Stars of Sanstone in the REISE & URLAUB

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Stars of Sanstone in the REISE URLAUB

An Article was published in the REISE & URLAUB Newspaper about Stars of Sandstone: Page 1 & Page 2

The Translation by Peter Pauls :

Like primeval creatures hissing and breathing in time, the two English steam locomotives with their wooden passenger cars work their way up to the high plateau. In the distance you can see the Maluti Mountains of the Kingdom of Lesotho. Occasionally a beam of glaring afternoon sun breaks through the cloudy sky. Locomotives and landscape then shine golden. Dave Rollins, the 79-year-old driver with the straight gray hair, inspects the surroundings. The old man calmly drives his train through the breathtakingly beautiful landscape of the South African province of Free State. Children who have run for many miles beside the train laugh and wave.

If everything fits, like this afternoon, then the "Stars of Sandstone" develop a magic that is hard to resist. Every two years (2021 the next time), Wilfred Mole, a former IT entrepreneur, opens the gates of his Sandstone Estates farm for 14 days to the public and showcases his stars who are unequaled worldwide: narrow gauge locomotives, steam engines, street classic cars, construction machinery and tractors. But also restored traditional oxen waggons can be found here, where Boer merchants roamed the southern Africa more than 100 years ago, and even a herd of draft animals. More than 20 years ago, the 75-year-old Mole acquired "Sandstone Farm", which is about four hours' drive south of Johannesburg. The collection of old locomotives and tractors, which he found there, he evaluated purposefully and expanded it. While others left South Africa, he invested. Today he focuses on the cultivation of organic products such as wheat, soybeans, corn, sunflowers and cosmees.

Mole himself probably does not know where his pronounced business sense ends and the collector's passion for technology and history begins. In fact, on Sandstone he laid approximately 30 kilometers of track in the 610 mm narrow gauge width of Africa, which he was fortunate enough to acquire after the completiong of a dam project in Lesotho. It now has 75 narrow gauge locomotives - half of them operational - and a wealth of freight and passenger vehicles, including a 1934 steam lorry.

The hefty 120 euros for the day ticket (book online before) are well spent money for technology friends. You can use virtually anything that is earth or railbound. The trains carry imaginative names such as "Mountain Wanderer", "Sunrise or Border Express". On the first days of the event hot air balloons are on the farm and throughout the whole time sport aviators, some with old biplanes like the Tiger Moth. Both costs extra, but offers unforgettable views.

In the area there are numerous guesthouses. One of them is "Amohela Ho Spitskop", a quiet location with spectacular panoramic views to neighboring Lesotho. You can spend peaceful days here, enjoy nature and wildlife, or hike to caves where Bushman drawings can be found. Jenny and Allen Lotter have created a little paradise here. Now they are proud of the storks that spend the winter here.

Worth a visit and not far from Sandstone and "Amohela Ho Spitskop" are the mountain and the valley "Mautse" - both sacred places for the African people of the Basutho, which live in this part of South Africa and the neighboring Lesotho. In "Mautse" one finds traditional herb healers, called sangomas, but also preachers and hermits. Christian and traditional beliefs are difficult to separate, and above the valley there is a friendly, mysterious atmosphere. Again and again you come across Bushman drawings or petrified imprints of dinosaurs.

It is another South Africa that is encountered in the Free State. Some people will not let go, especially as there is always something to discover.