Clarens Free State


(more photos in gallery below)

Re-acquainting with people from way back, connecting with new friends, a craft brewery where the brews are divine and time melts away, encountering a herd of zebras in the wild, skirting Titanic on a blistering but spectacular hike, and movingly, a happenchance closing of the circle in a serene setting on two lightning-strike deaths, long-passed, RIP.

All that in about 30 hours? Yes – too short – but the memories and connections will go on, and this Titanic will prevail too!

Clarens is a small town about 350km south of Johannesburg situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State province of South Africa. For very good reason it is nicknamed the “Jewel of the Eastern Free State”. Clarens Free State

The town has so much to offer, perfect place to chill out and no chance I can do Clarens, Free State, justice in a few paragraphs here.

A stroll into the centre of the town, browsing in all sorts of interesting shops, splitting off with Des to go and do a ‘sampling’ at the Clarens Brewery, they brew fantastic craft beers and ciders, and the rest of the gang joining us a bit later for drinks all around. Just plain fun!

A good thunderstorm and downpour in the afternoon! Electric storms in this region are legend. It only lasted about 20 minutes, enough to make the air feel like champagne, and out came the sun again!

Into the late afternoon and those with local knowledge suggested a quick run to Golden Gate Highlands National Park before sunset, about 16km away. Let’s go!

This area, next to the Lesotho border, is known for dramatic rock formations with vibrant colors, rare bearded vultures & the bald ibis.

We stopped to look at a small, very quaint cemetery in the beautiful Golden Gate pass between two majestic rock formations. There amongst a handful of others, two side-by-side graves with identical monuments, young people who had been killed by lightning back in the 1930’s. First thing that came to my mind was a stone cairn and memorial plaque I had seen and photographed while hiking to the summit of Mont Aux Sources back in July this year (a previous blog post). Two people and a horse killed by lightning quite close to the summit. Could these be the same people?

The photo below says it all. A tragic event but at the very least a majestic resting place. “Moscow” deserves a mention too. Have a look at the photo of the plaque in my previous post.

On the way back we saw a couple of zebra up on a bank about 100 metres from the roadside. I just had to check it out, and when I went to look, out of view of passing motorists (extremely few here!) there were twenty or thirty wild zebras happily grazing away! What a wonderful sight! Of course I couldn’t get within several hundred metres of them as they would just move off.

What must the wilds of Africa have looked like before humans came and messed it all up?

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