Piet Retief, Mpumalanga - Travellers to Piet Retief are spoiled for choice. A plethora of accommodation outlets advertise what they have to offer, and some of it sounded very tempting.
Besides looking for somewhere more laid-back, I had another motive for visiting Amsterdam. In White River, I had heard about a Scotsman, David Forbes, who was given vast tracts of land by the leaders of the former Transvaal Republic in the Amsterdam area.
Forbes was asked to guide Dutch surveyors seeking a route for a proposed railway line between Pretoria and Lourenco Marques (modern day Maputo) on their behalf. The impoverished Boer Republic could not pay him for his services, so the lucrative land deal was struck instead.
Heading homewards via Amsterdam presented an opportunity to find any farms owned by Forbes’s descendants. None came to light, but two places caught the eye. One was the Robert Burns Inn, in the middle of Amsterdam – a connection of some sort, even though miniscule… Burns and Forbes were both from bonnie Scotland.
The inn seemed charming. Different rooms, opening on to a central garden, featured the tartans of various Scottish clans on their door plaques. I was informed B&B costs were R350pp.
Always drawn to the countryside, I then set off to take a look at Reedbuck Forest Lake Retreat, some 12km outside the town. Here, large self-catering cottages overlook a farm dam, as well as tracts of grasslands.
Owner Peter Venter told me the land has been in the family since 1973, and three generations have farmed with livestock, maize, soya and forestry.
“This is a working farm and guests can help with counting livestock. Children get to see animals, try milking a cow, feed an orphaned lamb and touch the piglets,” said Peter. Guests can fish for bass and yellowfish, go horseriding and hiking.
Although the cottages are geared to large groups, individuals will not be turned away. If there is space, Peter and his wife, Gerty, are happy to accommodate them. While they need a minimum of four people in the biggest lodge, in the smaller ones they charge only R220pp, with children under 13 paying R100. Dinner and breakfast can be arranged on request.
Contact: Robert Burns Inn 017 846 9236; Reedbuck Forest Lake Retreat 017 846 8909; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org - Sunday Tribune