As I have mentioned in my Profile, “I live in a small drinking village with a fishing problem” Its Called Clarens and is situated in the Eastern Free State of South Africa, GPS co-ordinates are 28.5117 E, 28.4228 S, It is a tourist village with many of its inhabitants (450 white and 6000 black permenant residents) involved in the industry, this number increases dramatically over Long weekends, Public holidays, Christmas, New year and Easter. I have lived here for nine years now and seen immense change, however I am getting ahead of myself. I would like to give you an idea of the History of this village so that you have a better understanding as to where I live and how and why the village was set up.

Established in 1912 on two farms Naauwpoort and Liliehoek Clarens was officially proclaimed a town in 1913 and a municipality in 1920. Unlike today Clarens was then a sleepy hollow that consisted of a few sandstone buildings and a general dealers. The road that brings you in to Clarens from Bethlehem passes through Naauwpoort Nek and is probably best known for the battle between Paul Kruger’s Commando and the Basotho in September 1865. After the attack and murder of a small group of trek Boers from the Transvaal near the present day Harrismith, the Transvaal Republic decided to send Paul Kruger and 400 men to punish those responsible, after pursuing the Basotho from present day Witsieshoek through the Golden Gate, on the afternoon of the 28th it was decided to laager on the north side of Naauwpoort Nek, very close to the present day site of Clarens. Around 3am on the 29th under cover of rain and darkness the Basotho under the leadership of Lesoeana and Slangaal attacked the sleeping Boers and managed to kill five in the initial rush before being driven off. This valley used to be part of Basutoland but after the Basotho wars had ended in 1869 it became part of the “conquered territory” and was sold to those men who had fought in the Basotho wars, title deeds date back to 1870 and decedents of those original owners still live in the valley, farm names to keep your eye out for as you drive to the Golden gate, Bethlehem or Fouriesburg are Craigrosse, Clifton, Schaaplaats, Kromdraai, Dunblane, Madrid, De Molen, Bokpoort, Damaskus, to name but a few.

On the 16th of December 1895 residents of the Caledon valley erected a monument where the five burghers had been killed. On the 9th of November 1962 as part of Clarens jubilee Celebrations it was moved to Presidents Plein, (later changed to Mosiea park, after a long time municipal worker by that name ,the locals call it the square or market square) and unveiled by the then State President Mr. Charles Roberts Swart where it still stands to this day. In 1912 to honour the contribution that Paul Kruger made to our valley it was decided to name the village after the town in Clarence Switzerland where Paul Kruger died in 1904

The first hotel in the village “Maluti mountain lodge”(there are now another two hotels with the Clarens Protea being the latest addition as well as a multitude of guest houses and bed and breakfasts) overlooks the original road that brought hunters and trek Boers from the Cape Colony probably as early as the 1820’s and would have been transporting animal hides as well as their meat and biltong (for those non South African this is dried meat, I think its called jerky in the States) Southwards. Today this road brings in many thousands of tourists to our village and the impressive Titanic rock watches over all those who visit our beautiful village. The Titanic rock was given the name in 1912 shortly after the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank, “the rock resembles a ships bow”.

Lesser known facts or places of interest in Clarens and surrounds

Clarens is the highest habitable village in the Free State and the 3rd highest in South Africa .

The Golden gate Highlands National Park, 18 kms from Clarens was established in 1963 and was made up of three farms Noord-Brandt, Witsiesoorsprung and Vuurland encompassing an area of 4792 hectares, after the amalgamation with the former Qua Qua National park it is now some 11 634 hectares in size. The Golden gate got its name from Jan van Reenen of the farm Vuurland because of the sun casting soft rays against the sandstone cliffs

According to Basotho legend, the mountain Setlofe (Mount Horeb), is a shy maiden, she was betrothed to the warrior mountain Matsa (Rhebokkop) who jilted her for another, this broke her heart and even now, when she thinks about the rejection, she draws her veil around her head and weeps. So when Setlofe is covered in cloud, it will soon rain in Clarens. The early pioneers also recognized this forecaster of rain and called Setlofe “Reenmakerskop” (rainmakers head)

