Archery Try your hand at one of the oldest of sports. Historically, archery was used as a means of getting food to the table, or seeing off an enemy, but nowadays it is enjoyed as a sport, which everyone can enjoy.  The focus in Clarens is on fun and there is no need for participants to bring their own equipment. Archery is offered by the following adventure companies in Clarens. Outrageous adventures - Archery is a favourite youth-camp activity.  Contact details Clarens Xtreme - Just one of the activities to be enjoyed at the Clarens Xtreme Adventure Park.  Contact details Bokpoort - More fun on the farm.  Contact det
“Kgotso” we greet you in peace   Basotho Cultural Village The Basotho Cultural Village is a living museum situated east of the magnificent Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The village will give visitors a unique insight into the ways and lifestyle of the traditional Basotho people. Traditional homesteads of the 1700’s have been reconstructed on site and resident tour guides will explain the significance and use of daily household implements as well as the importance and symbolism of traditional clothing. Furthermore the making of basket ware and crushing of maize will be explained.   Traditional dancing is part of the tour. Contact: 058 721 0300 Basotho Cultural Village Tour After receiving permission from the Chief to enter his village, you will be offered a sip of Sotho beer as a token of hospitality and even a game of Maraba-raba can be enjoyed. At the houses of the first and second wives beautiful and colourful utensils are explained .   A visit to the  Chief’s Ngaka (bone thrower) may very well cast some light on your future. Self- drive/sightseeing:   The Basotho Cultural Village in the Golden Gate Highlands National  Park is easily accessed from  Clarens.  Take the R714 from Clarens towards Harrismith.  Once you are through the Golden Gate pass, look out for the turning to the village on your right.  The road is tarred  all the way.   Tours Clarens Xtreme:  1/2 day tour. Contact details Maluti Tours:  1/2 day tour (Part of the Golden Gate Tour) Contact details   Matlakeng Herbal Trail The herb trail is only open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, during the Spring and Summer months, and must be booked 2 days in advance.  The trail starts at The Basotho Cultural Village.  A social ecologist and ngaka (traditional healer) escorts groups on a scenic 2 hour trail, all the while locating an array of grasses, roots, herbs, leaves and bark and explaining how these are prepared and used to cure ailments from toothache to sexually transmitted diseases, as well as their ritual uses in Basotho Culture.  Hikers can also expect to  see wild-life, as well as some well-kept rock art. Contact: 058 721 0300   Click here to go to the Sightseeing/Self-Drive Routes page Click here to find out more about the Golden Gate Highlands National Park &n
  The Clarens Dinosaur Tour begins with a very comprehensive talk on Geology and Paleontology of the region. You will be given the opportunity to see a great variety of fossils – from teeth, claws and limb bones of the prehistoric giants, to the leaf impressions of ancient ferns – while learning about what the Earth was like during that period and how the different rock layers formed. The talk is followed by a trip to an ancient trackway where the fossilized footprints of dinosaurs can be seen and followed. The tours are usually from 2 – 2,5 hours long and are suitable for all ages. The walk to and from the footprints is short  (only about 800m) and easy. For more information and bookings:  please contact David on: 083 469 4703 News items Video: The 17th Annual Clarens Dinosaur Funw
Clarens Xtreme: For those who have their own enduro motorbikes but don’t have the venue to ride, Clarens Xtreme offer guided out rides from Clarens for full day or half day. The riding is intermediate to advanced, mainly rocky. Just like Lesotho Riding!!! Full and half day guided rides have a base fee which includes the first three riders and then an amount per person thereafter. There is unfortunately no self ride option as everything is private property. Get your riding mates together and let ClarensXtreme arrange your whole weekend in Clarens area or even a trip into Lesotho. We have a variety of package deals available. Grip and Whip…   Contact details Keep your eye on the events calendar for the annual Festival of Dirt!   &n
