Sunday, September 11, 2016

Report Back #42: Alex Basson

Alex Basson, 1931 – 2016

My grootste avontuur en liefde wat lewenslank sou duur, het begin toe ek so elf of twaalf jaar oud was. My pa het elke einde van die jaar na oesaf vir sy arbeiders veertien dae verlof gegee. Nou, die twee wat my geintereseer het, was outa Adoons en outa Abraham. Hulle twee het gewoonlik vir hulle verlof die Sederberge ingevaar om te gaan boegoe pluk.  En ek wou saam! My ouers het toestemming gegee en ek het my knapsak gepak. My pa gee toe vir ons die perdekar met twee mooi swart perde. Hiermee is ons toe voort oor Kleinjongens-kraal tot by Syferfontein waar ons die perde en die kar gelos het. Hiervandaan moes ons nou voetslaan. Eers is ons na Perdevlei en daarna na Riempie se Gat. In die gebied was boegoe volop. Saans by die kampvuur het ons wye geselskap gehad. Die besoekers, meestal uit die Wupperthal gebied, was in die berg om ’n verskeidenheid van redes. So was daar onder andere boegoemakers, sederhoutbewerkers, klipbosbas versamelaars, rooitee en  heuningtee oesters, ens, ens. En watter geselskap was dit nie! So het ek elke plek se spookstorie leer ken asook die vele mitiese figure uit hulle volkskennis. Hulle het my geleer oor hulle veldkos asook die verskeidenheid veldmedisyne. Die verskillende rotsskuilings se geheime is aan my verklap en nog vele meer.
(see translation below)

Please note details of the Memorial Service at 10 am on Sunday 25 September
at Kleine Zalze

We returned last week from the Cederberg to the sad news that the estimable, wonderful Alex Basson had died. According to Pieter Malan he suffered a fall from which he never recovered. Alex was not only a doyen of the Cederberg, he was the much-loved teacher of thousands of children down the years. His contribution to mapping the Cederberg has been incalculable ... but I shall leave it to Pieter Malan to say what needs to be said, so much better than I can say it ...

Alex Basson – known variously as Alex, Lex, the Mountain Man or just OuToppie – passed away on the 3rd of September. 
Alex was born on January 24, 1931 on a farm on the Swartland side of the Piekenierkloof Pass. His first introduction to the Cederberg came as a young boy, when his father allowed him to accompany farm workers on their annual boegoe-making trips to the Cederberg. They would travel with a cart and horses to Citrusdal and then on to Citrusdal Boskloof from where they would take to the higher slopes. It was on the first of these trips that Alex met Wit Andries Nieuwoudt, a friendship that in many ways changed his life not unlike the way in which he would later change other lives.
After completing his studies at UCT Alex started teaching and for next few decades he would spent virtually every school holiday taking youngsters walking and climbing in the Cederberg. 
Dit was ook soos ek vir Alex ontmoet het. As ’n 13-jarige seun in die vroeë 1980’s, terwyl ek saam met vriende in Algeria gekampeer het. Alex het destyds onder die akkerbome langs die swemgat gekamp – gewoonlik saam met ’n horde “pikkies”, soos hy altyd na die seuns saam met hom verwys het. 
Na sy aftrede in die laat 1980’s het die meeste pikkies verdwyn, en het ek en Rina Rau sy gereelde klimmaats geword.  Vandag is dit vir my moeilik om aan enige toneel in die Cederberg te dink sonder Alex wat iewers onder ’n waboom sit en rook. 
Hy het die berg soos die palm van sy hand geken. Die afgelope paar jaar, lank nadat die bene ingegee het en hy nie meer so ver kon loop nie, het dit my steeds stomgeslaan hoe hy ’n plek in die berg – en die pad soontoe – in die grootste detail kon verduidelik. In sy gedagtes kon hy presies daarop afloop en elke belangrike rots en baken op pad soontoe onthou. Solank jy net nie vir hom gevra het om vir jou op ’n kaart te wys waar dit was nie. In die amper 30 jaar dat ek saam met hom geloop het, het ek nooit ’n kaart in sy rugsak gesien nie (en, moet ek byvoeg, het ons bitter selde op enige voetpad geloop).
Later het my vriendin, uiteindelik my vrou, ook begin saamkom. ’n Storie – oor twee vliegrampe, een in die Pakhuis en een in Elandsbaai – wat Alex een aand vir ons vertel het terwyl ons in ons slaapsakke langs die ou brug in Kliphuis in die Pakhuispas gelê het, het uiteindelik die inspirasie vir Sonja (Loots) se eerste roman, Spoor, geword.
Die storie oor Alex, en sy verhouding met die Cederberg, is onvoltooid sonder ’n verwysing na die rol wat Peter Slingsby die afgelope paar jaar gespeel het om hom te oorreed om sy kennis te deel vir Peter se onontbeerlike stel Cederberge kaarte. Alex kon by tye taamlik hardkoppig en jaloers waak oor “sy” berg, en die feit dat hy bereid was om talle van sy gunstelinge plekke met Peter te deel het uiteindelik beteken dat soveel meer mense as die pikkies wat destyds die voorreg gehad het om saam met hom te loop, nou in daardie vreugde kan deel.
Alex is nooit getroud nie en word oorleef deur ’n skoonsuster en drie broerskinders.
Pieter Malan
3 September 2016


Rudolf Andrag sent me this cutting, of a letter to Die Burger from Alex in 1984, when the Cederberg was under the threat of a takeover by SA National Parks. The passion in the letter says it all ... [click on the photo to enlarge it].


