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In February 1836, Potgieter's trek party of two hundred souls in sixty wagons crossed the Orange River in Tregardt's tracks. Potgieter was 42 at the time, a tall, thin man who married four times (all widows), bearing 17 children.
He was sparse with words, a hard driver, pugnacious and a fearful fighting man. He was bold but also knew when not to take a risk - a quality that was to cause trouble in the future. Potgieter became widely regarded as the foremost of all the Voortrekkers. He was held in very high regard by many African chiefs who came to pay their respects before his death in 1852.
Potgieter was a Dopper - a strict sect of the Dutch Reformed Church - and wore the characteristic Dopper clothes of short jackets and short trousers. Another Dopper member of the Potgieter trek was Sarel Cilliers - eloquent and much given to preaching and psalm singing and of whom it has been said that was just as likely to fall on his foes as fall on his knees.
It had been agreed some time before that a convenient Trek rendezvous would be the unmistakable mountain of Blesberg (Thaba Nchu) so named because its summit was white from the droppings of vultures. After some weeks here with the friendly chief Moroka, the party set off again and crossed the Sand River and spread out to settle.
On May 25th 1836, Potgieter meanwhile rode ahead to make contact with his voorste mense Tregardt and his cousin van Rensburg. Tregardt's camp was reached at the end of June but he tarried but a short while and set off north to ascertain the nearest Portuguese port and to ascertain the fate of the van Rensburg party. Because of the fly country he travelled through, he was back under the Zoutpansberg by the end of July.
In the middle of August 1836, he bid farewell to Tregardt and set off South to bring his people up to the Zoutpansberg. However disastrous news awaited him.