  Photograph of trout caught in Townlands Dam, Clarens by Oliver Scott (August 2013)   Clarens is a great area for  fishing – whether it be for trout or for bass. Trout fishing in the Townlands Dam Permits to fish in the Townlands Dam (catch and release) can be obtained from the following: The Clarens Golf and Trout Estate Clubhouse : Contact Details  Clarens Xtreme : Contact details   Fishing on the Ash River (Trout)  (Please note that the fishing offered is on a private stretch of the river) Contact:   Clarens Fishing Contact details Rob Silcock:  082 5730268   Other Dam and River Fishing Clarens Fishing : River and Dam fishing for trout, and bass, yellow fish and carp. Contact details Clarens Village Nature Reserve Dam:  Every now and again someone catches a good-sized bass or carp in the dam.   Permits are required.   (R25 per rod.   The funds go directly to the Clarens Village Nature Reserve.)  Available from Clarens Fishing or  The Jacket Shop.     There is also some excellent fly-fishing in Lesotho: Maluti Tours:  offer a two-night stopover tour for 4-6 people in self-catering accommodation near the edge of Katse  dam. (All provisions to be taken with as there are no shops and this is a remote area.) Contact details  If you’re planning to visit Lesotho – REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR PASSPORT &nbs
    Golden Gate Highlands National Park: The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is well known for its scenic beauty as well as its wildlife and birds. Click here to see the full list of mammals found in the park. Click here to see the list of bids found in the park  Self-drive trails:  (Maps available at the Information Centre opposite Glen Reenen Rest Camp). Blesbok Loop  (6.7km) Features the Zuluhoek lookout point and Generaalskop view point. Oribi Loop (4.2km) Be sure to stop at the Vulture Feeding hide.   (See Self Drive route Clarens to Vulture Feeding Site) Rebellie Game Farm Rebellie boasts a wide variety of game.  Look out for Eland,  Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Blesbok, Springbok, Black Wildebeest, Grey Rhebok and Mountain Reedbuck.  (Bring your binoculars.) Contact details   Tours Maluti Tours Tour of Golden Gate which takes in parts of The Golden Gate Highlands National Park which are not open to the general public.   Lots of opportunity to photograph game and birds. A visit to the Basotho Cultural Village included. Contact details Clarens Xtreme Tours of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park and the Basotho Cultural Village.   Contact details   Sethuthuthu Tours and Safaris Game drive  (4×4 game viewing vehicle) through what used to be the Qua Qua National Park (which now forms part of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.)  A chance to explore one of the last untamed wilderness areas in the Free State. Breathtaking scenery, plentiful game, dinosaur fossils and footprints, and bushman paintings too.  Lots of plains game to be seen.  Contact detail
   History The town of Clarens may only be 100 years old, but the history of the area goes back much, much further.   Our landscape is rich in dinosaur fossils, and if you keep your eyes open and know what to look for you will find traces of these ancient times on almost every walk. The San also lived here, finding shelter in the many sandstone overhangs and excellent hunting on the grassy plains. There are many examples of their art in the area, and one of their favourite subjects – the eland – still roams free in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The area has also seen more than its fair share of bloodshed and destruction.  Many of the black tribes who settled in the area were massacred and forced to leave as Dingaan carved his “Path of Blood” – the Defiqane - throughout much of  the land. These were  difficult times, marauders and assassins and even cannibals ruled the day. The earliest white settlers in the area were Voortrekkers searching for a home away from British rule, and you can still see traces of their homes and evidence of the routes that some of the Voortrekkers took as they made their way to Natal. For those that settled here, the peaceful life they searched for was, however, not to be. Cattle rustling, war with the Basotho, and British Colonization made for a hard life. Some famous Anglo-Boer war battles took place in the area around Clarens,  and with the accompanying destruction of homes and farms, many women and children chose to shelter in  accommodating caves that had once housed the San, rather than enjoy Her Majesty’s pleasure in a concentration camp. As you can see from this very brief outline above, the area is rich in history. There are many stories to tell – some of which have been retold in novel form (ask at the Bibliophile). For those interested in geology and dinosaurs the Clarens Dinosaur Tour is highly recommended.  If your interest lies in more recent times, take a quad-bike tour with Sethuthuthu Tours, which takes in ruins of the early inhabitants who lived here, as well as other places of historical interest.   