The week that was
* Wild Coast Tour begins
* Swartberg Tour report back - Day 2
* Great South Africans (Series) - Andrew Bain
* South African cities (Series) - Soweto
* Podcast (Day 2 Swartberg Tour)
* Pass of the week
* Words of wisdom
Wild Coast Adventure Tour
As you read this newsletter our tour group will be on their way - or arriving at our tour starting point, which is at Phillip and Elrita Rawlins lovely guesthouse 'Resthaven' in the sleepy village of Matatiele. Tomorrow Phillip, who is one of the most knowledgeable people in the area, will join us in the lead vehicle as he takes us to a range of secret, off-the-beaten-track points of interest which will include the Mariazell Mission church with its very own hydro-electric plant as well as a visit to the mountain top lake.
Once dominated by wetlands and marshes, Matatiele derives its name from the Sotho language words “matata”, meaning wild ducks, and “ile”, meaning gone. When taken together, Matatiele conveys a message that “ducks have flown”. In Phuthi language, the town name is pronounced “Madadiyela”. The common informal name for the town in any of the languages mentioned, including English, is “Matat”. And those that are born here call it “Sweet Matat”.
Today, its area is predominately farmland, where 100% organic red meat is on offer, and tourism is a primary source of income. As one of the top 12 towns among South Africa’s popular tourist attractions along Route 56, Matatiele provides many activities for fishermen, hikers, bikers, cyclists, bird watchers and landscape photographers. Moreover, the Matatiele Museum (a former Dutch Reformed Church) – displays dinosaur fossils, San people, missionaries, and the town's history from its 19th century gun runners and smugglers to a quaint town filled with friendly locals serving authentic Xhosa cuisine.
Evidence of Stone Age inhabitants in the form of art adorning rocks is found throughout the area. In the early 1860s, the Griquas settled here after migrating across the Drakensberg from Philippolis. The town was the centre of cattle rustling and gun-running, and order was only restored in 1874 by the Cape Mounted Riflemen. The town became a municipality in 1904.
The town was a part of the Cape Province until it was transferred to Natal in 1978. In 2005, the municipality was moved from the KwaZulu-Natal province to the Eastern Cape as part of the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution of South Africa, over the objections of the majority of residents, some of whom in response founded the African Independent Congress. On 18 August 2006, the Constitutional Court ruled that the part of the Twelfth Amendment dealing with the transfer of Matatiele from KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Cape was invalid due to insufficient consultation with stakeholders. The situation was eventually resolved, and Matatiele was confirmed as part of Eastern Cape province under the Thirteenth Amendment.
Swartberg Tour report back
Day 2 of the tour was an easy day - where guests could choose any activity they wished for the day, which included bird watching, hiking, game drives, a visit to the Gamkapoort dam, lazing on the balcony of one's chalet or a 4x4 trip to the western lip of Die Hel. Six vehicles opted for the 4x4 trip, which involved ascending Bosluiskloof once more and then turning off onto a two-spoor track near the summit.
The fynbos was impressive. Never before had such a fabulous display of flowers been seen by anyone at the lodge, so it was a special drive for those who went along. The one hour drive was not particularly difficult, but it was very stony and rocky, allowing for an average speed of about 10 kph. One of the Suzuki Jimny's picked up a sidewall cut, which was fortunately repairable using a tyre sealant (which lasted until they reached Cape Town)
The route follows the spine of the mountain and terminates at the famous footpath known as 'Die Leer', where the hardy farmers from Die Hel carried their produce up the precipitous and very steep footpath to the summit plateau. We passed the ruins of an old stone shed, where goods were once packed and when of sufficient quantity, traders would travel from Ladismith, Calitzdorp and Laingsburg by oxwagon to collect the goods from 'Die Waenhuis' This was long before the 1962 gravel road was constructed from the Swartberg Pass side.
There is another collection point, called 'Wiedersiens' (until we meet again) where goods were exchanged and the Gamkaskloof farmers had to tackle the dangerous footpath back down to their farms in the kloof.
Those that went on the game drive were delighted with the outing as the local guide from Bosch Luys Kloof Lodge, Bruce, showed them plenty of the flora and fauna of the area.
It was a thirsty and hungry group who enjoyed the excellent spread of food at the lodge that night and a second night of gentle starlight, no wind, no mobile reception - just utter peace and quiet.
[Next week: Day 3 - Bosluiskloof to Prince Albert - the long way around.]
