Clarens News – Notes from the Editor

Clarens News Lightning StrikeBest photograph I’ve ever taken, right here in Clarens

I finally got it, the photo I have chased for the last 5 years, and here it is for you lovely Clarens News readers

What a week. Possibly one of the best of my entire life, and a perfect reminder of why Clarens is such a perfect place to be, not just for itself, but as a jumping off platform to visit some of the best parts of SA if not the world. My brother came up for the weekend, to celebrate my birthday with me (hardly a day over 97 I hear you ask…) and we did it in style. Saturday sparrows saw us on our way to Lesotho, to have breakfast and lunch at the 5 Star Maliba Hotel in the middle of the mountains. You drive for an hour and a bit over the border, and bang, the people and houses give way to rolling majestic mountains, curtaining a glorious boma, filled with art all the trappings of a luxury destination, with rock pools down below and pony rides along a crisp mountain stream. A very filling 3 course lunch would have been an elephant sufficiency, but then Dean from Maluti Tours had to go and surprise us with a decadent chocolate cake bigger than my head, with roses on top…
And later the Sharks won!
Sunday was my turn to treat the family to a new experience, and I drove them down to Meiringskloof. Where is that you may ask, you may well keep on asking, because unless you know I shouldn’t really tell you how to find that green mossy overhanging piece of sacred earth and crystal strewn pools (hint, the Skoorsteen was started there, when the women and children hid during the Anglo war, and it is the old Free State capital’s original waterworks). We left feeling blessed and blissed.
Finally on Monday I secured the precious time of the Painted Lady, and we set off on an adventure through the Golden Gate Park, ignoring the official routes (after a brief detour past the vulture restaurant) and turned left onto a dirt road that took us into the heart of the park, on the road to Kestell. We explored the abandoned Raath family house and graveyard (I would love to know more about them if anyone can shed light) with gravestones dating back to 1850, discovered a seam of amazing (really amazing) crystals, and pushed on to explore Kestell itself.
Not much to say about the little town itself, but we were drawn to visit Karma Backpackers, where we met practicing Buddhist Vera-Anne, the owner, who let us into her getaway secret – Incosana Backpackers, in the Drakensberg – Monk’s Cowl and Champagne Castle area. Since we had procured a bottle of bubbly from the Old Stone a little earlier, it sounded appropriate, and off we went, allowing Karma to direct our path down a sunset Oliviershoek Pass and into the Central Berg. Along the way a porcupine couple graced us by stopping us in the road and slightly further on an owl sat quietly on the warm tar, awaiting our arrival, looked at us as dispassionately for over a minute, and flew over our car. Somewhere on the journey (a bit before Bergville) we had a feast of a dinner at Bingelela lodge, a sumptuous must for anyone en route to the Berg, and a destination in itself.
Next morning we awoke in our cosy little rondhavel, with the mountains looking down beneficially from above, twinkling waterfalls glittering and sparkling through rock teeth of dark basalt and grins cut by sandstone layered erosion. A brief chat to Eddie, our host (and resident climbing lodge owner for the last 30 years), and off we went in search of Nandi (very nice in Zulu) waterfall. Let me not mislead you, 8km of mountain side in the hot sun left us dizzy and slightly exhausted, cursing the man who had said the whole route was 9km, and then we discovered the Hlatizana forest. Faerie land couldn’t be a better description of the twisted roots, creeping greens and dangling lianas that cooled our weary bones, and we almost collapsed then and there at the first sign of shade. Instead, bloody mindedness ensured that we must push on, to find these bloody falls that we had heard about, and as we stepped under a canopy of green, it all made sudden sense. A glorious curtain fell at least 3 stories from a sheer cliff face, and there, next to this torrential downpour was a path!
Up we went and sat in perfect dry, looking out over what we came to feel was our forest and the berg beyond, popped the bubbly (star picked grapes and crisp chill air drops rising through space), and felt the grace of the world upon us, and the realization that great rewards come only after great effort became a lesson to take home.
Yes, that’s right, we came back to Clarens for the night, rested aching muscles in a hot bath, checked emails the next day, and then it was time to head back to the Berg for a fire show at Alpine Heath luxury lodge, this time in the Northern Drakensberg, for GlaxoSmithKline – multinational pharmaceutical company – with top SA fire crew, Dreams of Fire. It turned out we were the prelude to a corporate fire walking event, courtesy of Ken Andersson, and he didn’t mind in the least that the Painted Lady and I joined in. An hour later and the key word  ”HASHIBI” hoarsening our throats we had both fulfilled a life long dream of strolling delicately down a path of red hot coals. Fantastic!
A good dinner later, we awoke to different mountains in the same range (our peaks from – was it only the day before? – looked tiny in the distance). A full buffet breakfast first thing, and we were off into the Berg for another trail. This time to Tiger Falls past the stunning Cascades – a series of pools separated by waterfalls of gentle disposition – through under bellies of rock and under icy mountain showers. Straight up a 45 degree path for a couple of km (puffing and panting like steam trains) and we were sitting behind the second most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever witnessed, looking down into another jungle…
We dried ourselves briefly in the sun, filled a water bottle with pure waterfall energy, and raced a storm back down to the car park, before taking the hour and a half trek back up Oliviershoek, past the immense Sterkfontein Dam, through the Golden Gate park, and back to the little village we call home.
So, I know this is no excuse for the lateness of the News, at least 12 hours after its normal release time on a Thursday, but thank you dear reader for sharing in an epic journey of a week, which I would not have imagined possible this time last week, and one which is certainly not conceivable from many other places than Clarens. I realized then that we live in a destination, and that to visit Clarens is to stand on the edge of a springboard to the imagination. Don’t come for a weekend, come for a week, or a month, or, what the hey, where else would you rather live?
The editor thanks you for your indulgence, and promises not to bore you with his little adventures again.
Until next time…

