Swinburne, Thabo Mofutsanyana

If you have travelled the road between Johannesburg and Durban by bus at any stage in South Africa you will most likely have stopped at Swinburne, whether or not you were aware that it was actually Swinburne. Until later in life, I thought Swinburne was a petrol station where buses, cars and their passengers take a break whilst filling up with the necessary to complete the journey.

Actually, Swinburne is a little village perched virtually on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment. It goes largely unnoticed where it lies between Harrismith and Van Reenen (both more popular stops on the N3), which is a good thing considering how few little hamlets in this particularly beautiful part of South Africa can claim obscurity as an asset.

Swinburne also claims as its own the Rensburgkop Mountain, which looms over the town and is a firm favourite with climbers, mountain bikers and hikers. The Bald Ibis Hiking Trail, one of very few weekend backpack trails close enough to Gauteng, starts in Swinburne.

Yellowwood forests, grassy plains and typical mountain weather that can have you pulling your windbreaker on and off depending on which season strikes in which hour of the day all help contribute to a beautiful sometimes flower strewn countryside. Rather quaintly, the Bald Ibis trail includes a 'windy corner', which can be a little difficult to negotiate should it be a windy day.

Despite the fact that Swinburne has little to offer over and above a basic shop and a restaurant and pub known as the 'Hound and Hare', it is probably this very quaintness that make the town so very inviting to all who stay here. Besides, Harrismith is not far away and one can stock up on supplies there.

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