History Tours Clarens Dinosaur Tours:  Contact details Sethuthuthu Tours: Contact details Louw van Biljon - Tailor-made tours:  Contact details     Further reading History: Geskiedenis van Boshoek en Omgewing (Niel van Skalkwyk - Sethuthuthu Tours ) History of Boshoek and surroundings (Niel van Skalkwyk - Sethuthuthu Tours) Die Derde Basoete oorlog en Paul Kruger se aandeel in Clarens. (Niel van Skalkwyk - Sethuthuthu Tours) Clarens History(extract) written for Open Africa by Tina de Beer The British Link (article by Mary Walker) The Battle of Naaupoort Nek (Diaries of a Village Idiot) President Kruger and the history of Clarens War in the Valley (Article by Mary Walker) On coming Home (Article by Mary Walker) Reflections (Article by Mary Walker) Tartan Rainbow (Article by Mary Walker)  
  Soon after I returned from England last year I was invited to spend the night on a farm in the Rooiberg, between Clarens and Fouriesburg.  I went along with enthusiasm and spent a pleasant afternoon being shown around the farm.  Our photograph this week is of a flock of sheep resting in a pen and, in the background, the Rooiberg Mountains rise up impressively into the perfectly still winter sky. This mountain range forms the northern slope of the Brandwater basin, stretching from the watershed at Golden Gate in the east, to the Witteberg range in the west, and to the Maloti Mountains beyond the Caledon River in the south.  Within this basin, along the south facing slopes of the Rooiberg, lie the villages of Clarens and Fouriesburg.  These mountains are particularly well known for their sandstone formations, and the late afternoon light transforms their sculpted precipices into lavish shades of pink and orange and ochre.  This gave the mountain range its name – Red Mountains. In the evening, well after darkness had fallen, my host received a message that sheep had strayed.  I was invited to come along.  We piled into the bakkie and clattered along dirt roads and tracks, up and down winding slopes, through thick darkness.  It had become bracingly cold, the temperature having plummeted, it seemed, as soon as the sun had disappeared.  Despite my hand being bare and aching with cold, I clung onto the handle above the door while the vehicle lurched and bucked its way through the dark night, frenetically chasing the headlamps’ beam barreling ahead along the rutted road. We finally pulled up.  I could not see anything.  My host jumped out and told me to stay in the bakkie.  I gingerly opened the window, wrapping my coat and scarf closer.  I made out a gate close to my side of the bakkie and watched my host’s shadowy form disappear beyond it.  There was a long silence.  Finally I heard a faint whistle way down in the valley, and another in answer, then several more.  Then silence. My eyes had adjusted and I could make out the line of mountain tops against a starry sky.  There was no moon.  Everything below the mountain top was shrouded in complete darkness.  There was not a sound.  My senses were alert.  I felt alive.  I waited, but not impatiently.  This was a freedom and a purity I had yearned for during those long years in London, where my consciousness had been under constant siege by excessive hurry, noise and light.  Where dampness and greyness and overheated buildings had entombed my senses in a cloying bondage of synthetic smells.  Where open space amounted to the gap between council flats and terrace housing, and where horizons were the tops of tower blocks.  Where the commute of people and traffic and public transport were in perpetual motion on an eternal circuit. I waited, feeling privileged and liberated, comfortable in the silence and darkness and cold.  Like in great thirst, and in profound relief, I drank every moment of it.  Then I heard a faint rumbling. I couldn’t make out where it came from.  It grew more distinct and I listened hard.  It seemed to come from the darkness down the slope beyond the open gate.  I strained my eyes into the dark night, trying to perceive some indication of its source.  Then a faint haze began emerging in the darkness.  My eyes were unable at first to focus on it, so faint it was in the black night.  I stared, unmoving and unblinking, as the rumbling drew closer.  The haze became a pale cloud in the darkness and the sound merged with it as it grew beyond the gate.  It seemed to flow forward into a column as it narrowed; then I saw the sheep. A great flock of them, their hundreds of little hoofs pounding the hard earth as they ran together.  Like a stream of pale lava, they surged into the gap between the gateposts and came, flowing like liquid wool, past the bakkie, right beneath my window.  I could have touched them as they passed.  I smelled the oily scent of lanolin on the warm breeze they carried with them.  