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EEvery little South African town has its quirks and special features, and Fauresmith in the southern Free State is no exception. With its old loco as a historic reminder of the days when steam trains chugged along its main street, Fauresmith has retained its other specialty: breeding superb endurance horses. 

In the mid-1800s, the small southern Free State town of Fauresmith nearly beat Bloemfontein in the race for provincial capital. In fact, it was so close that 3 more votes would have swung the deal. 

No matter. Did Bloemfontein have a railroad track running right through the middle of its main street? There were once only 3 places in the world where this transport phenomenon happened. The other 2 were Tula Homa, Tennessee (USA) and Wycheproof, Victoria (Australia). 

Back in its younger days, downtown Fauresmith must have been a sight to behold: a puffing steam train chugging through town, with farmers on horseback riding alongside it. Legend has it that the only railway traffic incident on record was the demise of an unlucky rooster. A pensioned-off loco now stands in the main street on a section of tracks. 

Says the late TV Bulpin, one of South Africa’s premier travel writers of his time: ‘This elderly locomotive now spends its time watching the traffic go by and wishing there was still enough steam left in its boiler to allow it at least a few more whistles at the girls.’ 

These days, Fauresmith is better known for its annual International Endurance Race around June/July – mid-winter for this part of the Grassy Karoo. It’s a real test for horse and rider that covers more than 200km over 3 days. Entries for what is now recognised as one of the world’s most challenging horse marathons have grown over the years to more than 500. 

In a rather more gruesome historic vein, Fauresmith was also the site of 3 public executions in the latter half of the 19th Century. 

The first murderer killed his wife because he wanted to marry a younger girl. The second killed a transport rider as he slept under his wagon. The third killed a Mrs Rossouw while she was doing her laundry at a fountain steam near the eastern entrance to Fauresmith. A sign to the ‘Murderers' Graves’ – about 1km out of town – points the way. 

Did You Know?

TTravel tips & planning  info 

Who to contact 

Free State Tourism Authority 

Tel: +27 (0)51 409 9900 

Fauresmith Tourism 

Email: info@fauresmith.co.za 

 

How to get here 

Fauresmith lies about 130km south-west of Bloemfontein at the end of the R706 route, which takes you through the diamond-mining town of Jagersfontein en route. 

Best time to visit 

If you can, come in spring (September to October) or autumn (April to May), when the weather should be temperate. 

Things to do 

Fauresmith is on the Open Africa organisation's Horizon Route. It's also part of the Xhariep District, and as such you should loop around from the Gariep Dam to Philippolis to Jagersfontein and into Fauresmith. 

Get around 

It's best to drive yourself. You could hire a car in Johannesburg or Bloemfontein. 

Length of stay 

Unless you’re here for the horse marathon, Fauresmith is worth a morning’s visit. 

Where to stay 

There are a number of guest farms and B&Bs available. 

What to eat 

Hearty country fare, which usually involves a lamb dish. 

Best buys 

French wire crafts from Glaasstudio in Jagersfontein. 

 

Related links 

 

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