Wild Dog Adventure Riding

Riding: Plan, Report and Racing => Ride Reports => Topic started by: tok-tokkie on June 08, 2010, 09:27:38 am

Title: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 08, 2010, 09:27:38 am
tok-tokkie = Ralph Malan


Trailrider invited me to join him and Letsgofishing on a ride of the Burchell Route (http://www.burchell4x4.co.za/index.php).  Ride report  *here*. (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=41363.0;topicseen)

This is a picture from that report.

When I came to write up my part of the report I did a little research on Burchell.  I found he had done a big trip of over 7 000 km across the Great Karoo almost to the present Botswana border, down to Graaff-Reinet, Grahamstown and Port Beaufort before returning to Cape Town on the coastal route.  It was on that return journey that he did what is now the Burchell Route.  I like riding in the Karoo so became interested in following his trek.  I had learned that he had written a two volume account of the outward leg of his travels and that they had been reprinted in 1953 & 1967 (only 1000 copies in ’67; fewer in ’53 no doubt).  They included a large scale map of his route.  I found a copy in a book collectors shop and bought it (making sure the map was included).  The map shows the route but it is difficult to translate into current terms since once past present day Fraserburg it was pretty well unexplored country.  However there was a good introduction in the reprint from which I learned that Helen McKay had published  Sketch Map of Burchell’sTrek in South African Journal of Science in 1943 and had written a four part series about him in Journal of South African Botany in 1941.  I went to the S.A. Library to read that stuff.   The Sketch Maps were excellent as they showed his route superimposed on a then current map of South Africa so I had not only the town names but also the major roads shown.  Fortunately I had taken my camera along so proceeded to photo the 10 maps together with the register of each days travel (not using flash).  I had almost completed the pictures when an official noticed me & said it is not permissible to photo in there (apparently you can get photostats at considerable expense & quite a delay).  No matter; I had what I needed.

This is a picture of his entire trek.  He went up through the Great Karoo to what is now Griekwastad (Klaarwater mission then)  Did a hippo hunting trip to Douglas (east) then a long trek down to Graaff-Reinet on horseback to recruit staff for the rest of his trip.  A loop north of Griekwastad where he spent some time at Litakun (now Dithakong) which was the ‘capital’ for the local Tswana. Then he went on what I call the giraffe trip up to Heuningvlei and down to Kathu (Sishen) and back to Griekwastad.  From there he went down to Graaff-Reinet again but by wagon this time.  Down to Grahamstown (not there then: area called Albany) and Port Beaufort.  Then back to Cape Town through Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth, Langkloof, Plettenburg Bay and George.  That took him from June 1811 to February 1815; he was not travelling all the time as he stayed in Griekwastad and Litakun for extended periods.

I read the two volumes.  They are quite big (you can now download pdf versions from Google but that does not include the big map nor the valuable introduction that alerted me to McKay’s useful work).  Burchell was a naturalist who collected over 50 000 specimens; largely plants as that was his main interest but also insects, birds and animal skins.  A large part of his writing is notes about the plants etc.  In 1935 Prof Notcutt extracted the bits about the actual travels and published them as an English Reader for South African children.  I got to see that at the S.A.Library and was amazed to find it is a book as small as a A5 week at an opening diary (though the writing is quite a bit smaller than in the original book).

I retraced the trek (but excluded the horseback trip to Graaff-Reinet and back) fairly closely on my TW200.  It took me 16 days riding 5 700km.

Burchell includes many woodcut engravings and some large colour plates in his book.  I wanted to photo what those same things look like today.  We also have a copy of Daniell’s African Scenery and Animals which includes pictures of Litakun (Daniell was there just ten years before Burchell) so I decided to have a sub theme of replicating his pictures also.  We also have the books of Schumacher & Le Valliant’s with pictures of various parts of the route from the same era so I added them to my list.  A side plot for the ride.

My report is aimed at others besides  WD members – historians and art appreciators may also be interested in parts of what I have to say.  I wrote a  draft of my Ride Report in the usual day by day style in four sections,:
1.   A brief report of my ride each day.
2.   A report on Burchell’s trek for the same bit.
3.   Copies of the  pictures with my photos of the same view.
4.   Some discussion on topics that arise which interested me.

It is very long so I am now writing a report divided into the major geographical regions with little about my ride, something about Burchell and the pictures with my equivalents and commentary about them.  There were things that I came across that interested me but have nothing to do with Burchell which I have chosen to include.


adventurer, artist, author,naturalist, botanist,  musician, draughtsman, cartographer, navigator, linguist.

EDIT 2017/02/11.  This thread must be given as a link somewhere as it continues to get hits as it had 1800 hits in August 2014 but it had 8260 in January 2017. I added it as an external link to the Wikipedia entry for Burchell when I posted it back in 2010 but the surge is unlikely to be due to that.  In 2014 a bust of Burchell was erected in the botanical gardens in George to mark the bicentenary of Burchell so that stimulated some interest in him.  But the majority of those hits have been in the years since then.  Because of this interest I am going to add the GPS tracks of my ride.  They may be of use to anyone wanting to retrace or research Burchell's trip.  I am going to add them all here rather than spread them through the report on the relevant pages. I am limited to 10 per post so there are more on the next post.

The tracks can be loaded into Garmin Basecamp then viewed there and the data for each point on the track can be interrogated.  Firstly you need to download the tracks from here – simply click it & Windows Explorer will open & you can save it where you wish. Alternatively the tracks can be loaded into Google Earth.  In Google Earth click \File\Open\Windows Explorer pane opens – change file type to GPS(...gdb...) then find the file on your computer.  A pop up asks you to convert it to a .kml track, say yes.  The track then appears on Google Earth & you can see exactly where I went.  A Google search will tell you more.  Here is a video about it


A new book about Burchell has been published. Burchell’s Travels: The Life, Art and Journeys of William John Burchell 1781 – 1863 by Susan Buchanan. https://www.amazon.com/Burchells-Travels-Journeys-Burchell-1781-1863/dp/1770227555/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486888960&sr=1-1&keywords=burchell%27s+travels
It covers his whole life, providing interesting information about the times before and after his time in South Africa.  To me the book was a bit academic and dry – I would have liked it to have been dramatized more.

(Having complained about the book I must say that I was unhappy with this report in retrospect.  For precisely the same reason – it is a dry factual report.  Some years later I did a trip in England looking at stationary steam engines.  I took a lot of trouble writing up that report and deliberately included details about the characters involved and also about my wife and me – to give the report a personal component and add human interest.  It was precisely because this report is so stodgy that I added that stuff to the steam engine thing.  I am pleased to say that that report has had almost 80 000 hits and is still actively viewed 5 years after it was originally posted. http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=756771   I said the same in 2014 - see post #77)

2017/12/03  First picture was Photobucket.  Replaced with Flickr copy

Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Crossed-up on June 08, 2010, 09:57:27 am
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 08, 2010, 05:41:47 pm
The Cape Mountains.


The route Burchell followed was the standard easy route for wagons wanting to get to the Karoo. It is also the route followed by the railway from the Cape to the Reef. The route was across to Tulbagh then round to Worcester and up the Hex River pass.   That is a scan of part of Burchell’s map.  The red line is his route.  It  shows a small trip he did through Villiersdorp, Tulbagh and Stellenbosch besides his northern outward leg of his trek and the southern return.  This map, drawn and surveyed by Burchell, was the most accurate one at that time. Burchell was a man of many talents.   He took a sextant with him so was able to plot his latitude accurately and he took compass bearings of features ahead & behind him so he was able to construct this accurate map. He not only surveyed his route but he also drew the map himself.  So add surveyor & cartographer to traveller on the list of his abilities. Here is a photo of the entire map from the web (it is bigger than our 1:250 000 maps):

Here is a close up to show the detail:

This is the escarpment up to Sutherland.  Notice the latitude recorded at the kink in the track.  Marked are the Doorn (Doring) and Tankwa rivers.  On the 1:250 000 map #3220 Windheuwel, Yak River (Juksfontein),  Komsberg (Komsbergpas) and Jakalsfontein are all shown.

Burchell got into a public spat with Sir John Barrow who was well connected.  For example he wrote this about Barrow’s map (1:577)(I will reference Burchell’s books like this volume:page):

As to the miserable thing called a map, which has been prefixed to Mr. Barrow’s quarto, I perfectly agree with Professor Lichtenstein, that it is so defective that it can seldom be found of any use.

I believe this spat contributed greatly to the non appearance of the intended third volume of Burchell’s Travels.  We have been denied his account of the trek from Litakun up to Heuningvlei, down to Graaff-Reinet , the mouth of the Fish River & back to Cape Town as a consequence.

Burchell’s  picture of the pont over the Berg river.  On the map he lists it as Burger’s Drift very close to the Paardeberg. 

I crossed the Berg river at Zonquasdrift on the gravel road from Riebeek-Kasteel downstream from Hermon.  It is a bit downstream from where Burchell shows his crossing.  I will go & see if I can match the skyline in the picture some day.  Where I crossed there are lots of trees but none of them are indigenous.

I want to include pictures of what the terrain looks like now.  Here is the plain of the Berg River with Groot Winterhoek on the left and the Witzenberg as the line of mountains in the background.  This is the first barrier on the route. Nuwekloof, where they went through, is at the lowest point of the foreground hills.  The mountains behind were a really serious barrier but there used to be a wagon route over it (Witzenberg Pass) but there is no road across them there today.

EDIT 2017/02/10  The rest of the GPS tracks.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 08, 2010, 05:45:15 pm
Burchells vignette of Nuwekloof which he called Roodezand’s Kloof.  Roodezand was the original name for the Tulbagh valley.

My picture of the same place.  It is interesting that the road was on the northern bank when Burchell went through (as it is today) because the photo shows the old road just below the railway line on the opposite bank.  The original route was opened in about 1760 as shown in the Buchell engraving.  One hundred years later Thomas Bain built a new road on the opposite bank – the one below the railway line in my photo.  Bain built the railway line 15 years later.  Another 100 years and the present road was built in 1968 reverting to the same side as the original road.  I have tried to get onto the Bain road but have not found an entrance from either end.

Schumacher picture of the exit on the Tulbagh side. There is a short profile of Schumacher at the end of this posting.  He called it Roodezand Kloof .

My equivalent picture.

Schumacher’s picture of the western entrance.

My view is not quite as wide angled and it misses the Piketberg in the background.  I believe Schumacher is using a bit of artistic licence to scale it up to make the picture more artistic – though he was further to the right than I was. Notice in this picture that the main road is on the south bank but there is also a smaller track on the north bank – that is the river between.  In the previous Schumacher picture the road has crossed over to the same side as Burchell shows it.

Zooming in on the rock outcrops to better show how faithfully Schumacher portrayed them and that the main Cape to Reef railway passes between them.

Burchell found that his wagon was overloaded so he bought an additional reconditioned one in Tulbagh and extra oxen.  Part of Burchell’s party went through Mostert’s Hoek (where Michell’s Pass now is) taking the spare cattle & livestock but the wagons could not go that way. 
Burchell’s engraving of Church street in Tulbagh.

The trees are much bigger so the streetscape is no longer visible from this spot.  The buildings were considerably altered during the Victorian period and then badly damaged in the 1969 earthquake.  The opportunity was taken during the reconstruction after the earthquake to restore the streetscape back to how it had originally been.  I have described the gables of Church Street quite extensively in  *this thread* (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=206252.0)

Burchell.  Drostdy in Tulbagh.

The windows are not nearly as tall as Burchell shows them to be.  The drostdy in Graaff-Reinet was also designed by Thibault and should have been very similar but the local builder could not read a plan so he did his best.

Burchell went to Graaff-Reinet twice later in his travels.  He provides this engraving of the drostdy there.

I took this photo of it.

There is a bit of a story about these two drostdys.  They were both designed by Louis Thibault.  I can not find an internet source which stated that the local builder was unfamiliar with plans so he mistook what should have been a portico with a hemispherical roof in front of the door to be a flat gable with a semicircular top.  The Thibault drostdy in Tulbagh has the portico but without the hemispherical roof.  Hans Fransen in The Old Buildings of the Cape writes:

Louis Michel Thibault was commissioned to design a building which when finished, deviates in many particulars from his design, conforming more to the traditional style, though it did have the segmental gable that Thibault designed.

So Fransen does not agree that there should have been a portico. Here is the front as designed by Thibault

*Source* (https://www.up.ac.za/dspace/bitstream/2263/7725/1/Fisher_Thibault%281989%29.pdf) which also talks of a portico.  You can see that it to have small square windows like those now on the Tulbagh drostdy (but not in the Burchell engraving).  I must confess I prefer the traditional sash windows that the builder substituted.

Hans Fransen in Old Towns and Villages of the Cape includes this picture by Burchell which is not in my book.  I include the caption as it evaluates the worth of Burchell’s work. To appreciate the value of Fransen’s opinion here is the link to the citation for the Honarary Doctorate awarded to him by Stellenbosch University (his second honorary doctorate)  *here* (http://www.sun.ac.za/news/NewsItem_Eng.asp?Lang=1&ItemID=14836).  From the picture it seems that if it had a portico it would have protruded into the street.  It became an hotel and had a second storey added.  Graaff-Reinet was the birthplace of Anton Rupert who invested a lot of money into restoring and preserving the town – this is one of the buildings he restored.

EDIT 2017/03/01  I have recreated the thread about the gables along Church Street.  The site it was originally posted on has closed.  The new thread is on Wild Dogs and I have fixed the hot link above to take you there.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 08, 2010, 05:47:15 pm
Schumacher.  Winterhoek farm.  This is the Tulbagh valley.

I am not as high as Schumacher was.
EDIT April 2011.  Schumacher creates aerial views to better show the lie of the land.  There is no hill or anything he could have climbed to give him this perspective for this picture (and many of his others).

Burchell’s route follows where the railway now goes.  During the Anglo Boer War the British had to place forts all along the railway to protect it.  Here is the one at Wolseley

Burchell went through where Worcester now is ( Worcester founded eight years later in 1819 when the British had possession of the Cape).  The Hex River Kloof was quite a barrier for them to get through to where De Doorns now is; extra oxen were provided by a local farmer to assist him get his wagons through this river bed and the rocky gully just before you enter De Doorns.

I thought this Schumacher view was from the top of the Hex River Pass looking back.  When I wanted to take the photo I realised it is actually from where the little British fort is as you go through the poort shown in the picture above. (The British also put forts at the poorts & passes then strung lines of them across the country in a vain attempt to contain the Boer commandoes.)

 At the head of the valley they stayed at Buffel’s Kraal farm.  It is still listed on map #3319 so I went to see it.  In fact many of the farm & geographical names that Burchell used can be found on the 1:250 000 maps as far as Fraserburg. This is what it now looks like:

The next day Burchell was again given extra oxen for the ascent of the pass but he hardly mentions it – it was not nearly as difficult as the poort before De Doorns.  The pass can be seen in this picture.

EDIT Sept 2013

I went to the ‘real’ Buffelskraal with the Vernacular Architecture Society in 2011.  On the government survey map # 3319 Buffelskraal is marked.  On Garmin Streetmaps it is also shown & that is where I went and ‘photoed the picture posted above.  That is not where VASSA took me.  I have since looked into it.  Buffelskraal was an early and extensive farm, over the passage of time it became subdivided.  There were two adjacent farms both called Buffelskraal; they were on opposite sides of the Hex river.  The southern one subsequently had its name changed to Clovelly.  On the Garmin Topographical maps (which are really digitised versions of the government 1:25000 maps) there are 2 farms called Buffelskraal.  I went to the more prominently shown farm but the correct farm (the one Burchell went to) is also marked as Buffelskraal 64.  This is what it looks like (clearly it is the same farm that Schumacher drew):


Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 08, 2010, 05:48:35 pm
At the top turn left. This is the road from the N1 across to the Ceres/Sutherland road.  Burchell came through here as it was the way to get into the Karoo.

Verkeerdervlei gives its name to this road.  When Burchell went past there were lots of birds on it.

This is the Ceres/Sutherland road before the R355 splits off to Calvinia.  The poort is called Karoo Poort; it was the connection through to the Karoo.  Very important because the VOC depended on the trekboers of the Karoo for a lot of the meat they supplied to the company ships.

Karoo Poort .  Burchell’s wagons under large Karee trees.

My bike with the same skyline and also karee trees (my view is wider angled and Burchell was slightly further to the left).  Something I realised on this trip is we in the WC have authorities who do a little to improve the environment; like planting these trees and mowing the grass.  I wonder for how long it will continue.

Also Karoo Poort with much older tree looking more like Burchell’s trees but it is actually a thorn (Acacia) tree not a Karee.

EDIT 2017/02/10  I have added the gps tracks for each day's ride onto the first post in this thread.  The introduction is often skipped so I thought it advisable to add a note here. 

If you download that track you will find I had to make a big diversion to the south of the N1.  Garmin had indicated a place to stay at the head of the Hex River Pass.  When I went there it was closed so I headed for the next place it showed.  This is sparsely populated territory; it was to the south of the N1 on the road that leads to Koo.  That place too was closed.  So I went on to the next place which was even further away from the Burchell track.  This place was a youth camp for school children.  They do not accept casual visitors but saw my plight and took me in.  Treated me very well. 
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 08, 2010, 05:50:13 pm

Johannes Schumacher.

There is nothing in Wikipedia about the artist Johannes Schumacher and even Google will find you nothing of significance.  Next to nothing is known about him. He was a wandering artist from Germany who was employed by Hendrik Swellengrebel to record scenes on his travels. 

Hendrik’s father was also a Hendrik who was the first South African born Governor of the Cape.  Swellendam is named after him & his wife Helena ten Dam.  Hendrik junior was born in Cape Town (1734; 5th child) but went to the Netherlands as a youth where he studied law but took a keen interest in many subjects including plants.  He decided to travel in his native Cape arriving back in 1776 (42 years old).  He did three journeys; the first took three months to the present Eastern Cape then two shorter ones up the West Coast.  Several others had done similar travels before him.   Swellengrebel instructed Schumacher when he wanted a scene recorded for the journal of his travels.  They were a bit bigger than A4 (355x254 mostly).  The pictures have remained in the Swellengrebel family.  In  1951 550 copies of The Cape in 1776-1777  Aquarelles by Johannes Schumacher from the Swellengrebel-Collection at Breda was published.  We have a copy.  We became friends with Niels & Caroline Swellengrebel in 1975 in Sasolburg (they are Dutch); they always came and stayed with us for Christmas while our children were growing up and Caroline was our son’s godmother.  The pictures are with Niels’ brother but they were here for display some years ago & we saw professional photographic copies of them.  Very recently some of them have been reproduced in colour in Comprehensive Atlas of the Dutch United East India Company   Volume V Africa.  We have a copy on order (in fact the very last copy available). I particularly like his naive style. Naive is not a derogatory term  here is a definition from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naive_painting):

Naïve art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal art training, this is often not true.