Many years ago Alex told me of one of the most memorable people he had met in his long life. “I remember a good looking but lonely man with a Gladstone bag,” Alex told me. “I was six or seven at the time, and he was a doctor visiting my parents’ farm. He would sit down on the back stoep and put me on his lap. Then he would take his secrets out of his bag and show them to me – bush syrup or koekemakranka, or a variety of bulbs and other plants. I told him that I wanted an aeroplane for my next birthday. He told me to write a letter to Minister Oswald Pirow, and he promised to deliver it for me. Eventually I got a very friendly reply from the Minister, but no aeroplane!”
The good looking, lonely man was, of course, Dr C. Louis Leipoldt himself. Alex met many other extraordinary people in the Cederberg; I shall let him conclude in his own words ...

’n GROOT DANKIE!!!!!!
Ek wil graag ter afsluiting dankie se aan die Voorsienigheid wat so goed vir my was om my in my lewe die voorreg te gee om oomblikke en geleenthede te deel met ’n paar groot geeste wat my lewe geweldig verryk het.   Onder hulle was bv. Helmuth Andrag, wat moontlik die fikste man was met wie ek ooit saam gestap het.   Dan was daar ou Frederik Joubert, die donkieman.   Destyds kon hy met sy span donkies, stappers deur die berg lei ... Ek het reeds vertel hoe ek as jong seun kennis gemaak het met Oom Wit Andries Nieuwoudt. Hy was ’n gewone boer, maar ook ’n filosoof met ’n wye algemene kennis ...  Dit was ’n groot voorreg om hom as vriend te hê en om sy geselskap te geniet.
As jong onderwyser in die Kaap het ek by die Bergklub van Suid-Afrika aangesluit.   Dit het vir my baie deure oopgemaak, en het vir my ook baie voordele ingehou ... so het die wonderlike voorreg my toe voorgedoen toe ek vir niemand anders nie as Henno Martin, skrywer van Vlug in die Namib, Sederberg toe moes neem ... stel jou voor : aande om die vuur in die Sederberge met Marthinus Versfeld en W.A. de Klerk in jou geselskap! Dan was daar Uys Krige ... Dan was daar die Zimris, die Ockhuise, die Hanekoms en die Moutons van Wupperthal se mense. Wit Andries, Swart Andries, Leipoldt, Ruiter Syster, Ou Peerus, Pieter Boom, Dr. Nortier, Frederick Joubert, Ghôboom.
  Julle was die sout van die aarde!  Wees gegroet. Totsiens!

Totsiens, Alex. It was an absolute privilege to have known you, to have had your insights into the Cederberg before me, to have had your expert skill editing with Pieter my map that you so enriched. We offer our condolences to your family and your huge circle of friends.
– Peter Slingsby

Translation of Alex’s opening words:
My greatest adventure and love that lasted my whole life began when I was eleven or twelve years old. Every year after the harvest my father would give his labourers fourteen days leave. The two who interested me were outa Adoons and outa Abraham. These two usually went into the Cederberg for their leave, to pick buchu. I wanted to go with them! My parents agreed and I packed my knapsack. My father let us use the cart with two fine black horses. We set off over Kleinjongenskraal to Syferfontein, where we left the horses and cart – from here we had to hike. First we hiked to Perdevlei and then to Riempie se Gat. There was plenty of buchu in that area. In the evenings we had a wide variety of company. Most of the visitors were from the Wupperthal area, in the mountains for many reasons. There were buchu gatherers, woodcutters, rockwood bark collectors, harvesters of rooibos and honey tea, and so on. What a company that was! There I learned of every place’s ghost story, and the many mythical figures from their folklore. They taught me about veldkos and the uses of different medicinal herbs. The secret location of many rock shelters were divulged to me, and much, much more.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Report Back #41

1. Olive Nieuwoudt

2. A few memories of Kromrivier

3. The Sneeuberg Hut: where was it once?

4. Dawie and Lizette: congatulations

1. Olive Nieuwoudt

On 24 June I received this message from Susan de la Bat, the daughter of Olive and Rens:
“In case you haven’t heard yet, my mom, Olive Nieuwoudt, passed away yesterday... We’ll miss her dearly.”

