951 hectare farm in the malaria-free Waterberg; stunning mountains and valleys; two lovely homes; three guest chalets; suitable for equestrian uses, game ranching, tourism, private nature reserve. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for complete information.
Geography. The Waterberg Mountains run about 150 kilometers (90 miles) from east to west, and cover 14,500 square kilometers (5,800 square miles), roughly the size of the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana, less than half the size of the Netherlands, or slightly larger than the US state of Connecticut. The Waterberg (mountains of water, Thaba Meetse in the local Northern Sotho language) refers to the abundance of water, still true in good rainy seasons and questionable in bad rainy seasons.
History. Scientific debates continue about the age of the first primates and hominids, but the evidence is clear that they lived from two to three million years ago in the “Cradle of Mankind” at the Sterkfontein Caves, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) “as the African snake eagle flies” from the southwestern part of the Waterberg. In the last few thousand years, Europe’s Iron Age population moved through the Middle East, and ultimately to Southern Africa about 200 AD, joining the indigenous San people.
Edited from the original published in The Sunday Independent, 15 February 2009.
The Waterberg Mountains benefit from many features, including the name itself. To those who live here, and to many others, the very words conjure up all that is positive about the region – its bio-diversity, craggy heights, and vistas, its game, watercourses, and even its remoteness from urban centres. Throw the words Waterberg Biosphere Reserve into the mix, and more value is added. Those who operate tourist establishments profit from the natural branding; the rest of us are simply delighted to be here.
So it is with some alarm that we watch as the Waterberg name is abused by some and misused by others. The abuse is intentionally deceitful; the misuse is accidentally detrimental.
Waterberg School Sets An Example: Meetsetshehla Secondary School defies the norm in its efforts to maintain excellence
Originally published in The Sunday Independent, 10 August 2008
Though only three hours from Johannesburg, the Waterberg range in Limpopo is remote, sparsely populated and quite beautiful with its rugged mountains, watercourses and wildlife. It is also very poor.
South Africa's newspaper The Weekender published this article in its 4-5 July 2009 edition, under the headline "Crossover Curiosities." The subheadline said 'John Miller finds border towns emphasise what unites people, not what separates them.' They included a couple of relevant photos, but not this one of the cable car crossing from South Africa to Botswana.
You'll have to read the whole story to see what I'm talking about.
Border towns are intriguing places. Their distinct identity defies our stereotypical view of the countries in which they lie. In such places, residents identify themselves less with their country and more with their neighbours across the border.
The mix of cultures and language that should be awkward, is rarely noticed. In fact, some border towns are so unusual they are not a transit point, but the destination itself.
Rio de Onor in the northeastern corner of Portugal, and Rio honor de Castilla in northwest Spain, comprise a single town in a remote agricultural area. A large stream (barely a river) separates the countries, but nothing separates the people.
This story about my jaunt to Mozambique was published in the 31 October/1 November 2009 issue of The Weekender.
We had left the beaches of Chidenguele in the morning, heading to Hyliota Camp, a rustic birding camp on one of Mozambique’s freshwater inland lakes in Inhambane Province. Before we confirmed our booking, we had prevailed upon the manager in SA that we didn’t need him or anyone else to guide us there. And we had no need for GPS co-ordinates as we didn’t have a GPS.
His written directions provided a few laughs, but not much clarity. Still, how could we go wrong — a Portuguese-speaker and a highly qualified South African field guide, enhanced by the vital talents of a retired CIA economist and a high-powered corporate coach from Washington, DC. We sought a path less travelled to a destination often ignored.
A slightly edited version of this review was published in The Weekender, 29-30 August, 2009. The newspaper's headline was "Religion creates a storm in small town."
The Waterberg gained an enduring reputation for the offbeat when Paul Kruger banished his political enemies to the remote, dangerous, and malarial corner of the Northern Transvaal – “Give him a farm in the Waterberg!” Since then, the Waterberg has inspired painters and photographers, naturalists and scientists, but no one has mined its ornery characters and traditional ways for a good old-fashioned tale of good versus evil. Or sceptic versus scammer. Until now.
April 2009. In recent years, I've met a few volunteers in the Waterberg who've come from places far away. I've sensed a bit of culture shock in some of them, and so wrote this to help orient others who are considering spending some time here.
It's still called the "undiscovered" Waterberg of South Africa. It is remote (though less than three hours from Johannesburg), sparsely populated, and quite beautiful with its rugged mountains, water courses, and wildlife. It is also very poor.
North American, European, and Australian doctors, medical students, and teachers work for various periods in and around Vaalwater, the main town in the Waterberg. It is a rewarding experience for the foreigner, who will be making an important and appreciated contribution to the health, welfare and education of the impoverished residents of the Waterberg. The information provided here is intended to introduce you to the expectations and realities of your life in the Waterberg.
May 2009. After a career working in developing countries, I thought I'd ponder a bit about what it all means.
Poverty in the Waterberg is not much different than poverty elsewhere in small town and rural South Africa. Statistics are hard to come by, but the population in and around Vaalwater is estimated at 50,000. If you are White, you’d be surprised by such a large number until you make your way behind the government housing (pictured below) that is visible from the tar road to Melkrivier, back to the countless tin shacks erected on the seemingly endless land near the town dump. This is not a land invasion, nor a squatter settlement. Rather, plots are delineated and have been formally allocated to individuals.
March 2009. If one test of being a first world country is language abuse, South Africa easily holds its own with England and America. Words matter. Phrases, sentences, paragraphs – if they purport to convey what we mean, and certainly what we think, they should be precise and accurate. On promotional materials, adverts, websites, television, radio, and yes, even in newspapers, I despair when I am so often confronted with jargon in place of thought as well as simply egregious mistakes in English. I’m picking on English because that’s the language I know, but I wonder if it would be just as easy to find examples in South Africa’s other ten official languages. Regardless, here are some examples, with comments from the South African bush, but I’m sure readers can apply them to South African urban life:
September 2008. We know they’re coming when, in late August, the Waterberg sky turns from its fine winter blue to a dusty haze. We know they’re coming when the still air kicks up into light breezes and then winds. We know they’re coming because the rainless months have left the tall grass desiccated and yellow. We don’t need to hear the SA Weather Service advice that in many parts of the country conditions are “extremely favourable for runaway fires”. What we don’t know is whether they’ll hold off a while and let summer’s first lightning ignite them, or if man’s negligence will be the cause.
Fire season in the Waterberg is upon us.
October 2008. It cannot be denied – South Africans are paying attention to the election of the next president of the United States. Politicians do so because they’re always interested in other politicians.
Newshounds do so because it’s news. But many other more normal South Africans are intrigued by the lengthy, lengthy campaign, and there are several explanations as to why.
It's still called the "undiscovered" Waterberg region of South Africa. It is remote (though only three hours from Johannesburg), sparsely populated, and quite beautiful with its rugged mountains, water courses, and wildlife. It is also very poor.
The Waterberg's employment base is traditionally on farms – predominantly cattle and tobacco. Tourism is an increasing source of employment, at places such as horse safaris, luxury lodges on large "Big Five" reserves, bush camps in wilderness areas, game farms, and more.