Notes from underground

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Archive for the category “travel”

New traffic laws?

I saw a link to this article on Facebook, which seems to me to have some ominous implications Read: From 11 May SA will have new speed-limits and other driving regulations:

From 11 May SA will have new speed-limits and other driving regulations: Every festive season we hear about numerous deaths from road accidents, sadly the end of last year was no different. The minister of transport Dipuo Peters, has been actively working on new regulations and plans that can get the accident rate down. Not just over the festive period but for the entirety of the year.

This seems to hark back to the days of John Vorster, who used to try to solve all problems by legislation to make things illegal that were already illegal, and so enhance his public image of kragdadigheid — if there is a problem, pass a new law so you can be seen to be “doing something”.

Donald Trump seems to be doing the same thing in the USA — giving executive orders with little thought given to the practical implementation or their effects.

So are these changes necessary, and what are the likely effects?

  • When renewing your license [sic] drivers will now have to undergo a practical re-evaluation.
  • K53 is going to be completely reviewed and revamped (finally)
  • A variety of speed limit changes: Speed limits to be reduced from 60km/h to 40km/h in urban areas, from 100km/h to 80km/h in rural areas, and from 120km/h to 100km/h on freeways running through a residential area
  • Large goods vehicles above 9000kg GVM to be banned from public roads during peak hour traveling [sic] times.

I think this might be just as much subject to the law of unforeseen consequences as the travel ban on children without full birth certificates.

Take the first one — a practical re-evaluation for drivers.

Who will do it? Do they have qualified staff who are competent to re-evaluate drivers when they have difficulty in coping with applicants for new licences? And will they be any less susceptible to demanding bribes than the existing staff?

Part of the problem is the number of unlicensed drivers on the roads, because many have got their licences through bribery. The way to deal with that is surely to implement the existing laws properly. I foresee a huge increase in the number of unlicensed drivers on the roads, because the process for renewing licences will have become so cumbersome as to be unworkable. It will not weed out the incompetent, but will penalise the competent.

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It would be far better to improve the enforcement of existing laws, many of which seem to be increasingly disregarded. It used to be quite rare to see vehicles driving through red robots, but now I see it once a week or more frequently (and I don’t go out much). I’m not referring to occasions when the light has just changed and the driver did not have time to stop, but when it has been red for ten seconds or longer, and someone has just sailed through. There are also practices like going straight from turning lanes that are dangerous as well.

Passing legislation is relatively easy. But the difficult part is the implementation. And trying to apply the changes described here will probably lead to more mess and muddle, and not reduce the road accident rate at all.

 

Invertebrates in the Gulf of California

The Log from the Sea of CortezThe Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I began reading this book I was reminded of Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. It’s the same genre — travel with a lot of philosophical musing thrown in.

Most of the book is a description of a voyage to the Gulf of California. John Steinbeck’s friend Ed Ricketts was a marine biologist, and they chartered a fishing boat to collect specimens of marine invertebrates. There is an appendix, Steinbeck’s memoir of his friend Ed Rickett’s.

I found it interesting because it’s a part of the world I knew nothing about, and after reading the book I know a little more, at least about what it was like 70-odd years ago. And in the process I learnt something about marine biology; most of what I knew about that was from bed-time stories my father read me when I was 3 or 4 years old from his biology text books. Who needs extra-terrestrial monsters when you can have a sea urchin? That caused me problems in my later reading when I came across descriptions of children as urchins — were they all spiny?

As for the philosophy, I’m not sure if I understood it all. I think Steinbeck was coming from a completely different place, with different assumptions. He seemed to be anti-teleology, and to think that there is too much teleology in the world, but he seemed to see it in a quite different context. Here’s a sample, for anyone interested:

It is amazing how the strictures of the old teleologies affect our observation, causal thinking warped by hope. It was said earlier that hope is a diagnostic human trait, and this simple cortex symptom seems to be a prime factor in our inspection of our universe. For hope implies a change from a present bad condition to a future better one. The slave hopes for freedom, the weary man for rest, the hungry for food. And the feeders of hope, economic and religious, have from these simple strivings of dissatisfaction managed to create a world picture which is very hard to escape. Man grown toward perfection, animals grow toward man, bad grows toward good, and down toward up, until our little mechanism, hope, achieved in ourselves probably to cushion the shock of thought, manages to warp our whole world. Probably when our species developed the trick of memory, and with it the counterbalancing projection called “the future,” this shock-absorber, hope, had to be included in the series, else the species would have destroyed itself in despair. For if ever any man were deeply and unconsciously sure that his future would be no better than his past, he might deeply wish to cease to life. And out of this therapeutic poultice we build out iron teleologies and twist the tide pools and the stars into the pattern. To most men the most hateful statement possible is, “A thing is because it is:” Even those who have managed to drop the leading strings of a Sunday school deity are still led by the unconscious teleology of their developed trick. And in saying that hope cushions the shock of experience, that one trait balances the directionalism of another, a teleology is implied, unless one know or fell or think that we are here, and that without this balance, hope, our species in its blind mutation might have joined many, many others in extinction.
Source: Steinbeck 2000:72f

What puzzles me is that I don’t find “It is because it is” hateful at all, but I find Steinbeck’s aversion to teleology in this context (biological evolution) puzzling, because elsewhere he appears to cite with approval his friend Ed Ricketts’s theory that rattlesnakes and kangaroo rats are symbiotic. Though rattlesnakes eat kangaroo rats, they are actually doing them a favour by removing the weaker elements of the population, thus increasing the chances of the species as a whole to survive. But if it is because it is, why should it matter, and why should we see such ecological connections.

