Folks,

I headed east from Ladysmith to Winterton, in the Drakensburgs, a Mountain range that runs along the eastern border of Lesotho up into Orange Free State.

Pretty much all of South Africas water comes from this range. On the Western side, it flows into Lesotho and then into rivers like the Orange in Western SA. On the Eastern side, it comes into Natal as the source of the eastern rivers.

It is a very beautiful range - I stayed in a Backpackers lodge and then got up at 4:30 AM to ride to the Cathedral Peak hotel 50Km away, seeing sunrise on the way. I spent the day with a guide climbing Cathedral Peak, at over 3000m (~ 10,000ft) with spectacular views along the way. I disappointed my guide with my $10 throwaway camera - I am sure he was used to flashier models from the beautiful resort hotel. On the way back we were treated to the view of an electric storm moving north along the mountain range, not 5Km from us, while we stayed (relatively) dry. Huge, open, green valleys and a myriad of waterfalls. The peak (predictably) was in cloud, but they cleared at times on the way up and I think I have some good pictures.

That night the owners of my lodge invited me to a going-away party for a friend of theirs, at a local hotel. It consisted of the (usual) scene of the men getting incoherently drunk and the ladies staying in the ladies bar .. One of the women worked at the Drakensburg Boys Choir School - a world-famous music school. I dropped by there on my way south, and they are geared up with computers and Internet in a way that would make any western school proud. One of the music teachers went to “Varsity” (University) at Rhodes college, Grahamstown, the start of Internet in South Africa, and developed the schools network. Now much of their equipment is donated, as they are “on the map”. They are setting up a 30 computer system, Pentium multimedia machines, with a router and a dedicated 64K line (gratis from Telkom - R2000 ($500) per month value), they have scanners, will be buying a CDROM writer soon. Yesssss..

I made my way down to Pietmaritzberg (shortened by everyone to ‘Maritzberg) and am writing this from an Internet Cafe here in town. Maritzberg is very historic, and has the “Church of the Vow”, a major piece of Voortrekker history, now a very nice museum.

I talked with a guy last night who was refreshingly upbeat about RSAs prospects, he being a very successful installer of three systems :-

1) The electric metering system from Escom, the utility company, of which I have written before,

2) telephone systems for Telkom, using shorthaul microwave from residences to a central microwave tower. Not the cheapest way to go, but the quickest and most secure in the townships. Hitech for the townships ..

3) the excellent parking meter system, which I think I wrote about, that I saw in Cape town. This uses a single meter for up to 8 bays. You park your car, walk to the indicated meter (which knows you have arrived), insert your money. If you overstay, a radio link calls the meter man ….. If you leave early, the meter resets, so there is no borrowed time. You will see this RSA export in a town near you next year.

He organised the (all-black) installation team. He arranged accommodation, arranged food for them, closed roads, etc. In our discussion of employment we agreed that unskilled white folks in RSA have little prospects.

He also maintained, as have others I have talked to, that the black people here are unable to plan for more than a day ahead. I can also see that.

Gotta run - my hour is up ..

Cheers, Andy!