You will see that he simplifies and reduces the picture to a few lines but it is an accurate, though stylised, representation of the scene.  He was friends with, and had a strong influence on, another very important artist, Robert Gordon (a Dutchman despite his name).
(Sourced from the introduction to the book.)
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Pepe on June 08, 2010, 09:11:51 pm
Baie interessant. Nog?
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: PeterO on June 08, 2010, 10:36:58 pm
Fascinating.  I was chatting to a friend recently and we both expressed sadness when we see civilization creeping up and taking over the beauty of this country.  It's great to be able to see that there are still parts that haven't been spoilt over the years.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Gat Slag on June 09, 2010, 09:00:43 am
Hond se kierie...  Dis moerse die!!!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Kamanya on June 09, 2010, 01:21:24 pm
I love history, geography and the wildernesses. I often stop and wonder what has gone before.

But, even  though I know I don't have the patience to do something at this level and magnitude, I am highly appreciative that I can vicariously do it through your contribution and this site.

The additional benefit to me is that when next on my travels through parts that you've documented I have so much more to draw on.

Thank you very much.

Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 09, 2010, 03:30:46 pm
Great Karoo

Burchell teamed up with two missionaries from Klaarwater (now Griekwastad) who had been in Cape Town.  The Karoo up to the Sak river was occupied by trekboers in summer but beyond the Sak it was San (bushman) territory.   The trekboers and San were in contest for the resources which I discuss in some detail in my
 * ride report about the Sak river *  (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=39398.0)

The missionaries persuaded Burchell to delay his departure by seven months (1:i10) as they were very afraid of being attacked by the San and wanted him with them as he had guns and plenty of gunpowder.  There was also a report that a band of 500 disaffected Xhosa was planning to ambush them in the Kareeberg (1:64 1:185 1:223 1:227 1:268).  They all met up at the Riet river between present day Sutherland and Fraseburg (1:265).  The party was 97 all together in 8 wagons.  The route they took across the Great Karoo has become the road from Sutherland to Prieska.

The Xhosa party was waiting for them at the Riet rendezvous point – 5 males & 5 women!  This is an example of how small pieces of information became distorted out of all proportion – there is another classic case where Graaff-Reinet was placed on a war footing as it expected to be invaded by 300 Klaarwater Hottentots led by a white man (2:136).  The party was, in fact, Burchell plus 6 Klaarwater basters, a San youth & a Tswana man (2:15).  Such was the suspicion, false information, exaggeration and paranoia amoungst an ill informed community.  They did meet up with San in their journey across the Karoo but they were assisted by them.

I will let Burchell tell you about the Xhosas in this long extract (1:268)

Besides these Hottentots, a party of five Caffres, and their wives, were resting here. These men were not less than six feet in height, strong and finely proportioned; and, excepting a leathern kaross, wore no covering whatever; a circumstance, as far as I have since been able to learn, quite peculiar to the Kosas, or Caffres on the eastern side of the colony. Their bodies and cloaks were reddened all over with ochre mixed up with grease. They accosted us in an easy manly tone, and with manners perfectly free from servile timidity. These, with seven others left on the Sack River, had come from their kraal on the Gariep, for the purpose, as they stated, of bartering in the colony for tobacco; and begged the missionaries to give them a letter to the Veldcornet Maritz which however was very properly refused. We were rather surprised at so unexpected a rencontre with some of the very men on whose account so much uneasiness had been felt, and could not avoid suspecting them of being sent as spies to discover the strength of our party. We taxed them with the intention of attacking and robbing us in the Bushman country; and threatened them on our part with a warm reception, if they thought proper to make the attempt.

But whether the report we had heard to this effect was really unfounded, or whether, seeing our caravan so strong, they thought it prudent to relinquish the plan, or to dissemble, they now affected the greatest submission, and the most friendly disposition. They protested vehemently against the falsity of what had been reported to us, and attributed it to the malice and jealousy of the Bushmen, with whom they had long been on hostile terms, and who, in a recent skirmish, had killed their chief, one of Sambie's brothers ; in consequence of which their whole kraal had meditated a return to their own country, or at least as far as the borders of Bruyntjes Hoogte.

They assumed a canting good-natured tone of voice, and were the most importunate beggars I had ever met with; soliciting for tobacco, or whatever else they saw which they thought would be useful; com¬plaining also that their wives' heads were uncovered, and much required
a handkerchief to protect them from the sun. It was impossible to avoid their importunities, except by granting what they asked for; and at last we got rid of them, by giving three legs of mutton, a hand¬kerchief for each, and a quantity of tobacco, enough for them and their wives. I purchased of one of these men, for a handkerchief, a very neat basket, wove with rushes so admirably close, that they are always used for holding milk or other liquids.  He was careful not to let this opportunity pass, without begging for something; and first requested to have some brandy, which being refused, he imme¬diately asked for money to buy some; for these people are shrewd enough to understand very well the nature and use of the Cape money. Two of them could speak Dutch very readily; and the principal one, with a polite and friendly air, that I little expected in a savage, if such a term could properly be applied to him, gently raised my hand to his lips on taking leave, and expressed at the same time the warmest acknowledgments of gratitude for the presents I had made them.  After this they quietly retired to their fire at the other side of a rising ground, about two hundred yards distant, where they passed the night.

The missionaries were terrified of beggars it seems.  But notice this was 200 years ago and already some of them could speak Dutch, were living on the Gariep river and travelling to the Cape – very different from the history promoted by the previous regime.

Having come through Karoo Poort there is a wide open plain between the Tankwa Karoo to the left and the Moordenaars Karoo on the right; Burchell calls it the Bokkeveld-Karoo but map #3220 has no name in that region. I would think the veld is still the same as when Burchell passed – nice easy country for ox wagons. Today the pass to Sutherland goes up the escarpment ahead and that is also where Burchell went.

That is a tar road and I wanted to see the next pass to the east; Komsberg Pass.  I have done both Gannaga (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=14204.msg216277#msg216277) and Ouberg (a real favourite of mine) to the north-west.  All these passes were used by the trekboers to take their flocks up to the Roggeveld in summer and back down to the Bokkeveld in winter.  Komsberg pass is nothing like the spectacular other two; it goes up where the slope is much less steep as shown in the next picture.

I wanted to see Salpeterkop.  It is the last active volcano in Southern Africa but that was 66 million years ago.  Several Sutherland sites have Southern Hemisphere in place of Southern  Africa –right now  there are active volcanoes in New Zealand.   *More info here* (http://www.karoohoogland.co.za/Sutherlandpages/crater.htm).  This is as close as I got; I had not programmed the road into my GPS & could not find the turnoff.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 09, 2010, 03:32:51 pm
This is a boer’s house (actually he was the local veldcornet).  The man with the gun is a khoi (Hottentot) shepherd.  Burchell noted that they were always armed as protection against both the wild animals & the San (Bushmen) (1:237).  I wrote a
 * long ride report about the Sak river *  (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=39398.0) where I discussed the contest between the trekboers & the San.

Here is a picture of a slightly upgraded version.

Those are fat tailed sheep in the Burchell engraving; the sheep of the Khoi that had originated on the Arabian peninsula and slowly spread across Africa.  The trekboers farmed them too; when Burchell was here the merino sheep were just starting to be adopted by the most progressive local farmers.  The first merinos had arrived 13 years previously in 1789 but it was not until the second British occupation in 1805 that the merinos really got going.  Later in the trip I saw this fat tailed sheep right at Heuningvlei.  *Good info on sheep in SA - click history* (http://www.nwga.co.za/index.cfm/2008/3/23/Sheep-Breeding-in-South-Africa)  Later in this post there will be a picture that includes a san dog which also looks just the same as the dog in the engraving.

One of the prime uses of fat tailed sheep was to make soap.  Here is an extract from Burchell (2.113).  Note that the fat in the tail was worth the same, if not more, than the rest of the sheep & it could be accumulated during the year for easy transport to Cape Town.  It also shows the elegant uncomplicated writing of Burchell.

Not even the butcher's man, or slagters knegt , ever made his appearance at this distant farm; although the owner possessed a flock of not less than four thousand sheep; and many of his neighbours, not less than six.

Still, however, the rearing of cattle was their chief means of subsistence : the family, with their slaves and Hottentots, being fed with mutton at every meal, caused a daily consumption of two sheep, the fat of which was considered almost equal in value to the rest of the carcass, by being, manufactured into soap. It was, as they in¬formed me, more profitable to kill their sheep, for this purpose only, than to sell them to the butchers at so low a price as a rix-dollar or less, and even so low as five schillings.  Formerly the alkali necessary for this manufacture, was obtained here from the Ganna¬(or Kanna-) bosch ; but that being at length, all consumed through a constant demand for it, another species of Salsola growing wild growing in many parts of the country, was taken as a substitute, and found to be even preferable to the ganna. In the house, I saw a great number of cakes of this soap, piled up to harden, ready for their next annual journey to Cape Town ; whither they go, not merely for the purpose of selling it, but of purchasing clothing and such other articles as are not to be had in the country districts, but at an exorbitant price.

In Graaff-Reinet I saw this soap cauldron.

They are surprisingly big; at the Reinet Museum.

Candles were also made from that fat.  We are familiar with candles made of paraffin wax so it came as a surprise to me to learn that animal fat candles stink as they burn and make the whole place dirty.  *Source* (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/may/17/bill-bryson-lightbulb)


EDIT September 2013
I went on a Vernacular Architecture Society outing to the Great Karoo that included a visit to the ruin of the building Burchell drew.  It is in very good condition.  Because wood and metal is a scarce commodity in that region it has all been removed from the building but the walls remain.  There are no doors - it is the plastered opposite inside walls that appear to be doors.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 09, 2010, 03:34:36 pm
From Sutherland I took the nice gravel highway to Fraserburg (tar as far as the observatory) for the night.  I enjoy cruising Karoo highways.

There is this small building called the Peperbus  built in 1861 as an office for the predekant.  Why it was so small is a mystery to me, and why did he need a bell above his office?  I enjoy folly buildings like this.  It is hexagonal though that is not apparent in this picture.

If you go into the back streets (there are not many) you will find a town that has not been re-developed so the buildings are still as they were 50 or more years ago.  It is becoming more and more difficult to see what our towns used to look like. Not spectacular but that represents what a small country town used to look like – single storey houses with a stoep directly onto the street.  Many with flat roofs in the Karoo.

I crossed the Sak river.  This is my second trans Karoo trip; on the previous one I went up the map from bottom right to top left, this time I am going bottom left to top right.  My Sak river ride report is *here* (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=39398.0)

I did not know where the Sak River Mission of Kicherer was when I did that trip.  From the Burchell book I learned exactly where it is (slightly downstream from here close to Kerkplaas farm).  I made a mental note to look for the turning but missed it.  Many of the red dashed roads on the 1:250 000 maps look exactly like private farm roads.  I have now learned that you have to program them into your Zumo route as named waypoints if you want to be sure of finding them.

Burchell has this picture of their camp alongside the Sak river.  It is a big three page fold out landscape picture.  My photo of it can not show the detail that is in the full sized original.

I forgot about this painting so failed to take a matching photo.  This is close by but after crossing the Sak.

Now we really are in the Great Karoo – the part where they were going to come across the fierce San.  It still looks the same as when Burchell came through except I hear it takes 30 years for the vegetation to really recover from sheep grazing – for the tastiest plants to reappear.
EDIT July 2017
My wife, Antonia, is an occasional outside lecturer at the Archaeology dept at UCT.  They have been examining the Sak River Mission Station so from them we learned where it is and gained permission to access it as it is on private land & quite far from the road.  We went there in my Terios in 2015.

When I planned the original bike trip I knew approximately where the mission station was and noticed on the 1:250 000 map a farm named Kerkplaas which I guessed got its name from the mission.  It is there but the farm has since been subdivided and Kerkplaas no longer contains it.

It was a blazing hot day and we were there at noon.  You can recognise the shape of the hills from the drawing but this is actually looking from the west side.  The mission is on the opposite (east) side of the hills.  We went through but did not see the actual ruins – it was too hot to want to bash around much looking for them.


Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 09, 2010, 03:37:10 pm
Some of the smaller roads were fun.

A donkey karretjie had been down here some time before me.

They did come across the ‘threatening’ San.  Burchell describes the meeting thus (1:292):

Hitherto, we had not seen a single native; a circumstance occasioned, most probably, by their universal distrust of all strange visitors from out of the Colony. But having, by their spies and observations, satisfied themselves that we were friends, a party of eleven Bushmen, with three women, paid us a visit this morning. They were, in stature, all below five feet; and the women still shorter; their skin was of a sallow brown color, much darkened by dirt and grease. Their clothing appeared, in my eyes, wretched in the extreme; but, doubtless, not so to them, as they all seemed con¬tented enough; although, when we first met, I observed in their looks great mistrust, and symptoms of much fear. These gradually wore off; and, after we had confirmed the assurances of our peaceable intentions, by presents of tobacco and beads, they recovered their natural tone, and chattered and clacked with each other in a very lively manner.

Among them, were some young men, whom, with all the remains of ancient prejudices, I could not help viewing as interesting. Though small, and delicately made, they appeared firm and hardy; and my attention was forcibly struck by the proportional smallness, and neatness of their hands and feet. This conformation is common (perhaps in Africa, peculiar,) to all the Hottentot race.

The women were young; their countenances had a cast of prettiness, and, I fancied, too, of innocence: their manners were modest, though unreserved. Their hair was ornamented with small Cowry shells*, and old copper buttons, which were interwoven with it. One of them wore a high cap of leather, the edge of which protected her eyes from the sun: at her back, and, entirely hid excepting the head, she carried her infant, whose exceedingly small features presented to me an amusing novelty. The poor little thing bore all the rough jolting motion, with a degree of patience and unconcern which plainly showed it to have been used to it from the day of its birth.

* Cyprwa moneta. Linn. These shells are not the natural produce of this part of Africa, but have been passed on from one tribe to another, in the course of barter.

Remember that the missionaries were almost terrified of these people yet Burchell writes of their ‘great mistrust, and symptoms of much fear’.  Burchell arranged for some of the San to guide them to water until they reached the Gariep (1:292).  I particularly wanted to find the first waterhole they were guided to.  Here is Burchell’s description (1:294):

By an observation at noon, the latitude of the Bushman Rock Fountain was ascertained to be 31' 0' 38". S

I was descending alone to view the spring, the value of which I had heard our people so much extol, as affording the traveller a never-failing supply, when one of the Hottentots called out, advising me to take my gun, lest, seeing me unarmed, some evil-disposed native might be tempted to attack or rob me. He remarked very prudently, and, I believed, properly, that it is safe always to suspect that such men are lurking behind every bush or crag of rock, ready to let fly a poisoned arrow on the unsuspecting passenger. I returned for my gun, resolving to keep his advice in memory; and I now impart it, with serious recommendation, to all who may hereafter find themselves in similar circumstances.

The water lay in a large rocky basin, or reservoir, at the head of a ravine walled on either side by a precipice of sandstone rocks, the upper end forming a romantic natural amphitheatre, out of the sides of which, and from the clefts of the stone, grew a few green shrubs to decorate this singular scene. At the head of this ravine, a strong stream, in the rainy season, pours down the precipice into the basin, and, overflowing the reservoir, runs through the interstices of large blocks of stone, down into the valley below. In approaching the spot, I heard a number of voices, the sound of which, reverberating from the walls, discovered, to me two Bushmen and three women: the latter had their children at their backs. They proved to be of
friendly tribe, and belonging to a family or party of twelve, who had come from a neighbouring kraal to pay us a visit. What they said to me as I advanced towards them, I was unable to guess, being alone, and understanding nothing of their language. I felt, however, so much confidence in their good intentions, that I sat myself down on one of the large stones, and made a sketch of the spot, in which I inserted them exactly in the attitudes and situation in which they were at the time; and was pleased at finding ready before my pencil such picturesque appendages to the landscape. This scene is represented in the fifth Plate.


I spent quite some time looking for this picture.  Burchell gives the latitude; I thought the most likely place was north of the R63 where there is a river.  I rode all along that river on farm roads but this is the closest to a rock pool that I found.

This is at S31° 02.393’  E21° 44.931’ which is within 2’ of the latitude Burchell gives.  However McKay shows it as south of the road.  There are two farms named Witfontein – one where I went & the other where McKay suggests.  I went to Leeufontein farm on the other side and asked the farmer’s wife if she knew of anything like the picture.  She does not; unfortunately her husband was away as he is third generation in the area. They have children so I would have thought that they would have been invited to swim there.  It is a mystery as Burchell is very reliable.  She gave me the names of two people to ask in Canarvon but I felt I really did not have the time available.


EDIT 2017/01/09 
The picture “The Rock Fountain in the Country of the Bushmen” is shown in most articles about Burchell.  I had a good look for it but failed to find it.  Mr Bob Woods travelled from England to George for the Burchell Bicentenary celebrations in 2014 where a bust of Burchell was erected in the Garden Route Botanical Gardens.  I did not attend those celebrations but I asked Bob Woods “In post #14 there is a picture of San swimming in a rock pool.  I really tried to find this.  I now suspect it is pure artistic conjecture by Burchell.  He has been shown to be very accurate in all his other drawings but I suspect this was wishful thinking on his behalf. ....  Daniell also did excellent accurate drawings yet he provided one of the ‘Tackhaitse’ which seems to be a composite of something he saw in the distance + description of a Roan antelope + Blue Antelope + a bokbaard. ... I will only believe that (the rock pool exists) when shown it or a photo of it.  I would be interested if anyone at the conference has an opinion about this.”


 Bob did not come back with anything.  Burchell gives the latitude of the site (in his weather log at the end of Volume 1 he also gives the longitude & that was done by the Lunar Distance Method (measure the angle between the moon and a given star – it varies according to longitude but it also varies each day so you also need to know the angle for Greenwich for that day).  He gives the coordinates as 31° 0’ 38”S   22° 37’ 40”E  that longitude is hopelessly wrong as it is well to the east of Canarvon but the latitude is fine. I looked along the Witfonteinleegte river – photo above.  On the 1:250 000 map #3120 there is a farm named Kalkgat 517 on the Kalkgatleegte which joins the Witfonteinleegte at the R63.  That name may mean something though kalk = chalk whereas Burchell’s picture does not show the typical ‘White Cliffs of Dover’.  I would be pleased to be proven wrong but I believe Burchell’s picture is fantasy – wildly embellished.  That implies his description of finding the place is also largely fabricated.  I have quoted his full text above.