So some of his comments were interesting, but others seemed to make little sense, to to be contradicted by something else he wrote a few pages later.

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Hiatus in Holland

Fifty years ago I had a kind of gap week between working and going to college. I had finished my job with London Transport, and Brother Roger, an Anglican monk of the Community of the Resurrection (CR), invited me to join him in a visit to a couple of middle-aged Dutch ladies who had invited him to stay with them.

They stayed in Bergen, North Holland, and their names were Wieta Monquil and Ank Schoen. Their backyard had a couple of self-catering flats which they let to summer visitors, but summer was now almost over, and the last visitors were some German deaconesses, with a couple of their elderly relatives.

Wieta Monquil, Ank Schoen, Bropther Roger, CR and one of the German Deaconesses. Bergen N-H, September 1966

Wieta Monquil, Ank Schoen, Brother Roger, CR, and one of the German Deaconesses. Bergen N-H, September 1966

Brother Roger said that he had met Ank and Wieta quite by chance. He had been with another CR Brother, Brother Zach, who was from Bermuda, and they had got chatting in a park. And that had led to the present invitation.

Dieudonne, the home of Wieta Monquil and Ank Schoen in Bergen, North Holland

Dieudonne, the home of Wieta Monquil and Ank Schoen in Bergen, North Holland

On Sunday we went to church with Ank and Wieta, to a small Dutch Reformed Church in a country village some distance away.

Church in a small village somewhere in North Holland

Church in a small village somewhere in North Holland

The church building was very old and square in shape. The pulpit was very high, and in front of it was a brass windmill, forming the top of an arch over the rail around the pulpit. The dominee was very young, but preached rather well, and spoke quite slowly, so I could understand most of what he said. All the children sat on the left, and four of them were given presents, as they were now 11 years old and would be leaving the Sunday School.

After church Brother Roger and I rode into the village on bicycles and looked at an old railway locomotive there, which had once pulled trains between Alkmaar and Bergen-on-Sea, but the line had long since been abandoned. Around the town there were lots of children on bicycles, most of them very rude, and giving hostile looks at us. They didn’t seem to like foreigners.

In the afternoon two friends of Ank and Wieta, Peter de Kleer and Evert van Kuik, who lived in a nearby town, came to lunch, and then we went with them and two of the German deaconeses to see the Afsluitdijk between the Ijsselmeer and the North Sea. We crossed over miles of flat country that had once been twenty feet below sea level, and was land reclaimed from the old Zuiderzee. Evert said it had been flooded by the Germans at the end of the war. We rode along the dijk to the middle, where there was a monument to mark the spot where it had finally been closed, at the 12th attempt. We climbed the tower that stood there, and looked out over the grey expanse of the North Sea, and over to the north-east was Friesland, and to the south-west was West Friesland, from which we had come, though really it was part of North Holland. Down below someone was fishing in the Ijsselmeer, and there were gulls swimming and flying around the nets.

Afsluitdijk, separating the North Sea from the Ijsselmeer.

Afsluitdijk, separating the North Sea from the Ijsselmeer.

We went back in the car to the island of Weeringen, which was now no longer an island, having been surrounded by polders long ago. We went to the town of Den Oewer, and an old man on a bicycle showed us the way to a house where Crown Prince Wilhelm, son of the last German Emperor, had lived. I found that I could understand what the old man was talking about far more easily than I could understand Ank or Wieta. I found their accent very difficult to follow, and when I talked to them in Afrikaans they would say “Dat is leuk!” (That’s so cute). The old man said the Kaiser’s son’s old house was now the dominee’s house. The church there was also a very old thing (according to him). We then went on, passing many houses with their roofs made of tiles, and with the tiles partly thatched over. Peter said that the Dutch called any single-storeyed house a “bungalow” — which accounts for some confusion when I had asked the way to places, for we only used the words to describe barrack-huts and things like that.

After that we went back home, and had a big and jolly supper time with the German Deaconesses and their mother, which was really like a Tower of Babel, because so many languages were being spoken.

Brother Roger cycling from Bergen to Alkmaar, 27 September 1966

Brother Roger cycling from Bergen to Alkmaar, 27 September 1966

Ank went to work during the week and Wieta stayed home and looked after the house and the guests, not that they needed much. She was the nervous and talkative one, and was worried that she worried so much and could not be gentle and calm and patient like Ank.

