Caterpillars and catfish in the Drakensberg

By Time of article published Jan 12, 2009

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Was Nellie Atkinson really buried with all her diamonds? Local legend has it that she was, and it seems her grave was once raided - no doubt by those in search of glittering jewels.

Wandering around the wonderful old family home, Windmill - near where Nellie was buried - I bumped into Andrew Cloete, the manager of the Caterpillar and Catfish Cookhouse restaurant, which is located in the rambling house.

"Our name is taken from the thousands of caterpillars and catfish seen daily during the summer months," he explained.

Giving a brief history of the place, Cloete said Windmill was built in 1936 by Otto Zunckel, a member of the Berlin Missionary Society which arrived in Africa in 1850 to build the Emmaus mission station and hospital.

Zunckel was also the founder of the much-loved Cathedral Peak and Royal Natal National Park hotels, and he built Windmill as the ideal spot to retire to after a busy life as a hotelier.

Over the years Windmill changed hands and it now belongs to the Cloete family (a different branch to Andrew's), who live in Harrismith.

Reverting to Nellie, Cloete said she died in 1918 at the age of just 31, when the farm belonged to the Atkinsons.

"Even if she was buried with her diamonds they would have been rose-cut and would have had to be reset," he pointed out.

Those who want to stay over can sleep in the main house or check into the Windmill's self-catering units.

According to Andrew people divide into two clear categories. "Some would never dream of staying in the main house, while for others that is the only choice - they would never contemplate self-catering," he said.

Given the romance of the big old house - and maybe a chance to meet the ghosts of Nellie or old man Zunckel walking its passages - for me the choice is obvious.

Call (036) 438-6130 for bookings.

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