It is so out of character for Burchell to embroider his report that I must hesitate before saying that I think it is embellishment.  But what else can it be?  There is no ravine thereabouts as far as I can see. Yet he writes that he made a sketch ‘of the spot’.

My track is available from the first post = 100410 Fraserberg Stealth Camp.  Can be loaded into Google Earth to see precisely where I went & what the terrain looks like.

Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 09, 2010, 03:40:17 pm
Burchell has this drawing of a San playing his
Goura (http://www.jstor.org/pss/2842910).  Burchell had a flute with him which he played regularly.  The Khoi & San much appreciated it.  You will see that Burchell has notated the very complex sound and repetitive tune created.  So add musician to the list of Burchell’s abilities. 

The link above describes the Goura but I think Burchell’s is better (1:458).

…especially an old man, their chief, who was considered a good performer on the Gorah, an instrument of the greatest antiquity of all those which are now to be found in the hands of any tribe of the Hottentot race. Curious to see and to hear a genuine Hottentot musical instrument, I gave him to understand that I wished him to bring it on the morrow, and give me a specimen of his playing ; to which he readily agreed.

On the morrow he returned; bringing with him, not only his Gorah, …..

The Gorah, as to its appearance and form, may be more aptly compared to the bow of a violin, than to any other thing but, in its principle and use, it is quite different; being, in fact, that of a stringed, and a wind instrument combined: and thus it agrees with the Eolian harp. But with respect to the  principle on which its different tones are produced, it may be classed with the trumpet, or French horn; while in the nature and quality of the sound which it gives, at least in the hands of one who is master of it, this strange instrument approaches to the violin.

It consists merely of a slender stick, or bow, on which a string of catgut is strained. But to the lower end of this string, a flat piece, of about an inch and a half long, of the quill of an ostrich, is attached, so as to. constitute a part of the length of the string. This quill, being applied to the lips, is made to vibrate by strong inspirations, and expirations, of the breath ; each of which ending with an increased degree of strength, had always the effect of forcing out the upper octave ; exactly in the same way as produced on the flute, an instrument, therefore, which may be made to imitate the gorah sufficiently near to give some idea of it.

The old musician, seating himself down on a flat piece of rock, and resting his elbows on his knees, putting one fore-finger into his ear, and the other into his wide nostril, either as it so happened, or for the purpose, it might be, of keeping the head steady, commenced his solo, and continued it with great earnestness, over and over again. The exertion which it required to bring out the tones loudly, was very evident; and, in his anxious haste to draw breath at every note, our Orpheus gave us into the bargain, intermingled with his music, certain grunting sounds which would have highly pleased the pigs; and, if any had been in the country, would indubitably have drawn them all round him, if only out of curiosity to know what was the matter.


Plate 9. His dress, reddened by an ochraceous earth, consists only of a leathern kaross, which is of smaller dimensions than those customarily worn. Suspended from his neck, is a knife of African manufacture, such as are worn, in a similar manner, by all the tribes in the Interior. The horn of one of the smaller antelopes, hanging from the same place, serves the purpose of a snuff-box, or receptacle for powdered dakka, or hemp-leaves. Below the knee, a cord of acacia-bark was worn as an ornament. The sandals are such as form part of the aboriginal dress of all the natives of Southern Africa, with no other variation than in the mode of their being bound to the foot. In Bushmen who are a little advanced in life, the eye-lids are often so much closed as to conceal the whole of the eye-ball, and to leave an aperture but just sufficient for the sight, a circumstance which gives to such individuals, as in the present, the appearance of having their eyes shut; this they probably are obliged to do, to protect them from the glare of sunshine.

Should we add satirist or realist to the list of Burchell attributes?

This painting of a San kraal comes from volume 2 when Burchell travelled down to Graaff-Reinet to recruit staff.  It was north of where Britstown now is.

I include Burchell’s commentary on the picture (2:198).

* The huts represented in this plate, are constructed of mats (Vol. I. p. 114. 263.) made of rushes, in the manner shown in a former plate (pl. 7. Vol. I. p. 325.) and more particularly described in a preceding part of this volume. (p. 55. and 56.) The Bushmen of the Cisgariepine most commonly paint their mats lengthwise with stripes of red-ochre. The outermost figure on the left, will give an idea of the appearance of a Bushman as he is usually equipped for travelling, having his bow, quiver, hassagay and kirri. Before him is a representation of one of their dogs, (p. 56.) which are of a race perhaps peculiar to these tribes. Hassagays and sticks, when not in use, are most frequently stuck in the ground by the side of the hut. This plate exhibits, not only the particular view of the spot, but the ordinary appearance of a Bushman Kraal, and the genuine domestic state of its inhabitants, such as they are in their proper and original mode. In this picture, there¬fore, the number of figures and their occupations, are only those which are consistent with this intention, and have no reference to the unusual and busy scene which this kraal became in consequence of my arrival among these people. The nearest figure in the middle of the picture, is that of a man returning home from hunting, carrying a fawn or young antelope at his back. To the left of him, are two men, and a woman having her child in her arms, sitting in front of their hut, a very common manner of spending their time in fine weather: other parties of the same kind are seen at the other huts. Most of the figures have leathern caps of various forms according to the fancy of the maker or wearer. The outermost figure on the right is a man returning from the neighbouring spring with an ostrich-egg shell filled with water. On the left of him, and close to the hut in the fore¬ground, may be seen one of those sticks already described (p. 29.) as being loaded with a perforated globular stone for the purpose of digging up various eatable wild roots. The soil here is of a reddish color, and scantily covered with herbage and low bushes.

We will again come across San settlements and warriors in this report so I want to add the following two pictures for reference while I am busy with them.

This picture is by Samuel Daniell (who I will introduce when we get to Litakun as his pictures of it were an important part of my quest). What looks like decorative headdresses worn by the men are actually their arrows.  From Burchell’s commentary above it seems the quiver (koker) was only used when travelling though Daniell shows them doing both.

Here is another picture by F.Steeb at Graaff-Reinet 1813 showing a San with his arrows stored in the same way and some tucked under his jakhals (Burchell explains that the loin cloth is called the jakals (1:397))
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 09, 2010, 03:42:28 pm
I went to the ‘township’ at Canarvon because it is called Skietfontein - Burchell mentions the good spring there.  It is not worth showing a photo of it. Blikkies bar in Canarvon for lunch is worth showing however.

There are two rooms panelled in pristine beer cans.

And a juke box that looks just like they did in my teenage years.  I had the fortune to be exposed to an item of Afrikaans culture that I had seen derided on WD,  someone played ‘Ek het ‘n tooter op my waterskooter’.

Besides the lovely Kareeberg in the background note the following:  Burchell had a specially small wagon but it took eight oxen to draw it.  At the front one of his team is riding one of the spare oxen (rest out of the picture) – riding an ox was quite usual, even by young girls.  At the front is the voorleir leading the oxen.  Look how long the whip is so that the driver can crack it next to exactly the ox he wants to gee up.  At the back is the flock of perambulating supper – only to be used when they failed to shoot their supper.


This is what Burchell writes (1:293):

Daylight the next morning brought to view a desolate, wild, and singular landscape. From our station on the top of a steep descent, the mountains of the Karreebergen (Dry Mountains) appeared before us. The only color we beheld was a sterile brown, softened into azure or purple in the distance: the eye sought in vain for some tint of verdure; nothing but rocks and stones lay scattered everywhere around. But that which rendered the view most remarkable, was the form of the mountains, presenting a multitude of flat, broad, level tops, and creating the idea of a congress of Table mountains. These were but a small part of the Karreebergen, a range which consists of an innumerable assemblage of mountains, all of this kind without exception, forming a belt across the country of from five to ten miles in breadth, and stretching out of sight on either hand, apparently in a north-westerly and south-easterly direction. Their extent is quite unknown, as they have never been traversed in any other part than that in which they were now crossed by us.

I made a careful sketch of a portion of this view, including, in the foreground, a part of our caravan; the various groups of which always formed both picturesque and interesting objects.

I want to go back there and ‘traverse’ the whole length of that ‘ congress of Table mountains’.  They appeal to me just as much as they did to Burchell.  That is the poort through to Prieska which is why they had never ‘been traversed in any other part’.

Part of the caravan going across the Karoo.

Pretty much the same today.

There are lots of pictures like this in this post – that’s what the Karoo is like and I want to convey what Burchell experienced.  It took them 38 days travelling to get from Karoo Poort to the Gariep.

After Canarvon there is a long gentle slope down to the Gariep river.  Burchell only used the Gariep name – never Orange.   I had a disturbed night in Fraserburg – it is one of those towns with dogs that bark to each other all night & the chief culprit was across the street from me.  It was about 4 pm when I was in Canarvon, too early to stop but Prieska was too far to get to so I decided to stealth camp.   There are very few gates in the fences along Karoo roads I realised when looking for this place.  That night I was reminded of a memorable quote by Lucky Striker:

‘It is so tranquil in the Karoo that you hear the earth scraping against the sky’
– precisely.


EDIT  May 2017

I had come across this picture of the Kareeberg with ostriches, eland and other game on the vlaktes in front by Lichtenstein done in 1803.  I really like it and was looking for a similar view on the day I rode from Fraserburg to Canarvon.  From the Williston to Canarvon road (R63) the Kareeberg does not look like (as Burchell puts it) "... that which rendered the view most remarkable, was the form of the mountains, presenting a multitude of flat, broad, level tops, and creating the idea of a congress of Table mountains.”  I did not see flat topped koppies forming Kareeberg.  The picture I posted of such koppies is the Doringberg just before Prieska.  The Kareeberg did not look like that to me.  I was puzzled.  In 2015 I went up to Williston by car and drove through the Kareeberg to Canarvon looking for those views and again did not see them (though this time I was on gravel roads in the Kareeberg itself– not the R63).  From Canarvon we took the minor road to Brandvlei which passes through the SKA.  Now the Kareeberg was to our south.  After the SKA we cut back across the Kareeberg to Williston where we were staying.  It was on that road that we found scenes like in the Lichtenberg picture

View from the distance

Closer to Kareeberg.  This looks similar to Lichtenstein's landscape.

As we drove through the Kareeberg we saw these lovely Dolerite rocks.

Closer picture showing the gorgeous fractured face.  Some indication of how extreme the temperatures can be locally.

We also saw these Karee trees that give the mountains their name.

Burchell says the name karee means dry.  Modern dictionaries say the word is of khoikhoi extraction.

Two days after posting that edit I was looking at the South Africa Road Atlas issued by Engen but produced by map Studio. I noticed that they mark the Kareeberg as being between Canarvon and Prieska = to the east of Canarvon.  It is shown as being to the south of the Canarvon/Prieska road. On the government 1:250 000 map that same mountain is labelled as the Grasberg while the Kareeberg is shown to the north of the Williston to Canarvon road so to the west of Canarvon.

I checked through my pictures and found this picture taken after I had left Canarvon so it is of the Grasberg (Surveyor General’s name).  This then fits in with Burchell’s picture.  I had been expecting the scene before Canarvon.  No doubt in Burchell’s day both mountains were called Kareeberg.  The Grasberg match Burchell's drawing well.  EXCEPT they are on the wrong side of the road!  Burchell was travelling eastwards so a drawing showing his wagon travelling left to right has been made looking northwards.  I remain puzzled.  (The first picture showing the Doringberg is much closer to Prieska).

As for Liechtenstein’s picture; I don’t know his route so either the picture I posted two days ago or this picture may be his scenes – though this one looks more likely.

Some day I will explore the Grasberg.

Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 09, 2010, 03:44:51 pm
Karelsgraf (1:301).

As we walked on, I enquired the story of Carel Krieger's fate. He was an indefatigable and fearless hunter; and, being also an excellent marksman, often ventured into the most dangerous situations. One day, near this spot, having with his party, pursued an elephant which he had wounded, the irritated animal suddenly turned round, and, singling out from the rest the person by whom he had been wounded, seized him with his trunk, and, lifting his wretched victim high in the air, dashed him with dreadful force  to the ground. His companions, struck with horror, fled precipitately from the fatal scene, unable to turn their eyes to behold the rest of the tragedy. But on the following day they repaired to the spot, where they collected the few bones that could be found, and buried them near the spring. The enraged animal had not only trampled his body literally to pieces, but could not feel its vengeance satisfied till it had pounded the very flesh into the dust, so that nothing of this unfortunate man remained, excepting a few of the larger bones. Such is the sad story, as it was related to me on the spot where it happened.

Since there is a spring there now there is a farmstead called Karelsgraf.  It includes this corbelled building with the name on it (it is not the actual grave – he died long before there was a farm here).

Another corbelled building I saw.  They seem to have been the original standard building of the boers who settled the Great Karoo.

I have written about
 * corbelled buildings here *. (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=39484.0)

This is the main road of Prieska.  The classic Karoo town layout; church at the head of the main street.

Note the onion dome on the steeple – could be in Moscow.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Gérrard on June 09, 2010, 09:13:30 pm
Hooked. TT sent you a PM.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 10, 2010, 10:59:56 am
I shall be quoting from William Dicey Borderline, Kwela Books, 2004. 

Klaarwater = Griekwastad

This town’s claim to fame is it is one of the places you can cross the Gariep river but they absolutely ignore the river – the chief feature in the locality.  Prieska is just behind the scrubby trees along the bank of the Gariep on the right of this picture.

I found a little track to the riverside close to the bridge.

I had to ride through an unofficial dumping site to get to the Gariep.  There is Die Bos on the other side of town. It was a braai and relaxation area under the trees alongside the river.  I went there to have a look but didn’t stop as some people are squatting there making me feel quite threatened.

Imagine if there was an imaginative town council years ago that had decided to make something of the river frontage.  If the main shopping street had been set some way back from the river so that there was a treed & grassed area all alongside the Gariep  with benches and braai places as a community space alongside the main commercial centre  with views of the river.  There is a majestic and gorgeous river right there but they ignore it.

Burchell crossed the Gariep (he called it that too – never Orange.  It was the original name) slightly upstream from Prieska at a big loop in the river.  Here is map #4 of the McKay maps (which helped me so much) showing Prieska at the lower  left.  The river is shown by the thick solid line.   Burchell’s track is the chain dotted line with numbers for each night’s stop (the numbers only increase again when he moves on so they record his travel days only).  #52 is where he crossed the Gariep the first time and is the place I was looking for this day. (The town with five tracks radiating out of it towards the top left is Griquatown {Griekwastad}; known as Klaarwater when Burchell was there.)

I tried firstly from the south side where map #2922 & Mapsource show a very minor road but it was locked. I then went over to see if I could get to it from the northern side.  I was very lucky to find the gates open to the big farming operation alongside the river (it was Sunday).

I went round & round the side of  interlinking pivot irrigation circles.  I had the Zumo on a small scale but the sun showed which way to go & there was no one to chase me away. The irrigation stops short of the river (flooding?) so I had to walk the last bit to see what it looked like.  The river is on the far side of the trees against the hillside.

Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: fat b on June 10, 2010, 11:01:06 am
Hooked. TT sent you a PM.
:laughing4: I thought you would like this one , I read it on Trail-Riders blog .
Lekker RR TT !  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 10, 2010, 11:02:31 am
Here is Burchell’s picture (from the other bank).

Burchell’s description:

The water glittering under a fervid sun, caught my eye through the leafy screen; and a few steps lower, opened as enchanting a view as it could be possible for fancy to imagine. Whether the feelings of an enthusiastic lover of scenes of nature, may have influenced my judgment, I cannot say; but still I think that, whoever shall visit the banks of the Gariep, and not feel both delight and admiration, must be cold indeed, and very deficient in taste or sensibility.

The first view to which I happened to turn myself, in looking up the stream, realized those ideas of elegant and classic scenery, which ate created in the minds of poets, those alluring, fancies of a fairy tale, or the fascinating imagery of a romance. The waters of the majestic river, flowing in a broad expanse resembling a smooth translucent lake, seemed, with their gentle waves, to kiss the shore and bid it farewell for ever, as they glided past in their way to the restless ocean; bearing on their limpid bosom the image of their wood-clothed banks; while the drooping willows leaned over the tide, as if unwilling to lose them; and the long pendent branches, dipping their leafy twigs in the stream, seemed fain to follow.

Here I could have rested the whole day; here I could have fixed my abode for months : enjoying the delightful shade, and inhaling the refreshing air. Rapt with the pleasing sensations which the scenery inspired, I sat on the bank a long time contemplating the serenity and beauty of the view.

Having seen what it was like I was able to ride across to the river.

I would think that he actually crossed slightly upstream where the opposite hills are lower.  Here.

Burchell describes the crossing:

In three hours we again approached the river, and arrived at the spot distinguished on my map by the name of Shallow Ford. While the rest were engaged in levelling the road down the bank, and exploring the safest part of the ford, I made a sketch of the river, from the top of the high woody bank, whence there was a broad, and far-extended view up the stream; the smooth water, like a polished mirror, appearing divided from the sky, only by a narrow blue line of distant hills. Here the southern shore was defined by naked cliffs; while, on the opposite side, a continued belt of willows and acacias extended, gradually diminishing in the distance, till, turning round a low projecting point of land, it entirely disappeared.

The waggons being all assembled, several men, some on horseback, and some on oxen, were the first to enter the river, not only for the purpose of pointing out where the water was shallowest, they having been twice across during the morning; but to give warning to those who were behind, if by chance a hippopotamus hole should be found in their way. They were followed immediately by the train of waggons, each with a steady leader at the head of the team, to restrain the oxen from turning down with the current, which they are very inclined to do, when left to themselves. As one waggon plunged into the stream, another descended headlong down the steep bank, closely followed by another; and as these moved on, others in their turn advanced from the rear, till the line, stretching entirely across the river, seemed like a bridge of waggons. The train at first took a very oblique direction downwards, till they had reached the middle of the river, and from that point, proceeded directly across to the opposite side. The bottom was found to be full of large pebbles, and the greatest depth no more than two feet and eight inches; but the current was therefore very rapid and strong. The water was quite transparent, a proof that no heavy rains had lately fallen in the upper part of its course. At the ford the surface was smooth; but lower down, and in sight, it was broken by a fall of about two feet. Each waggon took a quarter of an hour to  perform the passage, which might be estimated at a little more than a quarter of a mile. The oxen were driven through by about a dozen Hottentots ; and as many were required to swim the sheep and goats over in safety.

The river was quite full because of all the water being released from the Vaal Dam.  The trees on the side I had access to are not as big.  If you look back to the photo of my bike beside the river you will see that the trees on the far bank are much bigger – just like they are in Burchell’s picture.