On Tuesday 27 September 1966, fifty years ago today,  Brother Roger and I went into Alkmaar on the bicycles. It was again a rather dull day, but the town of Alkmaar made up for any dullness in the weather. We went to look at the church, an enormous Gothic affair, and to get inside one had to go round to the office and pay 25c. That we did, and they gave us a guide leaflet, only when we got inside we found it was written in German, so we went and asked for another one, and Brother Roger explained that he was English and I was South African, and then said “Thank you” in French. “We are very international, aren’t we?” observed the girl who gave it to us, and when we were back inside the church Brother Roger said they seemed much more pleasant and friendly when they knew we weren’t German.

Organ in the church at Alkmaar.

Organ in the church at Alkmaar.

It seemed that there were lots of German visitors in this area in the summer, and some of them were old soldiers who come to show their families where they were during the war.

The church was built before the Reformation, between 1470 and 1520, but was now the Nederlands Hervormde Kerk, and the pulpit was halfway down the nave. At the end, in what had once been the sanctuary, were thrones for the 24 elders. The organ was a beautiful rococco thing, and the transept arches, built in bricks, were also very beautiful. When we left the girl at the door also mixed up her languages, as Brother Roger did sometimes as well. She finally said “Auf wiedersehen” as we were leaving, and I said “Totsiens” to her. I think the general sentiment was clear, however.

We then rode off down Lange Straat, a busy main street, and were almost run over many times, and turned off, and eventually we came out into the Waag-plein, where the cheese sales were held. There we went into a cafe, the Cafe de Waag, and had lunch. The lunch was soup with meatballs in, and lemon gin, and cheese and bread. The tables, as in all Dutch cafes, were covered with carpets, and there were two billiard tables, without pockets, and a kaaskop with glasses and a serious expression was practising while we ate. The object seemed to be to hit one ball so that it hit two others, but he never seemed to manage it.

Cafe de Waag in Alkmaar. 27 September 1966

Cafe de Waag in Alkmaar. 27 September 1966

After lunch we crossed the square and rode down a couple of narrow streets, and came to one with a house, or rather several houses, built onto a canal, one of which, with a lot of cheap trinkets in the windows, was described as “Huis met de Kogel 16e eeuw; gotische houten gevel (met kanonskogel uit het beleg van Alkmaar, 1573)” We rode alongside the canal, and a little further along saw a swingbridge open to let a boat through, and then a man walked out of the front door of his house, with a fishing net in his hands, dipped it into the canal, and walked back to his house with a bucket full of fish. The road we were on ended on the Noord-Hollandse Kanal, and we turned right, and went up Verdronkenoord, a similar street to the last one, with a canal down the middle, and beautiful old houses on each side.

Alkmaar, Noord-Holland

Alkmaar, Noord-Holland

We went along the Oude Gracht, which had been pumped dry while canal and road were being repaired. The road menders gave us a friendly greeting, and said something about a “joy ride”. A friendly greeting is somewhat rare. Most of the natives of the country seemed to be hostile to foreigners, perhaps, as Brother Roger said, because they thought we were German, though a little further on, when passing through a park, we heard an old man telling two youngsters that we were Russian.

The following day we visited a Benedictine monastery at Egmond, and Fr Hoff, the sacristan, showed us some of the vestments which they sold there. Brother Roger bought a set of white ones, which was very beautiful, and cost fl190.00, about R38.00, which he said was cheap. We had a look at the chapel, which
was austere, and almost bare of any ornament, and then walked back to wait for the bus, up an avenue lined with chestnut trees, with the leaves all yellow and brown, so it really was autumn now.

After getting back to Bergen we cycled in to the town and had a look at a bookshop there, which was very good for such a small town. I bought a copy of Wachtend op Godot. It was actually the complete plays of Samuel Beckett. We had a drink at a cafe, with tables covered with the inevitable carpets. Brother Roger said that the Dutch, unlike the English, tended to look down on that. The English, being sociable, would go down to the pub for a drink, but the Dutch, or at least the respectable ones, would drink at home, with the curtains open, of course. But I rather liked the atmosphere of the Dutch cafes, with their carpet-covered tables, and they seemed much more quiet and respectable than an English pub.

After supper we said Evensong together, for the Eve of St Michael and all Angels, and I told Brother Roger about my theology of angels, and he did not agree with it. Then Wieta came along, and we read the Bible with her, the Psalms for Compline.

We also cycled to Kamperduin, on the coast, through pine trees and over the dunes. I believe that Camperdown in KZN was named after it.

