Val is a town for bikers, cyclists, muso’s and anybody that needs to “val” into their beds after a heavy night of “ploeg-ing” in the pub. I visited the outback town of Val in Mpumalanga and found it to be a great stop over destination along one of the best motorbike routes in South Africa. The friendly, yet attentive South African hospitality and quaint atmosphere of the town lend to a unique experience.
Finding a great town hidden off the beaten track, is enough to get anyone excited to share the find! I recently heard about a place called “Val”, which lies between Balfour and Greylingstad in Mpumalanga. I had no choice but to go exploring (any excuse for an adventure).
‘Val’ in Afrikaans means something similar to ‘taking the plunge’. One Friday, I decided to take the plunge and do the ‘Om-die-Draai-Mender’ that starts in Heidelberg, goes through Grootvlei, Balfour, Greylingstad, Val and Villiers. What a route. The Highveld is known to be quite barren.. and it is, especially in winter time, but with the bright sky, the cotton wool clouds, the ongoing hum of traffic on the train tracks and deserted farm houses; this area can is picturesque.
If you love old ghost towns, you’ll love this place! The old Val Hotel with the Moeggeploegkroeg (pub) is the centre of the happenings.
Val is made up of little more than 18 residents, the old Val Hotel, a police station, the old post office, the old station, a chapel, a few tennis courts, die Plaashuis guesthouse and on or two other railway station houses. The mayor of the town, is Andre Britz. He and his lovely wife, Rita, own the biggest part of Val. When I asked about where the town got its name from, Rita shed some light on the matter. Apparently Val’s name comes from the Waterval River (Waterfall River) that passes through the town. “There are so many ‘Waterval’ towns that the ‘Water’ was cut and ‘Val’ stayed behind”, says Rita.
When the swinging doors of the Moeggeploegkroeg open, you get flashbacks from movies about the Wild West, where cowboys and crooks are ready to draw pistols outside the saloon, just to go back into the crowded pub to pick up a lady and swing back another shot of bourbon. Moeggeploegkroeg was nominated as one of the Top 100 pubs in Southern Africa, making it an attraction you definitely want to park your Harley outside when its on route.
The Britz couple bought the Val Hotel in 1994 for only R18 000 (Oh how times have changed). Rita’s grandfather used to own a farm in the area and Rita always knew that she had a special connection with Val.
“My grandfather’s shoes are still up there, but,” says Rita, “it is so difficult to get the shoes up there. If we tie a modern pair of shoes up, it will be gone the next day,” she laughs. This is strange for a town like Val where you can still leave your car in the street and keys in the door. This is one of the unique trademarks of Val. All kinds of shoes, All Stars, hiking boots and even leather boots hang from their shoelaces on a telephone line that crosses the street.
The hotel was built in 1896. The now Moeggeploegkroeg pub used to be a trading store. Rita opened a museum where the history of the town is on display. When in the hotel, Rita’s creativity is a rush of beauty. Rita has transformed the establishment into a special dwelling with a homely feel. The hotel has more than 15 rooms with names, each with their own personality and names to match. These rooms include: The Kiss, The Inklings, Loth Lorien, Tintern, Bloomsbury, Rama and Sita, The Pre-Raphaleites and The Hobbit.
Rita and her husband, Andre, are huge music lovers. The pub’s walls are scattered with quotes by various artists, written on the walls. Those of Nick Cave, Jimi Hendrix, Freddy Mercury and Bob Dylan “own” each wall. Their son, Rian, plays the “trekklavier” for the musician Bacchus Nel. Gert vlok Nel, the muso that sings the Beautiful in Beaufort-Wes tune, often visits the pub. If you are looking for a serious rock n’ roll fest, the “ruk ‘n rol” fest will happen in November.
The nice thing about Val is that trains still pass by on the Trans Rand route from Johannesburg to Durban. You can visit the old station and climb the bridge to see the transport trains passing by. Or you can “val” in your bed at the renovated post office next to the tracks and hear the ongoing ramble of the trains at 01:00, 03:00 and 05:00. Don’t stress; you get use to the noise. By 05:00 you’ll get to enjoy sleep, just like the rest of Val.
If you are looking for ghosts you are bound to find them here. The supernatural phenomena team of South Africa are curious and will be on the hunt for supernatural activity in the area on Halloween, the 28th of October.
Motorcyclists, if you are into ‘off-road’ adventures, the route from Grootfontein will be quite a challenge.
Be part of this quirky destination and book your spot at the Val Hotel here.
“Val” in by Val, and take the plunge.
Article by: Marzahn Botha
The Val Hotel