Scott Balson's trip to South Africa -
8th September 2006 - Ladysmith

Perth : Johannesburg : Pretoria : Pietersburg : Pilgrim's Rest : Ladysmith : Champagne Castle : Estcourt : Durban : Ixopo
Kokstad : Port Elizabeth : Plettenburg Bay : Cape Town : Victoria West : Griquatown : Mafikeng : Johannesburg : Perth

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It was an early start and I was on the road by 7.30am - with a 500km journey from PIlgrim's Rest to Ladysmith.

The road to Ladysmith was excellent apart from a horror stretch between Ermelo and Volksrus. The roads in these parts were appalling - and did not reflect the main road between Johannesburg and Durban that I recalled from twenty years ago. The road had become a patchwork of bandaided pot holes and 80kph became the catch cry! To be fair the roads after I had come down the Sani Pass were excellent.

I eventually arrived at Ladysmith at about 2.30pm - but I did climb the hill to Fort Mistake (image right) ... an adventure that took me an hour and a half - more below.

For the record the sheer value for money at the Royal Hotel in a very black Ladysmith is hard to beat - just ZAR345 (about Au$70) for bed and breakfast - when you consider the hotel's strategic history during the Boer War siege of Ladysmith - incredible value as the room I am staying in was used at this time.

Main Ladysmith battlefield links - Wagon Hill/Platrand - Spioenkop

On the road from

Pilgrim's Rest to Ladysmith

The town of Lydenburg

Jock of the Bushveld territory

on the way to Machadadorp

The NG Kerk at Machadadorp

On the road to Ermelo


The N11 today!

The horror stretch of N11

just got worse!


Sani Pass

On the road to Ladysmith

As a man in his 20s I once stayed at the Fort Mistake Motel - so I had to drop by... of course it had since closed and now I was left with the challenge to climb the daunting hill to visit the historic fort - appropriately named Fort Mistake for its useless role in defending Ladysmith when the Boer war broke out. The walk to the top took about half an hour.. the long brown grass and scattered rocks offered excellent cover to the Boers.

The last thirty meters was a steep climb ... but it was worth while when I reached the fort which was in pristine condition despite its age (over 100 years old). Not a stone had been removed. The entrance was a tight fit and I had to remove my cameras before I could squeeze through. The interior of the fort was overgrown with long grass... as I had seen several snakes on the way up I took great care as I entered the main part of the fort with its gun turrets pointing to all corners of the compass. The fort could take about 30 soldiers and had protruding rocks on which soldiers could stand  in elevated positions to fire out of a top level of gun turrets... quite amazing design and construction out of rock!

I climbed down and traveled the rest of the way to Ladysmith which was overrun by blacks - even the traditional white area was now largely black and the historic Royal Hotel had posted security guards at the entrance to its guests car park.

I was rewarded with a room in the historic part of the hotel which had been around since the siege.

Climbing up to the Fort

The rocky slopes offered ideal

cover for the Boers

Fort Mistake

Looking through a gun turret

The narrow entrance

The interior

overgrown by grass

The neighbouring hill

My room (18)



The Royal hotel from the road

What was the foyer to the hotel
during the Boer war - known as
the ""Gold Room"

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