Cycling to Kamperduin

Cycling to Kamperduin

For Michaelmas we went to Mass at the local Roman Catholic Church, and had supper with the priest. He said he had been an Anglican until four years ago, and had been a curate in Australia when he “poped”, as he put it. He had been trained at Kelham, spoke five languages, and was the youngest parish priest in Holland. He had a European parish, and had services in Dutch, French and German every Sunday. He had an interesting coffee-table book on the German occupation in the war. One chapter dealt with a strike and protest against persecution of the Jews, and in it was a reproduction of a document as follows” “Noot voor de redacties. Noot no 265. Niet voor publikatie. Amsterdam, 25 Februarie – Over stakinen t Amsterdam en over den algemeen toestand in deze stad mag niets worden gepublicieerd. Hoofredaktie. ANP. Niet voor publicatie.” Amsterdam in 1942, but it could just as easily have been Johannesburg or Salisbury in 1966.

That evening Peter and Evert came again, and we sat with the German deaconesses, and came, and we sat with the German deaconesses and talked. Brother Roger told us how he went home to England for a holiday once, and the superior asked him where he wanted to go, and he said to the Civil War in Spain, and so he did, with a group of Quakers to look after children. And in the town where he was a convent was suspected of harbouring traitors, so the Republicans blew it up, and the neighbouring church as well. But when they went into the church to blow it up they took off their caps and put out their cigarettes. There was also in the church at that time a statue of St James, reputed to work miracles, and they held a revolver to the head of the statue and said, “If you work a miracle tonight, we’ll blow your brains out.” — and that was said in all seriousness.

Before we went to bed I read Wieta an Afrikaans poem which she had, “Die vlakte”, by Celliers, and it delighted her. She said Afrikaans sounds so innocent and earthy. It is one of my favourite poems, apparently inspired by Shelley’s “Ode to the west Wind”, but much better than Shelley.

I went back to the UK, and began my studies at St Chad’s College, Durham, but in April 1967 my mother and a friend came for a holiday, and we hired a car in Amsterdam and toured round Europe, and on our return spent more time with Wieta Monquil and Ank Schoen. And I again spent a few days with them on my way home to South Africa in 1968. So they had become good friends.

As for Brother Roger, that was the longest time I had spent with him. He was my spiritual father, my guru, in many ways, and not just in theology. When I was 19 years old he plied me with books to read from the Community’s library in Rosettenville, and so was a kind of mentor in English literature as well. He turned me on to Samuel Beckett, Jack Kerouac, Charles Williams and many other authors, and talking to him seemed to me far more interesting and useful than three years of English study at university (I passed English I 3 times at two different universities, and none of them made literature seem as interesting and exciting as Brother Roger did).

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A traveller’s history of India

A Traveller's History of India (2nd ed)A Traveller’s History of India by Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I added this book to Good Reads, and discovered it was my 1000th book, a figure that seemed to deserved some sort of notice.

As the title suggests, it’s a traveller’s history, a compact book intended to be read by foreigners travelling to India, and taken along for reference when there. It has a gazetteer of historic towns mentioned in the text, with indications of what can be found there, in addition to a brief outline of Indian history. I’m unlikely to visit India in my lifetime, so it won’t serve its purpose for me, but I nevertheless found it an interesting account.

It did, however leave me with some questions. Though the author is himself a foreigner (Sri Lankan) and so sees India with an outsider’s eye, he seems to adopt a north India point of view, and the south is only mentioned in connection with attempts by the north to conquer it.

He mentions the Aryan invasions (which many Hindu nationalists dispute) but says little about the people that the Aryans found when they invaded, other than that they tended to become members of the lower castes as Hinduism developed. It would have been interesting to know how this worked out in the south, where the Aryans barely penetrated.

There are also gaps in the story of the development of languages and religion. It appears that Sanskrit was brought by the Aryan invaders, but the Buddhist scriptures were mostly written in Pali, and won wonders where that came from, and somehow both got replaced by Hindi somewhere along the line.

Obviously one can’t fit everything into a small book, but a few extra paragraphs on these topics would only have added about 5-1o pages to the book.

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BookCrossing: First capture

I’ve been a member of BookCrossing for about 14 years, and was chuffed that for the first time ever I’ve had a message that someone has “captured” a book I released into the wild, and has bothered to mention it on the BookCrossing web site:

Journal Entry 3 by NKR-Reader at Augrabies, Northern Cape South Africa on Wednesday, September 07, 2016

I love reading and found the book in a cottage at Quiver Tree Guest House outside the town of Augrabies. First time I have ever come across Bookcrossing. What an exciting way to share ones books. Looking forward to reading the book and then passing it on.

For those who don’t know, BookCrossing is a scheme for circulating books and sharing them with other readers. Each book is given a number, with a note asking the person who finds the book to pass it on, and note on the web site where they found it, and where they rereleased it.

It seems that I muddled up the places where we left the books during our holiday trip a year ago — we didn’t have Internet access till we got to Cape Town, and so I muddled the order of the places in which we left the books when entering them a week later. But we enjoyed our stay at the Quiver Tree Guiest House, and are glad they left the book available for someone to find. We’ve sometimes wondered whether the books we have left are found by cleaning staff and tossed in the rubbish as just useless stuff that some guest has forgotten.