This picture is further upstream but it looks more like Burchell’s first picture.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 10, 2010, 11:05:37 am
Burchell then went on to Klaarwater (Griekwastad) as he was travelling in convoy with some of the missionaries and their followers.  At one time I was involved in the semi-precious stone business.  Tiger’s eye comes from around Niekerkshoop in the asbestos mountains and I wanted to see it.  I had plotted a route along a very minor dashed track in Mapsource (not in T4A) which turned out to be exactly the correct track fortunately as it took me right through the tigers eye workings.  Burchell had seen the tiger’s eye, describes it & includes this picture of the blue tiger’s eye he saw.

This is a piece I picked up when opening one of the gates on the track.  The cliff in the background shows the outcrop of thin layered sedimentary rock that forms the Asbestosberg.  Tiger’s eye is formed by the replacement of the asbestos fibres by silica; *Wiki* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger%27s_Eye)
 *Here*  (http://www.tokencoins.com/griqua2.html#tiger) is a link about tigers eye including a video of them mining without any power tools.

I rode up to be next to those rocks:

Very similar to this engraving.

Small though the road is marked it turned out to be very nice through the hills, you cross a game farm at one stage.

Then you come to one of the tiger’s eye mining pits, just like the one in the video I linked.

A little further on I came to this sorting and bagging area on the track.

There was nobody there on a Sunday.

This is the village called Kloof by Burchell (1:238).  Map #2922 shows that the farm is now named Kloof in the same place & it is on the route I took to see the tigers eye.

Those are traditional Khoi matjieshuise – reed mats on a frame of poles stuck into the ground.  I did a long post about them as post #36 of  *this thread*. (http://www.saforums.co.za/rlt/index.php?topic=6133.20)

Those ore bags of sorted tigers eye with the very same hillside in the background.

The missionaries had to socialise here as this was part of their community and they had been away for some years (1:328).
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 10, 2010, 11:08:51 am
The next day they went on to Klaarwater (Griekwastad). Burchell’s big fold out picture is too big to show properly here. Not much of a town then.
You can just see his wagon in the backgound as two dots in the picture.  He chose to separate himself from the village.

My picture; not much of a town now:

And from the opposite side.
This picture was taken from just about where Burchell parked his wagon.

Griekwastad does not even have cell phone reception let alone a decent shop.  There is a crappy bar & an hotel I was advised to avoid.  My thoughts were no different to Burchell’s (1:352]:

My disappointment in the appearance of the place arose from expecting, perhaps, too much.

The missionaries were working with the Griekwa.  This is how they are defined in Wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griqua)

The Griqua are a racially and culturally mixed people who originated in the intermarriages or sexual relations between European colonists in the Cape and the Khoikhoi already living there in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The community has a truly amazing history;  2000 trekked off under Adam Kok 3 to create Giqualand East with Kokstad as the main town.  They went through Lesotho crossing the Drakensberg by the spectacular Ongeluksnek Pass.  There is an exceptional website about them http://www.tokencoins.com/griqua.html - it is a very chaotic site.  I found the next picture there some time ago but it took me 40 minutes to eventually track it down again.
*Source* (http://www.griquas.com/2006/link.htm)

Burchell’s picture of the mission.  Church at the front, a missionary’s house at the back with a store room between.

Seven years previously they had started to build a stone church.  There is plenty of lovely flat stone lying around so it was hardly difficult but they lost interest when at shoulder height (1:367). Seems like the missionaries were too feeble to get them to continue.

The house Mary Moffat grew up in (David Livingston’s wife).  Built out of the abundant local stone.

The old mission house, built roundabout 1828, today houses the Mary Moffat Museum. When Griquatown was laid out as a town in 1879, the survey commenced from the mission house, the parallels being taken from the front walls of the building. In 1904 this house was sold to Barclays Bank, who purchased the property directly from the London Missionary Society, and up to 1956 used it as a bank. When Barclays Bank completed their new building next door, the building was converted into a museum.

Dr Robert Moffat and his wife Mary, waiting to depart to Kuruman resided at Griquatown when their daughter, Mary, later Mrs. David Livingstone, was born in Griquatown in 1821.
*Source* (http://www.museumsnc.co.za/other/RegionalMuseumInfoPDF.pdf)

The famous "execution tree", where Waterboer hanged stock thieves and murderers, can still be seen but when I looked into the yard where it is signposted to be the trees that I saw looked far too young and small.  I did not have time to investigate properly.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 10, 2010, 11:10:24 am
Here is a fabulous story about when a steamboat passed through the town.  (Dicey 47)

Here the steamboat, which had travelled upstream from the Orange River mouth, turned north up the Kuruman River and sailed on to Lattakoo, the most northerly of the Cape mission stations. The steamer's progress was not hindered by the fact that Klaarwater, today called Griquatown, is fifty kilometres from the river, nor by the fact that the Kuruman River flows into the Molopo, which only joins the Orange below the Augrabies Falls, nor indeed by the fact that the Orange is unnavigable. For The Queen and Czar steams her way through Meridiana: the adventures of three Englishmen and three Russians in South Africa (1872), a little-known novel by Jules Verne. The six foreigners of the title are astronomers, come to measure an arc of the meridian in southern Africa. They have the obligatory run-ins with hippos, crocs, elephants and lions before fleeing the assegais of a native horde with the scientific results they have risked their lives for. Remarkably, they find a river that carries them from the central Kalahari to the Zambezi and on to the Indian Ocean. Meridiana, along with better-known works such as Around the World in Eighty Days, is one of fifty-four novels by Verne collectively known as Voyages Extraordinaires. This prodigious output explains, perhaps, why Verne didn't let geography stand in the way of a good story. The real story of Klaarwater, though, proves far more compelling than his fiction.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 11, 2010, 12:26:17 pm

Hippo Hunt

Burchell was seriously messed around by the missionaries in Klaarwater.  I will summarise those events after describing the hippo hunting trip.

After being in Klaarwater almost a month Burchell left on a hippo hunting expedition to the confluence of the Gariep & Vaal rivers.  He wanted to lay in a stock of biltong for the onward trip (1:421). It took less than a month (1:476). His intention was to spend three months in Klaarwater of which six weeks remained after this trip(1:475)

Setting off from Griekwastad towards the Vaal river.  I love these open under populated places.  My last year at school was on the tiny island of Guernsey followed by two years in England; that made me long for places like this – most of us only appreciate them when they are no longer an option.

Burchell went across that plain to hunt some hippo on the Vaal.  Here it is:

The view upstream from the bridge at Douglas.  This trip took me past a lot of our rivers & I now realise how much they appeal to me by the number of photos I took of them = every time I saw one.

I much prefer Douglas to Prieska although it too completely ignores the lovely river right there.  I went down to the confluence of the Gariep & Vaal on the south side (I had tried to do that from the north but the road is now locked).  In this panorama of the confluence the Vaal is on the right, the Gariep in the left foreground and the combined Gariep flowing away up the picture. Burchell camped on the far (north) bank.

The old Orange upstream of the confluence was called Nu-Gariep coming in from my left. 

The Ky-Gariep (Vaal) from my right (names 1:391):

The plain Gariep just below the confluence:
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 11, 2010, 12:28:07 pm
I always carry a bottle of wine with me & some food in case I have to stealth camp.  In Douglas I went to the Two Rivers bottle store where I selected, naturally, Confluence as it is a locally made blend (I prefer blended wines).  Because I was on a bike & the manager had a Yamaha R1 parked inside the shop & the wine was not listed in their computer he gave it me.  It was fine & I would buy it at a reasonable price.

Burchell’s wagon at the confluence.  He flew the Union flag every Sunday.  He is giving gifts (=tobacco usually) to a group of San (1:389)

Burchell’s men shot three hippos (1:409  1:418  1:427).  One floated across to the opposite bank & took a long time to get back, then the trees grew so tightly they could not easily haul it out of the river & it was in poor condition from being in the sun all day so they abandoned it.  They cut up the other two & dried the lean meat.  The really fatty bits had to be salted.  Some San from the other side came over & helped them get them out of the river & cut them up (1:415).  By custom they got the guts, bones & head (1:413). Each hippo was further upstream so although Burchell had established his camp right at the confluence he had to move up to load the meat ending up at present day Schmidtsdrif.

The hunting party had ended up with 10 wagons as the locals wanted to join in the action and also cut reeds for their houses (1:381 1:401).  Burchell issued some of them with gunpowder and shot on the condition that he received half the proceeds.  He was continually verneuked (1:438).  Burchell titles the pages describing this as ‘Dishonesty’ ‘Disappointed’ & ‘Covetousness’; he became highly disillusioned by the locals. A huge amount of the meat was eaten by the locals right there.

When his wagon was filled with dried meat they returned directly to Klaarwater (1:431).  The trip took 26 days (1:476) but he was now ready for the next leg.
Burchell’s engraving of the head of the female hippo.

I like this one by Daniell.

This is a Le Vaillant picture.  In fact most of his pictures were painted by other artists based on Le Vaillant’s descriptions & sketches.  This guy drew a pig pretending to be a kitten– literally.

Another Le Vaillant picture, this time a portrait.  A wonderful picture in my opinion.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 11, 2010, 12:29:08 pm
The Vaal & Gariep are significant rivers but the San crossed them quite easily.  As Dicey notes the Gariep is probably the largest river on earth that had nothing more than a floating log as watercraft before the Europeans arrived (37).  Burchell watched them crossing from the far side and points out that they were nomadic so a canoe or other watercraft did not fit in with their lifestyle (1:415). Hippos they could manage and, luckily, crocodiles were never in the Gariep or Vaal (why?).  It was a willow log with a branch poked into it which went under one armpit & over the shoulder. Daniell gives this picture.

But I like this one of Le Vaillant being ferried across the Olifants river.  Look at him, fully dressed with ostrich feathers around his hat being pulled across the river still wearing his shoes.  There is a little about Le Vaillant at the end of this post.

Here Le Vaillant excels.  Boat of the coastal Kaffirs (sic) must refer to the Xhosa as that is where he went – looks like they already had marine plywood & Le Vaillant was there in 1782.  In fact the first boat on the Gariep was 1834 by Andrew Smith right here at the confluence. (Dicey 89 though he states that Robert Gordon launched a boat at the mouth in 1779). I enjoy Le Vaillant’s work.

Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 11, 2010, 12:31:56 pm
From the confluence back to Douglas and across the bridge to the northern side and along to Schmidtsdrif.  The Vaal from the bridge at Schmidtsdrif.

Next to the new bridge is the old bridge where you can see branches and stuff still on it from the last time the river flooded over it.

I went to have a good look at it but refrained from actually riding on it. Two of the locals were fishing there.

I then went to see the settlement where those fishermen came from. 

I showed pictures of the San hunters with arrows stuck into their hair.  Here is the story about this settlement taken from Dicey (page39)

I was amazed to discover, that very afternoon, that there are still San living near the confluence. .. Laurence asked Jakob about the army fatigues he was wearing. 'Ons is Boesmans van Schmidtsdrift… For the next hour they talked of the San of Schmidtsdrift, a tented village near the Vaal, fifty kilometres upstream of the confluence. In 1972 the !Xu and Khwe people were chased out of Angola into Namibia by the MPLA, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. Three years later Angola gained its independence from Portugal and the colonial war became a civil war. South Africa took the side of Jonas Savimbi's UNITA against the communist-backed MPLA. Many of the ousted San enlisted with the South African Defence Force, serving as both trackers and combatants. A friend of mine had been a medic in the feared 201 Battalion.

Their badge was a witborskraai or white-chested crow. Its black body signified the fighting-men, all San, and its chest the white core that commanded each platoon of thirty men — a commissioned officer, a two-stripe corporal and a medic. The MPLA were terrified of the San, who would sneak up on them and fight at close quarters. If a San soldier was killed, his friends would break ranks and pursue the killer, for weeks if need be. South Africa left the fray when the Berlin Wall came down. There were fears of reprisals against the fighting San when SWAPO, an ally of the MPLA, won Namibia's first democratic elections. The San were given the option of moving to South Africa, and in 1990 some seven thousand members of the !Xu and Khwe communities arrived at Schmidtsdrift. They were promised houses within six months. Eleven years on and they are still, said Jakob, living in military tents.

I was struck by the irony of San people being brought to South Africa to secure their safety. Seen in the light of history, this borders on the surreal. Of all the blood-soaked episodes in South Africa's past, few rival the systematic and protracted extermination of the San as a people. They were seen as vermin by Boer and Baster, Xhosa and Khoi alike. Thousands of San were hunted down or, if they were lucky, enslaved:

That is why I wanted those pictures of the San warriors.  Think about the plight of that race.

Then back to Griekwastad.  This is the sort of bush that Burchell must have been going through 200 years ago.

It was not easy trekking through that country.  Read this (1:482)

The whole waggon-load of meat which we brought to Klaarwater as a stock for our future journey, was totally eaten up in four days, although I had nobody but Philip to feed. It was not consumed by the crows, nor by the vultures, but by the Klaarwater Hottentots, who are by no means inferior to them in the power of smelling out meat, wherever it may be concealed. From an early hour in the morning, till late at night, my waggons were constantly visited by men, women, and children, whose only object was to eat. But, from the moment the last of the stock was gone, from that moment not one visitor more came near me. Yet still it was impossible to account for this rapid disappearing of the meat, without supposing that they came secretly and stole it by night, as there was nothing to pre¬vent them but their own sense of honesty ; nobody sleeping at the waggons but myself, and Philip remaining every night at the village to be in attendance on Gert. Nothing could be more vexatious than this loss, or, more correctly speaking, robbery, as provisions were not easily to be purchased, and a large supply not by any solicitations to be obtained from the inhabitants of this place.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 11, 2010, 12:33:35 pm

Francois le Vaillant.

 *Wiki* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Le_Vaillant)

This website (http://web.slais.ucl.ac.uk/2004/p036/p036slc/) provides an introduction to the flamboyant figure of François Le Vaillant (1753-1824). Hugely popular in his lifetime for his engaging and colourful travel accounts, Le Vaillant is best known today for his spectacular books of ornithology, but his reputation has always been controversial. His travel books, written after his return to France, are considerably fictionalised, and his bird books include conspicuous falsehoods and fabrications, but recent research has begun to rehabilitate his reputation.

Here you will find out about his life, his travels and his contribution to ornithology. The image gallery contains a small selection of images from his published works and from some surviving collections of water-colour paintings produced by him or under his guidance.

In 1782 he travelled along the southern coast to the Great Fish river and back along the Swartberg.  In 1783 he went up the west coast to the Gariep river.  This was 30 years before Burchell did his trek. His accounts of these journeys came out in 1790 and 1795 (delay due to the slight inconvenience of the French Revolution taking place).

Le Vaillant's travel books mingle adventure, anecdote and natural history, all told with great vividness and style. Le Vaillant is the hero of every episode and portrays himself as a Rousseauist man of feeling, sharing his emotions and opinions about everything he encounters. From a literary point of view, his travels are of interest for the intermingling of factual narrative and fictionalized episodes, and for his contribution to the myth of the noble savage. Despite the imaginative elements, his books are a valuable source for descriptions of indigenous peoples and the Dutch Cape colony, and his social commentary shows an early critical awareness of colonial problems.
(From the same source)

His work was badly reviewed by historians, geographers and ornithologists because they were expecting perfect accuracy but they found exaggeration and fabrication mixed up with really good work.  Le Vaillant was writing for the general public as well as the specialists.  If you publish in South African Journal of Botany you had better be terse and accurate but if you want to describe the same plants in Wild Things aimed at the general public you had better write an entirely new article.  I dismissed him as a fool based on the professional opinion but since reading the introduction to the recent Van Riebeeck Society reprint of his first book I now understand what he was trying to do and how exceedingly well he did it.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 12, 2010, 11:19:02 am
Graaff-Reinet Trip

Burchell waited seven months in Cape Town before starting his travels largly on the advice of the Klaarwater missionaries.  Then it was almost nine months before Burchell could get away from Klaarwater.  They arrived Sept 1811.  He had to go down to Graaff-Reinet five months later to recruit staff, that took three months. It was some weeks after his return when he could get away finally.  When they arrived in Klaarwater the relationship between Burchell and the missionaries started to deteriorate. What was this all about?  

Burchell says three men men would be enough as crew per wagon for local travel; 1 leader (person who walks at the front), 1 driver & 1 to look after the spare oxen (1:166).  He found soon after leaving Cape Town that his wagon was overloaded to such an extent that it required 14 oxen to draw it through loose sand instead of 10 (1:174) so he bought a second smaller reconditioned wagon in Tulbagh (1:184) which meant he needed double the staff and oxen. He travelled in convoy with two of the Klaarwater missionaries through the Karoo, Anderson & Kramer, who had been in Cape Town.  This was both for their party knowing the way across (and most importantly the watering places) and for mutual defence as it was San (Bushman) territory.  The San were in conflict with the trekboers both over occupation of the Karoo (particularly east of the Sak river) and for the wild game there.  This made the San hostile to anyone in their region.  Besides that there was a party of Xhosa who were in rebellion against their chiefs reportedly waiting to ambush them in the Kareeberg (1:185, 1:223, 1:227).  The missionaries’ party had extra Khoi & Griqua men who filled in for Burchell for the crossing but they would only be available as far as Klaarwater.  Burchell intended hiring people in Klaarwater for his onward travels.  When the whole party united (near Fraserburg) there were 97 people in 14 wagons (2 for Burchell, 4 for the missionaries & 8 for the Griquas returning to Klaarwater) (1:266).  At Celeryfontein they came across a party of five Xhosas (1:268) who ‘accosted us in an easy manly tone, and with manners perfectly free from servile timidity’ – they turned out to be the ones they had been warned against.  Burchell was always disinclined to believe the alarmist reports he was to get throughout his travels.

When they get to Klaarwater Burchell had only 3 men, Speelman & Philip from Cape Town & Gert from Groen Kloof (Mamre) (1:513).  He needed 6 more for his journey north.  His problems really arose due to an official party sent by the Governor in 1809 to go overland by an inland route to Mozambique had been killed after passing through Klaarwater where they had recruited two locals. (1:50, 1:232 1:498).  The missionaries did not want to lose any more of their flock or allow outsiders to influence them.

Burchell had quietly ascertained before they got to Klaarwater that his men were happy to go on a long trek with him as shown in this quote (1:330):

With respect to the long journey before us, none of the men were acquainted with my intentions; and I now thought it time to ascertain the degree of willingness with which they would enter into my plan. Without being directly informed of this, they were told that my object was to penetrate far into the interior of the country, and that we should, most probably, be a long time absent. To this none made the least objection; but, seemingly pleased at the idea of a rambling life, and in high spirits at finding themselves now in the midst of a kraal of people of their own nation, they declared that even a twelvemonth's journey would not exhaust either their patience or their strength. This declaration was most agreeable and satisfactory, as I had calculated that it would be possible to reach the Portuguese settlements on the western coast, in nearly that time.

