When travelling the scenic R36 from Lydenburg to Ohrigstad just past the turn-off to Pilgrim’s Rest, a peculiar strip of old shopfronts and buildings is to be seen some distance from the present road. It vaguely resembles one of those Wild West strip towns.
When I stopped there some years ago, an old house, one that seemed the oldest, was still in use. A vast old country store, dusky in contrast to the afternoon glare outside, sporting mostly open shelves, was still dealing in basicstuff. Outside, peeling shopfronts,dilapidated signposts and sun-bleached commercials indicated a bygone era.
I was told that Rusplaas was once a vibrant place of trade. Then adjacent to the old road, it was home to a few families trading in various commodities including a motor agency dealing in large gleaming Chryslers, popular at the time.
The story goes that this old Voortrekker farm, Rusplaas, was later granted or sold to a trader of Indian descent. This was in the days of the old South African Republic of President Paul Kruger. With the building of the rail-road from Lydenburg to Steelpoort, it was blessed with its own station or halt.
Over the years, as the political scene shifted and the Group Areas Act came about, this area was reserved for limited Indian settlement. They were not allowed to open shop anywhere else. However, this did not lead to isolation. Over the years, with hard work and good marketing, Rusplaas became known as a place where there was always a solid deal to be made. It developed into a commercial hub to be reckoned with. Buyers came from far and wide.