Quiver Tree Guest House, Augrabies -- where we left a BookCrossing book

Quiver Tree Guest House, Augrabies — where we left a BookCrossing book

BookCrossing is an interesting form of social networking, especially if you get to hear what has happened to books you have left lying around. You don’t have to leave them in hotels and guesthouses, they can be left in any public place, or even passed on privately. So if you haven’t joined yet, please consider doing so.

Quiver Tree Guest House. on the road to Augrabies Falls

Quiver Tree Guest House. on the road to Augrabies Falls

 

Oviston to Clarens

Continued from Ghwarriespoort to the Gariep Dam

5-6 September 2015

We woke up at Oviston, overlooking the Gariep Dam, and watched dawn breaking over the water.

Oviston: Dawn on the Gariep Dam, 5 September 2015

Oviston: Dawn on the Gariep Dam, 5 September 2015

The place where we was staying was right next to the pumphouse where the water from the Gariep Dam is pumped out to supply Port Elizabeth, via the Orange-Fish river tunnel.

Pumphouse on the Gariep Dam to provide water for Port Elizabeth

Pumphouse on the Gariep Dam to provide water for Port Elizabeth

We left Oviston at about 7:20 and drove towards Bethulie. We crossed the Orange River again on a road/rail bridge, more or less where it enters the dam, far upstream from where we had crossed it a couple of weeks earlier at Kakamas. We stopped on the bridge to take photos and only one vehicle crossed the bridge while we were on it. It was in quite bad repair on the Free State side, with grass growing in cracks, and concrete blocks covering the pipes carried across the bridge all broken. I wondered who was responsible for its maintenance.

Bridge over the Orange River near Bethulie

Bridge over the Orange River near Bethulie, looking north to the Free state side.

We reached Bethulie and drove in to the town. There seemed to be only one garage, and we filled up with petrol. The garage attendant spoke South
Sotho, and I could thank him in that language. We looked for a place to eat breakfast, but the only one that looked open said it only started serving food at 10:00 am. I wanted to pass through Bethulie because it was associated with my great grandfather William Matthew Growden, who, when he retired from the railways in about 1908, bought a farm, Mooifonein. He was actually based at Springfontein, which was a bit west of the route we were taking, but it was in the magisterial district of Bethulie. Bethulie seemed pretty dead for a Saturday morning.

Entrance to Bethulie in the Free State

Entrance to Bethulie in the Free State

We set out for Smithfield, passing a strange, almost symmetrical conical hill on the way, and wondered if, like, the slab of butter mountain at Vanrijnsdorp, it could be disguising the nose cone of an alien spaceship.

Conical hill near Bethulie -- disguising the nose cone of an alien spaceship?

Conical hill near Bethulie — disguising the nose cone of an alien spaceship?

Smithfield turned out to be a very nice place, bigger than Bethulie, and much better maintained than many Free State towns, in contrast to Wepener, which we had passed through on our last trip to the Cape four years ago, it seemed to be the kind of town where everything worked. There was a place called Buckley’s, open for breakfast, with a very pleasant garden, a friendly waiter called Martin Booysens (he was described as a “waitron” on the cash slip, which seems to be a peculiarly South African term, and makes him sound like a robot. It had good food, which made a change from all the chain restaurants which serve the same predictable stuff.

Smithfield Town Hall, Free State

Smithfield Town Hall, Free State

We left on the road to Wepener, which was a gravel road, crossing typical highveld grassland, and like most Free State gravel roads was in fairly good repair, and there were signs that it had recently been graded. We joined the tarred road to Ladybrand a couple of kilometres north of Wepener, and it was in better repair than it had been four years ago, in that many of the potholes had been patched, but the signs warning of potholes were still up from four years ago, and were now somewhat faded. We began to see fruit trees in blossom along the side of the road, at random intervals, and concluded that they must be from cherry pips that people had thrown out of car windows. Val recalled a vegetable hawker who, many years ago, had given her aunt a sales pitch for cherries he was selling, and assured her that they came from “Ficksburg, Madam, where Jesus was born”.

There are lots of fruit trees growing alongside the road to Ladybrand in the Free State, perhaps spring from pips spat out by passing motorists.

There are lots of fruit trees growing alongside the road to Ladybrand in the Free State, perhaps spring from pips spat out by passing motorists. The picture does not do the pink blossoms justice.

We stopped for lunch in Fouriesburg, and reached Clarens at 4:15 pm, and there noticed, as we had throughout our journey through five of South Africa’s nine provinces, the inequality that still persists 21 years after the end of apartheid. Clarens is regarded as the jewel of the Free State, and middle-class people from the big cities retire there, or go to spend weekends there, but, like almost every town we have passed through, it has a shanty town where poor people live.

Clarens, an idyllic village in the mountains of the eastern Free State

Clarens, an idyllic village in the mountains of the eastern Free State

There was a pattern to development in many towns, particularly noticable in towns in the North West Province and Northern Cape, that as you left the town you passed apartheid-era matchbox houses, then the rather smaller RDP houses of the 1990s, and last of all the shanty towns, or “informal settlements” as some call them. The ones in Clarens were somewhat better than most, in that the number of shacks was proportionately smaller than in the north west, and almost every garden had one or more fruit trees in bloom, and in some places people had planted neat vegetable gardens.