They continued on, flowing in a long stream up the road, the head of the column turning suddenly through an open gate.  The flock followed, through the gate and out of sight, like silver mercury receding back into the darkness.  The rumble faded.  They were gone. I sat transfixed.  In mere moments they had come and gone.  The earthiness of their proximity lingered with me, the pounding of their little hoofs, their oblivion to my presence, their unthinking cooperation, their warm smell of lanolin.  Two figures emerged from the darkness and came through the gate; one continued up the road to follow the sheep, the other came towards the bakkie. We drove home in silence;  I, alone with my thoughts, my host still out of breath from such exertion. The picture insert features in the 2014 calendar produced by and sold in aid of Cluny Animal Trust.  Calendars can be purchased at Clarens Gallery, Clementines Restaurant and the Old Stone Bottle Store, in Clarens.  Alternatively they can be ordered from Katherine on 0827886287, Jan on 0782462553, Helen on 0582230918 or by email tojansander22@gmail.com . Article and photograph by Mary Walker Clarens News: November 2013     Click here for more articles on Clarens and the surrounding area &n
When I was a child, on a mid winter’s night, my father lifted me, still half asleep, from my bed and carried me to the window.  What I saw through the clear pane was a thing more magical than I had ever seen before.  The snow was still falling, each flake wide as a fairy’s mantle, dancing and fluttering in slow descent.  Our trees stooped handsomely under satin white cloaks, their bows low and heavy, their brittle fronds casting off gathering flakes like dark-gloved fingers of witches. I recall being conscious of an immense stillness.  The world outside had transformed beyond my knowing it, without a whisper to draw attention to its silent metamorphosis.  To me this was more wondrous even than a glimpse of the fairies who lived in the moss between the garden terraces.  I knew my eyes would never tire of this pure white fantasy; but soon, sleepy-eyed and happy, I was returned to my bed. In the morning it was still snowing and it snowed for two days.  It snowed thickly right across the city, right across the Orange Free State, across almost the entire Highveld.  This was the big snowfall of 1964. In the late winter of last year, several inches of snow fell in the village of Clarens.  Our picture this week shows Clarens in the declining light, blanketed in snow, a view from below Lake Clarens to beyond the first houses. A few months ago, perhaps enthused by the snowfall of last year, the town organised a Christmas in July event for the last weekend of the winter school holidays, in slim hope of a coinciding snowfall.  Having lived in England for nearly a decade, I still find myself associating the Christmas season with flurries of snow, darkness falling by four in the afternoons, freshly rolled snowmen in red Father Christmas gowns and hoods, resplendent on whitened park lawns under festive Christmas lights. So, where does this inseparable fusion with Christmas and snow come from?  The festival is, after all, a celebration of the newborn baby Jesus, of Nazareth, whose birth place would not at all have resembled the white wintry scenes on traditional Christmas cards. Rome, when it conquered much of Europe, did so with a sword in its hand and the Christian message on its lips.  Control over its empires and cooperation by its subjects were essential to Rome’s empirical success, and their policy of the Christianisation of foreign populations largely achieved this.  The widespread authority of Rome, together with the benefit of Greek scholastic supremacy, had already brought much of the northern and eastern Mediterranean areas under the Christian umbrella; but the northern and western European countries were much harder nuts to crack, thus becoming the last to fall under the influence of Rome and the last to be converted, leaving their cultural identities indelibly imprinted on Christian traditions. The indigenous peoples of the northern and western Germanic and Scandinavian territories continued to be deeply rooted in pagan beliefs and worship long after the rest of Europe had been ‘tamed’.  The British Isles resisted Roman authority doggedly during their first century of occupation and continued to uphold their pagan practices, particularly in the far north and west, where Roman intervention was repelled aggressively for much longer.  It became clear to Rome and later to the Roman Church that, in order to successfully introduce Christianity as the national religious practice of the peoples, it would be necessary to subtly combine pagan practices and festivals with those of Christianity. The winter solstice was celebrated widely in Europe on 25 December, prior to the later calendar adjustment.  