A traveler passing by: Not very happy with his accommodation at another guesthouse in Vryheid, he tried us … and ended up staying for ten days. Then he came back every 4 months for almost 5 years. He saw our guesthouse grow and develop and noticed all the upgrades we made. He always insisted to be booked only in our “Fig Tree Cottage”. Mr Osborn from Portsmouth England was 74 when we met and he became a regular customer and then a friend.
Mike was just thrilled with the sunny South African weather. He came to Vryheid to ride trains. The bigger and longer the trains were, the better. Like a real little schoolboy he was just in love with trains. From the SA Railways he had obtained a special permit to be a passenger in the locomotives cubical with the driver and assistant. For 10 days he would then ride our world record long narrow gage coal trains between Vryheid, Ermelo and Richards Bay.
During his active working days, he was an engineer in the marine industry in London, supplying and fitting ships with huge engines. It was the sound and vibration of these monster Diesels that was driving his adrenaline and he could not get enough of it.
From Vryheid he would travel to Port Elizabeth and, yes… you guessed it, to ride trains. There he would board the iron, manganese and chrome ore trains running between Coega, Saldanha Bay and Sishen . Mike would then move on, to Cameroon and Burkina Faso to ride all mentionable ore and cargo trains in Central Africa.
But he always came back to Vryheid. He told us that the best in the whole world was the experience of a 20 minutes descent from Piet Retief Highveld down onto the Dumbe Paulpietersburg flats when six mighty locomotives vibrating and running at full pitch at the last bend, with a fully laden 200 truck coal train in full view!
Mr Osborne made a booking four months ago for the Fig Tree Cottage for 10 Days from 22 Jan 2017.
He did not show up early as he usually does and it was getting late, was there perhaps a delay at the airport or his flight from the UK? Petra sent a text message to his phone. A reply came back
“Hi Petra, this is Alistair, Mike’s son, sorry for the inconvenience but we were not aware of his travel arrangements. Dad had a massive stroke last week and we don’t think he will make it through this week.”
The next day, Mike had moved on. He will not be coming back to Vryheid.Just a traveler passing by and travelling to another place of which we can only but dream. Aren’t we all, not only that – just travelers passing by?
(A tribute to MIKE OSBORNE R I P 24 January 2017)
Thanks Charles Cawood with the translation