This morning I received this tribute from Elna van der Merwe, recalling her childhood memories of Olive (my translation below):– 

Met tannie Olive se dood is dit die einde van ’n era vir ons Van der Merwe-kinders wat die eerste keer in die laat sestigerjare deur ons ouers Kromriver toe geneem is. Hier het ons Desembers ’n paradys betree waarvan tannie Olive die middelpunt was. Ons pa het haar stilletjies voor ons ses kinders tannie Vy genoem na aanleiding van die Bybelse vye en olywe! In die koel, donker plaashuis het ons haar suurlemoensap gedrink en soos Kersdag nadergekom het, het die woeligheid toegeneem. Almal moes ’n present kry – van die plaaskinders tot die vakansiekinders. Uit daardie klein plaaswinkeltjie het die wonderlikste goed gekom. Ek onthou een jaar se plastiekpoppe. En hoe oom Rens om die hoek kom met sy Kersvader-pak en die plaaskinders skree van banggeit. Eers is daar gebid en gesing en dan is die presente en eetgoed uitgedeel. 
Ek kon my as kind verkyk aan tannie Olive wat van alles weet wat op die plaas aangaan en links en regs opdragte uitdeel in daardie lieflike aksent van haar; die tikkie Engels wat sy nooit verloor het nie, selfs wanneer sy perfek Afrikaans gepraat het. Ek het as ouer tiener bewus geword daarvan dat sy haar land verlaat het en ’n nuwe lewe kom maak het in ’n toe nog baie onherbergsame kontrei. 
Al het ek haar net een maal per jaar gesien, het tannie Olive ’n onuitwisbare indruk op my gemaak as iemand wat doen wat haar hand vind om te doen en dit met soveel uitnemendheid. Ek eer haar nagedagtenis. (En ek hoor haar stem elke keer wanneer ek weer op Kromrivier kom: “Pasop vir die slange voor jul voete!”)
Elna

The passing of tannie Olive is the end of an era for the Van der Merwe children, who were first taken to Kromrivier by our parents in the late sixties. Here we entered a December paradise, with tannie Olive in the centre. Our father quietly referred to her, to the six of us children, as ‘tannie Fig’, after the Biblical ‘figs and olives’! In the cool, dark farmhouse we drank her lemonade, and as Christmas Day approached the busy bustle began. Everyone had to get a present – from the farm children to the visitors. Out of that tiny farm shop came the most wonderful things. I remember that one year there were plastic dolls. And how uncle Rens came around the corner in his Father Christmas outfit, and the farm children screamed in fright! First we prayed and sang, and then the presents and the food were handed around.
As a child I watched how tannie Olive, who knew everything that was going on on the farm, would give instructions left and right in that delightful accent of hers; the touch of English that she never lost, even when she spoke perfect Afrikaans. As an older teenager I became aware that she had left her homeland and made a new life in what was then still a very inhospitable place.
Although I only saw her just once a year, tannie Olive made an indelible impression upon me; she could do anything she put her hand to with such complete competence. I honour her memory (and I hear her voice every time I return to Kromrivier: “Mind you don’t step on a snake!”
- Elna

I first met Olive and Rens on a schoolboy trip to the Cederberg in about 1959. Much later we got to know them much better, when Olive asked me to make a map of the farm and its walks, for her visitors. She had an uncanny ability to remember names and faces, a sure sign of her interest in and care for people; the Cederberg has felt emptier ever since she moved into Clanwilliam several years ago. She will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by ourselves and many, many others. Our personal condolences to Susan and Pip: you were privileged to have had a truly great mama.

Olive, Rens, and ?Pip with a party of climbers at Algeria,
in 1959: photo by Howes-Howell


2. A few memories of Kromrivier

For many years Kromrivier was synonymous with the Cederberg for us, as it was for so many others. In later years we became more attached to the Agter-Pakhuis, but that was more to do with better roads and spring flowers than anything else, and we still visit Kromrivier with our sense of familiar affection as strong as ever. It’s one of those places that harbours very strong memories – here are but a few.
* The April school holidays sometime in the late seventies, when our children were but babies. With friends we had the campsite below Suringkop. It was a great week, with the farm almost to ourselves and, reluctant to leave, we asked Olive if we could extend our stay to the Friday – Good Friday, as it happens. “You don’t want to be here,” Olive said wisely, but we insisted we’d give it a try. We were about to turn in on the Thursday evening when all hell broke loose. It was nearly ten pm when car after car started rolling in across the low bridge. Within minutes the air was rent with the cries of overtired children. Nearby a husband and wife were throwing deck chairs at each other; someone had forgotten the tent pegs. Over there a tent went up, with a bright lamp inside. Husband and wife proceeded to disrobe, blissfully unaware of the silhouette-show sharply projected by their lamp onto the bright canvas of their tent. The racket of tired campers arriving from their long trek went on until after midnight; in the morning we hit the road as quickly and as quietly as we could.
* The trip when we and a few other families were marooned on the wrong side of the river by floodwaters. Rens and Olive sent bread and meat across the river in a bucket on a wire. There was no charge for the extra nights we spent!
* Dogs were not allowed, but that did not deter us from taking Mango the cat to Kromrivier. Mango had been to the top of the Drakensberg and done two trips down the Witels – Kromrivier was small beer for her. However, when leaving time came there was no sign of Mango. She was a cat, after all. “Don’t worry,” Olive said. “I’ll ask the farm people to look out for her.” Olive phoned on the next Thursday. “Your cat is here,” she said. “She’s moved in with some visitors in one of the cottages.” When we got back to the farm Olive told us how she had identified our cat. All week the farm kids – duly instructed by Olive – had brought in a stream of black and white cats that were then placed on the kitchen table. If they were farm cats Olive’s own pussies stayed asleep on a sunny window ledge. However, when Mango arrived there was an instant bristling, hissing, and, in no time, cats on the attack. Mango survived three trips to Olive’s kitchen before she was safely holed up with Olive’s visitors.
* In 1976 we visited the farm to make a map for Olive’s visitors. Rens showed us every nook and every cranny on the farm, mostly at hair-raising speeds straight through the veld in his old brown Peugeot bakkie. “There’s only a problem,” Rens insisted, “if we hit a termite hill!”