It was a pagan festival of great significance that marked the passing of the longest night and the lengthening of the days, giving rise to the growing fertility of the earth as it moved towards summer abundance.  The celebration of the birth of Jesus, originally associated with a date in early January, was tagged to this existing festival. Tree worshiping was a common pagan practice in Europe, particularly in the northern Germanic areas.  Later, after the introduction of Christianity, trees continued to feature in religious activities and were decorated with apples, to represent the forbidden fruit, and with wafers, to represent the redemption.  The apples and wafers were later replaced by shiny red balls and other decorations, and the trees were brought indoors. In pagan Scandinavia the Yule was a period of twelve days, starting on the day of the winter solstice.  After the long cold darkness of the northern countries, the prospect of the coming summer gave rise to a substantial holiday festival.  The Yule has subsequently become our Yuletide, also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas, starting on Christmas Eve, when the Christmas tree is traditionally decorated, and ending twelve days later, when the decorations are removed. The foundations of our modern Christmas celebrations and traditions were established in settings that were invariably blanketed in snow and gave more credence to pagan interests than to Christian principles.  The synthesis of Christmas and snow, and trees, is so ingrained in our collective cultural psyche that we feel ‘short-changed’ if one or other is left out of the equation.  Since we don’t have snow here in South Africa in December, we go to great lengths to ensure that snow clad and brightly decorated trees adorn our living rooms and shops. Yet a typical South African Christmas, with warm weather and star filled nights, is probably more closely allied to the conditions around the birth of Jesus of Nazareth than the conditions we aspire to at Christmas and try to recreate. The picture insert features in the 2014 calendar produced by and sold in aid of Cluny Animal Trust.  Calendars can be purchased at Clarens Gallery, Clementines Restaurant and the Old Stone Bottle Store, in Clarens.  Alternatively they can be ordered from Katherine on 0827886287, Jan on 0782462553, Helen on 0582230918 or by email to jansander22@gmail.com . Article and photograph by Mary Walker Clarens News: November 2013     Click here for more articles about Clarens Click here for information on the Climate in Clarens (and when you may expect s
Perhaps more than anything else, when I lived in England I missed the pristine clarity and light of the Free State landscape.  Our photograph this week is taken on a farm just off the Clarens road to Bethlehem.  The sun has almost set, casting its rays horizontally against the poplars, pushing long fingers of shadow into the veld.  Even in the fading light, the sky retains its ethereal blue, flaunting its perfect reflection in a muddy pond.  The Free State doesn’t show off nature in half measures.  It exaggerates its smallest beauty. These are the things I anticipated when I used to travel home from boarding school by train.  Waking in the morning in the Eastern Free State, the steam engine hammering its winding way across the veld, I always had a sense that I had arrived at the top of the world.  Pulling into Fouriesburg station, with its neat platform and bright potted flowers, I would drag down the window to feel the Free State air on my face and not regret for a moment leaving behind the warm pea soup air of Natal. And towards the evening, when the cool air ran like rivulets down growing shadows, we would stop at Sannaspos.  There the steam engine would wheeze patiently for many minutes while we waited for the signal.  Then, with the last straining effort of the great iron wheels, we’d be off on the final stretch.  As we flew along the gleaming lines into the sunset, I would stare into the fading distance ahead, waiting.  And at last I would see it – like angel dust sprinkled on the horizon, the distant lights of Bloemfontein. Navel Hill, around which Bloemfontein grew, was a special place.  My Dad would take my brother, John, and I there some Sunday afternoons, to mosey round and see a zebra or a springbok, catch a glimpse of dassies.  As the sun dipped in the west, we would sit on the rim of the flat topped hill, perched on sun warmed rocks, and imagine we could see to the ends of all the Free State.  To the north the goldfields,  to the south the low hills stretching to the Orange River,  to the west the desolate sheep farms and the salt pans of my mother’s childhood, to the east the distant mountains and Lesotho.  