Clarens in the Free State

Clarens in the Free State — the bits the tourist brochures don’t usually show.

We stayed with my cousin Peter Badcock Walters and his wife Toni. Some years ago they bought an old sheep-shearing shed, and converted it into self-catering apartments, now called The Clarens Country House.

The Clarens Country House

The Clarens Country House

Peter has also built an art gallery in the centre of Clarens, The Gallery on the Square, where he exhibits his own art work and that of other artists. He had done many book illustrations, including The Illustrated Bosman.

Peter Badcock-Walters in The Gallery on the Square

Peter Badcock-Walters in The Gallery on the Square

Also on display were drawings from an earlier book Images of War.

The Gallery on the Square, Clarens

The Gallery on the Square, Clarens

Concluded at Clarens, and home again.

Hermanus to Keurfontein

Continued from Cape Town to Hermanus

We left Volmoed at 8:30, after a very pleasant few days, including having time to chat to an old friend Barry Wood, who was a fellow member of the committee of the Anglican Students Federation in 1965, and we spent a term together at St Paul’s College in Grahamstown in 1968, but we had seen very little of each other since then. He had retired to Volmoed, as he was committed to its vision of community, the kind of community sometimes called “the new monasticism”.

Barry Wood

Barry Wood

On the road to Caledon we were suddenly transported to another world. Ten years ago we went on holiday to the UK, and there, as now, it was spring, and all over southern England we saw sights like this: wind farms, fields of yellow rape seed, and sheep.  It was quite surprising to see them in the Western Cape — very, very English!

A very English rural scene in the Western Cape

A very English rural scene in the Western Cape

Travelling east from Caledon along the N2 we passed cornfields with waving wheat, more rape seed, and grazing cows. As Val pointed out, it was bread, butter and margarine. We turned off the national road just past Swellendam and drove up the Tradouw Pass. It seemed better to approach it from this side, as all the uitkykplekkies were on the right side of the road, and one did not have to cross the traffic on blind corners to reach them.

Tradouw Pass, Western Cape

Tradouw Pass, Western Cape

We passed through Barrydale on the R62, now being promoted by Western Cape tourism as the tourist route to follow. We stopped on the hill above to look at the town, and I phoned Dick Usher, a friend we had visited here four years ago, but was told that the number we had dialled did not exist. Last time we saw him he had been having to travel to Somerset West every week for therapy for lung cancer, and the recorded voice on the phone sounded like a death knell.

Barrydale, Western Cape

Barrydale, Western Cape

Somewhere between Barrydale and Ladismith, we passed Ronnie’s Sex Shop, which seems to have made itself famous. There was another spectacular pass between Ladismith and Calitzdorp, the Huisrivier Pass. I’d never heard of the Huis River before, but the geological formations rivalled those of the not too distant Swartberg Pass.

Huisrivier Pass, between Ladismith and Calitzdorp

Huisrivier Pass, between Ladismith and Calitzdorp

We stopped for lunch in Caltizdorp, at Ebenhard’s Restaurant, which had a carden setting. Smaller towns do not usually have branches of be big chain fast food joints like Spur, Nando’s, Wimpy and the like, and it is nice to eat in smaller places where the food is less predictable. Calitzdorp also had a lot of nice old houses.

Calitzdorp, Klein Karroo, Werstern Cape

Calitzdorp, Klein Karroo, Western Cape

We passed through Oudtshoorn, and followed the N12 to De Rust, and then up the valley of the Olifants River (a different one from the one on the west coast), along the line of the Swartberg.

Approach to De Rust, with the Swartberg in the background

Approach to De Rust, with the Swartberg in the background

There were also spring flowers here, including some late-blooming aloes, which usually appear in late winter, but a few of them had waited for spring.

Aloes and the Swartberg

Aloes and the Swartberg

We turned up the N12 towards Willowmore, and crossed into the Eastern Cape province, and stayed at the Keurbook Farm in Ghwarriespoort.

Continued at Ghwarriespoort to the Gariep Dam.

 

Visiting more old friends in and around Cape Town

Continued from In and around Cape Town: family and friends

On Thurday and Friday last week (27 & 28 August 2015) we visited more old friends in and around Cape Town.

We went to see Sam van den Berg, a former colleague from the Editorial Department at Unisa, and had dinner with him and his son Maritz at the Salty Sea Dog restaurant in Somonstonw.

Maritz & Sam van den Berg with Val Hayes at Simonstown, 27 Aug 2015

Maritz & Sam van den Berg with Val Hayes at Simonstown, 27 Aug 2015

Sam got into trouble with the higher-ups at Unisa for objecting to the poor quality of study material from the Education Faculty, which we believed amounted to fraud — taking money from students for rubbish. In those days (early 1990s) Unisa wasn’t interested in quality control. I hope that with all the talk of “transformation” there has now been some improvement, and that it is not just talk.