3. The Sneeuberg hut

Charles Merry sent me these three photos. The first two show the old Sneeuberg hut; the third the present hut. Does anyone know why and when the old hut was broken down, where it was situated, and why a new one was built in the present location?

Sneeuberg Hut: 1960s
The same hut in 1976
The present Sneeuberg Hut: May 2016

4. Dawie and Lizette Burger of Driehoek 

... and of course our congrats to Dawie and Lizette of Driehoek on the birth of their second child, a son, earlier in June!

Kaartman, July 2016

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Report Back #40

1. Patrick Lane

2. Piet Streicher: a Celebration

3. Petrus Hanekom: a new book


Patrick Lane

It’s been my privilege while mapping to have met scores of reserve managers from all over South Africa. Like librarians they fall into two distinct groups. There are two kinds of librarians: those who are mainly concerned with preserving books, and those who are mainly concerned with encouraging reading. Some reserve managers are all about conservation for its own sake; others see themselves and their fellow human beings as a part of the whole that we call nature. The latter do not exclude their fellow humans, they are always inclusive. Patrick was the latter kind: ultimately, the very best kind. Patrick saw that the Cederberg was more than the mountains and the cedars, the fynbos and the leopards. Patrick saw that the Cederberg was also the mountaineers, the hikers, the boulderers, the campers. He saw that it was the farmers and the landowners and the labourers and the grizzled old retired foresters. He understood that it was also the researchers and the scientists, the students and even the cartographers, and he was always inclusive of them all. Above all Patrick understood that if conservation is to succeed, the public must own it: exclude the public, then why should they care about mountains and cedars and fynbos and leopards?
Patrick’s view, Patrick’s essential humanity was summed up for me in a moment, a few years ago. A large leopard had been trapped and darted, near Bushmans Kloof. Quinton Martins had invited a couple who lived nearby to bring their twin eight year old boys to see the animal. It was Patrick who, on his haunches next to the unconscious animal, took the small boys’ hands and said, ‘Here, stroke the leopard – feel its fur.’
To be eight years old and have stroked a live, wild leopard! – Patrick had understood in an instant how much that would mean to them both, for the moment and forever.
He was a lovely man, and his loss to his family and the mountains he loved is profound beyond words.

A memorial service to celebrate the life of Patrick Lane, much loved family man and respected conservationist, will take place on Friday 8 January at 14h00 in the Worcester Christian Community Church, 68 Baring Street, Worcester. 
No flowers at the request of the family, please. (The cremation will be private.)


A Cederberg celebration

Piet Streicher’s video, which I hope to include below, reveals his and his family’s deep love of the Cederberg. In a powerful sense it is in its own way a tribute to Patrick Lane, and how much Patrick would have appreciated the enjoyment of these mountains that the video reflects.
Piet sent us the video before Christmas. Beautifully put together, it’s accompanied by the singing of Piet’s daughter Carla. Click on the picture to open the video.



Petrus Hanekom: New Book

Hard on the heels of Olive Nieuwoudt’s “My Cederberg Story” comes Petrus Hanekom’s second book, “Cederberg-stories uit Grootkloof”. Petrus’s first, “Diepspore”, was published in 2012.


“Cederberg-stories” is a valuable contribution to the lore and history of the Cederberg. It reminds us, appropriately, that the ‘Cederberg story’ is not just the story of the farmers, the landowners, the mountaineers and other visitors, but also the story of, over time, many hundreds of people who in successive generations have lived and worked and loved in these mountains. Petrus takes us from the Basters of the 1700s through his own life, as a barefoot boy who became a forester and ultimately a retiree at Bosdorp. He tells how the people whose reed houses (riethuise) and tiny cultivated plots stretched up and down the valley, from Doringdraai to Sandkraal, were forced to move off the farms onto the State land that became the Cederberg Forest Reserve. 

