On the trail of the quad squad

Free State

Bloemfontein - The red hartebeest and blesbuck were not exactly comfortable with these noisy apparitions trundling across the hillside. On the other hand, nor were they afraid. They hung around long enough to give the quad bikes a baleful look, before loping away a short distance. Then curiosity got the better of them, and they stopped to again stare.

I was out with Sethuthuthu Tours and Safaris, which operates from a farm outside Clarens in the Eastern Free State. Owners Neil and Veronika van Schalkwyk – who also farm in the area – said sethuthuthu means motorbike in Sesotho.

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The stone cottage, affectionately called the Liewe Heksie Huis. Pictures: Myrtle RyanThe game is curious about people on this mode of transport.

The quad bike tours cross different farmlands, blessed with the lovely scenery found in this part of the world. The highlight, though, is an overnight trip into the adjoining national park. “These tours are for nature lovers,” said Neil, “and are definitely not for those who would like to speed and do obstacles at a flying pace.”

On this mini-safari, guests overnight in a national parks stone cottage, set beneath the golden rocky outcrops. Veronika supplies the tasty meals, which are transported to the house before the guests arrive.

The air was crisp as Autumn strolled casually across the land. The grasses were dry and golden – the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors. Indigenous plants were pointed out and we learned how pioneers of old put them to use. The Voortrekkers settled in this area during 1837/1838, and their small graveyard can be seen.

It is also possible to visit an area in the foothills of the picturesque surrounding Rooiberge where the Boers brought their horses for treatment during the Anglo Boer War.

Local history goes back earlier than this: people inhabited these parts from about 1790-1820. According to Neil, many of them were murdered during the time of the Great Defiqane, when both Shaka and Mzilikazi waged their empire-building wars in these parts. “During these wars, 28 Sotho speaking tribes were wiped from the face of South Africa,” he said, as he pointed out some of the ruins of their former dwellings.

Late one afternoon, we drove through the Fairy Forest with its Kgotla (Place of Gathering). We then headed for a higher point, where we sipped sundowners as the sun settled down for the night.

By the way, I’ll let you in on a secret. Riding pillion on Neil’s quad bike meant I could enjoy the game and the scenery without having to concentrate on handling my sethuthuthu.

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