Then the following evening, after our usual day spent at the archives, we visited Jim and Jeanette Harris. Jeanette was an old friend of Val’s from primary school in Escombe, Natal, and they had not seen each other for many years. Jim had worked in a similar field to me, theologicval education and training for ministry in the Anglican Church, so we had a lot to talk about.

Val Hayes with Jeanetter and Jim Harris, Diep Riview, 28 August 2015

Val Hayes with Jeanette and Jim Harris, Diep Riview, 28 August 2015

In and around Cape Town

Continued from Vause family in Robertson

We travelled from Robertson to Cape Town and stayed in the Sun 1 Hotel on the Foreshore. We had stayed there before, when it was known as the Formula 1 Hotel. We like it because it is cheap, clean, and within easy reach of the Cape Archives. The main disadvantage is that it is in an area surrounded by office blocks and industrial buildings, so there is nowhere to eat nearby, though it is close to the Artscape Treatre.

Sun 1 Hotel, Cape Town Foreshore

Sun 1 Hotel, Cape Town Foreshore

During our stay in Cape Town last week we spent each moring doing research in the archives in Roeland Street, which is only a short drive from the hotel. The building used to be a jail, so it has a very high wall around it. We were mostly doing research into our family history. When the archives closed at 4:00 pm, we went to visit family and friends who had said they would like to see us.

The Cape Archives Depot, formerly the Roeland Street Jail.

The Cape Archives Depot, formerly the Roeland Street Jail.

Most places in Cape Town have good views, and the archive depot is no exception. On Tuesday when we came out we found the car battery was dead, and had time to take a couple of pictures while waiting for the AA to bring a new battery. We were glad that it decided to die in the middle of Cape Town and not on the road from Hondeklip Bay to Soebatfonteirn or somewhere equally inaccessible. It died with no warning. When we set off for the archives in the morning the car started fine, but it died as 1:08 pm, at least according to the dashboard clcok.

Devil's Peak, from outside the Cape Archives depot.

Devil’s Peak, from outside the Cape Archives depot.

One of the old friends I visitewd was Mike Preston, now living in a nursing home at Tokai. I had met him when I did a three months’ vac job as a student, with the audit firm of E.R. Syfret & Co, where Mike was an articled clerk. Mike was a car enthusiast, and one day after work we went for a test drive in an Austin Mini, then new of the market, and the salesman drove it on and off the kerb to show us the superiority of its rubber suspension. Mike remarked that it made every other small car look obsolete. Now we ourselves are obsolete superannuated has-beens.

Steve Hayes and Mike Preston

Steve Hayes and Mike Preston, Tokai, Western Cape

Namaqualand spring: 20 Aug 2015

Continued from Going west through Bushmanland

Thursday 20 August 2015

We set out to explore some of the countryside around Kamieskroon and to look at the spring flowers. We drive about 20 km down the N7 towards Garies, and then turned off to the west towards Spoegrivier, one of the places C.J Andersson had mentioned stopping at on his cattle drive to the Cape in 1862, and as Frank Stewardson (Val\s great great great grandfather) was just ahead of him, he too must have passed through there. Actually Andersson referred to it as Spookrivier, which may have been a mishearing of the name, or perhaps the name has changed. The first part of the road was over amazingly green rounded hills, all over bushes. I could not imagine driving several thousand head of cattle over them, and so assumed that the Spoegrivier valley must have provided a more passable route.

The road to Spoegrivier, Namaqualand. 20 Aug 2015

The road to Spoegrivier, Namaqualand. 20 Aug 2015

At 9:30, after driving about 20 km from the main road, we came to the valley with a little town in it.

The village of Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

The village of Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

The river was dry, like Namibian ones, though perhaps there was water underground for the cattle. There was a crude handpainted sign at the entrance to the dorp, saying “Welkom in Spoegrivier”, and an Aids ribbon underneath, so we wondered if Aids was a problem there.

Welcome to Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

Welcome to Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

It seemed to be quite an isolated community and we wondered what people did there, and whether there was a settlement there when Stewardson & Co passed through. Perhaps in their day it was all Nama huts covered with skins, but there didn’t seem to be any trees to make the huts, just bushes.

Namaqualand daisies on the hills near Spoegrivier, 20 August 2015

Namaqualand daisies on the hills near Spoegrivier, 20 August 2015

We passed through and then followed a farm track, which the bloke at Kamieskroon had told us would eventually lead to Walleskraal. It was much roughter and narrower, and so we drove slowly up, and on the other side of the hill where we arrived about 10:05 were spectacular scenes of spring flowers such as one sees in pictures, stretching across to the horizon, mainly orange Namaqualand daisies, looking almost fluorescent, interspersed with tiny yellow ones that looked little more than small pollen balls.

More daisies near Spoegrivier

More daisies near Spoegrivier

There were also rounded bushes, covered with yellow flowers, and several other varieties.

