Dam se Drif (Golden Crust)
The Buffalo Herders are through the Baviaanskloof and have bedded down for the night at the oasis of Dam se Drif, home of Hestelle and Rune Jansen van Rensburg. Dam se Drif is actually Golden Crust as those of you who have read the race narrative are well aware, at least I hope you are. Hestelle showed me the original title deeds of the property and sure enough we are indeed on a farm called Golden Crust. European settlers came very early into the Baviaans (Golden Crust farmhouse was built in 1860) and I can only imagine the first loaf of baked bread was a great success.
From henceforth this legendary support station shall be known to Freedom Riders as Golden Crust (formerly Dam se Drif). The parenthesis and clarification are important because riders (and maybe future runners) may get confused. The sign board will continue to say Dam se Drif but that is the owner’s prerogative, just ignore it. Actually don’t ignore it, ignore the first sign for Dam se Drif as the real (but not the support station) Dam se Drif is 2km down the road back towards the Baviaanskloof, a fact that a number of riders from the past have discovered to their cost. I’m glad I could clear this up for everyone, I’ll close the door on my way out.
Remarkably Alex Harris himself, a few days ago, went to the wrong Dam se Drif. He hadn’t slept for three days. His detour cost him 2km. Hestelle said Alex was hallucinating when he eventually came through to sleep for four hours or so. He told Rune and Hestelle that the stretch from here to Prince Albert is his nemesis, the part of Freedom Challenge that he fears the most. I think he has put that one to bed (other than the Dam se Drif detour of course).
I was last here in 2016 in my previous stint as a Buffalo Herder. In that year I looked forward to my coffee, lunch and chat with Hestelle and her family before I turned around to chug back to Cambria to await the next escort. Due to a somewhat shortened buffalo escort distance this year, this is the first time I have had a chance to catch up with her, Rune and the kids. The three daughters have grown up, one is now at university. Life is hectic at Dam se Drif. COVID means a full house all the time as the kids are studying from home. Trying to manage dusty Freedom riders in amongst all of this can be challenging in these stressful times and our appreciation must go to Hestelle and her family for the support they have given us from the inception of the Freedom Challenge. I can only hope she knows how much we all look forward to our stop at Dam se Drif.
The postal history fans amongst you have been ignored for a while, not for lack of any effort on my part. No longer. I discovered to my delight that there are (or were) at least four postal agencies in the Baviaanskloof. Aside from the post office at Willowmore there were agencies at Studtis, Lulet, Zandvlakte and remarkably at Smitskraal, deep in the Baviaanskloof Reserve I had a lovely chat in her kitchen last evening with the 84 year old owner, Aleta Smith, of the farm Kleinpoort. Kleinpoort lies adjacent to Dam se Drif (Golden Crust) and is where the still operating postal agency Lulet is situated. Lulet is a combination of the names of Aleta and her late husband Lucas (not to be confused with the Lucas of Lucas Paw Paw Ointment). The postal code is 6462 in case any of you wish to send a letter to Aleta (get it, “a letter to Aleta”, hahaha). In fact please could you do that, send a postcard or letter to her, she is a bit lonely and could do with the contact. Mention the Freedom Challenge.
It will get to her I promise. It’s her post office after all.
Smitskraal used to be a thriving community of nine families, all with the surname Smit. There was a school and obviously a post office. Today it is a picnic site, normally the first break that riders take after leaving Cambria. Not a sign of a building anywhere. Smitskraal is where a few days back we found a birthday cake sitting on a picnic table. As it was Eddie Stafford’s birthday we flattened it. The world works in mysterious ways.
On the race front much drama with Mike Woolnough and his attempt to break 12 days and become one of top ten fastest riders of all-time. He seemed well on track to achieve this until the pits of Stettynskloof claimed another victim. Mike spent last night in Stettyns and as I write is making his way up to Diemersfontein. No sub 12 day but a great ride nevertheless. Tim James is still on course to break the single speed record held by Glen Harrison and will achieve this if he finishes before mid-morning tomorrow. Barring a similar mishap as happened to Mike he should break the record. The Matthews brothers will go under 15 days if they finish by 6am tomorrow morning. Looks tight but they aren’t scared. We escorted the Payne brothers through the Baviaanskloof yesterday. Nigel has nursed a twisted ankle for some time now so they are managing themselves to the finish and having a great time in so doing.
Elsewhere there has been plenty of bike breakdown drama. Grant Hill had wheel and tyre issues as has Ernst Behrens. They seem to be mobile again. The last four riders are preparing to make their way through the Baviaanskloof. If Ted and Shaun Adams make it to Cambria from Hadley today they will enter the Baviaanskloof proper tomorrow. That will give the duo ten days to get to Diemersfontein to get in within the 26 day limit. A schedule of Dam se Drif, Willowmore, Prince Albert, Gamkaskloof, Rouxpos, Montagu, McGregor, Trouthaven and finally Diemersfontein should see them in with a day to spare. Looks very achievable and this would be a new record. Ted will be the oldest man to finish the Freedom Challenge at 71 years. Mr and Mrs Scoular are steadily eating up the kilometers as well and are still well within sight of a blanket. I hope Jeanette’s medical challenges have been resolved. If not I have left a half full jar of Lucas Paw Paw Ointment on top of their boxes at Cambria. I eventually found it somewhere in my car and I am sure it will do the trick, if required.
The Baviaanskloof has seen much drama over the last centuries. The event which lingers longest in memories is the 1916 flood which was of such magnitude that lives were lost (look out for the Campbell Memorial the next time you drive through) and it took years for the valley to recover. My guess is that current farmers would welcome a flood given the severity of the drought that they have had to endure for nearly seven years now. We have noticed it on the Freedom Challenge itself. In the past the many river crossings (upwards of 20) used to be in knee high water and a highlight of the first day through the Baviaanskloof. In the last few years there are very few spots where you get your feet wet. There is also far less game. The valleys used to teem with kudu, bushbuck, warthog, buffalo and hammafors. Of the estimated herd of 600 buffalo this year we did not see even one. The drought is taking its toll. I can hear you all wondering what a hammafor is. I will tell you. The answer to the question “what is a hammafor?” is “hitting nails in”. It’s a Dad joke. My kids have just disowned me, again. I’ll close the door on my way out, again.
I am sitting in the dining room (after having come back through the front door) of the Dam se Drif farmhouse at the old wooden dining room table that so many Freedom Challenge riders know so well. Hestelle and two of her helpers (including ou Jan, who is a colored woman, long story that she is called Jan) are helping her mince the last of the beef from a cow that was slaughtered yesterday. She and Rune were up until late last night cutting up meat that must be done before the heat of the day. It will be 37 degrees in the Kloof, an absolute furnace. Good luck to the Race to Willowmore riders later this year in November, it will be even hotter then.
We say goodbye to the support stations of Fietskraal (great return to Freedom Challenge, you have set a high standard!), Gegun, Toekomst and Kleinpoort for 2020. Thank you for your service.