Our eyes would follow the ribbon of the road that would lead to Brandfort, Winburg and beyond.  Below us the city lights would slowly flicker on. Many times we took that road to Winburg en route to our relatives in Natal.  I remember leaving very early in the cool dry darkness and driving till the east grew light.  Then we’d pull off the road a little way and my Dad would build a fire, my Ma would fix the breakfast, John and I would scout around for mice and scorpions.  The long journey across the Free State would lose its appeal as the day grew hotter.  My Dad would sing songs from before the war, my Ma would mop her forehead and smoke her cigarettes, John and I would conduct warfare on the back seat – mostly over territory, triggered by the encroachments of an elbow or a foot. Sometimes my Dad would take us on his business field trips.  On one such occasion we travelled through the Eastern Free State.  It became dark and after driving for a long time on a winding dirt road we came to a very small hotel.  We stayed the night.  In the morning when the sun came up we were spellbound.  We were surrounded by the most beautiful views I had ever seen.  All around, high up and topping the green slopes, were great sandstone cliffs of every shape and shade.  The valley surrounding us was resplendent with trees more luscious and bright than I could ever have imagined.  Winding down the middle of all this was a perfect little stream.  This is how we discovered Golden Gate, about 49 years ago, just after it was proclaimed a National Park.  We became weekend regulars. This is where I learnt to ride a horse.  Golden Gate horses, having been ridden by all manner of inexperienced rider, had finally chosen to ignore any kind of command from those who rode them.  They moved at two speeds only, ambling at snail’s pace, or running at full tilt.  The first time I got into the saddle, having been positioned there by my Dad, we ambled at snail’s pace along the valley path.  As we approached a clump of trees my horse, now perking up, deftly manoeuvred under a low branch and neatly swiped me from the saddle, slinging me into the undergrowth. On another occasion, after a lengthy amble at snail’s pace up a long winding road, my horse decided to go no further.  Eventually my Dad took the reins from me and attempted to tug the horse alongside his own.  At this the entire bridle left the horse’s head.  This new development had a transforming effect on my horse and, gleefully and with great enthusiasm, he wheeled around and took off down the hill at full tilt.  Good fortune somehow kept me from crashing to the ground.  However, when the horse had skidded to a halt at the bottom of the hill, I found myself nowhere near the saddle, clinging determinedly to bunches of mane, my eyes only inches from the horse’s ears. In the late 60s we started coming to Clarens as part of our weekends away.  We would approach along the dirt road from Bethlehem, passing close to where this week’s photograph was taken, and would pull in at the Maluti Motel.  After dinner John and I would leave my Dad to the strains of Jeanette McDonald coming from the gramophone, and head out into the night. Somewhere, sufficiently removed from electric light and human sound, we would each find a place to sit, a stone or wall or a decent patch of grass.  My brother and I shared an enthusiasm for the unspoilt sounds of nature, the promise of the vast outdoors, the mystery of dark nights.  Further on from our position the sparse lights of Clarens village would glow dimly on the rise.  In the distance we would make out the darker silhouette of the far Maluti mountains against the faint night sky.  Above us the velvet blackness would be pieced by countless stars. From somewhere in the night would come the mellow hooting of an owl or the faint rasping of a nightjar, sounds that were a thrill to our ears.  Tense and unmoving, we would wonder at the sudden lull of crickets and, focussing our eyes intently on the darkness, we would listen to the distinctive sound of silence. I first knew Clarens and its valley in this way.  I can’t imagine that it ever occurred to me then, or even over the many years that followed, that I would someday live here, so many decades afterwards. The picture insert features in the 2014 calendar produced by and sold in aid of Cluny Animal Trust.  Calendars can be purchased at Clarens Gallery, Clementines Restaurant and the Old Stone Bottle Store, in Clarens.  Alternatively they can be ordered from Katherine on 0827886287, Jan on 0782462553, Helen on 0582230918 or by email to jansander22@gmail.com . Article and photograph by Mary Walker Clarens News: October 2013         Click here for more articles about Cla