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Pole to Pole

Day 123: Soutpansberg Mountains to Johannesburg

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAfter a hot night at a motel in the Soutpansberg (Salt Pan Mountains), with my cracked rib giving me no relief unless I sleep sitting up, we are on the move, passing along a series of tunnels through the folded, faulted range that is part of the Drakensberg Mountains. If I'm not much mistaken the Verwoerd Tunnels (after Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, Prime Minister and staunch advocate of apartheid, assassinated in 1966) are the first tunnels we have been through in nearly 12,000 miles of travel. Forty miles further on I'm surprised to be reminded that part of South Africa is in the tropics, as we pass a tall, modern, chrome-tipped monument marking the Tropic of Capricorn.

How different my circumstances were when we crossed into the tropics nine weeks ago. From the Wadi Halfa ferry to a BMW.

We reach Pietersburg, to the passing eye clean, well-kept and affluent, and on through towns whose lumpy names, like Potgietersrus and Naboomspruit, declare their origin in the years following the Great Trek of 1837 when 10,000 Boer settlers, unable to coexist with the British, left the Cape and moved north. Now they are proud communities announcing themselves with weighty concrete signs. Hotels and shopping malls are going up behind false brick fašades and the car parks are full of BMWs like mine. Sanctions don't appear to have caused much pain up here.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 123
  • Country/sea: South Africa
  • Place: Pietersburg
  • Book page no: 274

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