13 March 2011 by Chris Marais

Legend of the Wartrail Beast

Up at the Wartrail, near the Lesotho border in the southern Drakensberg, the landscape looks it’s like Scotland in Africa.

Volunteershoek Pass is nearby. There are many mountain springs, and it’s particularly fun to drink mountain water in a tin mug with a drap of whisky. Don’t fret about the cowpats lying about - the cold spring water looks clean enough.

The extended Isted family live and farm in these valleys. Over a cup of coffee, the family patriarch, Cedric Isted,  will tell you about life in the Wartrail.

‘We used to take our livestock up to the top of Volunteershoek during the summer, and then bring them all down around the 18 of June.’

But the snows of 1964 were phenomenal, he says. And they came early. They were caught up in the hills there, helicopters dropping sheep feed. But it was useless - the feed got tramped into the snow.

‘The snow was so deep that we were walking over the fences, and the new landscape was so bewildering we were lost.  But there was this ox.

‘My uncle Ivor had an ox that he had taken to market the year before. It had proven troublesome, breaking out of its pen and then walking all the way from New England Station to Giddy - it came and hid in the Giddy Kloof.

‘The next year, when it snowed, that ox was up in the mountains with us. That year, the beast led us home. He led the way out with 3 000 sheep and us behind him. The beast broke the path that we followed.

‘The year after that, exactly the same thing happened all over again.  The year after that, we sold the ox at the Tenkop sale near Maclear. No, it never had a name.’

Were its navigational abilities at least touted at the sale, I ask.

‘No,’ said he says. It was sold like any other ox - by weight. Farmers!

Category: Culture & History

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