I distributed amongst them various useful articles, and assured them that whatever could be supplied for their comfort should always be freely given, as long as our stores lasted; and that they would never be put forward into hardships which I would not myself participate in. I thought it proper, while we were on such good terms with each other, to state, without reserve, that, although they might confidently depend on my never feeling dissatisfied with any of them, so long as he conducted himself to the best of his ability and judgement; yet, as it was indispensably necessary for the general safety, that each one should zealously do that part of the duty which had been allotted to him, that they might feel equally certain that I should not overlook any wilful neglect.

This mutual declaration created a perfect confidence on both sides; and there appeared to be established betwixt us, a correct understanding, and cordial good-will. To confirm and strengthen this, I permitted them, without restraint, to visit their new friends at the kraal during our stay.

I made that a long quote so that it is complete. Note that they were quite happy to accompany him wherever he was going even if it took a year (although he did not reveal that he intended going to what is now Angola).  He sums up the standing between himself & them in the last paragraph.  Now read what happened once they were in Klaarwater.

Burchell had the necessary men enlisted before they arrived in Klaarwater but they seemed to change their minds once there. The missionaries had actively (but clandestinely) prevented any of the locals from enlisting to accompany Burchell further (1:517  1:526).  He was thus stuck in Klaarwater unless he could make alternative arrangements.  Burchell arranged for Gert to go to the Roggeveld with a party about to leave then go by himself to Cape Town and recruit the necessary men & return to the Roggeveld for the return with the same party.  Anderson foiled this by lying to Burchell (1:527) saying they were only due to leave in another three weeks time (which would have not left enough time for Gert to get men in Cape Town & meet up for the return journey).  Burchell found out he had been lied to later and was still so disgusted by the missionarie’s duplicity when he wrote the book that he could only record these events in a particularly dry and brief passage (1:528).

Burchell then came up with the idea of going himself to Graaff-Reinet to recruit staff.  Graaff-Reinet is much closer than Cape Town but no one had ever travelled there from Klaarwater.  He went to Anderson to tell him of his intention and ask for assistance in recruiting men for this journey.  Once more Anderson was duplicitous (1:531, 1:533 1:551) so that Burchell was forced to clandestinely go back to the next village, Kloof, where he managed to get a few helpers (1:542).  He had difficulty because most of the available men had left on the Cape Town trip on schedule (which Anderson had lied about; so Gert could have gone & succeeded in the recruiting mission). However he did manage to get some men and returning to Klaarwater the missionaries did all they could to prevent him going (1:551).

The missionaries remained mere lookers-on to my preparations, but not silent ones.  They ceased not till the last moment to discourage me from the attempt, and Mr. Anderson seriously asked me to give him a written paper, in which it should be stated that they had used their utmost endeavours to dissuade me from so perilous an undertaking; so that in case of fatal termination, they might stand cleared from the imputation of having contributed to it by any encouragement or advice of theirs.

Burchell’s party of eight (2:139) went by riding oxen & taking pack oxen for their luggage though Burchell himself rode a horse.

This was a much quicker than going by wagon; he expected to travel 48km per day so it should take him 11 or 12 days each way (1:532).  In fact the trip took three months.  In Graaff-Reinet Burchell had an official letter from the Governor instructing the landdrost to assist him.  The landdrost had recently died and the acting landdrost wanted specific instructions from his distant superiors before he would help Burchell in any way.  Later the landdrost arranged for five Hottentots to work for him (2:154).  Burchell soon found out that the landdrost had given him the worst of the tronk Hottentors (2:158).  Burchell found out about five other tronk Hottentots who were suitable.  The landdrost prevaricated about allowing Burchell to have the ones he wanted (2:160).  In the end Burchell got one of his selection plus three of the landdrost’s  & later he picked up another one (2:166).  Eventually the one Burchell selected turns out to be a star & the others awful.

Burchell was the first colonist to travel from Klaarwater to Graaff-Reinet.  He had a compass so knew the direction to travel though they followed the Brak river. On this map the middle track is this trip, later on he went to Graaff-Reinet by wagon following the eastern tack.  You can also see the Hippo Hunt track.  The track to the north is the next posts about Litakun & what I call the Giraffe Trip.

On my bike trip I did not do this leg though I went to Graaff-Reinet when following the later part of Burchell’s travels.  They crossed the Gariep at a different place which I went looking for later as well as where they crossed the Sneeuberg.  Burchell shot two rhinos along the way. He presented the British Museum with seven rhino skins on his return *source* (http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/index.php?s=1&act=refs&CODE=ref_detail&id=1165241105) which included the white rhino he shot near Kuruman which was the first white rhino identified .

Just eighty years after having been "discovered" (near present-day Kuruman) and named by William Burchell in 1817, the white rhino had been hunted so excessively in South Africa and beyond, that just 30 individuals remained in a small corner of Zululand. After the establishment of the Umfolozi Game Reserve in 1897, however, its numbers slowly increased so that by the 1960s, surplus animals were translocated to other reserves so as to ensure the conservation of the species. The Natal Parks Board can rightly claim to have saved this great creature from extinction. Since 1960, over 3 000 white rhino have been released from Umfolozi-Hluhluwe into reserves such as Mkuze, Kruger, Pilanesberg, Phinda Private Game Reserve, Waterberg and Madikwe Safari Lodge. Many of these have subsequently sold rhino offspring to smaller sanctuaries.
*Source* (http://www.wildwatch.com/living_library/mammals-2/white-rhinoceros)


Daniell picture.

There is one quotation that I must include.  Burchell went in a horse drawn wagon after leaving Graaff-Reinet.  His observation (2:171).

Our road presented nothing remarkable; or rather, perhaps, the rapid travelling of a vehicle drawn by six horses in hand, left little time for making remarks of any kind. We flew past every object, and, hardly had I turned my eyes to any thing remarkable by the roadside, than it was already behind us. Such expedition was, indeed, a novelty to me, and very different from the rate to which I had been accustomed during the last ten months; but, as a traveller desirous of observing, the features and productions of a strange country, I abhorred galloping horses, and would have preferred sitting behind a team of my own oxen, whose steady pace seemed to have been measured exactly to suit an observer and admirer of nature.

I have a 650 Dakar but prefer the 200 TW for much the same reason (amongst others).

Burchell’s difficulty in finding workers was no different to what any other employer experienced.  There was a shortage of available khoi labourers.  The Xhosa had not been subjugated and it was not possible to make a San labour.  As a consequence the Cape had to continually import slaves from Africa & India and the East Indies to meet its need for labour.  It also resulted in much resentment of the activities of missionaries as they provided shelter to khoi so they were not available as labour.

This is Speelman, the reliable man from Cape Town.  He was ex army and became the hunter who supplied the food once they left Klaarwater (2:238).

This is Juli the star from Graaf-Reinet

EDIT November 2014.  I came across this site where there is a report of retracing Burchell's route from Hraaff-Reinet to the Gariep on bicycle. http://www.mediaclubsouthafrica.com/visitsa/3355-following-in-burchell-s-tracks (http://www.mediaclubsouthafrica.com/visitsa/3355-following-in-burchell-s-tracks)
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Abel on June 12, 2010, 01:21:03 pm
Thankyou for sharing this trip and info am fascinated by the history and knowledge that go into this.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Pickle on June 12, 2010, 03:54:37 pm
+1 Abel.

A lot of research and clearley a passion.  I would truly love an opportunity to do a trip of this sort with an enthusiastic historian educating us along the way.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 12, 2010, 04:12:16 pm
I am pleased some of you are enjoying it.  I was concerned that it would not be really appropriate in Ride Reports so asked the Moderator if it would be OK to post it here. I knew nothing about him really, I got his book & read it then rode as close as practicable to where he went.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Andy660 on June 12, 2010, 09:57:20 pm
Yes TT , Finally got around to reading your report.
I wish I had the time on my hands to do the interesting rides you do.
And the history , architecture,and geography , I find fascinating.

Thanks for an enjoyable report , AGAIN.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Tonteldoos on June 13, 2010, 08:31:30 am
This was now verrry Nice  :thumleft:  :thumleft:
Not only was it a nice read but informative and a cultural and all combined into one.

One thing that struck me was that we passed Griekwastad en-route to the bash.. and none of us (me think) stopped for the scenery only for Petrol..

This made me think whenever I go riding again I should make a point of reading up on all the dorpies.
Karelsgraf is a pristine example.

Thanx for sharing!!
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 13, 2010, 10:50:37 am


Anderson had predicted that Burchell and his party would be killed on the journey to Graaff-Reinet but instead of rejoicing at their safe return they ignored them as far as possible (2:223).  Burchell got out of there as fast as possible which was two weeks after getting back from Graaff-Reinet.  I didn’t care for the place either(2:238) so pressed on to Kuruman after doing the Hippo Hunt circuit. I followed minor gravel roads staying as close to Burchell’s route as possible up to Kuruman.

Parts of it were lovely.  Those are the Kuruman Hills.

On the other side of the hills on the right of this picture is Lohatla & Sishen.  The road changed to this lovely red colour due to the iron oxide (it had been even darker earlier).

Camped in the municipal campsite.  Next day I went & had a look at the famous eye.  Municipal strikes everywhere so I was fortunate that there was anyone to let me in.

There is a little waterfall seemingly keeping the eye full.  In fact it is deception; here is the plastic pipe feeding the waterfall.  I know from visiting many years ago that the actual spring is at the bottom of the pond & you could see the water bubbling up when I was there before.


There were many fish in the Eye at Kuruman including barbell.  This is Burchell’s drawing of a barbell.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 13, 2010, 10:51:34 am
A little outside town is the Moffat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Moffat) Church complex.  The church.

The Moffat’s house.  The  Moffat Mission fell into ruin during Apartheid.  The Bantu Education Act & the Group Area Act resulted in schooling and worship ending there.  The teachers & pupils left as did the congregation so the buildings fell into ruin. They have since been restored.

I am not certain what this is but I particularly like it (probably the old school building).  Local stone used very neatly & nice proportions.

The Moffat church is 5km from the eye in Kuruman.  The water flows past in this stream which slowly peters out – Burchell mentions it.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 13, 2010, 10:53:49 am
I headed north east to Dithakong. On map #2722 it is marked as being quite extensive & it is but it is just a scattering of huts and RDP style buildings.  When Burchell came here in 1812 it was the capital for the local tribe of Setswana named Bachapin by the colonists.  The countryside has now changed with bigger and more established trees than there were up to Griekwastad.

Picture right in the center of the marked settlement.  See what I mean about not being tightly developed?

Burchell wanted to spend time in Litakun to get to know the people and their customs.  He spent just less than one month there.

These are pictures of Latakun (Dithakong) from Burchell. Notice that each house is inside a lapa of woven branches.

This second one is a three page fold out picture.  You can see the detail and care that Burchell took with his pictures.  When Burchell arrived they were expected and welcomed (2:359).  He stayed, as intended, three weeks so that he could ‘learn the character and customs of the people’ (2:353).  Most of his staff were extremely nervous the entire time there (2:353) – remember they were the social dregs from Graaff-Reinet.  Burchell describes Litakun as a collection of little villages each centered on a chieftain (2:513) comprising about 5 000 people (2:514) spread over 2.5 km N-S x 3.2 km E-W (2:515).

Samuel Daniell had been to Litakun in 1801 (Burchell there in 1812) in the first party of Europeans to visit it, a party of 40 people coming to trade for cattle led by Dr. Sommerville & Mr. Truter.

Samuel Daniell (1775–1811) was a British artist on the P.J. Truter and William Somerville expedition of 1801-02 into the southern African interior.

Daniell arrived in the Cape on 9 December 1799. He was appointed by Lieut.-General Dundas, who became his patron and to whom the first volume of his book, African Scenery, was dedicated.

On this expedition, Daniell sketched the people and natural history that he found around the Orange (Gariep) River in what is now the Northern Cape.

On his return to England, with the assistance of his brother William and uncle Thomas Daniell, he used these sketches to produce thirty watercolours for his magnificent folio, African Scenery and Animals - one of the great plate books of the 19th century.
*Source* (http://www.southafricaholiday.org.uk/culture/fp_samuel_daniell.htm)

We have a copy of the Daniell book  and it was this one in particular that I wanted to try and find.  The commentary for the reprint of the Daniell book says that Litakun was in five different places – 1 minor and 3 major moves.  One of the minor moves took place between Daniell’s picture and Burchell’s picture. See Burchell V2P512 also for info about the town moves.

This is the picture in the town where the road crosses the Moshowing river.  Looking upstream:
Looking downstream.

This is obviously not what Daniell was looking at.  It could easily be in the Burchell pictures though.  As I was taking the pictures a friendly man stopped and asked why I was taking pictures.  I showed him the Daniell picture & said I was trying to find that place.  Emanuel (his name) did not recognise the places but was very interested in knowing that Dithakong had been written about.  I promised to send him a photostat of the relevant parts of the Burchell book & I had decent prints of the colour pictures made – the long fold out one on A3 paper. Emanuel.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 13, 2010, 10:55:09 am
Since the Daniell site is somewhere nearby I went downstream as that looked most promosing.
This?  Right shape but not nearly high enough.

Bigger view from the other side a little further downstream @ S27° 3’ 33.5”  E23° 54’ 6,5”.

Same place looking upstream.

I then went looking upstream.  The whole settlement is spread out; this is the sort of twee spoor I was riding on to get to the likely Daniell picture spots.

Start of the upstream sites.  There were seven pictures of the upstream sites but I have cut it down to three. This is a bit stony for the Daniell picture.  In the commentary to the picture they state that the river only runs for three months in the year.  Daniell was clearly there when the river was at its prime.

Further upstream.

I think this spot is the closest.

Stitched pictures for a wide angle view @ S27° 6’  42.8”  E23° 55’ 10.9”
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 13, 2010, 10:57:04 am
My track looking for the sites.

Here is a second Daniell view, similar to the previous setting but closer to what I found upstream.

There are two other Daniell pictures.  That is a big clay mielie storage silo.  Notice the umbrella like sunshade of ostrich feathers; also on the first Daniell picture and the next one.

Here is a picture of a woman making one of the mielie storage silos (2:520).  The women also built the houses entirely without any input from the men (2:455  2:515).  The men attended to the cattle and gathered in the mootsi (public enclosure) to chat about social and political matters (2:371  2:386  2:522).  The women attended to the fields also.

Daniell shows the roof extended past the walls and was supported by poles.  I saw a few huts like that but, unfortunately, only took one photo of a poor example.

Burchell has this plan and section view of a Bachapin hut.  On the outside is a wall of woven tree branches enclosing the ‘erf’, also to be seen in the Daniell pictures.  In the drawing the entrance into the front yard is at the bottom of the picture.  Burchell writes

Plate 9 is a plan, with a geometrical elevation, or rather section, of a bachapin dwelling. In order to show its structure, it is here represented as cut through-jar to the side of the door-way in the outer fence.  In the ground-plan, A is the veranda; b, the outer room; c, the inner, or central room; D, the storeroom; E, the corn-house; F,F corn-jars; G, the servants’ house; H, the fireplace; and I, the outer fence.

I have shown that Burchell was an excellent cartographer.  Here he displays his abilities as an architect and draughtsman.  

An engraving of a hut of one of the chieftans.  Burchell remarks that it was much more modest than many of the other huts at Litakun (2:521).  Status was earned by your social behaviour it seems and not by your outward appearance as is now the custom.  The yard enclosed by the reed fence had a public front section and a private rear section.  There was a screen wall inside the house so the interior was not visible from the outside.

An engraving of a ‘Bachapin’ hut.

I stated that the ‘Bachapin’ men spent a lot of time talking.  Burchell includes this engraving of himself at one such meeting.

The chief endlessly demanded, at such meetings, that Burchell trade a musket as the locals felt very threatened by their neighbouring clan who had recently obtained muskets (2:376).  This haggling and demanding continued until they obtained one by a ruse (2:405).
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 14, 2010, 10:58:23 am

Giraffe Trip

I was really looking for the site of the pictures of Litakun by Samuel Daniell.    When I had finished with the picture quest my plan was to head to the N14 (Johannesburg - Upington road)  where there were some self catering chalets according to T4A.  T4A was wrong as the place had closed years ago; my experience on this trip was that T4A information is hopelessly out of date.  Time and again during this 16 day trip it was wrong as in this example.  I had the latest T4A installed the day before I left.  For the Groot Karoo it only shows the biggest roads – even less than Garmin Streetmaps. The road to the N14 was pretty corrugated & my camera was taking a beating as I had become casual about the foam packing (unrelated story behind that) before this trip so I decided to carry on to Vryburg and stay there.  Then I could rejoin my intended route up to Heuningvlei further on where the road should be better (roads tend to be most corrugated where they are most used – around the bigger towns). 

The husband of the owner of the very nice Cosy Corner self catering place was Johan.  He is an engineer working for the North West roads department.  I did not ask what his position is but it is clearly quite senior.  I am a Capie who was travelling in Black Africa (part of the old Bophuthatswana); something I have precious little knowledge about.  I had decided before  leaving Cape Town that in Litakun I would see whether I felt safe to do the next stage around through Heuningvlei & down to Hotazel by myself.  In fact I felt completely unchallenged as I rode around Dithakong so that I was quite prepared to stealth camp alongside the road as there is masses of unoccupied territory.  However there is no petrol available in Dithakong that I saw (quite a big filling station that ceased trading some time ago-T4A wrong again) so the trip out to the N14 was required in any case.  When Johan knew what my intentions were he came and gave me lots of advice.  He is going to lead a group of quads all along the Moshaweng river (the one I had been photographing) from Dithakong to Severn.  Anyway he assured me that the road was fine, there is no petrol before Hotazel (Black Rock possibly?) and nowhere to stay or get much to eat or drink and that the people are not aggressive.  I had been a bit apprehensive about this unknown & unfamiliar territory but now all of that had been allayed.

I call this leg the Giraffe Trip because on Burchell’s map he labels one of his stops as Giraffe Station and has a note ‘First Camelopardalis’ as the extreme northern point..  Burchell’s volume 2 ends as he is about to set off.  His map shows where he went after leaving Ditakong and there are the McKay maps which show it on a 1940s road map.  From Vryburg I got onto the D311 gravel road then took the D3492 across to Heuningvlei.  Then some un-numbered road (in the 3 Mapsource maps but T4A does not show it at all) down to Hotazel.

The good gravel road on the northwards leg.  Johan calls it the Bona Bona road which means Bones.

At the end of this road is where Burchell marked the giraffes (camelopardalis).

