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The Unfamiliar faces of the Freedom Challenge…

I have sometimes been described as a gregarious person. Whilst generally shy, I do like to meet and find out more about the people and places I visit or experience. I can tell you lots of stories about these people and places, but that we can share over a bottle of wine

Over the last 6 months I have retraced many of the places experienced on the Freedom Trail. I have had the chance to revisit Hofmeyr, Cradock and various other places in the surrounding areas and coincidentally met many people connected to the race.


For anyone who has not been to the Hofmeyr Boutique Hotel, when in the area, go there and surprise yourself.

One of the sitting rooms inside the Victoria Boutique Hotel, Hofmeyr


Last year, we drove up Swaershoek from the Cradock side, past the T junction that connects the road from Schurftebeg and the Swaershoek Pass road.


Further along towards Somerset East, we passed the turn to Groot Vlakte Safaris. This is owned by Tollie Jordaan, whose son now runs the farm. My wife was in junior school with Tollie.

Late last year I met some more of her school colleagues at a reunion. Carel van Gend and his wife Ashtore are the parents of Michael and his wife Charne’ from the Support Station, Fietskraal. A little further into my bottle of wine, I also met Bertie Davenport, who was apparently a support station or intermediate stop over for Race to Willowmore.


The next day we passed through Pearston, en route to Graaff-Reinet, where I stopped for a cold drink with Jorrie from the Pearston Hotel, (not sure why I was so thirsty that day?). Allthough I don’t have photos of all these people, it was so nice being able to put faces to some of the people and whose farms or places we visit on the Freedom Challenge, as we don’t always get to meet the people “behind the scenes”.

Carel van Gend second from left and Bertie Davenport in the middle


This year I did a funny little excursion called Race to Cradock. I met up once again with an acquaintance I last saw during RASA 2021. Prior to that, I had last seen him during my compulsory army service, which we finished at the end of 1980, 41 years before.


His name is Pieter Du Plessis and is from the farm Garsland, on the road up towards Schurfteberg. He was extremely hospitable and offered us cold drinks and accommodation. Fortunately or unfortunately, we declined the accommodation, as we had a little matter of Schurfteberg and Swaershoek Pass to deal with still that day/evening.


At the end of April, I returned to Cradock for the Karoo Food Fair. We stayed at the Victoria Hotel in town. The relevance of this hotel to the Freedom Challenge is that it is owned by Mrs Sandra Antrobus, whose family farm is on the Race to Cradock route, namely Longacre.


Mrs Antrobus bought many of the “Tuis Huise” next to the hotel from a local businessman. I can tell long stories about her as well as the Tuis Huise aquisitions. Today, Mrs Antrobus owns the biggest collection of Africana antiques in South Africa.


That astute businessman from whom she aquired many of the Tuis Huise, was Mr Peter Tam, who I used to call on as a rep in the early 1980’s. His brother was Joe Tam from Aliwal North, just north of Jamestown, which Freedom Challenge adventurers pass closely by on their escapades.


During our Food Fair visit, I saw old man Peter Tam and his wife combing the stalls. I met up with his son Keith, who runs the Spar in town, and who also owns the farm next door to his brother, Irvin Tam. Anyone who has done RASA or Race to Cradock will know Irvin’s farm well, Tam’s Safaris, with its numerous game species roaming freely around, including buffalo, which made sure to run away from us when we saw them in 2021. Thank goodness for that! Once again, I have many stories about Irvin…

Irvin and Stephen Tam


I was also fortunate to meet with another face you probably don’t know. His name is Hylton Frost, who has moved from KZN to a farm at the bottom of Swaershoek Pass.


His farm, which is highly “Regenerative Farming” and organic oriented, is the last farm on the left before you cross the railway crossing towards Cradock at the end of Swaershoek Pass. It has a very distinct metal horse figure at the gate. His Pomegranate cordial, chutneys and relishes are great!

Hylton Frost


Waiting for my wife and our friends one morning outside the hotel, I got chatting to two of the security gentlemen. We spoke about Race to Cradock. The one gentleman asked how we got our car from Rhodes to Cradock. I explained to him that for a fee, cars were driven to Cradock on our behalf. I explained that I didn’t know who the drivers were, but all went well. Unfortunately I forget their names, and only managed to get a photo of one of the guys, but they advised me that they are two of the gentlemen who drive our cars from Rhodes to Cradock

The last person I met there was most unexpected. I need to cut short what could be a very long story . The gentleman I was speaking to is the cousin of my daughter’s boss. His surname is Terblanche, none other than the brother of Wil Terblanche from Romansfontein. A few sentences further and it was established that we cycle through his farm as well, namely Gunsteling, with the well known portage of Aasvoelberg. You can imagine when I heard that name, what expletives emerged from my by now filthy mouth. He further introduced me to his son, who farms with him. He was quite surprised that I was so scathing of the portgage, which he went on to advise me he does many times whilst checking on his veld, the fences, and his livestock. Fortunately for him , he has a very capable 4x4 bakkie, which unfortunately is not available for Freedom Challenge participants….


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