Happy folk embraced by giants
BLOUBERG FULL OF SURPRISES
SOUTH Africa has several towns that were founded at the sites of hospitals started by Christian missionaries.
Senwabarwana (formerly known as Bochum) in Limpopo is one classic example. This town is situated where the Berlin Missionary Society was stationed, hence the German name Bochum, and next to where the Helena Franz Hospital still stands today.
Some signboards and official documents call her “Helene ” or “Helen ”. During my trip I could not establish if Franz was a mission worker, wife or daughter of one of the missionaries, like the case of Jane Furse, also in Limpopo.
Jane Furse Hospital, which gave birth to the town of the same name, was named after the daughter of Anglican Church missionary reverend Michael Furse.
The security guard told me he didn ’ t know who Helena Franz was because he was new at the job, but admitted to growing up in the area. Well, two weeks later I found out that she was the wife of missionary Carl Franz.
However, there ’ s no denying my surprise at the brisk trade at the seemingly fast-developing town of Senwabarwana. Locals spoke about their relief at not having to travel all the way to Polokwane, which is 85km south of here, for shopping.
Apart from being the commercial centre, Senwabarwana is also the political capital of the BaHananwa people of the Malebogo chieftaincy. This area holds great tourism potential, due to its appealing topography and heritage.
Granted, I had heard of the legend of warrior King Malebogo and his Hananwa tribe but I had always imagined a place with rugged terrain, blighted by poverty.
What a pleasant surprise to meet radiant, energetic people, who took their daily struggles with the water supply in their stride.
Almost all villages overlook Blouberg mountain range and Makgabeng Plateau, which form a concave shape, as if these two ancestral mountains are locked in embrace over Malebogo villages.
There are a few other villages behind the mountainous embrace, such as Eldorado and GaMabelebele. These however enjoy the cooling shade of the mountains.
From afar the two mountains appear to be part of the same range, largely because Makgabeng fades closer to the southwestern end of Blouberg. But both ranges hold significant historical accounts for the Hananwa people.
King Malebogo ’ s last stand against the Voortrekkers was in the castle-like rocky outcrops on Blouberg. His people sought refuge in the Table Mountain lookalike, Makgabeng, where they found impregnable caverns to hide from their Boer conquerors.
A pass between the two mountains allows for a road heading to villages closer to the border of Botswana, where the Hananwa originate from.
While Makgabeng, which still has signs of the people ’ s habitation during the siege, including rock art, averages a mere 900m, Blou- berg ’ s highest point is 2 040m.
This is also the highest point in the entire Soutpansberg range that Blouberg is part of.
Tour guides from areas close to the mountains are available for Makgabeng climbs, with guided tours around the Blouberg foothills offered by Seraki Blouberg Route.
In Makgabeng the Hanwana rock paintings, hailed as South Africa ’ s first protest art, can be viewed.
The Seraki Blouberg route at the foothills of the Blouberg offers pleasant exploration of the impressive hills and life in adjoining villages. The deep cultural heritage of the Hanwana and the natural beauty of their place are exposed along the way.
The Blouberg Nature Reserve and the community-owned Maleboch Nature Reserve nearby offer game drives, camping sites and accommodation in chalets.
Other visitors to the area can utilise village sleep-overs. The bigger village of My Darling, outside the reserve, is highly recommended for its more vibrant community life, and worth a visit if only because of its unusual name.
My Darling is seen as the cultural capital of the Hananwa. Life here and in other villages is still simple and rural but certainly not rustic, more so after mass electrification of the area in recent years.
The tourism sector in these parts of Limpopo is still developing but already there are good places providing accommodation.
Among these are Makgabeng Farm Lodge, which organises hikes to the plateau, while Motlele Lodge and Bakone Mathekga Lodge are in Senwabarwana town.
WATER BLUES: Lucas Papole of Mongalo village uses his donkey cart, and help from a couple of little hands, to fetch water for residents at a fee. Though he earns some income for his business, he complained bitterly over the scarcity of water in GaMalebogo
THIS WAY, DARLING: While Senwabarwana is the commercial centre, My Darling, outside Maleboch Nature Reserve, is the cultural capital of the Ba-Hananwa