The Swartland contains some of the oldest houses in Clarens and is the most historic part of our village there as well as one or two short walks in to the hills behind the Swartland that give you stunning views of our village as well as the distant Maluti Mountain ranges

Clarens can boast of more resident artists than any other village in the Free State and probably South Africa, some of the more interesting galleries are not situated on the square. Residents such as Al Tiley (watercolours), Enslin Vorster (watercolours and oils) Diana Reed Gallery (pastels) Belubas, barn (approx 5kms on the Fouriesburg road). We are trying to establish a monthly Made in Clarens Market to give locals (that do not have a shop) an opportunity to sell their home-grown, homemade or handcrafted goods.

Not 500 meters down the road from the Maluti Mountain Lodge opposite Di Mezza blanket shop and general dealers is an old sandstone post that marks where the trek Boers would “Uitspan” (rest) on there journeys through the Naauwpoort Nek, in the early days, a nearby graveyard has a number of Boer children buried there from these early travelers to our Valley

Surrender Hill 15kms from Clarens on the Fouriesburg road is where General Prinsloo and 4300 Boer men (mostly Free State burgers), handed themselves over to General Archibald Hunter on the 29th of June 1900. Most of the men including many locals were sent to prison camps in either Bermuda or Ceylon, although a few were imprisoned on St Helena. Some say that General Prinsloo was paid handsomely by the British for every Boer soldier that surrendered.

The Lesotho Highlands water scheme is an engineering marvel and one of the reasons that Clarens expanded the way it has. A visit to the Ash River outfall 10kms out of Clarens on the Bethlehem road for any visitor is a must. The river was a stream before the tunnels where built (90 kms of tunnels) and the water comes from the Katse dam in Lesotho and to answer your question “yes the water is coooolllllllld”. The river is known as the Ash but its real name is the Axle river as the speech maker who prepared the speech for Kader Ashmal who was then the minister responsible for this project thought that As was Afrikaans for Ash when in fact it was the Axle of a ox wagon also pronounced As. This river now has two River rafting companies Extreme adventures and Outrageous adventures taking tourists for half day or full day trips and is an adrenaline rush of note. Both outfits are very professional and its well worth the trip.

Ok I think this give you a bit more insight in to the village and with the photos give you an idea as to where I live, “not bad hey”.

So this blog is called “The diaries of a village idiot”, I suppose then I need to start telling you what happens here on a daily basis, “I probably wont, but will keep you up to date with the important events and disasters that befall the village”. First let me tell you that living in a small village is vastly different to living in a city. In the city you don’t even know your neighbors, but here in Clarens we all know each other and there is a saying here that goes like this “If you wake you in the morning and don’t know what your going to be doing, don’t worry someone else will” We have JR Ewing’s, Legends in there own lunch boxes, black widows, recently divorced or young ladies looking for the older richer man, hippies, people running away from their problems etc etc.

Here huge personalities, ego’s and politics between residents play a large roll in daily life and sometimes you feel like a kid on a playground, “remember when one friend would tell you, If you play with Johnny, then I wont be your friend again” I have often thought about setting up a hobby shop in the village, as there are to many people with to much time on there hands. If I am honest I have also at times fallen in to one or two of the above categories and sometimes it is hard to keep out of the village intrigues

So what it like living in Clarens, if the majority of us are not sitting around all day doing nothing but counting the bank balance. Despite all the politics and personality clashes its

the best, the positives way outweigh the negatives and in times of need, like the big fires that hit the area in Mid October of 2008 the village pulled together, I must say that soon after there was a huge outcry and a debate about how we should thank the farmers that once again came to our aid, “but hey that’s Clarens”. Ok I think I have bored you enough for today and my fingers are getting sore. I am sure if you read the blog, you will get to know the village and its people. Better still come and visit the best village in South Africa and experience what we are lucky enough to experience every day.

1 comment:

  1. Clarens is gorgeous!! Definitely seems like a perfect place for a weekend getaway. Lovely photos ! And I love the blog, too!! thanks
    Clarens free state


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