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Published: December 7th 2013
So what is a Bush babe? Not the cute, furry primate you find in the bush climbing up trees, although there are many cute babes in our group of all ages, the youngest being 6 months old – it might take a while for her to get her drivers licence, though! You could possibly find us wearing fur too (feaux fur of course, because we are all animal lovers!). What's more, we do go to the bush as well as many other places, doing our own form of climbing in 4x4's on off road trails, testing our skills. But that's not all we do. We try out new adventures, pumping natural adrenalin through our bodies while amongst other things, going abseiling, scuba diving, sand boarding and swimming with dolphins. Another priority of ours is to be involved in outreach programmes such as the Wolf Outreach helping wolves at the Wolf Sanctuary outside Reitz in the Free State. Our common ground is that we all love adventure, thrive on helping animals and people in need and each time we set out to do any of these activities, the great camaraderie that we have come to enjoy over the last few years since
Bush Babes' conception just strengthens. Our slogan: Be a Babe! Go Bush!
How I became a member of Bush Babes:
One of our 4x4 magazines, Leisure Wheels, which we read from time to time had a competition for ladies to win a weekend of 4x4 training in the Waterberg. Because we often travel in remote areas with sections of rough terrain, sometimes needing good off road skills, I decided to enter, knowing full well that I never win any competitions, so didn't think I stood a chance to win this at all. Our motivation for entering: we had to write a short script why we should be chosen as one of the winners. I kept mine simple and wrote about our travelling often to destinations with off road terrain and I felt I needed to acquire some skills for these conditions.
After entering, we went on a trip to the Drakensberg, celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary with a helicopter flip over the berg. As we landed and had cell phone reception again, I received a phone call from Leilani Basson, the initiator or maybe instigator of Bush Babes, who was a photo journalist
for Leisure Wheels at the time. She had some wonderful news for me - I was one of 10 ladies that won the chance to attend the 4x4 training. Wow! I never thought that I would get such a wonderful opportunity. Needless to say, I had a wonderful weekend, learnt many new skills and have since become a member of Bush Babes.
Back to this trip. This would be the first outing since Bush Babes have been privatized. We were heading to Moolmanshoek in the Free State for an action packed weekend filled to the brim. As an exception husbands, partners and children could join us on this one. We would be sponsored by Isuzu and guided by Marius and Karen van Vuuren. Isuzu would supply the vehicles with fuel and radios for communication between the vehicles. For our own pocket, just the accommodation, drinks and food. What a great deal!
We met at Gerotek where we swapped vehicles and introduced ourselves to those we didn't know, then headed south to the Free State. We were a convoy of 12 vehicles which is an experience in itself, if you have never done
it, but fortunately we have on quite a few occasions. Upon arrival at Moolmanshoek we were welcomed with great hospitality and spectacular scenery. Just time enough to put our belongings in our rooms before we went for a guided game drive in game viewing vehicles. Our room was such a treat with a bath draped in lace, double shower and lovely little touches to make us feel special. I'm pretty sure we had the honeymoon suite! The area where we went for our game drive was fondly named as the mini Serengeti. We could see why as on a much smaller scale we got a taste of what it would be like in the real Serengeti. We saw herds of springbuck, wildebeest, eland, gemsbok, zebra and blesbuck. The wildebeest kept us entertained as they ran circles around the plains with the young ones matching their pace. Tragically a couple of months ago a fire spread over the mountains and burnt much of the vegetation but fortunately the buildings were saved. This in turn though gave us luscious green grass over rolling hills, valleys and plains. Back in time for a delicious dinner and getting to know our new travel companions.
House salad in phyllo pastry, lamb shanks or chicken with rice and vegetables and decadent desert, a huge chocolate mouse cake and meringue roulade. Feast for a king, but in this case a bevy of Bush babes.
The next morning after a delicious breakfast we piled in to our Isuzu’s and drove the Langesnek 4x4 trail. Marius, our Isuzu Off Road Academy representative and guide first gave us a briefing and had an apt phrase: ALWAYS KEEP IT AS SLOW AS POSSIBLE AND AS FAST AS NECESSARY.
A good tip as he took each of us through every step over the obstacles along the route. The route took us at least 5 hours, which means he was on his feet, running back and forth, up and down and over the rocks continuously between the 12 vehicles. It was such a thrill when we as drivers managed the obstacles, but in essence it was with Marius' expert guidance and the great capabilities of the Isuzu’s that we achieved what we did. What made our driving even more worthwhile was an extra reward of seeing impressive scenery.
After a late lunch, those that were
keen, went horse riding. The rest of us spent a more leisurely couple of hours relaxing or walking and watching a great display of a thunderstorm developing before having another delicious dinner. I think most of us went to bed shortly after such an exhilarating day and didn’t take long to fall asleep.
Throughout the night the wind blew so the abseiling and high rope adventure had to be cancelled as the wind was too strong. Both Paul and I were so disappointed because we were looking forward to that part of the weekend as well. The rest of the morning was spent amusing all the children with a ride on the horse cart and others continued to put their bruised behinds through further punishment by riding horses again.
