When I was younger we used to hurl insults to the Afrikaans kids and they to us. Insults of rooinek and soutpiel were vollied with cries of crunchie and dutchman. After that we used to settle down to the serious business of riding our bikes, trekking through the veld and playing in the drains – Ah the good old days when kids played on the street and only went home when there was no more sunlight to squeeze out of the day (and our feet were blackened from playing barefoot on the street!)
History was taught to us in dulcet tones and words like Industrial Revolution, Prussia, Otto Von Bismarck and Shaka volley about in my head. I vaguely remember a primary school tour where we learnt the horror of the battle between the Boers and the Zulus. After that it was all a blur and we left school and entered the world full of promise and dreams.
“Go to Three Trees; experience the joy of the surroundings, the warmth of the welcome, the flavour of their cuisine, the comfort and spaciousness of their rooms, the cool of the pool and the area that bleeds with incredible history. You will not be sorry!”
Lucky for me I chose a career in the travel industry and have seen amazing sights; from the Pyramids to the Okavango Delta; the Skeleton Coast to Epcot Centre; the Seine River and the dotted jewels that make-up the Maldives – and everywhere in between! And this is how I ended up spending three nights in December 2014 at Three Trees at Spioenkop. Ostensibly this was to celebrate my son’s 18th birthday and to spend some time alone with him – very soon he will be out in the world full of promise and a head full of dreams. The drive to Three Trees was an easy four hours from Johannesburg. Even a violent rain storm on Van Reenen’s pass did not dampen our spirits and we arrived in time for afternoon tea served in the lounge.
Our welcome was warm and friendly and the ambience is so relaxed that by our last day, I was so chilled that I was almost one with the couch and startled some newcomers when I said hello! Duke, one of the owners’ dogs was at my heel and I felt like I’d been there for days.
A highlight for me and something I could not recommend more highly was a Battlefields tour of Colenso and Spioenkop. Done under the expert tutelage and guidance of Ron Gold and arranged by the lodge it was an eight-hour journey through history that showed me how brave those soldiers were, where Winston Churchill wrote about the devastating battle as a journalist, and how the personalities and egos of those in charge impacted on the very deaths (and survival) of the troops.
We ended the day atop Spioenkop with our attention riveted on Ron’s every word detailing the events of the 23rd and 24th of January 1900. We could almost hear the battle cries, and smell the rifle powder and could most certainly appreciate how hot, tired and thirsty the soldiers must have been atop the grassy hill in the midday sun.
Its funny how, after 40 years living in South Africa that it took just one day to change my appreciation for the Boers and what they fought for and believed in. I was secretly thinking the whole time “go Boers” and I certainly won’t be calling anybody Dutchman or crunchie (unless I want a swift klap!)