There is a backroad between Maseru Bridge and Ladybrand
The road from the Maseru Bridge border post takes a long uphill to the main road to Bloemfontein. People bustle. Gotto to get to Bloem! But there is a tantalising turn-off just above the border. A dirt road, officially designated S708. Long ago I took the turn off. I found myself on a pretty route, lined with peach trees, between ploughed fields and stands of poplar trees just above the Caledon river. The road passed between some low sandstone topped hills before swinging away from the river to head towards Ladybrand.
The road crosses a stream on a low-level bridge. Being on the road feels like a holiday. Perhaps this is because I usually take the route after an intense consulting job with my clients in Lesotho.
And what better way to celebrate a holiday than to sit and do a painting.
Here is my favourite termite mound in all the world.
Over the years I have sat on the same termite mound in different seasons to paint same scene.
In Summer the same scene calls out fertility and abundance:
Here are some shots I took as I painted the above watercolour:
Here is the scene painted in Winter, when there was snow on the Maloti Mountains:
While I paint on my termite mound I am always aware of what is going on around me. Once a chap walked up from across the fields. He looked like he was heading for the river. He asked me for money. I felt an intuitive nudge to be careful. Therefore I asked him if he wanted to be in a photograph of the scene. He was keen so I asked him to go and stand in the middle ground. Then I said “back, back baaaack!” Then when I thought he was far enough I waved goodbye, grabbed my painting kit and hopped into my hire car and headed off to Ladybrand.
The view from Maseru
When I work in Lesotho I usually spend the first night in Maseru, quite often in the Avani Hotel on top of a hill overlooking the town, the Caledon River and the land on the other side of the river. I sometimes paint the view from my hotel window. This is the view looking North – over the Caledon River. There is the little pinnacle at the end of the sandstone. The road to Ladybrand is just below this hill. It is just a road, but it beckons.
Here (for completeness) is the view to the west from that same hotel:
The view from Ladybrand
Here is the same peak from the other side of that koppie. The route to Ladybrand passes below the little block at the top of the hill. I love that little notch between the chock-stone at the end of the ridge and the rest of the rock face. Also there is this massive stand of poplar trees on the farm in the mid foreground. I would love to camp there. However this is also border country and I wonder how safe that would be.
Here is the view in Summer
And in Winter
These paintings remind me of all of the times I have worked with teams in Lesotho. They remind me of the days in which I have left my hotel at 04:00 to get over the boarder and onto my termite mound. Sometimes I have been asked to meet with my client in the morning on which I leave for Bloemfontein. This usually means hitting the traffic over the border, which can take two hours. On these occasions I have little room for delays. I completed the watercolour below in eight minutes.
Once I finished a workshop on a Saturday. I left Maseru early on Sunday morning and took time to paint a watercolour of a fence post. The farmers in the area use the blocky local sandstones to create fence posts (could be the Caves Sandstone – what is now called the Clarens Formation). Some of the historic buildings in Ladybrand are built of this sandstone. While I sat painting I listened to the sounds of Maseru Sunday drifting over the river, Hints of marching bands, singing and drag-races.