The young men such as Petrus himself were employed by the Forestry Department, to plant plantations, cut footpaths, carry heavy telephone poles deep into the mountains to link the fire-lookouts to the station at Algeria. Until 1960 the people lived in riethuise, without running water, sanitation, or rain-proof roofs, but in that year the Department investigated the provision of decent housing, and so the construction of Bosdorp began. The first houses were of bricks and mortar, painted white, and from these the town’s local nickname, ‘Witkamp’, arose. Later the classic wooden houses that Forestry became famous for were used to expand the settlement.
Petrus makes no bones about the fact that it was a tough and a hard life. One cannot gloss over the justifiable hint of bitterness that creeps into his tone whenever he mentions apartheid, and its suffocating, cruel effects upon his people. Nevertheless, there is also a strong hint of nostalgia for the ‘good old days’, and I could not help reflecting that the very same hint shines through much of Olive Nieuwoudt’s narrative. What is it in all of us that apparently makes us hanker after the ‘good old days’, when a snakebite would always kill you, food could not be kept fresh for long, if you had a toilet at all it was a longdrop 100 metres from the house, you had to stoke up the donkie-boiler to get hot water, and a journey of a hundred kilometres might take three or four days? Not to mention a life-expectancy several decades shorter than we enjoy today ...
The last third of the book deals with local tales, of animals and people of the area, and Petrus ends in charming style with poems and songs from his childhood and younger days. The Afrikaans is colloquial and, in places, ‘different’, but this Engelsman had no difficulty with it.
I don’t know where the book is available or for how much, but anyone interested can contact me here and I will put you in touch with Sally Argent, the publisher.

Kaartman, Nuwe Jaar 2016

Friday, September 18, 2015

Report Back #39



Stop Press! 13 000 to 15 000 cedars! – read all about it below!
Photo ©Geoff Spiby

1. Save R54 and order Hike the Cederberg #2 now ...

2. Counting cedars – how we did it [and get your free kml file]

3. My Cederberg Story – Olive Nieuwoudt

4. Kabouterland: more great stuff from Dawie Burger


1. Save R54 and order Hike the Cederberg #2 now ...

Hike the Cederberg #2 is at the printer ... with nearly 200 more names, quite a few path ‘tweaks’ and 13437 trees – mostly cedars – correctly located.
As a special offer to all on our blog list, you can pre-order and get a 20% discount [=R54] if you order before 31 October.
# by Credit card or SID – go to www.slingsbymaps.com and order the map through our server, MonsterPay. After you’ve entered your name and address, etc, a screen will open which includes [in rather small print] the line ‘Do you have a gift certificate or promotional code?’
Enter this code in the space provided: HikeC#2
Click on Redeem Gift certificate
... and you’ll get a 20% discount on this – and any other maps you order.
# by EFT – email peter@slingsby.capetown for banking details.

2. Counting cedars – how we did it [and get your free kml file]

Since our previous report on counting and locating the Cederberg’s surviving cedars we found better quality shots that greatly enhanced the process – so here’s a photo-essay of the process.

a. We saved the relevant set of shots from Google Earth Pro. If the areas we wanted were under cloud we went back to earlier shots.
a. ‘Raw’ Google Earth screenshot
b. We used an auto-adjust to enhance the pics
b. enhanced Google Earth screenshot
c. We imported the pics into our graphics programme, geo-positioning them correctly. Then we ringed all the trees we could positively ID as living cedars.
c. identifiable cedars ringed
This was easiest in areas burned in the 2013 fires, because the cedars show up as distinct green dots; there’s an area near Krakadouw which has not burned and here the process was difficult; we may have selected some incorrect species –  affecting perhaps 200 trees. Nevertheless, the cedars are usually a distinctive colour, and their shadows always give them away.
Where possible we correlated these pics with photos taken from the nearest paths: Matt Britton’s 19000-photo collection was useful here! These often revealed that what looks like a ‘dead’ tree in the air photo in fact has green leaves on at least a part of the tree.
We also used Rudolf Andrag’s 1970s map as a check that we were indeed probably seeing cedars.
d. red circles converted into semi-transparent green dots, 0.6 mm diameter
d. Our red circles were then converted into 0.6 mm green dots for inclusion on the map.
A small problem here is that a scatter of trees may appear as a bit of a closed-canopy forest on the map: because of the scale the 0.6 mm dots overlap quite often. However, if we had made the trees their correct scale [often less than 0.1 mm] they’d be invisible on the map!
e. how the scatter of tree-dots appear on the final map; keyed as ‘Trees: mostly cedars’
e. If you would like a free kml file that you can import into Google Earth and that geo-locates the 13 437 trees we found, please email me at peter@slingsby.capetown. Our distribution of trees – especially cedars – needs to be checked in the field and if you’d like to contribute your observations we’ll consider holding a free edition #3 map for you one day in the future!

