WHERE DINOSAURS ROAMED – A Trip into The Maluti Mountains.

Deep in the epicenter of the ancient Maluti mountains you can still hear the sound of mud crunching under a T Rex’s foot. A murder of crows circle above watching for tiny bush animals or newly laid eggs. We are driving through landscapes that are primitive and magical. If I was a dinosaur, I would definitely be laying my big scaly head down here to rest at night.

The Old Mill Drift Guesthouse is a working stud breeding and self-catering farm in the middle of Clarens and Fouriesburg. Run by Yvonne and her team, it is a real breakaway from the intoxicating noisiness of city life. It smells like fire and dust and moss.

Set on 14km of the Caledon river, the natural border between South Africa and Lesotho and nestled at the foot of the Maluti Mountains, this stark, bountiful and exquisite land is an idyllic place to simply chill on your stoep, hike with your dog, go biking, or cruise in your 4×4”.

It’s a mind boggler to think that we are right on the natural river border into Lesotho. I can swim over in the middle of the day without a passport. There are stories of horses being stolen and taken over the mountains. That’s a serious worry for Yvonne who makes sure her family are secure and sleep tight at night under serious horsey stable security surveillance. Did I mention, the farm is also home to about 30 donkeys? As we arrive at the venue, we meet Buddy. Buddy is an orphaned donkey who was raised by the bottle. He thinks he is a human. He helps us carry our luggage into the house and walks us straight through the farm house showing us how to use the gas stove and where the firelighters are. Buddy is a good donkey.

The Old Mill has 14 buildings, and offers multiple self-catering accommodation options that include thatch and character sandstone cottages, chalets with pet enclosures, a honeymoon suite, lodges and large dormitory style accommodation. Suited to a loner seeking refuge, couples searching for a unique romantic getaway or large family group and sporting club”.

Friday night we get introduced to the very special stud horses, light a fire outside, and cook cheese and tomato toasties on the open wood fire. I introduce Yvonne to my favourite whiskey Paddy’s and she shares a bottle of fine red wine with me. Saturday morning we hike up to a picnic viewpoint with overhanging sandstone roofs and caves accompanied by 4 of the farm dogs. Once again, I can feel the hot breath of a breathing dragon dinosaur on my neck and feel transported to the time before that meteor hit.

A few years back we stayed at another farm where we hiked to a spot where we saw real dinosaur footprints left carved in the rocks. It’s a truly surreal experience. Yvonne has proof dinosaurs roamed on her land as bones have been excavated but, in archaeological proof books, unless you have 2 dinosaur footprints you can physically see in the rock, you cannot 100% prove it. But the bones do tell a story that time and wine and water has eroded away.

Saturday threatens with first snows over the Lesotho mountains and we prepare for fire, rummikub and red wine only. The sun surprises us and we get another day of fresh air, sunsets, bleeting donkeys, cuddly fire dogs, hamburgers, cheese platters, whiskey goblets, deep dark and light conversation and a refresher for the soul.

Thanks for the company, stories and memories. We will be back to find more pine bolete mushrooms in your vast bushlands.

“The Free State landscape gladdens my heart, no matter what my mood. When I am here I feel that nothing can shut me in; that my thoughts can roam as far as the horizons.” – Nelson Mandela


Condolences to Yazoo The Ridgeback who we met for the first time and sadly died on the Monday. He was named after the album ‘Upstairs At Erics’. Now he really is upstairs.

Words and Photos – Captain PainterJane aka Joanne O