In other News:

Clarens News has to report some Storms in teacups! Those of you familiar with the goings on and internal workings of Clarens may remember a little Centenary Festival last year, and some may even have read the feedback report from that festival. It seems to have asked more questions than it answered, and has elicited responses from our local Councillor, the chairman of the Tourism Forum, and the General Manager of the Golf Club. Since it is not the habit or philosophy of this rag to engage personal issues or wash laundry in the open air, I refer those who really must know to the Forum page of the website, where all the various correspondence is contained.
The most important thing to remember in this trying time, is that the Tourism Forum is there for Clarens as a whole, and works extremely hard to benefit local business in general. Their Agm is on the 16 April and there is community meeting set for the 9 April, for people to come and get involved with the process at hand. I strongly urge anyone with an interest in the town to come along, discuss the issues, and most importantly, to find a way to benefit the area at large, and help build Clarens as a brand as well as a safe haven for the sane to escape the outside world. The Forum exists for the benefit of all, so rather than taking issue, please take part.

And a huge vote of thanks to the Dihlabeng Municipality for upgrading 2 and a half meters of road in the Swartland. Without their valuable work of transplanting potholes from one small town to the next, Fouriesburg would have no road problems at all… The pothole they have removed will be sorely missed, but even more sorely hit by anyone who doesn’t notice the big hole in the ground where our beloved pothole used to be.

(e)Skom has asked consumers to please be sparing in their electricity usage as the grid is under stress due to among other things, Koeberg having a repair session (again) and the Limpopo line from Cahora Basa being affected by heavy flooding recently.  It would seem that the recent 8% price hike may take years to actually allow SA to get back to full functionality, but in the meantime, maybe this man has the solution – Solar cooking options for Africa

(e)Skom: “We appeal to all customers to reduce their electricity usage and to switch off all non-essential appliances as the power system is extremely tight at present, particularly during the evening peak hours between 6pm and 9pm,” it said in a statement.Eskom said this would make it significantly easier to manage the power system. The utility said reduced electricity usage would also enable Eskom to do planned maintenance to ensure the reliability of its power plant.

“Eskom continues to make progress with its programme of planned maintenance but the system remains tight.”
And Finally
The News has started looking into going into comic book format, using pictures rather than words over the next 5 years. This has not been an easy decision to take, but recent revelations from the SA Democratic Teachers Union have made it a necessity. Not only are they threatening an indefinite strike against being put on time clocks to measure their absenteeism, but they have also warned of action in the event that the Department of Education does the unthinkable, and brings back sckool inspektors… How can this be allowed? Given the record pass marks for Matric last year (now that there is 30% average pass mark required) they are clearly doing a wonderful job, and should be encouraged to continue teaching in SMS, WhatsApp and Mixit rather than colonially oppressive reading and writhing. Yrs in gr8 hpe fr 2moros lrnrs.

This Weekend

Also happening this weekend is the Bethlehem Antique Car and Machine Show at Bethlehem Airport, a must for old car enthusiasts and fans of the internal combustion engine. Leave the wives at the day spa and bring your kids to see how we used to spin the world beneath our wheels.


Rumours abound that the News may have found support for a regular printed version, watch this space, or even better, write to us with suggestions or ways in which you would like to be involved with this project. It aims to include Kgubetswana location News, and ultimately to grow into a regional publication, promoting the entire E Free State, specifically from the standpoint that Clarens is the ideal central base to explore this fascinating and beautiful area.


Clarens Golf Course
Despite what you may have read in the feedback report, this picture shows that the Golf course is looking fantastic from a distance. Well done to all involved in maintaining this jewel of Clarens.


After a serious drubbing at the hands of the Chiefs last weekend, Clarens News can only hope for a miracle when the Cheetahs face the Highlanders, hoping to break a 7 game losing streak to them. The Highlanders had a bye last week, so should be well rested after also losing to the Chiefs the week before. Maybe Heinrich Brussow can pull it out the bag for our boys “VRYSTAAT!!!” 8.35am Saturday morning kickoff

At 5pm most of the country will become de facto Stormers supporters when they square up to the current champions the Chiefs at Newlands. hopefully Jean de Villiers comment “I’ve got a really good feeling about this weekend” will translate into revenge for the punishment of the Cheetahs at their hands. Of course the closeness of their loss to the Sharks last Saturday (nail biting stuff) will mean that they have a lot to play for, and despite what my head says, I’m prepared to lose a spot of wonga betting on the home side.