3. My Cederberg Story – Olive Nieuwoudt

‘My Cederberg Story’ by Olive Nieuwoudt is the Cederberg book we have all been waiting for. Privately published by Olive’s daughter, Susan de la Bat, it’s available from Susan [email me for her details] for only R100. That’s too inexpensive, Susan! It’s 220 pages rich with information and liberally sprinkled with photographs, and any one of us would easily pay R200 for this fascinating book.
Olive’s first visit to Kromrivier was in 1954, and she spent the rest of her life in the Cederberg, until moving to Clanwilliam a few years ago. The book is a wonderful accumulation of her experiences, her insights, and research into the origins of the farms and their families.
After a chapter on the history of the Nieuwoudt family Olive describes the history and the stories around the four ‘core’ farms that shaped her life married to Rens Nieuwoudt – Vogelfontein, Matjiesrivier, Kromrivier and Dwarsrivier. She includes her own story and how she and her family left Britain as wartime ‘refugees’, her childhood in Cape Town, and her discovery of Kromrivier [and of Rens, of course!] In the next section she expands the boundaries of her tale to include Driehoek, Algeria, Grootrivier, Nuwerus, the Oasis, Keurbosfontein and even two farms that have long gone – Perdekloof and Eikeboom. She ends – essentially – with the story of Wupperthal, the Cederberg village and mission which has shaped the lives and the past of so many of the families who live and work in the Cederberg.
Some of the fascinating historic photos in Olive’s book
Two very minor criticisms – one understands the need to limit the number of pages of any book, but quite a few of the photos are very small and the detail is often hard to see. My other [small!] quibble is that although everyone’s date of birth is meticulously recorded, we’re not always given a date when events took place. For example, we know that Gerrit Nieuwoudt was born in 1799; he gave Matjiesrivier to his daughter [born 1825] and her husband [born 1811], but we don’t know when they took over the farm.
Another more serious grouse is that there is no index, which would be so very useful in a book of this kind.
But those small things aside, for only R100 you get a very fine contribution to the literature and history of the Cederberg. Olive’s Foreword ends with these words: “The Cederberg has shaped my heart, my soul and my life. I hope that as you read My Cederberg Story, I will play some part in making it part of your life too.” Thank you so much, Olive – your book does just that!
Olive and Petrus Hanekom [‘Diepspore’, see here ] have set the ball rolling with their personal histories of the Cederberg. Let’s hope that more of the Ceder People will follow suit!

4. Kabouterland: more great stuff from Dawie Burger

Dawie Burger and his friend Geoff Spiby went in serch of Alex Basson’s legendary ‘Kabouterland Cave’. They could not find the cave but we finish off here with a photo essay of some of Geoff’s magnificent photos of the Kabouterland area. These pics, please note, are all © to Geoff Spiby.











Alles van die beste
Kaartman September 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

Report Back #38

1. Caves located at last!

2. New names for new maps

3. Laurie’s Hell: the true story ...

4. Cedars: how many are there?

5. ... and a pear tree without a partridge ...

6. ... and last but not least, not a Cederberg koringkriek!

1. Caves located at last!

Great news is that Alex Basson’s ‘Engelsman se Grot’ has been found! The intrepid Dawie Burger and George van der Watt went on a cave hunt recently and have located the cave, used by British Soldiers during the South African War, 1899–1902. The soldiers were responsible for the Pakhuis Pass blockhouse and the off-duty troepies were billeted in the cave. The blockhouse was blown up after the war – its remains litter the rocky koppie behind the parking area, at the top of the pass. The cave is still there and Dawie picked up some old bullets, bully-beef tins, etc. There were slangbos beds in the cave, suggesting that someone else is still using it as an occasional billet – it’ll be clearly shown on Hike the Cederberg #2, out fairly soon.
Engelsman se Grot: photos by Dawie Burger

Alex’s own cave, Bassonsklip near the Anvil and the Swemgat below Skerpioensberg, has also been a bit of a mystery – but no more. Alex confessed that when he helped compile the 1981 Forestry Dept map of the ’Berg he deliberately placed ‘his’ cave in the wrong place – along with several other details that, in those days, he felt should remain secret. When we came to editing the new 2013 map Alex, no longer secretive, could not locate the cave with any precision; but Jacques van Rooi of CapeNature, Algeria, has come to the rescue. There’s a clear path to the cave, nogal, suggesting that plenty of hikers know where it is – they just don’t know its proper name! Well, that cave will be correctly placed on Hike the C #2, too.


2. New names for new maps

We recently completed another name-gathering trip, with great inputs from André and Jaen Marais, Arrie Beukes, Oom Joffré Esterhuizen, Johan van der Westhuizen and Dawie Burger. Over 100 new names will appear for the first time on Hike the Cederberg #2, amongst them the true origin of the name ‘Gabriël’s Pass’ – it’s named quite simply after the angel-shaped rock pillar known to the residents of Langkloof as ‘Gabriël’! – so there it is.
[and I’ve lost the picture!]

