Lying at the foot of the escarpment in Limpopo is a little town formerly known as Duiwelskloof or Devil’s Gorge. The thick, red soil becomes a sea of mud during the rainy season - a curse to early transport drivers, who gave the valley its name. However, the soil and high summer rainfall (1 500 mm) are a blessing to a host of plant life.
Trees cover the sides and floor of the valley. There are dense plantations of eucalyptus and the air is rich with the frangrance from the sawmills. Papaws, bananas, avocados, mangoes and other tropical fruits grow well and vast amounts of tomatoes are produced, especially at Mooketsi. Bougainvillaeas, pointsettias, frangipani, cassias, acacias, bauhinia creepers, poincianas, potato trees, jacarandas and many other species of flowering trees and plants make the valley a glorious sight, especially in spring and summer, between October to January.
The town was renamed Modjadjiskloof in tribute to the Rain Queen, Modjadji - the traditional mystic ruler of the Balobedu people who live in this beautiful, heavily wooded part of the country, where tranquil forest drives consistently hint at the mysticism that surrounds the legendary Rain Queen.
The hereditary queen of the Balobedu, Modjadji or Rain Queen, has special powers bestowed on her that grant her the ability to control clouds and rainfall. The succession is matrilineal and the Queen's eldest daughter automatically steps in to take on the mantle.
The Balobedu are without a reigning queen at present as the former queen Makobo Modjadji VI died at only 27 years of age, in 2005, leaving no heir to the throne.
Tradition holds that the queen communicates to her people via male councillors and indunas. She gives up any appearances at public functions and never marries. Instead, she bears children by her close relatives and is cared for by the wives sent from many villages in Ga-Modjadji. Upon approaching her death, she takes poison after appointing her eldest daughter as her successor.
The Modjadji Royal Palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions, as it is close to the Royal Modjadji Nature Reserve, where some of the oldest and largest cycad specimens in the world form part of a unique and natural forest. It has a large central courtyard surrounded by a palisade of wooden staves, many of which have been carved into weird shapes and faces.
The queen's quarteres are secluded and she can be seen only by favoured visitors. The reserve is a treasure, not only for the giant specimens that stand as high as 13 metres and bear cones that weigh up to 34 kilograms, but also for the sheer beauty of the mist that often overlays the area and lends it an atmosphere of mysticism.
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