So all you South Africans know Harrismith, right? It’s that petrol station between Joburg and Durban.

But, it turns out, Harrismith is good for more than just filling up your tank and getting a bite to eat.

The back story: Friends of ftcl and I (FireWithin and Ukelady) were moving to the south coast. Neither had tow bars on their cars, but, ftcl did, and was glad to lend his car to good friends.

They had driven all the way to the south coast (with cats) and now had to drive all the way to Midrand to return the car, and then all the way back home. The trip was about eight hours each way.

To shorten their trip, they suggested meeting in Harrismith, the unofficial Jhb-Dbn halfway point, for an impromptu mini-holiday. We acquiesced; our best friends needed us. Also, we’d get a night in Harrismith out of the deal.

End of back story.

The drive was blissfully short for two Gautengers used to eight hour trips. Of course, having been on the road for three whole hours, we were starving. We all decided on a picnic, and since ftcl and I arrived first, it was up to us to find a spot.

I consulted my Book of the Road, and saw there is a dam nearby, Sterkfontein Dam.

The dam was the eeriest shade of blue. It was a deep turquoise accentuated by the white grass surrounding it. It was absolutely beautiful.

It was also being blasted with ice cold wind.

The wind was so rough, in fact, the dam looked like the ocean, with waves lapping the shore. It would have been a perfect picnic spot if not for the ridiculous weather.

Picnic spot option number two was the Harrismith botanical gardens. But it was closed for… hunting? Yeah. This confused us all.

So, thoroughly perplexed and freezing, we met up at the lodge where we were staying, called Lala Nathi. The place was gorgeous. And the rooms had delicious, delicious under floor heating.

The rondawel was great, but we were all a little shocked by the doorless bathroom.

Because the room was warm and comfortable, we picnicked in there instead, listening to the howling wind.

And awkwardly hoping no one had to pee.

Later, when the wind died down, we went for a drive around town. It really looks like a great place to retire – quiet, quaint, and with a beautiful view of the mountains.

We went for supper at a restaurant called La Moree. The staff were very friendly, and the food was good. I had lasagne, and my companions all had steak. Ftcl ate a meal that probably combined all his favourite foods ever: steak stuffed with bacon, cheese, mushrooms and jalapenos.

Over supper and wine, the discussion turned to the pronunciation of the town’s name. We had all heard everyone say Harry Smith, of course. But the i implies it could be pronounced Harris Mith, if you were so inclined. Harrismouth?

We trekked back after nine, making it back to the lodge before curfew. ftcl had brought his acoustic guitar, and Ukelady brought her ukulele, so we decided to write a song for Harrismith.

With Ukelady doing her thing, ftcl on guitar, me on vocals (and lyrics), and FireWithin on percussion (he forgot his guitar at home), we set about creating an ode to the town.

Here are the lyrics, the song is below:

Harry Smith, oh Harris Mith
Why are your mountains aflame?
Harry Smith, oh Harris Mith
Can’t agree on pronouncing your name.

Harry Smith, oh Harris Mith,
So loyally halfway
Harry Smith, oh Harris Mith
The reason we come this way

Half are in KZN
Half are way up north
Your positioning is all that
Gives you worth

We came when the wind was high
We picnicked in a B&B
All together we had
All we need.

Harry Smith, oh Harris Mith
There’s really nothing to you
Harry Smith, oh Harris Mith
We still liked passing through you

Harry Smith, oh Harris Mith
What else is there to say?
Harry Smith, oh Harris Mith
Maybe we’ll be back someday

Harrismith Ode