We have now gone past the end of volume 2.  Volume 3 was intended but never came out.  750 of volume 1 were published; it came out in 1822 (that was 7 years after his return to Britain) (1:i11).  The second volume came out in 1824 but as the publisher had been disappointed by the sales of the first volume consequently only 500 of the second volume were printed (1:i14).  In the introduction to the 1967 facsimile reprint there is a detailed (& very informative) introduction.  They say that it is obvious but not certain that a third volume was intended even though they quote how Burchell ends volume 2 with (2:510):

The narrative of these travels having now proceeded as far as it was intended, the two following chapters, containing observations extracted principally from the subsequent, part of the journal, are added for the purpose of completing the work as an account on the inhabitants...

They seem to view the word journal as used above to refer to the diary Burchell kept.  So the word work would then refer to the published books.  I don’t agree with them because Burchell writes this in a footnote volume 2  page 326:

I may be allowed here to make the remark, although it belongs properly to a part of the journal not comprised in the present volume .....

Also there this footnote in volume 2 page 146:

A further account of Graaffreynet and its natural history, belongs more properly to a later period of my journal; for which it is therefore reserved.

They may wish to refrain from being certain but I am sure that a third volume was intended.  Burchell took so long in preparing his work for publication that he missed his market.  As pointed out in the introduction, it would have been ten years after the event when the third volume would have appeared and other later travellers had already issued their books by then. 

Burchell took too long in preparing his books so missed the market for the third volume.  His note books (except one) have been lost.

Now the bush where the giraffe was hunted looks like this – pretty much the same as when Burchell was there?
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 14, 2010, 11:00:07 am
There are thus no more Burchell pictures to try to replicate.  Here are some by Francoise Le Vaillant who I introduced in the Hippo Hunt post.  He did not come up towards Heuningvlei but he did shoot a giraffe in the Richtersveld area; the stuffed skin was one of the first to be seen in Europe.  Giraffe were still very mysterious to Europeans in Burchell’s time.  Here are the Le Vaillant pictures.

A young giraffe.

A female.

A male.

Head of a giraffe.  The first three show his ability to do accurate pictures which are also artistic.  This one, I think, shows his artistic side particularly well. (Le Vaillant did not do these drawings; the practice was that he made sketches and professional artists made the pictures for publication.)

Skeleton of a giraffe.  This one shows his fantasy side.  It is anatomically wrong in so many details.  There was a public demand for something like this so he satisfied it (he had brought just the skin of a giraffe back to Europe).  This is typical of the work that earned him such a poor reputation.  In fact Le Vaillant had his artist copy a picture from an earlier book  (see page 116 of 1973 Library of Parliament Francois le Vaillant vol 2).

This is a particularly well known picture of his.  It was at the end of his first journey book as a teaser for the second book.  Imaginary trees and Le Vaillant dressed in the highest fashion with two pistols in his belt, the hunting gun in hand and ostrich feathers in his hat. To me it shows what a character he was.  It is fun.  The giraffe was never in the camp and it is disputed that he actually shot it.

You can judge from the number of pictures Le Vaillant produced how fascinated the Europeans were by giraffes and why Burchell so much wanted to see them. He presented the British Museum with 43 of the best of the 120 skins he brought back from this trip.  A German museum had offered to buy the skins but Burchell felt the patriotic thing was to donate the finest and rarest to the British Museum (1:383).  It included two giraffe skins.  Four years later only seven were stuffed and only five put on display.  Burchell was very annoyed by this.  A year later he went to the museum to look at the horns of a Hartbees he had given them and was mortified to find that an old packing case they had stuffed many of the skins into was now swarming with live moths and maggots and the skins rendered useless (2:337).
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 14, 2010, 11:03:23 am
The road running westwards to Heuningvlei.  As Johan had said, the roads were good. You could stealth camp anywhere along these roads.

I have written an ode in praise of windpumps (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=26447.msg472531#msg472531).  The Cape is reputed to be windy but I have never seen a windpump blasted like this in the Cape yet saw a few north of the Gariep river.


Locals riding on it.  It was only just dry enough to ride on (this is a usual cart track in the dry season). Burchell took his wagon on there and camped.

So I went out there too.

Then you turn south for the long run down to Hotazel. 

I have wanted to see Hotazel since noticing it on a map in primary school.  When my grandmother explained the name I thought it was a naughty thing to have done & I was very surprised it had been allowed – it tickled my fancy. Here is the story behind the name as recounted by T.V.Bulpin Discovering Southern Africa page 303:

In 1915-17 a full-scale land survey of the area was undertaken by Dirk Roos and Hendrik Wessels. They were responsible for surveying and naming many of the farms: Wessels (named by Roos after his colleague) Mamathwane (bats), and the celebrated Hotazel. This farm on the Gamagara River was surveyed by Roos assisted by J W Waldeck. The day was blazing hot and in the camp that evening Roos practically collapsed. 'What a day, what a place! Hot as hell.' he exclaimed. 'That 's it', said Waldeck 'the perfect name!' So they called the farm Hotazel without realising that the ground beneath them was almost solid manganese.

Another place I had wanted to see from those days is Verneukpan.  Now my little TW has taken me to both.

The whole area around here is riddled with manganese and iron; the British had sent a geologist here as early as 1872.  Manganese mining started in 1925 and a whole succession of companies mined for it in many different places with varying success.  In the mid 1950s a geological survey was done by Leslie Boardman (he had been coming to the area since 1937).  Here is what Bulpin writes:

Using a magnetometer, Boardman conducted a careful geophysical search of the area near Black Rock. The instrument detected a great deposit of manganese below the sands on the farm Wessels. More deposits were found on the farms Smartt, Rissik, Goold and Alamathwane. What the instrument had detected was the greatest manganese deposit in the world.

S A Manganese bought Smartt. Boardman continued prospecting. Farmers were always com-ing to him with reports of manganese. A diviner from Lichtenberg, a Mr van Rensburg, was employed by the farms to find water and he reported seeing black rocks beneath the surface on farms such as Langdon and Hotazel. Almost unwillingly Boardman was induced to visit these farms. He was staggered at what he found on Hotazel. The magnetometer overshot its own scale! Only an ore body of unimaginable size could have had such an effect.

Hotazel is a company town (BHP Billiton) where I did not wish to stay so I went on to Kathu (though I still think of it as Sishen) where there is a municipal camping site.  It is called Khai-Appel.  In the Cape we have Kei-Apples (in fact I planted one on the hillside behind my house in memory of my mother).  Never heard of a Khai Appel & it is not in my Trees of Southern Africa but an interesting looking fruit, but not edible I was told.

The camping site was municipal; as was the one in Kuruman.  I now know to avoid them.  They cater for the wishes of the majority which seems to be stolen shower heads, broken and dirty lavatories, basins with missing taps, scruffy walls and no hot water.  They may be cheap but I am part of the minority that wishes for something better.  I camped twice after this but both were commercial and they were excellent.

Right in Kathu village is the best thorn tree veld that I saw anywhere. 

I suspect this is how it looked when Burchell was hunting giraffe.  Those are kameeldorings which used to have the scientific name Acacia giraffe but it had to be changed as it was found to have originally been called Acacia erioloba and the original name takes precedence.  In English the Afrikaans name has been mistranslated so it is named Camel Thorn instead of the correct Giraffe Thorn, so named because it is much liked by them.  From K.C. Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa:

The pods form an excellent fodder for stock: farmers say that animals pick them up as fast as they fall to the ground and that there is a noticeable increase in the milk-yield of cows that have eaten them.

I went to have a look at Sishen.  This is the overburden dump though it could be mistaken as for natural hill.

I went to see the big retired Wabco dump truck.

The steel structure painted brown at the front of the Wabco dumper is the pantograph for drawing electricity from overhead cables just like electric trains.  The diesel engine drives a generator which powers the wheel motors while the truck is off the overhead cable but then it connects up to the overhead electric cables for the long climb out of the mine to the tip as electricity is cheaper than diesel for these machines.

One of my careers was as foreman in the tyre retreading industry.  My area was re-lugging of earthmover tyres.  These machines have 36x51  tyres. The largest I ever dealt with were 21x35 &  37.5x33.  Our autoclave and buffing machine could handle tyres up to 3,3m diameter so these tyres would have just fitted in.   To metricate those tyre sizes as they are all in inches whereas bike tyres are mixed  mm section x inch rim, in bike convention those sizes are 915x51 in the picture & 533x35  &  953x33 that I worked with.

Also this old rope shovel.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 14, 2010, 11:05:11 am
I went down to Postmasburg for a late breakfast. Burchell had now completed his Giraffe loop and was back on the track from Klaarwater to Litakun. Just outside the town is a hill with an ancient haematite quarry. Silver/grey flaky iron oxide crystals known as specularite was quarried, ground up, mixed with fat and worked into the hair.  Burchell gives this picture of the hill (he passed this way on his way up to Litakun).

I found the hill no problem.

Hill is called Blinkklip. I walked up there and looked all over for the quarry but did not find it.  The joke is on me as now that I write this I read (2:255):

The entrance to the mine is in front, at the foot of the rock; but is not visible in this point of view.

He says the mine is 6m high by 9m deep – possibly I did not recognise it as being a mine. Antonia (wife) was here some years ago on an archaeological excursion and she has been to the quarry.  Bulpin says there are several similar places Logagena and Gatkoppies which are ‘riddled with excavations’ so possibly Antonia went to one of those.

Just to show you that I had a thorough look here is the picture from the top of the higher peak of the other outcrop and the surrounding countryside that Burchell had seen.   

Here is a picture of a Bachapin at Litakun.  The silver in his hair is the haematite which they called sibelo.  It was only found in this small area so they came here to dig it up and used it in trade with the neighbouring clans.  It was used over quite a wide area.

Another portrait from Litakun.  A girl about 12 years old.  Very pretty and also has sibilo in her hair (note the hair style).

Then through Griekwastad where I had a beer and down towards Douglas again.  Burchell’s giraffe trip is now over.  He then went back down to Graaff-Reinet (he previously went there by horse to recruit staff) and on to what is now Grahamstown
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 15, 2010, 11:40:06 am
Leaving the Gariep

After Griekwastad where I had a beer I headed down towards Douglas again.  I did a 40km diversion to the west as that is where Burchell forded the Gariep.  That area is heavily fenced as it is now Wouterspan Diamond Mine.

Saw this big tortoise on the way back from Wouterspan.  Many tortoises in the Western Cape but I think they are not nearly as common up here.

I stayed at a pretty fancy resort outside Douglas.  Their bar/restaurant is at the river’s edge & had been 3m underwater some weeks ago when they opened the sluices at the Vaal Dam.

I tried to camp one night then stay in a self catering the next where I could wash my clothes and work on my computer (trip log, photos and Garmin) Slept well in the expensive place.  Had my phone on to see the time.  2 sms during the night – did not read until morning.  My grandson was born at 2h20.

The river is wide and sluggish here because of a barrage a little downstream.

I wanted to see the barrage as it has an interesting shape.  I got to the river; you can see it is flowing properly here as I am downstream from the barrage now. 

I am going to write a little about the Gariep to Sundays Transfer Scheme later.  It includes this diagram which also shows the little Gariep to Vaal transfer scheme I was wanting to see.
http://www.dwa.gov.za/orange/mid_orange/fish-sun.aspx  Source for excellent description & map.

I think that canal is the one bringing water across from the Gariep.  Right alongside the river in another much smaller canal in amongst the trees.  It was the track alongside that little canal that I was trying to ride.  The trail up to the weir had been heavily washed away & was thick black & exceedingly slippery mud.  No prizes if I got stuck in the sloot by myself so I abandoned that quest. 
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 15, 2010, 11:44:35 am
I then went on another 40 km diversion to try and see the other side of where Burchell crossed the Gariep.  On the way I saw a sign to the Glacial Pavement so I turned off & had a hell of a time actually finding it (keep right if you go there but it is on T4A ).  This is how big the exposed part is.

Here you can see the grooves made by hard stones as they were dragged across the pavement.

Here you can see the hard pebbles in the pavement have been ground down by the grit in the glacier as it moved over the pavement.

I wrote a long thing about the Geology of the Karoo
*here* (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=39072.msg759570;topicseen#new) Which includes this picture (notice the note on the left)

That explains the scratches and flat surface.  Here is another diagram from there showing how the base pavement rock was formed (notice labels ‘fine rock flour’ and ‘boulders dropped from melting icebergs’)

This picture from an earlier  ride report of mine (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=39398.0) shows similar pavement rock in Prince Albert as this was before being glaciated.

The grey is the rock flour made by the glacier as it slid down the mountain (labelled fine rock flour in the diagram) and included are the stones and pebbles – all those white specks are not lichen; they are the ‘boulders dropped from melting iceberg’ in the diagram.

While trying to find the glacial pavement I came across this.  Would any one who knows about it please post what it is.  I appreciate that it is sediment but what is the matrix and when/how was it laid down.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 15, 2010, 11:46:35 am
This is the Gariep river. That is the weir and pump station feeding the water across to the weir I tried to get to on the Vaal.

The weir is upstream from the road bridge.  Downstream is the old bridge. Another pretty bridge like the one at Schmidtsdrif.

I like bridges and wrote a report on some that I saw when motoring across France including the world’s highest bridge *here* (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=29244.0)

When I got to opposite the diamond mine I was again lucky to find a pivot irrigation farm & it was Sunday so I could ride around no problem.  There were dubbeltjie everywhere except in the tractor spoors; I kept having to stop and brush them off my front tyre.  No problem with the back as I had converted to tubeless that end. This is about where Burchell crossed.

The thorn bushes were so close together I could not get a better view.  I tried to check a bit further downstream as I could see the diamond workings on the other side.  It seems they own the land on this side of the Gariep too as there was a big fence again but no sentry towers. 

Then a long road to Hopetown.

The Gariep at Hopetown.  It is usually said that the first diamond was found here in 1866.  The Readers Digest ‘Atlas of Southern Africa’ marks the actual site much closer to Douglas.

After crossing the Gariep where the diamond mine now is Burchell followed  along the southern bank towards the confluence at Douglas then cut across to what he called the Nu-Gariep (Gariep above the confluence with the Vaal) past present day Hopetown to Fluitjieskraal which is about where Orania now is.  He then turned south towards Graaff-Reinet.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 15, 2010, 11:50:34 am


Gariep at Orania from the restaurant.

The koeksuster statue is very well known.  It is about as big as a person; I had expected it to be bigger.  It is a piece of civic sculpture as is the pipe sculpture at the Cape Town Civic Centre.  I like the concept, shape and execution.  The village is enhanced by having it.

Edoardo Villa Sculpture Cape Town (only picture I could find on the web; those little dolls should not be on it).

It is called ‘The Knot’ not because it is meant to look like a knot but because it suggests a knot to some people (others say it ties the art at the Civic Centre together). Equally the ‘Koeksuster’ is a pleasing abstract shape which suggests a Koeksuster to some but the sculpture is not attempting to be a faithful copy of one.

I went straight to the campsite.  It is still being built as part of a commercial complex down by the river that includes bungalows, restaurant and a hydro/gym.  The receptionist was quite the opposite of what I expected.  Instead of a surly, skinny, verkrampte person dressed in unflattering unfashionable clothing, no make-up or jewellery and scraggly hair I found a really good looking young woman at reception in fashionable and slightly revealing clothing.  I asked her when she came to Orania; she and her brother had moved there from the Free State last year, he is an accountant.  The buildings are all wood but not the usual unimaginative cluster of wendy houses.  There is clearly an architect involved so the buildings and layout have style and it is modern.  The campsite is expensive; R220 (WD thread said fully equipped chalet was R250 per head).  Everything worked & there is a washing machine and fridge to use.  The campsite was full by evening – mostly 4x4 & caravans.

It was about 16h30.  There were 2 motocross (?) bikes in one of the chalet garages  as the receptionist showed me to the campsite so I asked the guys there if I could change my engine oil as I like to do that every 2500km.  Sure they said & told me where I could get oil before 5pm.  Got the oil, back to their place, they lent me spanners (I had brought my special 6 sided socket for the Dakar instead of the one for the TW) & a cut open oil can.  Cloth to clean my hands when finished & hand cleaner.  Real nice guys (they were busy with a welding job).

This quote comes from William Dicey Borderline page 14:

Orania is odd. But not in the ways I thought it would be. For one, the Afrikaner volkstaat is no tradition-bound, Mormon-like community. It has one of the country's largest pecan orchards, and one of its most modern dairies. Anna Boshoff, Hendrik Ver¬woerd's daughter, is principal of the school. She had shown me around the day before, sad-eyed, businesslike, her hair pulled back in a bun. Pupils are given their work a week in advance. They do all their assignments on computer, a process their teacher monitors from a terminal. They don't wear uniforms and their hours of attendance are flexible. The school is, by anyone's standards, liberal. Which is not an adjective I was expecting to apply in Orania.

That’s not something I had expected in a reputedly conservative town.  In fact that is extremely progressive.  No uniforms – my children went to Michaeloak which has the same system.

From   this WD thread (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=46783.0) I knew there is a straw bale house in Orania.  They interest me so I was pleased to see this but it looks like a really sad straw bale house that has to have props to hold it together.

The owner/builder saw me & invited me in to have a look.  In fact those poles are holding up an outer temporary wall which keeps the rain off the permanent wall until it gets plastered.

Inside it looks like this at present.  The roof will have sisalation and ‘Think Pink’ insulation about 300mm thick.  These houses are about low capital and running cost so heat insulation is primary, keep the heat out in summer and keep it in in winter.

There are two parts to the house he is building.  The roof of the front part rests directly on the straw bale walls so the walls are load bearing.  He said it is a ball ache to build that way so the back part has steel columns to hold the roof up with the doors & windows attached to them. 
The straw bales are then simply slotted into place making it much easier to build.

The diagonal bracing is just temporary; they braced the whole roof structure before there were any windows and walls but they get removed when the straw bales are fitted.  Look at the bottom of the un-filled section at the back.  There are two 25mm (?) batterns on the concrete floor slab with aggregate (crushed stone) between.  A layer of polyethylene dampcourse gets put on top of that under the first straw bale.  If any water spills on the floor it can drain out under the straw bale without wetting the straw. I was told that termites have no interest in eating the straw.

Interestingly the owner appeared to be English speaking (it seemed to be his home language) and he does not currently live in Orania.

There are at least three other straw buildings in Orania.  This jewellery shop.

Roelien likes the soft rounded edges judging by how she has finished the back.  I do too – a pleasant difference to the brutal hard & aggressive lines of modern houses like mine.  This is much more organic and comfortable looking.

That is an evaporative cooler at the back.  I have one at my house – brilliant things.  Run it at night and you don’t wake up with a scratchy throat and burny eyes.

This double storey one which is quite conventional looking.

The fourth one is my favourite. Looks like a ginger bread house.

Not only do these houses insulate you well both in summer and winter but they must also be lovely and quiet inside.  A really nice living space.

