It is interesting how the best laid plans of a tour leader can so easily be blown by a faulty belt pulley in a tour bus. And that was the case today. We headed out at 08:00 north east toward Polokwane with every intention of visiting Peter Hill’s great uncle’s grave. Passing the airport, an alarm sounded; we pulled into a nearby petrol station. A mechanic was called. Trusting there would be a quick fix, the story of Morant and his less than salubrious exploits in the Spelonken district were read out in anticipation of the group visiting the region. The mechanic took an hour to fight his way through Johannesburg traffic, then another 15 minutes to deliver his verdict.
The replacement bus eventually arrived; we did not hit the road until 11:30. Polokwane was out of the question. We headed to Motetma (Rhenosterkop). The scenery en route was stunning, the distance gave us an appreciation of what it would be like to move on horseback and foot chasing an elusive enemy so long ago (November 1900). A description of the engagement as penned by Conan Doyle was read out as we approached. Alighting from the bus we looked across a roadside strewn by all manner of refuse to marvel at the rocky grandeur of the feature General Viljonen had defended against a force that for the first time included troops from all of the Australian Colonies and New Zealand (ANZAC – 15). The British commander General Paget’s troops attacked both horns of the horseshoe shaped feature, fighting dismounted until night silenced the action. By morning the Boers had faded into the distance following a threat of being outflanked. They had completed their work, 100 British lost their lives.
On then to the cemetery at Middleburg where in the fading light we visited Lieutenant Anthony Forrest’s grave. At 16, the youngest Australian officer to die in battle.
We slipped into Witbank in total darkness to enjoy a repast full of delight, even including escargots for those with an adventurous palate (there were not many).
A warm bed and well-earned sleep. Tomorrow we will again head out early; a great deal to take-in.