Stream of opportunity

As usual I was the last one in, huffing and giving a round of sincere apologies to my anxious-looking travel companions, all aboard for Wakkerstroom.

As usual I was the last one in, huffing and giving a round of sincere apologies to my anxious-looking travel companions, all aboard for Wakkerstroom.

Our hostess Hester Hattingh had made impeccable arrangements for the trip so that a minute after my long-awaited boarding, we took off as she introduced herself and her colleague Henrus Beukes, and promised everyone an enjoyable trip.

And all I thought was: "You're too optimistic given the sullen faces here and the miserable weather."

The luxury coach, under the strict reign of Cookie, took long glides as we passengers simultaneously took out our maps and tried to get an idea of where on earth Wakkerstroom is.

It lies on the south eastern border of Mpumalanga in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains, towards Piet Retief.

Vegetation had succumbed to the harsh winter so maybe mid-winter is not the ideal time to visit for scenic fanatics like me.

And because extreme weather conditions have a way of bringing people together, it was through no divine intervention that we arrived at our hypnotically mellow destination as one big band of Gypsies.

We alighted at the colony-meets-elegance Wakkerstroom Country Inn and were each welcomed with a warming glass of sherry.

The staff's professionalism is world class. They could have been working in Singapore.

Wakkerstroom was founded in the late 1800s by Dirk Cornelius Uys before a large occupation of soldiers in the Anglo Boer War. That explains the claim that it has the oldest piano in South Africa.

At the Oude Stasie where lunch was waiting and piping hot, we gobbled down a simple dish of curry and rice like army officers fresh from the war.

An hour later, on what should have been a game drive viewing Clouds End, we drank ourselves silly because no one could believe that winter cold could bite so viciously.

We were in the bus and in the company of Pieter Beukes, a former lawyer who together with a group of five other sharp business people, saw the potential in bare land of huge money-spinning opportunities.

Beukes and his partners bought these rolling hills, rocks and natural fountains, all 4000ha of land, so they could build their residential estate and farming properties with the prerequisite that they resemble old-styled country estates.

Though some of the best stands of the land are still partly occupied by farmworkers of the previous three owners, Beukes is not worried.

"There is enough land here for about 700 occupants.

"We have sold about 70 stands and are positive we will sell out before we even build the hotel," he said.

Other important developments to take place are the spa, a Zulu cultural village, a brewery and a game farm.

What business-savvy person would not see the advantage of buying now when stands are about R545000?

I know that one day I will look at Clouds End village and want to shoot myself for not having sold all my belongings to raise the stand money, because stand owners will be entitled to 65percent share in these farms.

Wakkerstroom is rich in landscape, but most of all in little streams and birds.

As I woke up in my Afrocentric honeymoon suite at the Wetlands Country House & Sheds, a music competition of different species of birds lured me to my balcony and I was treated to the sounds of about 500 birds.

But Rita, the lodge owner, was adamant that many have hibernated.

She also told me Wakkerstroom has not had a murder in 13 years. I could live there.