Quest: Conveying two Rottweilers and one miniature dachshund from Iswepe to Hermannsburg.

Problem: The Rotties have to be transported in the trailer. Tess has never been further afield than Piet Retief (a twenty minute trip with Wolfie and Lulu to the vet for annual inoculations) while Poppy has never been in the trailer at all.

Solution: Rehearsals!

Plan A: Find suitable spot. Short search leads us to the cement block on one side of the house where the geyser is situated atop a steel structure and inside a little house. (Good lagging prevents winter freezing. The cold water pipes against the house, incidentally, are a different matter all together. Frequent freezing!) We park the trailer, with cage top secured in place, next to the block. We call the Rotties onto the block. Tess jumps into the trailer on command, tail happily wagging. Poppy refuses to follow. Point blank. Tess jumps out. We let her go. She will not give problems.

Plan B: Tasha fetches almonds. Poppy’s eyes gleam. Nuts! Her favourite thing! Tasha gets into the trailer and holds out the almonds enticingly. With some hesitation, Poppy jumps in. She consumes the almonds. Cuddle session in trailer follows with the intention of making the experience something Poppy will look forward to. Daily rehearsals follow for the week before we leave. Almond supply dwindles. But, our brilliant plan has succeeded.

The Big Day arrives.

The removal van has left. The house and outbuildings have been cleared of litter and cleaned. The car is attached to the trailer. We bid a sad farewell to Mina (our part-time domestic help), put Tilly in the car and turn our attention to the Rotties. Tess jumps in. Tasha gets into the trailer with the handful of almonds. Poppy refuses to budge. Tasha climbs out of the trailer and we call Tess out. Perhaps her presence in the trailer is the problem.

Plan C: Tasha gets into the trailer. She pretends to eat the almonds. Yum-yum.  Nothing doing. Poppy is onto us. She knows something sinister is afoot. Tasha gets out. Poppy is possibly spooked by the fact that the sides and top of the cage are covered with a tarpaulin. We blench at the thought of taking it off and tying it on again. Barry has done a thorough job. And time is moving on.

Plan D: We tell Tess to jump in. Then together we hoist and heave 45 kg of reluctant dog into the trailer. We secure the gate. We go to the tap on the kitchen stoep and splash ourselves liberally to cool off before returning to the car.

The shortest route between Iswepe and Hermannsburg is via Tugela Ferry. It is a bit more than a four hour trip. But this entails a very steep and dangerous drive on a severely potholed road down mountains to the Tugela River, and then an even more dangerous drive up along a narrow, partly unguarded road which is hewn out of the sides of the sheer cliffs on the other side. Spectacular scenery, and, Barry is convinced, a spectacular end to his marriage. Widowerhood does not appeal to him so I am forbidden to even think of this route. Especially with the trailer.

I have two other options. Instead of turning off to Tugela Ferry at Dundee, I pass through Dundee and go on to Ladysmith. From Ladysmith I can either go directly to Greytown, or I can take the N3 as far as Mooi River, and from there travel to Greytown.

The first option is about 70 km longer than the Tugela Ferry road which is not too bad and I have travelled it once before. Although not quite as breathtaking as the Tugela Ferry route, it is not as dangerous and has a beauty of its own. However, it is a less used road through unfriendly territory. Civil protests involving barriers of rocks and burning tyres are common. The thought of coping with a possible breakdown with a trailer full of dogs on this route decides the matter for me. 

So, option two it is, even though it is 50 km longer than the first option (and 120 km longer than the Tugela Ferry route). Thus a four hour or so journey has been extended to nearly six. With a fully laden boot and a trailer, I am not speeding.

We stop at Dundee. The sun has been blazing down all the way. It is swelteringly hot. The dogs are panting. I take a plastic dish and fetch water for them. They are not interested. The panting is obviously from stress. (If you are wondering why I didn’t think of administering tranquillisers refer to The Bold and the Vicious.) I take the water and splash it over them.

Once we have left Dundee, I ask Tasha to pass me my lunch. When I have eaten it I ask her to get me a wet-wipe from my handbag. She can’t find my handbag. Strange, it must be under my seat. I stop the car. I search. My bag is not in the car.

I can distinctly remember having my bag when I fetched the water for the dogs at Dundee. I see myself walking to the trailer with the full container, and my bag slung over my shoulder. I put my bag down on the ground. I open the gate of the trailer cage and splash the water on them. I close the gate. I get into the car.