Great South Africans
Andrew Geddes Bain
The only child of Alexander Bain and Jean Geddes, both of whom died when Bain was still a young boy, Bain was baptised 11 June 1797 in Thurso, Scotland. He was raised by an aunt who lived near Edinburgh. Here he received a classical education, but no vocational training.
In 1816 he emigrated to Cape Town accompanied by his uncle Lieutenant Colonel William Geddes of the 83rd Regiment, who was stationed in the Cape. He married Maria Elizabeth von Backstrom on 16 November 1818 and had 3 sons and 7 daughters. In 1822 he bought property in Graaff Reinet and carried on for some years the business of a saddler.
In 1825 he accompanied John Burner Biddulph on a trading expedition to Kuruman, the mission outpost on the edge of the Kalahari and home of Dr. Robert Moffat (father-in-law of David Livingstone). They explored further north and reached Dithubaruba in Bechuanaland, becoming the first recorded Europeans to return safely from so far north.
Andrew Geddes Bain
In 1829 they trekked to the vicinity of present-day Kokstad. They were forced to return by hordes of Bantu people fleeing Dingaan. During these journeys he discovered his talent for drawing and writing and became a regular correspondent for John Fairbairn's South African Commercial Advertiser.
Outspoken, he was sued for libel a number of times by Gerrit Maritz, one of the eventual Voortrekker leaders. He was awarded a special medal in 1832 for 'gratuitously superintending the construction of Van Ryneveld's Pass, Graaff-Reinet'. In 1834 he made another trip to Bechuanaland where he lost his wagons and collection of zoological specimens during an attack by the Matabele, caused by his Griqua guides' stealing some of the King's cattle.
During the Cape Frontier Wars in 1833–1834 he served as captain of the Beaufort Levies raised for the defence of the frontier. He tried his hand at farming in the newly annexed Queen Adelaide Province, but lost the farm when the land was returned to the Xhosa in 1836. Later he was engaged to construct a military road through the Ecca Pass, and displayed engineering talents which gave rise to permanent employment as surveyor of military roads under the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1836. During this period he had a part in building the Fish River Bridge, then the largest bridge in the country.
He constructed the Queen's Road from Grahamstown to Fort Beaufort. Appointed Engineering Inspector by the Cape Roads Board in 1845 he began construction at Michell's Pass near Ceres in 1848, subsequently followed on completion by Bain's Kloof Pass near Wellington in 1853. He was the first man to attempt to build a road across the Limiet Mountains into the interior for which feat he was presented with table silver and a candelabrum by grateful colonists.
Returning to the Eastern Cape in 1854, he built numerous roads and passes including the Katberg Pass near Fort Beaufort. This occupation created an interest in geology, inspired in 1837 by a copy of Lyell's Elements of Geology. He was friendly with William Guybon Atherstone, who was also a keen geologist and fossil collector and who happened to be present at the discovery of Paranthodon africanus Broom at the farm Dassieklip on the Bushmans River, being about half-way between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth.
Bain discovered many fossil remains, including the herbivorous mammal-like reptile dicynodon Oudenodon bainii Owen, which was excavated from the Karoo Beds on the farm Mildenhall south of Fort Beaufort and described in the literature by Sir Richard Owen. Among the specimens sent to Owen was the so-called Blinkwater monster, Pareiasaurus serridens as well as a variety of mammal-like reptiles.
He was awarded £200 by the British government in 1845 for his researches. Devoting his spare time to geological studies, Bain prepared in 1852 the first comprehensive geological map of South Africa, a work of great merit, which was published by the Geological Society of London in 1856. Sir Roderick Murchison and Sir Henry de la Beche, prominent geologists of the time, both recommended Bain's appointment as Cape Geological Surveyor in 1852, but since no funds were available, nothing came of it. Bain went to Namaqualand in 1854 and reported to the Government on the copper mines there.
He was granted sick leave to visit England for a second time in 1864, where he was entertained by Sir Richard Owen of the British Museum and Sir Roderick Murchison of the Royal Geographical Society, and was made an honorary member of the Athenaeum Club. His health at this time deteriorated markedly and he returned to South Africa; he died in Cape Town following a heart attack on 20 October 1864. The Colonial Secretary, the Colonial Treasurer, Charles Davidson Bell, the Surveyor-General and Sir Thomas Maclear, her Majesty's astronomer at the Cape, were among the pallbearers.
