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3 Provinces Long Weekend

30 August 2021 - Mike Ilsley
This was my first trip with the LROC for many years. I think I had almost forgotten what great experiences I have had with the members of the club in the past. 3 Provinces would not disappoint.

Philip and I decided to drive our two Defenders in convoy, arriving a day early so we could visit the Majuba Battlefield sight. Here, on 27 February 1881, some 450 Boer fighters fought a battle against 405 British soldiers, who were located on the mountain top. The hill was not considered to be scalable by the Boers. The British were so confident they did not even dig in.  A huge battle ensued and a total of 285 British were killed, captured or wounded. The battle is considered to have been one of the "most humiliating" defeats suffered by the British in their military history and was the final and decisive battle of the First Boer War. The graves and memorial stones are all well preserved and can be viewed after about a 400M steep ascent on foot. 

On Friday we relocated to 3 Provinces 4x4 trail camp about 15Km west of Volksrust and were greeted enthusiastically by Ronel and Herman. They had recently recovered from Covid 19 and sadly had lost a close friend in the previous few weeks.  The camp site is up the side of the mountain with beautiful views across the valley and awesome sunsets as it faces west. We spent the rest of the day pitching camp and scouting the 4x4 trails in preparation for the arrival of the LROC vehicles. By about 7PM that evening and in the freezing cold I may add, every one of the 10 Landy assemblage had arrived safely. We gathered around the communal fire, and immediately we all felt like old friends. What a privilege!

The members were from young to old, from all walks of life and it was especially pleasing to see several kids and young people joining the group. In the three days that ensued, we would learn from them as much as they would learn from the old hands. It was especially heartening to see the guys in their 20’s joining in and being part of the whole trip. With young people taking up membership and participating in events, it bodes well for the future of the club and this lifestyle.

On Saturday we left the campsite fairly early to do the 3 Provinces main trail. Two of us had scouted it in the reverse direction the previous day, but even so, doing the very first ascent some 400m from the campsite was unexpectedly challenging. The Summer’s rains down the trail have taken their toll, and there were many large boulders to be negotiated. Quite a challenge just after breakfast. This set the scene for the day. Beautiful vistas and a challenging 4x4 trail. By lunchtime we had ascended to the 3 Provinces point at over 2250 Meters above sea level. This point is the place where the provinces of Free State, KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga meet. Also known as “Lang krans” is the breeding place of the Black Eagles. Some of the party were privileged to see some of the eagles soaring on the strong wind blowing up the face. After the challenging morning’s activities, we opted for the easy drive back to camp.

That evening the campfire was full of “tales of the day”. 

The next morning, we departed around 7:30 for the main event. We planned to visit the battle fields around Volksrust. But first, we had to scrape the ice of the windscreens as it had been a freezing night.  After a very informed introduction by Ronel, who’s forefathers had fought in the Boer Wars, we departed for the first site, the monument to the battle of Allemansnek. The next stop was the former home of Kommandant-Generaal Petrus Jakobus Joubert who was also the Vice President of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek under President Paul Kruger. The house has been bought and renovated by the current owners and is a stunning tribute to the beautiful sandstone masons of the time. The mausoleum nearby is the final resting place of this Boer hero and his wife. Sadly several small graves on the same site tell the tales of very young children who died at a very early age. 

The next stop was about 50Km away high in the hills. It was a small cave system where some of the Boer woman and their children hid from the “scorched earth” policy of the British forces. It must have been terrible as the caves are very small, exposed to the wind and wet with seepage. They could not make fires as the smoke would give away their locations to the opposing forces and had to resort to sorties down the mountains at night to get supplies. Some of the woman spent more than a year in this manner and only a few survived the terrible cold and adverse conditions.

Then we were back on the dust road to a museum on one the local farms where we were treated to a “lekker Boerekos” lunch by our friendly hosts. The museum was full of all sorts of artifacts from the period and we enjoyed free access to browse all of the items on display. Old photos, arms and shells of the time tell the tales of the Algo-Boer wars.

The positive outcome from all of all this strife, was the participation of General Piet Joubert in the peace negotiations that eventually led to the conclusion of the Pretoria Convention, under which, after much negotiation, the South African Republic regained self-government under nominal British suzerainty. (Credits to Wikipedia)

This was also made better by the previous evening’s defeat of the English by the South African Rugby team. Go Bokke!

As the sun headed for the horizon some of us opted for a quick visit to the old ZASM Tunnel just South of Volksrust. On the way we stopped at the memorial to the British soldiers who died in the various battles. This beautiful tunnel was built out of Sandstone blocks and is about 900 meters in length. It was essential for the British supplies from Durban to reach their soldiers in Volksrust. In 1891 the Boer strike forces blew up both tunnel ends for about 50 Meters. The British worked night and day and within 6 days had rebuilt the tunnel and the trains could once again provide supplies. We were able to drive through the tunnel with our Landys. 

We headed back to camp, arriving after dark, tired and amazed by the tales we had heard during the informative day. Lots of chatting ensued around the campfire, accompanied by the sharing of some great stories.

On Monday morning we broke camp and headed back to our homes, straight into the teeth of a gale force wind. Not a comfortable cruise with my old Defender Tdi with a roof rack and trailer. But eventually we were home and happily telling the family of our great trip and the awesome people who shared it with us.

In closing, if my notes on the war are not 100% accurate in all aspects I apologise as my notes on the subject are a little sketchy and Wikipedia has limited information on the subject.

I have personally visited 3 Provinces 4x4, 3 or 4 times, and each trip has been a fantastic experience. My thanks to Ronel and Herman and all of the members who took part in this great weekend.

Best regards

Mike Ilsley.





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