I know where my bag is.

“Jesus, Lord Jesus,” I moan. My handbag contains my purse in which are my ID book, my passport, my driver’s licence, all my bank cards and a fairly substantial amount of cash. Still calling on the name of the Lord, I turn the car round and head back for Dundee. I try to phone Barry but am shaking too much to enter the number. Tasha takes the phone from me and it rings. We jump. It’s Barry.

“Coll!” he shouts frantically. “You must go back to Dundee immediately! You left your handbag in the parking lot and the manageress of Woolworths has got it!”

I nearly burst into tears. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord, for your very great mercy to this really stupid lamb of yours!

The manageress is extremely apologetic that she had to invade the privacy of my bag. Her niece found the bag in the parking lot and immediately took it to her aunt, who found my bank cards, phoned the bank, and got Barry’s number from them.

She insists that I check the contents of my bag and count my money to confirm the honesty of both herself and her niece. I gratefully comply.

This episode adds an extra hour onto the travelling time. The anticipated six hour trip has become seven.

As we approach Mooi River it is clear that we are heading into a thunderstorm. We go through the toll and turn onto the Greytown road. The heavens open.

The tarpaulin over the trailer covers the top and three sides, but the back is completely open. I dare not stop to check on the situation and just hope the dogs won’t get too wet.

I have never travelled this road before. From Mooi River it is only 75 km to Greytown, which I should be able to cover in less than an hour. In fine weather. The rain continues to pelt down. The mist is thick, the road is narrow and winding. There are road signs warning of potholes, but I cannot see the surface of the road because of the mist and the torrential rain. All I need is to hit a pothole and get a puncture. I slow down to a snail’s pace and that is how we drive almost the entire distance.

As we approach Greytown the rain decreases and, as we enter it, the mist lifts and I complete the remaining 23 km to Hermannsburg without incident.

More than nine hours after leaving Iswepe.

The Rotties are drenched but are beside themselves with joy at being out of the trailer and Tilly is almost hysterical. They run around the garden as though possessed. So much to smell; so much to see; so much to pee on. But after a few minutes Tess comes back to me and whines and whines. I read her mind. Okay, this has been fun, but can we go home now?


Poor Tess. So many changes in such a short while. Not liking changes myself, I could truly relate.

It did not take us long to settle, though, as our new home, turned out to be the best company house we ever lived in. Not only was it spacious and comfortable, it was also a sight warmer than the Iswepe house. The garden, too, was an improvement. It was considerably smaller than our previous garden, though still the largest in the village, and a whole lot easier to manage.


Our new home


Large, comfortable and easy on the eye!

The village itself was very pretty, and far, far more aesthetically pleasing than poor Iswepe! And being part of a gated village meant that we were much more secure than we had been before.


But the most noteworthy change of all was the setting, for Hermannsburg lies on the eastern edge of the lush and very green Kwazulu Natal Midlands. You only have to compare the front lawn of our Iswepe home (seen here on the left) with the lawn in the photos above to see what I mean.

[I have chosen this photo of myself and Wolfie and Schnudie because it has two other interesting features. Seen above my head is the garage window where the bokmakierie courted itself (see The End of an Era) and to the left of that is the sunroom window which Wolfie smashed to get at Katy (see Cats are from Venus, Dogs are from Mars)


The village in autumn as seen when coming from Stanger. In the foreground are the harvested maize fields.

Hermannsburg proper is a tiny hamlet lying about a kilometre to the south of the Greytown-Stanger road and consists of a church, a boarding school and residential village. Closer to the main road are a few houses and a post office. It is even smaller than Iswepe!

The tannin factory and residential village, where we would spend six years, is situated in the opposite direction, about a kilometre to the north of the Greytown-Stanger road, and is tucked between three farms.

Immediately to the north lies the dam which is the dominant feature of the village. The surrounds of the dam are particularly beautiful in autumn as can be seen in the photos below.


The village from the north side of the dam. Our house lies behind the trees on the right.


Our house is behind and to the left of the Turkey Oak (the red and gold tree) on the right.

While we no longer had the sweeping vista of the forests surrounding the Iswepe dam to feast our eyes on, the scene was pastoral and serene, and very beautiful.

Once again our boundaries had fallen in very pleasant places.

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Colleen Bennett
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