Here is the water supply to a house.  Two pipes.  The one with a filter is water straight out of the river for the garden, washing the car and stuff and flushing the loo.  The insulated pipe is clean drinking water (its cold here at night in winter).  Absolutely right.  Supplying us with drinking water to flush down the toilet is extravagant in the extreme.  I was really impressed in Mexico where all the drinking water is bought in 20 litre plastic bottles from the local osmosis plant.  What is piped to the house is ok for cleaning; for cooking & food preparation you add a pill to it.  Orania has chosen a slightly different system. Think of Port Elizabeth where they are building a desalination plant to supply water and lots of it is going to end up in the lavatory; if they had a water system like this or Mexico the desalination process need not be taken all the way to the drinking water stage.

In Orania the residents have 4 dustbins & separate their rubbish.  Quite novel for Africa but it is usual in the first world.

This is the hydro part of the commercial development where I camped.  The west wall is very interesting.  Made like a gabion but with smooth rounded stones as you see.  In summer water flows down over the stones so the building has an entire wall as an evaporative cooler. 

There are hinged glass louvers outside the gabion wall.  In winter they close them so the afternoon sun shines through & heats the wall as if it was in a greenhouse or solar heater.  At night the hot stones keep the inside cosy.

The hydro was closed so this picture has been taken through the glass north wall overlooking the Gariep so there are some reflections.

I came across this in a Wild Dog thread. (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=43003.80)  It is solar potjie braaing in Orania.


Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 16, 2010, 11:41:38 am


I wanted to see the Vanderkloof dam.  It was overflowing. Not the biggest dam in the country but it has the highest dam wall.

You can simply drive across the wall.  I was surprised as I had expected it to be closed off.

Looking up the lake.

Looking downstream.

As much water flows through the turbines here as at the Gariep Dam (previously H.F.Verwoed).  I was surprised that I did not see a strong current coming out from the turbines (left corner of the picture).  The electric cables are not very big (left of picture); not nearly as much hydro electricity generated as i had believed. From  *this good site*  (http://www.vanderkloofdam.co.za/vanderkloof) I see it can make 240MW.  That is just 5% of the 4800MW that the new Medupi station will produce.

View from the road bridge.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 16, 2010, 11:43:53 am
Next town is Philipstown which is part of De Aar.  The ratepayers have laid a criminal charge against the municipality.  If you accept payment for something and then fail to hand that thing over it is fraud which is a criminal offence.

Upington – The municipality of Philipstown in the Northern Cape could be the first in South Africa to face charges in a criminal court due to poor service delivery.

Fed-up residents recently laid two charges of fraud against the Renosterberg municipality with police; Philipstown is part of the municipality.

According to the Philipstown Ratepayers Association, this drastic step was taken after residents could no longer watch the collapse of the town, which allegedly started when the ANC took control of it four years ago.

The municipality, which is situated about 55km from De  Aar, could collapse within one month as it, among others:
•   Has no money for fuel for service vehicles
•   Has no money to buy bulbs for street lamps
•   Has no firefighting services
•   Regularly cuts the town’s water
•   Allows potholes to worsen and does not look after historic buildings
•   Does not pay its electricity account
•   Has no welfare services
The municipal manager said, however, that service delivery was a priority and that the ratepayers were being racist.

Municipal manager Mzamo Mtubu said there was an action plan to fix matters at the municipality.

He said faulty accounts had been sent out due to a new computer system. He admitted that the municipality, like many others, had financial problems.
*Source*  (http://www.news24.com/Content/SouthAfrica/News/1059/d6e04c401ebb4144b0bf2bab361d70dc/28-03-2010-10-34/No_money_for_light_bulbs#)

I like our undiscovered country towns with their original simple buildings.  In most towns the buildings have been redeveloped or replaced so that the town has lost its original character and the original buildings that remain are isolated in amongst modern looking houses.  Philpstown is an exception as the houses are all still pretty much as they were. I would have liked to spend more time photographing the village.

Unfortunately quite a few are unoccupied and collapsing.

Something I wanted to see was van Plettenberg’s Baaken.  I learned about it from Nigel Penn’s book The Forgotten Frontier about the conflict between the trekboers and the San.  Governor van Plettenberg wanted to establish a fixed line for the trekboers to extend up to and leave the territory beyond that as a no-go zone to be utilised by the San.  He came all the way out here and erected a baaken to mark north-eastern corner of the colony in 1778.  The San promptly flattened it (Penn page 133).  He also shot 23 hippo in the Seekoei (Seacow) River.  Sadly I could not get to the actual beacon as it is on Quaggasfontein game farm .  This picture is not the closest I got but it gives a better idea of the locality – at the top of the grassy hill.

In Googling for stuff about the baaken I came across this which illustrates the problem van Plettenberg was trying to overcome (Gordon guided the van Plettenberg party)

The story of an ambush led by Adriaan van Jaarsveld in 1775 which Gordon relates:
“We saw the skulls of several ‘Hottentots’ (Bushmen) who had been shot by a commando two years ago. They were unable to catch the wild people who crossed the river with stolen cattle, moving on further. The farmers shot some hippopotamus and made as if to return home, travelling back a few hours, whereupon the unhappy creatures came back for the remains of the hippopotamus and about 240 were killed. The farmers say, however, that it was they who first began to shoot at them with arrows.”
*Source*  (http://www.karoogariep.co.za/)

The road was wet and pretty slippery so I changed plan & did not retrace back to the Hanover road I had been on but continued to Colesburg to get onto the tar road as I wanted to get to Graaff_Reinet that day.

This is all there was to the Seekoei (Seacow) River.  For van Plettenberg & party to have shot 23 hippo it must be much deeper nearby.  The river formed the main wagon route from the Eastern Cape up to the Gariep River besides marking the eastern border of the Cape Colony. Difficult to believe what looks like such an insignificant stream was used to mark the eastern boundary of the colony.

I went through Colesburg and on to Noupoort; famous for its brutal drug rehabilitation centre.  It used to be a very important marshalling yard during the days of steam locomotives so there are a lot of old railway houses.  Next Middelburg (named because they established a town in the middle between Cradock, Colesburg, Richmond, & Hofmeyer) I took this nice gravel road that passes through the neck between the hills ahead but ended up chasing the rain to get off it before it was even more slippery than it already was.  We both got to the end of the road at about the same time.  I suited up & carried on to Graaff-Reinet in the rain most of the way.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 16, 2010, 11:45:37 am
I posted this picture of Graaff-Reinet by Burchell in the Cape Mountains post.  It shows that there was not much in Graaff-Reinet in 1812.

Burchell says there were 74 houses but that just seven years before there had been only 15 or 20.  It was growing rapidly.  Besides three blacksmiths, wagonmaker, butcher and baker there was a pagter = bottle store (2:145).  So the town was attending to priorities but that shop captured all the money Burchell’s men had before they left (2:152).

The Drostdy is still there.

The town has the church at the head of the main street as usual.  This is the third (?) church on the site.  Lots of money spent making it very ornate on the outside.  To me it looks like the sort of wedding cake Sol Kerzner would select.  I much prefer buildings with strong design elements and little decoration – plainly handsome buildings.

Graaff-Reinet is well known for its prestigious ‘Cape Dutch’ buildings.  This is the Hester Rupert Museum.  Quite a restrained building.  It was built as the Dutch Reformed Mission Church serving the Coloured community who vacated it due to the Group Areas Act.  I did not go inside.

Total wanted to demolish the old slave church in Graaff-Reinet to make way for a garage. Anton Rupert intervened personally, offering to buy back the church from Total. He took the matter to their head office where he resorted to some gentle blackmail when he realised that he was getting nowhere. He apparently suggested that it would be a shame if all the hundreds of Rembrandt reps on the road those days never filled up at a Total station again, and that sealed the deal! Today the old slave church is the Hester Rupert art museum, named after Anton's mother. The story is told in his biography, published a few years ago, so I would imagine that all matters of sueing will be sorted out by now!
*Source* (http://www.vassa.org.za/bulletins/bull2.pdf)

Urquhart House, another of the old buildings that has been restored.  The gable was cut off during Victorian times when the then fashionable corrugated iron roof and veranda were fitted during ‘refurbishment’.  Houses Victorian furniture & has a peach pip floor.  I am very pleased that gable and facade has been restored. I did not go inside.

This is the Reinet House Museum which I did go to.

Built 1805 as the pastorie for the predekant of the church.  It has a watermill which is what attracted me to it.  Inside is this picture showing what happened during the Victorian period when gables and thatch were out of fashion but corrugated iron and no shutters was the height of fashion – it is difficult to recognise that it is the same building.  The same thing was done to Urquhart House, this was done in 1885. That is what regularly happens when developers ‘renovate’ houses today – what they actually do is transform them to what is currently in fashion.  It was properly restored in 1956 (pretty early during the revival of appreciation of Cape gables).  In 1980 the place burned down so what is now here is largely a replica.  Inside it is laid out as a functioning house so you see bedrooms, voorkamer, kitchen and laundry with lots of furniture and stuff that would have been in such a house.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 16, 2010, 11:47:47 am

It is actually a replica and those stones look terrible.  They did not have cement in those days and I hope they would have built something more handsome than that abortion.  A waterwheel and mill are pretty simple machines.

The waterwheel drives the square shaft at the back in the picture.  The large crown wheel has hard wood teeth driving the iron rods of the lantern pinion.  Notice how worn the iron rods are but the wooden teeth still look new. The advantage of the wooden teeth is they could easily be made locally and replaced as they wore out.  Cast iron may last longer but what happens if it wears or suffers an accident?  The grindstones are above driven directly by the pinion shaft (no more gearing to increase the speed).  There is a hopper above for the wheat.  Someone has to carry all the sacks of wheat up to the hopper; this lovely set of stairs is used.  The rise and reach of the steps gives the easiest stairway to climb – much appreciated by that man I hope.  If you go there try them yourself.

There is an old ox-wagon.  I took photos of it because it seems to have four wheel steering.  White Stripe’s father has made a lovely scale model of a Voortrekker wagon with four wheel steering – he showed it to me.  Unfortunately I took photos of the front axle which clearly shows that end but I did not take decent photos of the back axle mounting.  I now have a copy of the Swellendam Museum pamphlet on a Kakebeen wagon & I think this one is like that too.  I now want to go to Swellendam & Genadendal where good Kakebeen wagons are and check exactly how their steering works.   I will post this:

This is the brake for use on steep declines.  An iron shoe that is fitted under the wheel so the wagon slides downhill on it – it is chained to the frame of the wagon. That is where the name brake shoe comes from; it persists in drum brakes even though it looks nothing like a shoe.
To tie this into Burchell here are two drawings he made of his wagon.

That picture shows the connection between the front and back axles which can be made to steer the rear wheels.  It also shows a brake shoe in place.

That is a wooden brake shoe in the picture.  The lever at bottom left is the hand jack for lifting the wagon to grease the wheels.  The pegs in the yoke are jukskeis.  We can add draughtsman to the list of his abilities.

There was this:

I know about houses and sailing galleys built out of matchsticks.  Mr H. Joubert (1834-1897) made one out of porcupine quills.  There are 52 windows with curtains; he used 40 000 pins.  Good for him, I am pleased it has survived.

There is this fretwork model of ‘Big Ben’ (Big Ben is the name of the largest bell of the Westminster Clock).  Made by Mr du Toit in 1902.  I have been up the tower to look at the real clock.  A wonderful bit of hand fretwork but it certainly is not a replica of the Westminster Clock tower.  The model  has an onion dome and other embellishments that are not on the genuine article.  

EDIT  April 2014.  I have been told that the wooden teeth in the crown wheel were used because of the explosive nature of flour dust.  Cast iron teeth against steel trundles makes sparks a real possibility.  Using wooden teeth eliminates that possibility.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 16, 2010, 11:49:14 am
Those are some of the prestigious buildings of Graaff-Reinet.  I much admire those sort of buildings but I also very much like the simpler buildings from the same era. Behind the Drostdy Hotel is a lane of restored ex labourers cottages now called Drostdy Hof.  It was originally named Stretch’s Court after the man who built it c 1840 for freed slaves.  It has been over restored so the buildings look like reproductions not originals.  Bo-Kaap is fun, this is dull by comparison = dead. I will show some old cottages in Grahamstown that are in superb condition that have been restored very sensitively.

They are now the rooms for the hotel.  Some are free standing cottages like this.

Others are semi-detached.

Inside you have a bedroom.

And sitting room with period furnishings.


I last went to Graaff-Reinet before I developed an interest and appreciation for old buildings.  I now realise that I must spend time there as the whole town is in beautiful condition with street after street of little houses more or less unspoiled by the passage of time; i.e. not refurbished like what happened to Reinet House and Urquhart House.

The town is built inside a big loop of the Sundays River but it is very overgrown.  They could make a really nice feature of it if the wished.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 16, 2010, 11:53:31 am
I mentioned the alarmist rumour in Graaff-Reinet before Burchell arrived in the Karoo posting thus ‘Graaff-Reinet was placed on a war footing as it expected to be invaded by 300 Klaarwater Hottentots led by a white man (2:136).  The party was, in fact, Burchell plus 6 Klaarwater basters, a San youth & a Tswana man (2:15).  Such was the suspicion, false information, exaggeration and paranoia amongst an ill informed community.’  The first boer they met was highly suspicious of them (remember that no European or Baster had travelled from Klaarwater to Graaff-Reinet before them) and cross questioned them in a hostile manner (2:106).  They come to another farm the following day where the man was away on commando for three months but the wife made Burchell & his men very welcome (2:112).  Two days later a group met up with them who had been sent out by the local veldkornet because he had heard about this party of invaders.  He was highly suspicious and left very quickly to report back (2:127).  When they were about fifteen km from Graaff-Reinet they were met by an armed party sent by the landrost to ascertain what was going on.  Burchell had letters from the Governor instructing all officials to assist Burchell.  On seeing this these men changed their attitude and sent back a written message to the landrost.  Burchell had a fever (flue) at the time and was lying in his ‘bed’ in the ruin of an abandoned boers house.  Next thing the landrost sends the dominee’s horse drawn carriage to collect Burchell (the only carriage in Graaff-Reinet) (2:136).

I recounted his troubles recruiting labour in Graaff-Reinet in the post about the labour recruiting trip so will not repeat it. Burchell came down to Graaff-Reinet on a horse to recruit men for his journey beyond Klaarwater (Griekwastad).  I wanted to go out to Nieu-Bethesda looking for the site of some of his pictures and, more particularly, those of Schumacher painted in the area (there are quite a few). I went up to the Valley of Desolation.  On WD Wolweseun posted  *this report*  (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=37113.0) of his trip which has exceptional pictures of it and Nieu-Bethesda.  This is my picture.

This is just one of the lots of pictures in his report – all of which are so much better than mine – showing Graaff-Reinet with the Sundays River curving round it.

I posted about the geology of the Karoo (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=39072.msg759570;topicseen#new) based on two books I have.  I was very interested to see the brilliant diorama about it in a display board there.  It explains how the rock & mountain formations visitors have been looking at came to be.  It is behind glass & I didn’t have a polarising filter so the reflection kills the picture.  My whole post all in one poster – excellent.
This is most of the first half of the poster.

I never saw this although I kept an eye out.  Burchell calls it Hottentot bread.  I searched Google using that & found what I was looking for.

Burchell’s father was a prosperous nurseryman (1:i7). William had Linnaeus’s System of Botany as a schoolboy.  After he finished school he did not go to university but worked for his father and continued with his botanical studies at Kew Gardens.  In 1803 he was elected a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London (1:i7). He was particularly interested in the plants on his travels returning to London with 60 000 specimens most of which were plants (1:i11).  Here is his entry for this plant (2:147):

These mountains are the native soil of an extraordinary plant called Hottentots Brood .  Its bulb stands entirely above ground, and grows to an enormous size, frequently three feet in height and diameter. It is closely studded with angular ligneous protuberances, which give it some resemblance to the shell of a tortoise. The inside is a fleshy substance which may be com¬pared to a turnip, both in consistence and color. From the top of this bulb arise several annual stems, the branches of which have a disposition to twine round any shrub within reach. The Hottentots informed me, that, in former times, they ate this inner substance, which is considered not unwholesome, when cut in pieces and baked in the embers. It will easily be believed that this food may not be very unlike the yam of the East Indies, since the plant belongs, if not to the same, at least to a very closely allied, genus; as the membranaceous capsules, with which it was at this time covered, clearly proved.

Being a botanist he then has to give a formal description which he does as a footnote in the required Latin:

Testudinaria. Petals in cyathum coalita, dein reclinata, oblongs, interiors parum
latiora. Filaments 6, longiuscula in hoc ordine. Antherae oblongw emargimilatw.
Styli coaliti. Stigmata recurva, obtuse. Semina spice alata. — HerbW in Promontorio
Bonae Spei, 7-12-pedales. Radix in tuber grande areolatum supra terram emineus.
Caulis superne volubilis, teres, rigidus at quotannis periens. Folia alterna, reniformia, in
Una Soldanella. …

I have cut the Latin short as in this instance he is actually repeating what someone else wrote but his book has similar formal Latin descriptions of each new plant he discovers.

Besides its fascinating looks this plant is interesting because it is a natural source of cortisone.  It was almost exterminated by exploitation which, fortunately, stopped when cortisone was synthesized.

Here is a description from an American site where you can buy the seeds.

Dioscorea elephantipes (=Testudinaria elephantipes) "Elephant's Foot" "Turtleback"
Forms a large globose caudex, covered in a corky bark that separates with age into superbly sculptured, prominent, polygonal tubercles. Twining annual vines arise from the top of the caudex bearing glossy green heart shaped leaves and tassels of small yellow flowers. Native to South Africa where the caudex can become massive with age, up to 2 meters in diameter and height and weighing up to 700 pounds! The inner flesh of the caudex is reportedly edible and eaten by bushmen. Plants were once nearly eradicated in the wild during the search for commercially valuable sources of steroidal saponins like diosgenin; used to synthesize cortisone and birth control pills. Fortunately, removal of plants from their habitat proved difficult and as cheaper and more viable sources of these steroids became available, collection efforts ceased. This plant responds well to cultivation and makes an easy and wonderfully unusual houseplant. Sow seeds 1/4" deep and keep warm. The caudex is initially formed underground, and though you'll want to expose it, we recommend you leave it covered for the first 2-3 years because growth is most rapid this way. A must have for collectors of the bizarre!
10 seed $3
*Source* (http://www.sacredsucculents.com/succulents.html)

Another good  reference http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantcd/dioscoreleph.htm 
Another reference confirming that Burchell was correct when he wrote that it was a member of the yam family  http://web.uni-frankfurt.de/fb15/kahl/pdf/Vendl_2006.pdf

We can add botanist to the list of Burchell’s qualifications.

