Maybe it was the raging flu, maybe just a reflection of my mood or maybe it just is as it is, but the small towns and farmlands of eastern Free State, South Africa, seemed lonely, poignant and forgotten. Once the heartland of agriculture, I saw a good number of abandoned farms and half-forgotten small towns in this area, just about 100 miles south of the wealthiest city in the nation, Johannesburg.
The roads are scarred and littered with potholes like a wierd skin disease, houses are for sale on every street, and the small village of Edenville has no water; it has to be brought in by big tankers. In the small town of Koppies, what was once a beautiful municipal swimming pool stands deserted and wrecked. It hasn't seen water or the happy sounds of laughing kids for years. It stands opposite the Paradys Hotel (translation : Paradise) which seems far removed from Eden or Paradise.
Small towns are important; they are the engine of rural areas and the nodes and meeting places of once thriving farming communities. I found it sad to see them as I found them, on a winter's day in June 2009.