Bloemfontein - Lesoba is magnificently situated. On one side, colourful sandstone bluffs tower above the cottages which are on the edge of a small farm dam. Sitting on the deck of a cottage, visitors have a view typical of this lovely part of the world: a patchwork of farmlands, and amazingly-shaped koppies rising above the veld.

Rolling lawns run down to the dam, while sheep and bleating lambs graze contentedly beneath trees. The lazy chirp of birds, hum of bees, and more strident hadedas all add to the indolent mood, which enfolds one in its cotton wool embrace. It is the kind of place where you can just sit motionless for hours, contemplating the countryside.

What I will long remember is an unexpected encounter one morning. My companion on a walk to Queen Victoria (a free-standing rocky outcrop looking like a haughty queen on her throne) was a mixed breed Fox Terrier.

Striding across Lesoba’s farmlands through grass long and green after copious rain, we heard voices behind us. My not so valiant canine friend put his tail between his legs and skulked off to hide.

So I met Flora Rapoone, her brother David, and other members of their family.

They were off to tend to their ancestors’ graves, and visit their former homestead beneath Queen Victoria. We continued our journey together, and on arrival they pointed to a gnarled old peach tree. “We used to sit here in the branches all day and talk. This is where we grew vegetables, and here is where we planted flowers. Where are they all gone?” asked Flora sadly. We wandered among the slightly ramshackle, now empty, African huts.

On the way back to my cottage, the Fox Terrier reappeared out of nowhere, looking slightly sheepish. Along the way I stopped to pick and eat wild blackberries, emerging with deep scratches and purple stained lips.

My well-equipped self-catering sandstone cottage was where visitors stayed decades ago (when it was run by Ignatius Rautenbach and his wife Lettie). Now their granddaughter, Rulé Mans, runs Lesoba, and she has made several additions to the original property.

Mattresses and pillows are comfortable; a springbok pelt acts as a carpet, while swing doors lead through to the shower and toilet. There is a two-plate gas stove, microwave, small fridge, and moveable braai on the deck.

Guests can enjoy a 4x4 trail, and two circular hiking trails of 10km and 6km, while enjoying views across the Caledon River into Lesotho. You can see Bushman paintings and a dinosaur femur embedded in the rock.

The cottages accommodate a total of 30 people, 12 backpackers can stay in a rondawel or in the old farm school, while campers are also catered for. There’s a communal kitchen, electrical power points, modern ablutions and undercover braai facilities.

Mans said the farm (which is located in the area once known as the Conquered Territories, after the war with the Basotho) was given to her great grandfather. “To get such a piece of land you had to own a span of oxen and a wagon, as well as guns and ammunition,” she explained.

“These farms acted as a protective barrier between the then Orange Free State and Basutoland (Lesotho). Our son is the fifth generation on this land.”

For those seeking further adventure, nearby Shumba Valley Equestrian Centre advertises a three-day riding and jumping training weekend, which includes a three-hour outride.

Untarred roads wander through spectacular scenery. Just check the condition of them before venturing forth, as sometimes small rivulets can flood the roads after heavy rains.

Contacts: Lesoba 058 223 0444; 072 660 0840; e-mail: [email protected]

Shumba Valley 058 223 0277; 084 562 9818; e-mail: [email protected]; Web: www.shumbavalleyfarm.co.za - Myrtle Ryan, Sunday Tribune