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Notes on the Geography of South Africa: Johannesburg to Ladybrand

Roadtrip: call it 800 miles, most of it heading south from Johannesburg to the tiny town of Clarens, then turning west and skirting Lesotho for a hundred miles. Pretty country, with lots of Dutch Evangelical churches, houses of stone, and that entrenched racial gulf.

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South Africa: Johannesburg to Ladybrand picture 1

If signs are indicative, there's trouble ahead.

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The Evangelical Reformed Church, or Evangelies-Gereformeerde Kerk. What kind of church needs this kind of security? It's a rhetorical question, unfortunately.

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Main street, caught in a time warp from fifty years ago.

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What appeared as stylish survives without any effort at preservation.

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Call it multicultural. The interesting thing is the combination of land-uses, by no means foreign to traditional Islam but startling in these modern clothes.

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Mosque entrance.

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Supermarket with no parking problems.

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An older church in the heart of Vereeniging.

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A house that presents a wall to the street: by the standards of electric-fence Johannesburg, it's welcoming.

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South of town, the road crosses the Vaal River. The headworks on the other side divert water heading to Johannesburg.

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There's a reservoir upstream, which means second homes. Tempted?

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Plenty to do!

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The town of Oranjeville almost gets its feet wet between two arms of the reservoir.

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Pride of "The Cliffs."

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Less brash, an Oranjeville church.

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Continuing south, with world-scale fields of corn.

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A hint of farmsteads lost as farms grew larger.

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The road drops toward Frankfort, a huge grain elevator in the distance.

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Entering the town, named for Frankfurt-am-Main. The palms are startling, no?

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The street is as wide as Mormons would make it. Quiet, too.

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The local church.

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The town was established in the 1860s, so why is the church so much more recent? Thank the British, who during the Boer War burned down the old one. Odd that the architect here should be English, but that pattern--English architect, Boer contractor--is a common one.

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A local school preserves the old separation, 20 years after the release of Nelson Mandela.

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Shall we look inside a grocery store?

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Women here bake. Call me Sherlock.

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No place to put all the stuff.

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Not that there's a connection, but the lineup of merchants in towns of this size often includes stonecutters who are upfront about their craft.

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The town park commemorates the pioneers.

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Continuing south: the Liebenberg Vlei, a tributary of the Vaal.

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Farmland on the road to Tweeling.

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An isolated farm.

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The main intersection in Tweeling, a withered place.

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Gas station.

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Town hall.

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Far and away the most impressive building in town.

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Twenty miles farther south, Reitz is a bigger place and in better condition.

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Even some of the secondary streets speak to someone's ambition, once.

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Bank.

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Town hall.

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Church.

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Approaching Clarens, the road rises in the outliers of the Maluti Mountains.

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Clarens church.

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A house in Clarens. The town draws lots of visitors to its quasi-mountainous setting.

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Merchants aren't far behind.

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Town directory.

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Paired with Clarens, as usual, there's a black township.

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Heading west from Clarens to Fouriesburg.

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Fouriesburg church.

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The town isn't called Fouriesburg for nothing.

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The church cornerstone reflects, once again, that odd pairing of English architect and Boer contractor.

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A house in Fouriesburg.

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Seen from another side.

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Another reminder of the country's blend of immigrants.

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Yet another town that uses local stone to great advantage: Ficksburg.

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The town founder.

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Ficksburg public building.

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The church.

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"Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."

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Home and business.

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The older end of the Ficksburg commercial center.

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Restaurant.

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The newer end, modernized 50 years ago.

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Could be a hundred towns, but it happens to be Ladybrand, 40 miles west of Ficksburg.

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Ladybrand high school, opened in 1904 and built to last.

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School-side directory.

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Main street intersection.

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Some old buildings survive in reduced circumstances.

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The town wasn't far enough from Europe to escape World War I.

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Apparently the residents then were mostly English, or was it that the Boers tried to stay out of it?


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