3. Laurie’s Hell: the true story ...

When we compiled our Cederberg Names blog we were tempted to include, under ‘Laurie se Hel’, the story we’d been told of a lost Eselbank forester named Laurie who disappeared into that rocky maze and never came out ... which goes to show that the Cederberg has just as many k**stories as anywhere else! The real origin [which means reverting to the English name, because Laurie was an Engelsman], is told by his son:
“You cannot imagine my surprise when my brother sent me the link to your site (and to this page: http://cederbergnames.blogspot.fr/2013/07/l.html). You mention “Laurie’s Hell” and wonder about the provenance of the name. I thought my brother and I were the only ones who even knew about Laurie’s Hell, as it was named after my father Laurence Maister (known to everyone as Laurie). He went hiking with one of the original official surveyors of the Cederberg. This might have been in the 40s or 50s. If my memory serves, the man’s name was Ellis Spektor (sp? I also stand to be corrected on the name), and when they got to this location and after struggling through it, my father remarked that it was hellish (or some other remark of that sort). As a kind of in-joke (I suspect) between them, the surveyor christened the place “Laurie’s Hell” on the surveys and that’s how it got its name. I have one of the original survey maps with the place underlined in my home, and up until today thought that it was just some remote area of the Cederberg. I did not know that it was as even vaguely known to outsiders, having not been to the Cederberg in a long time. Anyway, that’s the story. My father died in 2008 and it is really lovely to read of this small memento of his life in the wider world. Best regards Nigel Maister.”
A tiny part of Laurie’s Hell ...

4. Cedars: how many are there?

Everyone knows that the Clanwilliam cedars, the cedars of the Cederberg, are a ‘threatened’ species: past exploitation and the ravages of fire have massively reduced their numbers. But how many are left? Ask around and you’ll get answers from a few hundred to a few thousand. We recently completed a survey for the new Hiking map [Hike the Cederberg #2], using the most up to date air photos we could find. The first surprise was that one year after the Dec 2013 fire the great majority of trees in the affected area show up as distinct green dots [the few dead ones show up as rusty brown]. This is indeed good news, implying perhaps that the surviving trees are mainly growing in secure, fire-proof places. The second surprise was the number of dots. We did not count the trees in the remaining cedar plantations, nor those in the occasional surviving dense copse, and of course we could not detect any seedlings this way. We may have also counted in the odd large waboom or Maytenus, but we tried to be super-careful and, when in doubt, left out that dot. The total area covered by the Hiking map produced over eleven thousand ‘cedar dots’ – and it would seem safe to add a fair percentage to that for uncounted trees ...
A gorgeous cedar, on the shale band above Eselbank: pic by Dawie Burger

But the real bad news is the botanical name. For years we’ve affectionately embraced Widdringtonia cedarbergensis ... but here’s the shock. A careful search of the world’s herbaria has failed to turn up a single ‘type specimen’ – the absolutely first-ever collection of any species – for W. cedarbergensis. And unless one is found, the botanical name will, according to the time-honoured international rules, have to change to Widdringtonia wallichii.
Can’t see that catching on, myself. Sorry, Mr Wallich.

5. ... and a pear tree without a partridge ...

One of Dawie and George’s explorations revealed the ruins of Peerboom, one of the original subsistence farms from which the residents were callously removed more than a hundred years ago. The great thing about the find is that the ruins are still there. When the Wilderness was proclaimed over-zealous officials attempted to remove all trace of human habitation – they demolished the old Welbedacht and other farmhouses, razing them to the ground [and by all local accounts, stealing all the old cedarwood beams, lintels and floorboards – national corruption is nothing new, you know]. Syferfontein, near Peerboom, was similarly removed without a trace. But no one knew where Peerboom was, with its magnificent stone-walled werf, and so, happily, it has survived. Just as those over-zealous cedarwood thieves could not restore the natural non-human wilderness [did they even try?], they could not totally achieve their ISIS-like aims. Fundamentalist barbarians!
The ruins at Peerboom, and the Great Wall on the right: pics by Dawie Burger

6. ... and last but not least, not a Cederberg koringkriek!

If you thought the koringkriek from Wolfberg was weird, try this:

It’s reckoned to be the first accurate reconstruction of a thing called Hallucigenia, an animal with a body-plan like nothing else on Earth – that went extinct more millions of years ago than we can count.
I reckon we should be pleased about that.

Kaartman, July 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Report Back #37


1. Maclear’s Beacon in the Cederberg

2. Annual Cedar tree planting: your invitation 

3. News from Quinton die Tierman

4. Mark Hanley and Hike the Cederberg #2


1. Maclear’s Beacon in the Cederberg

Research by Dawie Burger of Driehoek has revealed the exciting news that the Cederberg has its very own Maclear’s Beacon. It’s situated on the infrequently-climbed Sneeukop, which Dawie visited recently with George van der Watt. His research resulted in the following edited account [modern pics by Dawie Burger]:—

First Sneeukop Summit 1843
Thomas Maclear and William Mann
 Dr Thomas Maclear and his assistant William Mann climbed Sneeukop in 1843 with a group of Khoi servants, reaching the summit on 21 March. Maclear was busy with his famous triangulation survey of the Cape. On the next morning Mann volunteered to hike to a hill or koppie that lay almost due north of Sneeukop. The distant mountain, known as Augustfonteinberg or Kliprug, was some 70 to 8o km away, and with one servant as a guide it took Mann five or six days to reach its summit. 
Kliprug (Augustfonteinberge) where William Mann sent the signal back to Maclear

As soon as he arrived Mann signalled to Maclear by heliograph; on 29th March Maclear signalled back to Mann that he should return to Sneeukop.
[Mann’s journey would have taken him down to Wupperthal, over to Biedouw and over the Biedouw mountain to the Doring River. From there the most direct line to Augustfontein lay up the Botterkloof, where the pass did still not exist, of course. – Ed]



  
They built this sleeping place and fire place near the Sneeukop summit, and also built a wind break at the beacon where Maclear sat during the day while he was waiting for Mann’s signal.