While resident in Grahamstown he wrote some satirical sketches for local amateur dramatic entertainment and invented the character Caatje Kekelbek or Life Among the Hottentots (1838), also known as Kaatje Kekkelbek (Katie Gossip) who endeared herself forever to South Africans, and held John Philip and other missionaries up to ridicule. Kaatje, the Hottentot girl, uses Hottentot-Afrikaans in the spoken parts, and sings in Afrikaans-English. She comes on stage playing a Jew's-harp:
My name is Kaatje Kekkelbek,
I come from Kat Rivier,
Daar’s van water geen gebrek,
But scarce of wine and beer.
Myn A B C at Philip's school
I learnt a kleine beetje,
But left it just as great a fool
As gekke Tante Meitje.
Bain's journals were published by the Van Riebeeck Society in 1949. A memorial plaque was unveiled at the summit of Bain's Kloof Pass on 14 September 1953, and a memorial to him was erected at the top of the Ecca Pass on the Queen's Road on 7 September 1964. Bain built eight major mountain roads and passes during his career. His son Thomas Charles John Bain was also a road engineer in South Africa.
[Source ~ Wikipedia]
South African Cities
The establishment of Soweto is, like Johannesburg, linked directly to the discovery of Gold in 1885. Thousands of people from around the world and South Africa flocked to the new town to seek their fortunes or to offer their labour.
Within 4 years Johannesburg was the second largest city. More than half the population was black, most living in multi-racial shanty towns near the gold mines in the centre of the town. As the gold mining industry developed, so did the need for labour increase. Migrant labour was started and most of these workers lived in mine compounds. However other workers had to find their own accommodation often in appalling conditions.
The first residents of what is now known as Soweto were located into the area called Klipspruit in 1905 following their relocation from “Coolietown” in the centre of Johannesburg as a result of an outbreak of bubonic plague. The Johannesburg City Council took the opportunity to establish racially segregated residential areas. Some residents were to be relocated to Alexandra township (near the present day Sandton). This group comprised black, Indian and coloured families and they received freehold title to their land (this was subsequently reversed by the Apartheid Government). Only black families were located into Klipspruit and the housing was on a rental basis. Klipspruit was subsequently renamed Pimville.
During the 1930’s the demand for housing for the large numbers of black people who had moved into Johannesburg grew to such an extent that new housing was built in an area known as Orlando, named after the first administrator Edwin Orlando Leaky.
In the 1940’s a controversial character James Mpanza led the first land invasion and some 20000 squatters occupied land near Orlando. James Mpanza is known as the “Father of Soweto”.
In 1959 the residents of Sophiatown were forcibly removed to Soweto and occupied the area known as Meadowlands. Sir Earnest Oppenheimer, the first chairman of the Anglo American Corporation, was appalled by the housing shortage and was instrumental in arranging a loan for the construction of additional housing and this is commemorated by the Oppenheimer Tower in Jabulani.
Soweto obtained its name from the first two letters of South Western Township which was the original description of the area.
Soweto is a symbol of the New South Africa, caught between old squatter misery and new prosperity,
squalor and an upbeat lifestyle, it’s a vibrant city which still openly bears the scars of the Apartheid past
and yet shows what’s possible in the New South Africa.
A chat about Day 2 of the recent Swartberg Tour, including Seweweekspoort,Bosluiskloof Pass, and Bosch Luys Kloof private Nature Reserve. Click to listen.
Pass of the Week
Port St. Johns Airport Road
This very steep and winding road starts in the town of Port St Johns and winds its way up the lush mountainside, eventually curling back on itself to terminate at the old runway on the top of the mountain. The road is tarred or concreted all the way, so traction is good (even in wet weather) making this drive possible in any vehicle.
The 9.8 km long road has 69 bends, corners and curves to contend with and some fairly steep gradients of 1:5. The views from the end of the airstrip are superb and include a bird's eye view over the Umzimvubu River, the Gates of St John as well as the river mouth itself.
The road was well built many years ago making extensive use of concrete to ensure it would not suffer water damage from the heavy rains that fall in this area. The road has a false summit of 240m ASL which is reached at the 2.8 km mark, where after it undulates and descends until the 5.4 km mark. From this point the gradient ramps up steeply as the road reaches its maximum gradient of 1:5 before reaching the top of the mountain, where you can drive along the tarred runway to the various lookout points.
* * * * * P O R T S T J O H N S A I R P O R T R O A D * * * * *
Words of Wisdom
"Reading is to the mind, as exercise is to the body ~ Brian Tracy