At 7pm the Southern Kings will discover what home derbies are all about when they host the Sharks in PE. Disappointing is the fact that Luke (vomiting) Watson will start on the bench, and so will be spared the full wrath of an as yet undefeated school of Sharks. If they win it will be the shock of the year, and a poke in the eye of all Lions fans, who saw their team relegated in pursuit of transformation, courtesy of Cheeky the Pure.

And serious fans will be up at 5 on Sunday morning to see if the Bulls can start their tour in Auckland against the Blues against the odds and run of history. Hougaard starts on the bench in favour of Jano Vermaak, and let’s all hope that they can wave the flag high at the end of the day. Should be a great clash.

Street Cafe will have rugby specials throughout Saturday evening, including a Richelieu promo tomorrow, a scratch card kit, R24 for double and coke.


Bethlehem Kine

Since the closure of the Labia in Cape Town, Bethlehem Kine is one of the last remaining independent cinemas left in SA. Here’s their newest movie and other offerings for the week

PG: 116min – DRAMA/SPORT
When young Jay Moriarity discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, exists just miles from his Santa Cruz home, he enlists the help of local legend Frosty Hesson to train him to survive it.
DIRECTOR: Michael Apted,  Curtis Hanson
STARS: Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler
Writers: Kario Salem (screen play), Jim Meenaghan (story)
SHOW TIMES: FRIDAY, MON, WED: 09:30,14:30,20:00
SAT, TUE, THUR:,12:00,17:30
SUN: 15:00

A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.
 Oscar Winner- BEST FILM 
DIRECTOR:  BEN AFFLECK Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay), Tonny Mendez (book)
SAT, MON,WED:11:00, 17:00
SUN: 15:00

Silver Linings Playbook – CINE 1 PG:(R) 122min
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
DIRECTOR: David O. Russell
WRITERS: David O. Ressell (screenplay) and Matthew Quick (novel)
STARS: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence,Robert De Niro
SHOW TIMES: FRI – THUR:10:00,12:30,15:00,17:30,20:00
SUNDAY:12:00, 15:00

And don’t forget their discount days on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
To find out times, make bookings etc call the Kine on 0583034333

Live Music and Specials

Street Cafe Specials this weekend
R80 for fillet & chips, R85 for T-bone & chips and R75 for ribs & chips. Sunday they have Denzel & OB playing
Happy Hour with Slipstream unplugged on Monday evenings, always great

Grilled Halloumi R35, Chicken Livers R35, Eischbein with Mustard Italian sauce R75, 350gm T-Bone R70

Friends Restaurant will have live music over the weekend(you can click HERE for updates as I get them)

Coming Up


23 March 2013 @ 18h30 : Dennis East & Mike Slavin making music @ The Courtyard Restaurant R80,00
Contact Merri Mills 0828510131 – almost sold out!!!!
24 March 2013 @ 12h30 : Dennis East & Mike Slavin making music @ Millpond House, donations to
The Clarens Village Conservancy. Bring a picnic + drinks!
Contact Merri  Mills 0828510131

Clarens Festival of Dirt

5-7 April 2013. Clarens X-Treme will once again be hosting this dirty weekend. The Mountain Madalas # 1 hosted by Enduro Mag will start mid morning on Saturday after the 40km mountain bike trail ride which leaves St Fort at 6am. If that is not enough, come and enjoy a 3km or 10km trail run on Sunday. Bring the whole family to St Fort for an action packed weekend with loads of entertainment for visitors and locals.

The Fouriesburg annual 4×4 day will be held on the 27th of April.

This is an event not to be missed! It will be a fun day for the whole family.
David Exley our very own 4×4 guru, will be designing the routes surrounding Fouriesburg.
We will have a live band and entertainment for the kids.
Please phone Nelis on 082 959 8120 or David on 082 820 0403 for more information.

The Sandstone Gorge in Ficksburg has their Steam Heritage Festival

which runs from the 4th to the 12th of May this year, and promises historic trains, a Sherman Tank, vintage tractors and dozers, as well as a Model T Ford grain truck, all of which are in operation and function in conjunction with the agricultural nature of the area it inhabits. Well, maybe not the Sherman tank (I hope), but all the rest.
In the meantime, to read their latest Newsletter click HERE

2013/05/04 MTN National Marathon #4 Clarens Clarens Freestate
2013/05/05 Nissan National Half Marathon #4 Clarens Clarens Freestate

AFRI SKI – it’s almost that time again – July 11 – July 14
A ski slalom and giant slalom race 4 children , juniors, seniors and masters. For accomodation and details contact Stephan at Gone skiing 0861754669
Ski racing is a fun way to improve your skiing.

Video of the week

Amanda Palmer talks about giving away music and trust in a mutual recognition process. From the amazing TED talks, which everyone should watch at least some of in their lives