Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ermelo, South Africa

Ermelo is not the usual tourist destination but it was a convenient break on our drive from Swaziland to Johannesburg. The area is surrounded by pine and eucalyptus plantations and on our way we stopped under the shade of some trees for lunch and had a couple of Black guys ask us for a job.

Once in the city we found a tourist office and they were reluctant to direct us to the only backpackers in town which was just around the corner from them. We later learnt that the backpacker owner would not pay them the 30 rand commission they wanted on his 100 rand dorms.

We were the only people in the backpackers and got the only double room as the rest of the place looked like it was used mostly by young people as it had a huge room walled off for about 5 dorms. The place was covered with signs for what to do and not to do and threats of extra charges if you used the sofa as a bed or put your gear on a bed that was not yours etc.

As we were leaving in the morning I discovered a book on the local area and wished we could have stayed an extra day to see some of the sights that they were promoting.

As we drove into the area we saw place names like Amsterdam, Chrissiemeer, Hendrina, Jessedale, Carolina, Gloria, and Bettiesdam and wondered at the stories behind these place names.

There are several groups of people who have started historic societies and are encouraging tourists to these historic places, many of them having been abandoned for years. They have towns that show life as it was when the Afrikaners were working the land.

In a valley in the area there was a large concentration of Batwa San people from Mozambique who existed 2500 yrs ago but 'disappeared.' The Swazi people had their cattle stolen by the Batwa people so the Swazi warrior impis 'wiped out these people at a place called Murder Rock.

The Ermelo area had a lot of gold too and some stone circles have been discovered and some archaeologists believe that they were used by Dravidian Indians in ancient Africa when they came to look for gold for the Hindu women. Apparently some of the Swazi words used by the locals can be traced back as originating in India. It would have been interesting to do the Roots of Africa tour in the area but alas we could only read about them.