Travel magazines are fond of producing Top 10 or Top 5 lists of this or that. Following a journey from Middelburg in Mpumalanga to Pongola in KwaZulu-Natal along the N2, here’s my list of the top 5 worst towns and roads in South Africa. It wasn’t even a challenge.
2. Ermelo – second-ugliest town in the country, surrounded by industry, silos and mine slags that turn the air smoggy and unclean, ably assisted by a smoke-belching power station. Although the surrounding environment isn’t as black as around Hendrina, it’s an equally depressing holocaust-style vista.
3. N2 between Ermelo and Pongola – worst national highway, more pitted and potholed than any other national highway in the country. And that’s saying something. Some people were complaining about delays due to road works and certainly the stops were annoyingly long and haphazardly managed. But for me the parts that were not being worked on were more annoying because they were bad enough to need work, though none seemed to be on the horizon.
4. Taxis on the N2 near Pongola – worst drivers in the country, who don’t understand what one-way traffic means, or don’t care. Yes, stop-go signs due to road works are bothersome, but they’re there for a reason. Yet we saw taxis driving up the wrong side of the road into the oncoming traffic, forcing cars with right of way onto the gravel shoulder, endangering the occupants of both vehicles. Thanks to David-and-Goliath syndrome and a tiny hint of self-preservation, they did appear to give way for large trucks.
5. Piet Retief – worst main road through any town in the country. Coming from plug-ugly Hendrina and Ermelo it was a joy to approach a town that was pretty, even in the dead of winter. No burnt grasslands, no smoke-stacks, no coal, just some well-laid out garden-islands and broad parkland lining the streets. Then we reached the town proper and discovered potholes big enough to lose a hippopotamus in. There were ripped-up sections, large rough patches, buckling tar, and whole swathes where tar had given way entirely to the underlying sand.
If anyone has other suggestions for a South African ‘worst’, let’s hear them!
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