Anne Rooke. The place is not a cottage, but a wonderfully large house. They emigrated from England in 1978, Phil working as a metallurgist on the platinum mines of Rustenburg.
& ¿ paradise in Geluksburg, with views over valleys and mountains. I photograph them on
À on the townspeople, its support system and peaceful atmosphere. Noting their English
'* ¿ your very Last Outpost,” and Phil adds, “With some musketeer, Zulu and Afrikaner blood – one for all and all for one.”
# ¿ of a poem he had written about Luck Town.
For twelve seasons I have gazed upon this landscape, for twelve seasons I have marvelled at the work of the farmers who have shaped the modest valley, and of Nature that has shaped the mighty Berg.
When they leave and walk the distance to their house next door, I lean on my Canon and my Manfrotto tripod and say, “What a lovely couple.”
Over the next three days, infused with friendliness and compassion, I visit as many of the good and lucky people who reside in Geluksburg. Our neighbour, 80-year-old Kay Thorne, runs a small coffee shop called K’s. I ask her if she’s ever let rip at the shebeen not far from her? “No,” she replies with a smiled
'+ / ¿ : let live.”
Then, out of courtesy, I visit the other two accommodation venues. Perhaps the biggest and most well-known is The Homestead, just a toddle along the shaded road from our
The last corner into the small village of Geluksburg in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakenburg. Geluk also means luck in Afrikaans.
ABOVE: Phil and Anne Rooke pose in their Marmalade Cottage. ABOVE RIGHT: Eighty-year-old Kay Thorne runs a coffee shop in Geluksburg.