More flowers near Spoegrivier

More flowers near Spoegrivier

We passed through several farm gates, and farms as well. and one there were several people in a farmyard, and we asked if we were on the right road to Hondeklip Bay, and they said we must go straight, and that if we had GPS, which we didn’t, we should ignore it, because it lied. There were tracks leading off in various directions, presumably to the farms, so it was quite confusing, We joined the road between Walleskraal and Soebatfontein, where a grader was going down a hill, and the road had recently been graded for most of the way to Walleskraal, which we reached at 11:15. It hardly seemed to be a settlement at all, just a couple of buildings, and no shops that we could see.

Walleskraal, Namaqualand, 20 August 2015

Walleskraal, Namaqualand, 20 August 2015 – not snowdrifts, but flowers

There were also plenty of flowers there, lots of white ones interspersed with orange ones, and the white ones looked like snowdrifts, and in a river bed they looked like rivers of blood through the snow. Some of the white ones were vygies, but I think most were daisies. There seemed to be relatively few of the magenta vygies.

Orange and white flowers near Walleskraal, Namaqualand

Orange and white flowers near Walleskraal, Namaqualand

From there we went over more gently undulating country, with fewer flowers, for about half an hour, until we saw hills that looked like mine dumps, and it seemed that that is what they were, and there were signs saying that there was a rehabilitation project to try to regrow vegetation on them. It seemed that they were diamond mines, and I was rather surprised, as I thought that most of the diamond mines were further north, between Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay. We reached Hondeklip Bay at 11:47, and it was as unprepossessing as I had expected it would be, a kind of Henties Bay south of the border. a resort for weekend fishermen, with the coastal fog visible from some way inland.

The west coast town of Hondeklip Bay

The west coast town of Hondeklip Bay

We looked for a shop where we could buy biscuits and cold drinks, but there was only a drankwinkel, and Sam’s Restaurant. Val got a couple of Coke light, the only diet drinks they sold. The harbour was grey and looked dirty, with a dredger and a small boat, perhaps a fishing boat, bobbing in the swell. A little further out was what looked like a wreck.

Hondeklip Bay -- the port

Hondeklip Bay — the port

We left and drove north along the road to Koiingnaas, but before we reached it turned off to the north-east along a road that led to Springbok, which had boneshaking corrugations like those on the road to Odibo. Along the way there were several more strips of white flowers that looked like snowdrifts, but most of them were on the other side of the valley of the Swartlintjies river we were travelling up, and quite far away. The coastal plain was about 20-30 km wide, and then it became apparent why the cattle drivers from Damaraland must have followed the route along the coastal plain, perhaps quite close to the mountains. There was more vegetation, and probably water, there, and more grazing.

Fields of flowers along the Swartlintjies River, on the road between Hondekip Bay and Springbok

Fields of flowers along the Swartlintjies River, on the road between Hondekip Bay and Springbok, again, not snowdrifts, but daisies

At 1:15 pm we reached a crossroads, with the road from Koiingnaas to Springbok crossing one from Komaggas to Soebatsfontein. We had travelled 147.7 km from Kamieskroon. Andersson had been camped at Kommagas when he rode to Hondeklip Bay to fetch his letters, and it had taken him two days. It must have been heavy going riding a horse through the bushes. We turned south towards Soebatsfontein, and about 10 km down the road stopped for lunch, amid fields of white flowers, near Wildeperdehoek.

Daisies on the road from Wildperdehoek (Wild Horse Corner) to Soebatsfontein

Daisies on the road from Wildperdehoek (Wild Horse Corner) to Soebatsfontein, where we stopped for lunch

Val had made us egg rolls for lunch, and we drank the Cokes we had bought in Hondeklip Bay. We drove on from there, towards Soebatsfontein, and we stopped to take photos of gazanias growing at the side of the road, with dark orange-brown flowers, like the ones we had had in our garden a few years ago.

Picnic among the flowers

Picnic among the flowers

We didn’t see any shops in Soebatsfontein, apart from the inevitable drankwinkel, so just stopped to take a couple of photos and drove on.

Gazanias

Gazanias

We took photos of what we thought may have been the Grootberg, also mentioned in Andersson’s diary, and turned back along the road to Kamieskroon.

Possibly the Grootberg mentioned in Andersson's diary

Possibly the Grootberg mentioned in Andersson’s diary

which crossed a couple of steep passes, and more fields of orange daisies on a farm, and got back to Kamieskroon at 4:00 pm, having covered 215 km on our round trip.

Kamieskroon, Namaqualand

Kamieskroon, Namaqualand

We bought a newspaper at the shop on our return to Kamieskroon, mainly to use as kindling for the fire, as the previous night had been quite cold. It was the previous day’s Die Burger, and had an article on the spring flowers of Namaqualand, and mentioned many of the places we had visited — Walleskraal, Soebatsfontein and Wildeperdehoek, and the author said the flowers were the best he had ever seen them.

Continued at Namaqualand Spring: Lily Fountain and more flowers

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