Sneeuwkop Beacon


Some artefacts found in the area where Thomas Maclear and William Mann slept.

Where the Khoi servants slept under an overhang, close to where Maclear slept. They even apparently had a whole sheep leg for supper!

The next summiting of Sneeukop  was in 1896 by Gother Charles Maclear Mann. Gother Mann was the youngest son of William Mann and a keen mountaineer. He was the first MCSA [Mountain Club] member to reach the summit of Tafelberg, accompanied by farmer Viljoen. He decided to climb Sneeukop in August of the same year, where he was joined by G.T. Amphlett and Sr Arthur Stark. Christian Friedrich Leipoldt joined them later that day, at sunset.

 
Gother Charles Maclear Mann and Christian Freidrich Leipoldt
     

Artefacts founded at the sleeping place and beacon.

Thanks for a great account, Dawie – Hike the Cederberg #2 will proudly carry the name ‘Maclear’s Beacon’!


2. You are invited by CapeNature and Bushmans Kloof

To the annual Clanwilliam Cedar Tree Planting Event in the Cederberg on Saturday 15 May 2015




Gather friends and family and venture into the heart of the spectacular Cederberg to join Cape Nature, the Heuningvlei community and local schools for a day of conservation fun to help save the endemic Clanwilliam cedar tree (categorised as endangered on the Red Data List).
Starting at 09:00, you will have the opportunity to plant your own cedar tree in the grove and surrounding wilderness area. Complimentary lunch will be provided and entertainment is courtesy of Bushmans Kloof’s young Riel Dance Champions, ending the programme at 15:00. The event is open to the public and entrance is free.
Your hosts for the day are Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat and CapeNature, with members of local environmental groups, the Botanical Society, the Wildflower Society and the Cederberg Conservancy participating too.
Should you wish to attend the event, kindly contact Jill Wagner or Jeanine de Vos
Telephone: 021 481 1863
Email: jill@rchmail.co.za
(Guest numbers required for catering purposes)



Programme of Events - Saturday, 16 May

09h30 - 10h00
Refreshments on arrival
The gate at the top of the Pakhuis Pass will open in the morning at 08:30.
Please note that only 4 X 4 vehicles will manage this road as it is
not in a good driving state at the moment.
All non 4 x 4 vehicles need to access Heuningvlei from the Wupperthal Road.
10h00 - 10h30
Welcome by Patrick Lane, Cape Nature planting of the seeds by the local school children
and ceremonial planting of trees in the grove.
10h30 - 13h00
Planting of the trees in the Wilderness Area
13h30 - 15h00
Lunch will be provided by Bushmans Kloof,
entertainment courtesy of our Riel Dance Champions!

Please remember to bring well marked hand spades for the planting of the small trees.

3. News from Quinton die Tierman

Quinton sent this from California, where the mountain lions are shy, it seems ...

Hi All,
Rodney, Liz, Ayla and I put out 4 camera traps at our house on Sunday a week ago – this was one of the captures we got – our first mountain lion sighting at home.
Shy Californian mountain lion ...
While cleaning up around the house I found 4 scorpions, 1 centipede, 1 giant lizard of sorts and along with Liz’s bobcat sighting and fox sightings – well, suffice it to say that Ayla is getting her fair share of animal life.
Very cool!!
Lots of love
Quin

4. Mark Hanley and Hike the Cederberg #2

Mark Hanley was [too many years ago to recall] an ex-pupil of mine, and later a much-loved and respected teacher at Bishops. At Bishops he created the ‘Epic’, a ten day programme for pre-matric pupils who visit the Cederberg for an active programme of hiking and exploring as well as community programmes with the pupils of Elizabethfontein Primary School. After Mark  died a plaque in his memory was placed at Traveller’s Rest in the Agter-Pakhuis. Fellow staff members remembered, too, that Mark had a favourite place in the Cederberg, an unnamed waterfall in Kruiskloof, near the head of the Beesgat valley. 

Remembering the ancient and time-honoured tradition of cartography, whereby cartographers exercise their right to name the unnamed on their maps [both America and Australia were named this way, by the way!] I have agreed that the falls will appear on edition #2 of ‘Hike the Cederberg’ and on all subsequent editions too, of course.

If you know of any unnamed features and have suggestions for naming them, please step up to the plate. In May we are off to gather more local names, but these generally only involve places near settlements and roads, and not the plethora of features that are out there in our favourite mountains.
And to Mark’s family: I am honoured to be able to remember him this way.

Kaartman, April 2015