This was our longest day of travel, some 700 kilometres, and the fluffy clouds seen on the southern horizon yesterday did bring the cold weather the locals indicated. There were a few showers of rain and around Hanover, we had snow. Nothing that would stay on the ground, but definite fluffy flakes. It certainly had us reaching for our warm and wind-proof clothing.
Our first stop was Belmont where the Fighting 29 of the New South Wales Lancers fired the first Australian shots of the war, we were able to identify the kopje they fired from, and the hill ‘round which the Brutish 9th Lancers withdrew with Boers in hot pursuit. An added bonus was a visit to the Belmont station building used as a hospital in the conflict. The caretaker was kind enough to open up showing us the rooms that were used as the surgery, and show us the nearby railway house that was used as a mortuary.
On the road again we had a couple of coffee stops on the way to De Aar, most necessary given the cool air when you stepped outside the warm bus. At De Aar we were able to inspect the site of the main junction most of the Australian soldiers passed through on their way to the front. It is still the second largest rail yard in South Africa.
We had our box lunch at a roadside stop where the clouds parted and allowed those brave enough to withstand the chilly breeze to enjoy their box lunch in the fresh air. The lunches were a tad too large for all items to be eaten, so when we stopped briefly at Hopetown, there was something for local children anxious for a feed. At Arundel, just short of Colesburg we were able to see the kopjes from which a Lancer patrol drew fire killing Trooper Harrison’s horse; the resultant rescue by Trooper Morris resulting in him being the first Australian recommended for a VC, a decoration that was sadly never awarded.
A short stop in Colesberg for supplies then on to our resort accommodation at the Gariep Dam where we all thanked our driver Andre for a sterling effort over such a long distance.
At least we do not have as far to go tomorrow, we will spend the morning in Colesberg, then on to Bloemfontein.