Transkei, Darker shades of the rainbow nation…

The leaders of South Africa like to call it “the rainbow nation” today we passed through one of the darker shades of that rainbow, the Transkei region, home of many of the Xhosa people in the apartheid time including Nelson Mandela who came from a small village near the capital Mthatha. This region currently has 65% unemployment and an average wage of only $600 per year so is terribly poor. It also has a reputation for corruption in local government and crime gangs, so we have to treat it with respect and caution. My friends and connections have many stories of various scams and robberies from this region.
As it happens our trip was uneventful, the road was good all the way, and we had no trouble. As we drove 400km across the region we were struck by the small dispersed houses all across the hillsides, apparently without any real plan, at first we could not work out what was odd until we realised that the vast majority of the houses did not have cars, or even roads to them, people clearly just walked some distance to the main road and took one of the many little minibuses to town. Apparently the two biggest minibus companies had a turf war and 60 people were killed.
In the town of Mthatha we were leaving when the traffic ground to a halt, we eventually edged past a fire truck dousing the remains of a smoldering barracade with lots of police around so things are still a bit unstable in the region. We stopped at a petrol station out of town even this was surrounded by three layers of razor wire and had big gates that could be closed.
We passed through without stopping in the cities, staying on the main road. Once we crossed into Kawzulu Natal it was a transformation, it was as if we had been teleported back to Scotland. Fields of black and white dairy cows, mixed in with Autumn coloured trees, farmers drove modern tractors and cultivated large fields from decent looking scattered farms, we passed combine harvesters bringing in the crops from the fields.
Quite a disturbing day, to see such a contrast, within 20 miles or so, in one country, seems to me to be a sign of things not really being organised or working properly. What to do about it is beyond me but it makes me grateful for the relative stability we enjoy in the UK.
Off to Lesotho tomorrow after 508km today we have only 180km to do tomorrow…..
Leaving Gonubie early by 8am we are heading up the good quality roads into the hills, in the day we would climb 1550m up mostly smooth roads
Once we are in the Transkei region we are struck by the many small houses scatted all over the landscape, most of which just have footpaths to them and very very few cars
The towns are very similiar to those I travelled through in western Africa, many market stalls, busy with people and minbuses blocking the road to a crawl
Shopping trollies seemed to be a common means of transportation as we move slowly through the cities of Mthatha and Butterworth
Even the petrol station on the road away from the cities had layers of coiled razor wire around the perimeter
The houses spread across the landscape without any apparent plan, and few roads, connecting them
As we head to the Drakensburg mountains the houses begin to thin out and the enscarpment of
When we cross into Kawzulu Natal region everything changes in a few miles, big farms and dairy cows appear, tractors are working the fields and even combine harvesters are bringing in the crops
Tomorrow we are heading further up into the mountains of Lesotho via the Sani Pass shrouded in evening mist as we approach at the end of the day

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