We set off at 12h00 to head back home in convoy after such an exhilarating weekend. We will have to come back to complete our adventurous activities! As Bush Babes there certainly will be more occasions to have equally adventurous ventures.
Quote from the Moolmanshoek website: Information about Moolmanshoek: MOOLMANSHOEK IS SITUATED IN THE WITTEBERG MOUNTAIN RANGE, BETWEEN FICKSBURG AND
ROSENDAL, EASTERN FREE STATE, SOUTH AFRICA. The reserve was declared a Natural Heritage Site (No 199) in 1994, mainly because of the rare Mountain Bamboo that grows in the valley. Come and share this piece of Paradise with us for a few days. Take a leisurely stroll across the valley floor, go on a relaxing game drive or explore the reserve on horseback or by horse cart. Our SA Boerperd and Endurance Arab horses are born and bred in the valley, where more than 300 horses make Moolmanshoek their home. It is our privilege to be stewards of more than 3 300 hectares of the breathtaking Moolmanshoek valley. The Witteberg Mountains surround the valley in the shape of a horseshoe (with Visierskerf peaking at 2407m above sea level) feeding several mountain streams in the valley floor below. This basin is home to a variety of game that include Springbuck, Black Wildebeest, Blesbuck, Zebra, Eland, Gemsbok and many others that are historically indigenous to the area. More than 230 bird species can be seen in the reserve, while a wide variety of plants grow on the mountain slopes and in the beautiful wooded ravines. Under the skilled hands and vision
of the owner, Willie Nel, the once productive farm was transformed and developed into a game reserve and conservation area. It was later declared a private nature reserve. Family history: The name Moolmanshoek originated from the first owner of the Moolmanshoek valley. His name was Mr Petrus Lafras Moolman. The Moolman surname is derived from the Meuleman last name. In 1743 Pieter Meuleman arrived in South Africa as a soldier in the service of the Oost Indishce Compagne. He later became a “burger” of Stellenbosch, marrying a local girl by the name of Catharine Elisabeth Swart on 17 November, 1748.
The Moolmans from Graaf Reinett moved to Moolmanshoek in 1829. The Moolmans had discovered the valley on hunting trips made earlier on route from their temporary home in the South Eastern Free State. The original Moolman farm covered almost the whole valley, approximately 6800 hectares. The farm was later divided between the four sons. In June 1869 the first maps of the farm were drawn by KJ de Kok. The owners at that time were:
· AJ Moolman (Andries Johannes)
· JL Moolman
· CL Moolman (Christaan Lodewikus) † Ficksburg Married –
Maria Amerentia Cronje
· PL Moolman (Petrus Lafras) Married to Isabella Elsie Georgina Moolman The sons who later inherited the top part of the valley, known today as Moolmanshoek, put it up for sale when their father passed away in 1904. A Mr Thomas Mitchell, well known businessman and farmer of the area, bought Moolmanshoek for his 17 year old son Ernst on 11 June 1905. Ernst later married Dora Musgrave. The two of them built the main sandstone house during 1928-1933 at the cost of £8 000.
Ernst Mitchell died in 1956. For the next five years Moolmanshoek was leased to a Mr Muller before it was put on auction by a bank in Ficksburg. Mr Hendrik Erasmus (married to Hester du Plessis) from Hofmeyer was the highest bidder. Since the offer was too low, an agreement was made whereby Mr Erasmus could rent the farm (for a maximum of ten years) with the option to buy the land. After renting the farm for seven years, he bought Moolmanshoek in 1968.
Hendrik and Hester had only one child, a daughter named Miemie. She married Willie Nel from Smithfield in March 1972. The couple moved to
Moolmanshoek in January 1973. In 1980, Willie bought Moolmanshoek from his father-in-law, in doing so becoming the fourth owner of Moolmanshoek. It was under Willie and Miemie’s stewardship that Moolmanshoek was transformed to the piece of paradise it is today. The adjacent farms, Langesnek (where the Leadership centre is situated) and Waterkloof were also later purchased and added to Moolmanshoek. Willie and Miemie have three children, Hester, Isabel and Wiesman. Today Moolmanshoek is managed as a family business.
Natural heritage The Moolmanshoek Private Nature Reserve lies in the Witteberg mountain range which roughly runs in a north-south direction between Ficksburg and Bethlehem. The upper parts of these mountains (above 2000 meters) consist of Drakensberg basalt, a volcanic rock. The basalt is clearly visible where cliffs were formed on the higher peaks, notably on Visierskerf, at 2407meter, the highest peak in the mountain range. Below the basalt lies the Clarens Sandstone, a relatively soft rock formation. This was deposited before the basalt outflow as sand dunes during a very dry period in the earth’s history. The sandstone forms interesting and beautiful topographical features like caves, deep ravines, waterfalls, rock pools and strange shapes.
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