Continuing in this theme.  Here is his drawing of a soetdoring to show how well he could draw a plant.

As another example of his skilled botanical drawing here is the Grapple Plant seed Uncaria procumbens (1:536) called Duiwelsklou.  Another example of his skill as a botanical artist.

 *This reference* (http://www.bihrmann.com/caudiciforms/subs/har-pro-sub.asp) has a picture of the seed showing how accurate it is.   *This reference* (http://www.cites.org/eng/cop/11/prop/60.pdf) is CITES stating that it needs protection because the tubers are being dug up and sent to Germany where it is used to make medicine.

The medicinal uses of H. procumbens are numerous, it is used for the treatment of arteriosclerosis, gastro-intestinal problems, diabetes, hepatitis, and neuralgia. It also shows some indications for reduction of spasmodic blood pressure as well as positive effects on liver, gallbladder and kidney diseases (STÜBLER 1987, VOLK 1964, WATT & BREYERBRANDWIJK 1962, WENZEL & WEGENER 1995). The herb has potent anti-inflammatory characteristics and anti-arthritic activity with no notable side effects (ANON. 1998).
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 16, 2010, 11:55:23 am
Burchell gives this picture of the pass they went through at Graaff-Reinet (on his earlier labour recruiting visit).  Most of his pictures are to record what places looked like – similar to a photographic record.  This is different as it is an artistic picture of the scenery.  I have shown his portraits now add scenic pictures too.

Ouberg Pass (there are actually many passes with that name) is just after the Valley of Desolation and on the way to Nieu-Bethesda but it is not the same as what Burchell painted.  From Burchell’s decription of it being the descent from the Sneeuberg I think it is most probably at Groot Hartebeesfontein farm on map 3124 or possibly Grootklip.  Having ridden out to Nieu-Bethesda and now having a better idea of the countryside makes it easier to understand what Burchell has written. 

The plaque at the top of Ouberg Pass lists T.G.Bain as one of the two engineers.  Built in 1946 I wonder if he is part of the famous family that gave us the father & son engineers Andrew & Thomas.

I went looking for the six scenes Schumacher did of the Sneeuberg and Camdeboo.  First I went up to Nieu-Bethesda to photograph Kompasberg as Burchell has an engraving.  Then I went east looking for any of the six Schumacher scenes but found none.  Next time I know I should go out towards Richmond – after all that is where the Sneeuberg are!
EDIT:  April 2017.  I recently saw that same picture in a new book where the colour was more enhanced.  The mountains in the background are covered in snow.  Quite appropriate since we are talking about the Sneeuberg. 
Also see the EDIT to the following post where I give a link to my later trip where I traced the missing Schumacher scenes.
Luckily I had my Zumo as there are really no signs pointing to it.  That is Kompasberg on the skyline.

Here I made a mistake.  Wolweseun shows that he had a lovely light meal at the local micro brewery but I went to some place where I waited so long just to place an order that I walked out & went to the next place that does not sell beer.  I must be one of the very few tourists to pass through Nieu-Bethesda without going to the Owl House.  I would very much like to see it & the crushed  glass ceilings.  Wolweseun posted brilliant pictures of the Owl House in  *the  report I linked before*,  (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=37113.0) but it seemed deserted when I rode past.

Burchell  writes:

This is called by the colonists,Spitskop (The Peak) on account of its remarkably pointed form, by which it is distinguished as a great distance over all the surrounding country, as much as by its superior height.  It has been in later years, very unnecessarily re-named Compasberg.


After lunch I took the northern road towards the N9 (the southern one was closed – washed away?) which got me this.

This is not quite the right angle so I kept going & did get the correct view.

S 31°  50’  51.7”   E24°  36’  47.9”  but Burchell says he was 32km from it so I was in the right direction but closer (2:184).  He made the sketch not on his labour recruiting trip but on leg of his trip I was now doing.  I had followed his route quite accurately the day before but it was rainy and cloudy so I did not see it from 32 km away.

EDIT November 2014.  I have come across this site where his route from Graaff-Reinet to the Gariep river is retraced by bicycle.  They are following the route Burchell took after he went down to Graaff-Reinet to recruit staff.  http://www.mediaclubsouthafrica.com/visitsa/3355-following-in-burchell-s-tracks (http://www.mediaclubsouthafrica.com/visitsa/3355-following-in-burchell-s-tracks)
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 16, 2010, 11:57:01 am
I then went looking for the sites of the Schumacher pictures of this area. There is an interesting gravel road that Burchell used when going to Graaff-Reinet in his wagon which follows the railway & Sondags river down towards Graaff-Reinet.  I went down that until the road breaks away from the valley to join the N9 when I turned around & rode back up to the T-junction then went further east.  Because I kept meeting the Sondags as I continued with this trip I have collected all the pictures into a separate post about the Sondags which I will post after the last crossing.  

These are the seven pictures Schumacher made in this area.  I suspect he rather liked the flat topped Karoo mountains – just as I do. Sadly he did not get to the glorious Kareeberg – I would love to seen his pictures of them.  This one is labelled ‘View of the Sneeuwbergen at Van der Walt’

The following one labelled ‘View of the Sneeuwbergen as wild country’

The next one is labelled ‘The Sneeuwbergen at Koeckmoer’

Next one ‘The Sneeuwbergen in Northern direction.’

Next one is labelled ‘In the Camdebo on the farm of Johannes Swanenpoel’.

The next one is labelled ‘The Camdebo Mountains seen from the Sneeuwbergen’

Finally there is ‘Hunt for Springbuck in the vicinity of Camdebo’.  It is not obvious from this small picture but the whitish dots all across the veld are springbok on one of their mass migrations.

You can see the similarity in the form of the mountains but none of my pictures match Schumacher’s.  It would be an interesting project to look for them all.  I went east from Nieu-Bethesda partly because of time constraints & largely due to ignorance.  The Sneeuberg is north and slightly west of Graaff-Reinet and Camdeboo is west so I was looking in the wrong place.  Next time I will know where to look.

EDIT Sept 2013

I had found a book that told me precisely where to go.  It shows the Schumacher pictures together with a photo of what the view actually looks like. I went there in my Terios and took pictures of the same views http://www.roamafrica.co.za/forum/index.php?topic=350.msg3437#msg3437 (http://www.roamafrica.co.za/forum/index.php?topic=350.msg3437#msg3437).  My conclusion to that thread where I give opinion as an art critic may amuse you.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: BMWPE on June 16, 2010, 01:16:39 pm
Fantastic  :thumleft:
great read and thanks for posting
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Pickle on June 17, 2010, 09:09:52 am
Agreed.  Fantstic reading and so interesting.  Keep it coming.  Can't wait for the next post.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 17, 2010, 11:49:36 am


From Graaff-Reinet Burchell went to the Zuurveld (between Sundays & Great Fish rivers). The area known as Albany is part of the Zuurveld.  This was 1813.  The Fourth Xhosa War (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xhosa_Wars) had just ended. I went there too but did not follow his route accurately but went to the same places.

Schumacher gives two pictures of  Bruintjieshoogte.  It is just before Somerset East.  The first shows two wagons and two carts on the road beneath Bruintjieshoogte.

The second one is the continuation of the first.

I forgot to look for the view but did take this picture.

Nice easy countryside like this for his wagon after Somerset East.

A bit further on I passed a long row of these coops with emus or rheas.  What are they & what do they do with them?

The road passed through the Zulu Game Reserve which seemed rather out of place.  I didn’t see any game or Zulus. Then over a range of hills.  What impressed me about the Eastern Cape was the vegetation.  In the WC the mountainsides have been burned so frequently that they are almost naked & the plains are all under the plough.

My intention had been to go to Grahamstown & then follow Burchell’s clockwise route down to the Fish River mouth, Port Alfred and loop back to Grahamstown.  T4A shows no camping in Grahamstown but a nice place upstream from Port Alfred so I decided to push straight through to Port Alfred on the short direct gravel road, nice to ride but more difficult for Burchell.

When I got to the campsite I found it is now a very upmarket security village – has been for years but T4A once again had it wrong.  There is another campsite in town but close to the N2 so I was anticipating noise.  In fact not too bad & it is a commercial operation so the showers etc were spotless and the water hot. Beside the Kowie river with the bridge just visible.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 17, 2010, 11:50:39 am
Next day I reversed what Burchell did.  I went up to the Great Fish River then turned inland to Grahamstown.  I have collected all my river pictures into a separate post which follows I repeat this one as I find the Eastern Cape rivers very attractive. We don’t have lovely river views like this in the WC.   Great Fish close to the sea.

I met these zebra.  They are the usual zebra (as against the less common Mountain Zebra), their proper name is Burchell’s Zebra Equus burchelli.

Further on field of young pineapples.  With global warming I am expecting them to replace vines in the Western Cape.

There are some lovely areas to ride and nice roads in the Eastern Cape.  Just be careful of Kudu at dusk and potholes everywhere.  Fish river again.

I rode through a nice indigenous forest but I show this picture which shows more of the lovely landscape (pity about the wires).

EDIT 2017/02/14  The pineapple industry was pretty well wiped out about the same time as i took those pictures.  Fertiliser supplied by Protea Chemicals had been sourced from China.  It contained high levels of cadmium.  The cadmium was absorbed by the plants and found in the tinned fruit in Switzerland in 2006 although the fertilizer had been in use since 2004.  Once the cadmium had been detected the tinned fruit could no longer be exported to the EU.  In 2010 the crop had already been halved.

Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 17, 2010, 11:53:25 am
There was no Grahamstown when Burchell passed through in September 1813.  However he had a huge impact on the development of the town.   After the Napoleonic wars, Britain experienced a serious unemployment problem. In June 1819 Burchell was called before the House of Commons Select Committee on the Poor Laws to advise on the suitability of South Africa for the settlement of British emigrants as he was the person in England with the most recent personal knowledge of conditions in the interior of Southern Africa.  Burchell was there for three hours during which he strongly advocated that they be sent to the Albany district.  My book includes a condensed transcript of that interview. Two weeks later the British Parliament voted £50 000 for assisting persons wanting to settle in the Eastern Cape.

The British had taken over the Cape in 1806. One of the first concerns of the British overlords was to secure the eastern border of the colony, where the Xhosas had been driven back during the Fourth Frontier War in 1812. The governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, planned an agricultural settlement there as a ‘buffer’ between the Xhosas and the Cape Colony. This would reduce the need for the military to maintain the frontier.  So the settlement scheme suited both the UK and the Cape.

This period saw one of the largest stages of British settlement in Africa, and approximately 4,000 Settlers arrived in the Cape, in around 60 different parties, between April and June 1820. The settlers were granted farms near the village of Bathurst, and supplied equipment and food against their deposits. A combination of factors caused many of the settlers to leave these farms for the surrounding towns.

Firstly, many of the settlers were artisans with no interest in rural life, and lacked agricultural experience. In addition, life on the border was harsh and they suffered problems such as drought, rust conditions that affected crops, and a lack of transport.  Therefore many settlers left the eastern border in search of a better life in towns such as Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown and East London. The eastern border therefore never became as densely populated as Somerset had hoped.

The settlers who did remain as farmers made a significant contribution to agriculture, by planting maize, rye and barley. They also began wool farming which later became a very lucrative trade. Some of the settlers, who were traders by profession, also made a significant contribution to business and the economy. New towns such as Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth therefore grew rapidly.
*Source* (http://Source http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/chronology/thisday/1820-03-17.htm)

This map shows in dark green where they were settled.

Burchell produced a pamphlet Hints on Emigration to the Cape of Good Hope.  It is included in my Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa.  It is sixteen pages; he starts with brief advice to those with money intent on going to the Cape but then gives advice to those without any money.  Go to Albany as it is unoccupied & extremely fertile.  He suggests that the immigrant be given seed to plant and flour as food plus some cattle and a tent.  Spans of ploughing oxen should be available.  Grahamstown had just been founded when he wrote these hints so he suggests it as a possible centre though he believed somewhere on the Kowie river much closer to the sea would be better.  He writes about the need for a blacksmith, butcher, baker etc and also a priest and doctor for a successful community. He concludes by writing at length about expanding the colony up to the Gariep if more people emigrate than can be accommodated in Albany alone.

John Barrow (later Sir John) had been to South Africa before Burchell and had published a book with a title almost identical to that which Burchell used Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa 1801, 1804.  Before Burchell he had been regarded as the greatest British traveller in South Africa so he probably resented that the younger Burchell was consulted by Parliament.  For whatever reason he published a scathing attack on Burchell’s Hints saying amongst other things (1:i41):

He was, we understand, a “culler of simples”, and he certainly seems to have culled little else.

A small part of Barrow’s attack is included in my book. That bit is disingenuous as it states that Burchell recommended an inappropriate area behind the Sneeuberg and up at the Seekoei (Sea Cow) river. Barrow was a very influential man in British society, being the Permanent Secretary of the Admiralty for forty years when the Royal Navy was the most powerful on earth.  He was a founder member of  the Roayal Geographical Society (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Geographical_Society)  *Wiki on him* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_John_Barrow,_1st_Baronet)

Burchell then wrote a four page rejoinder (also included in my book) which includes (1:i43):

Before a writer comes forward to instruct the public, he should first instruct himself.

Which I take as a direct response to Barrow’s quote given above.  Burchell then exposes the misrepresentation concerning the Seekoei river and sums up with (1:i45):

The vulgarity and malignity of his language present a true and faithful portrait of his mind.  Take from him his pen, and he is nothing.

Powerful stuff.  Extremely ill advised to write like that about so well connected a person as Sir John Barrow.  This was in 1819.  Burchell’s first volume came out in 1822 and the second in 1824.  He took the opportunity to insert some further attacks on Barrow’s book in them.  The books were ignored by the very influential Quarterly Review as that is where Barrow’s work had appeared and he was part of the editorial group.  750 copies of volume 1 were printed, that was reduced to 500 for volume 2 and volume 3 never appeared.  Had Burchell not responded to Barrow’s stupid attack so virulently the success of his writing may have been greater and volume 3 may well have appeared.  Burchell also missed his market by the books being very slow in appearing as he had returned to London in 1815 so the third volume would be at least 10 years after the event and other more recent travellers had books on the market by then (1:i14).
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 17, 2010, 11:55:36 am
I got to Grahamstown.  You probably know by now that I appreciate unspoiled streetscapes.  This is exceptional.  Allow one modern building here and the whole scene is destroyed. 

This is what Hans Fransen writes:

Much of all this has been well restored over recent decades, particularly since the appearance in 1963 of Ronald Lewcock’s book which is still the best study of Georgian and Regency architecture in this country.  It makes ‘English’ Grahamstown a worthy counterpart to ‘Dutch’ Stellenbosch as the best-preserved old town in the entire Cape.
(Source: Hans Fransen Old Towns and Villages of the Cape 310). 

That coming from the author of The Old Buildings of the Cape which is largely responsible for the appreciation of Cape ‘Dutch’ architecture and the consequential preservation and restoration of those buildings and towns is high praise indeed.

But what I was really looking for was this.

It may not impress you.  It is called Artificers Square but Garmin does not know about it.  Luckily I went to the excellent Red’s Cafe for late breakfast with Windhoek lager & asked there.  The owner(?) did not know where it was but sms’d a friend who replied with the directions.  It certainly is not a square.  Those houses are original Settler’s houses.  I enjoy modest as against grand houses so these I really liked.


They have not been tarted up by applying un-original pastel painted shutters and matching coloured doors, wine barrel flower boxes and fancy wrought iron lights like was done to Stretch’s Court.  Just restored to more or less as they were (corrugated iron roofs in place of thatch so not restored to how they originally were).  It is great that there are no telephone or electric poles, the pavement and kerb could be improved.

Unfortunately this one is set back from the road.  It still has a thatch roof.

How about this? I love it.

From Grahamstown I wanted to go down to Salem; it is one of the small 1820 settlements complete with church.  Burchell had passed that way.  Again I was riding through the lovely Eastern Cape countryside. I understand why Burchell recommended it so highly.

The village has the  oldest cricket pitch in the country. (http://www.sa-venues.com/attractionsec/salem.php)   1844.  I did not realise it when I was there so I have found a much better picture on the web than the close ups I took of the church and parsonage in this picture. Church built 1832.

I smile because I had a real red Porsche 356A like that but I expect that is just a replica with VW engine.  The cricket field is in the foreground.

One of the houses in the village.  It is stone built but the white paint disguises it.

This is the hotel.  It is being very sensitively restored.  The concrete pillars are going to be replaced.

The contractor doing the restoration is a black man called Sam.  He is building a nice business specialising in proper restoration of 1820 Settler era buildings.  The front will be painted white with the plaster mouldings in a pale colour to emphasise them discreetly.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 18, 2010, 11:02:54 am

I have shown plenty of pictures of the Gariep and Vaal.  Judging by the number of pictures I took of rivers on this trip they must have some significance to me. Here I want to collect some of those photos together.  My first big ride on this bike was to follow the Sak river from its source to where it joins the Gariep; though it loses itself in the Grootvloer and the river that reappears is called the Hartbees.  But that is a river of historical social significance; it is not much of a river actually.
*Sak River RR* (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=39398.0)

Sondags River

I have a lot of pictures of the Sondags because I kept meeting it.  It is not much of a river really as you will see from these pictures – except right at the coast.

This map from the Department of Water Affairs shows how water from the Gariep runs through a tunnel to the headwaters of the Great Fish River then through two other canal & tunnel systems water is transferred to the Darlington Dam on the Sundays River.  Finally some is pumped across to Port Elizabeth.  PE is in such a water crises that they are now having to build a sea water desalination plant there costing R750 million.  *source*  (http://www.watersafe.co.za/2010/05/21/desalination-plant-in-bay/).  This is fearsomely expensive water, R8 per kl compared to R1 in Cape Town  *source* (http://www.businessday.co.za/Articles/Content.aspx?id=110247).
*Source* (http://www.dwa.gov.za/orange/mid_orange/fish-sun.aspx)

I have camped at the absolutely beautiful mouth of the Sondags and would be riding along it from Addo to Kirkwood so I thought it would be interesting to see how it grows in size. The map shows that the Sondags catchment area is north of Graaff-Reinet in the Sneeuberg.  I crossed over the N9 after I had been to Nieu-Bethesda and followed the road alongside the railway line.  They snake down alongside the Sondags river.  The first time you cross it is just a stream.

I crossed the river 10 times on this little piece going down towards the N9; then I turned around & went back up.  The stream became wider and deeper as the valley became deeper. Burchell went down this valley to get to Graaff-Reinet with his wagon. I skipped it on my ride to G-R because time was running out & it was raining.

It is a lovely little ride.  I think it would be a great ride to follow any of the bigger Eastern Cape rivers from source to sea.


The railway also wiggles down this valley.

When I got back to the T-junction near the start I went off again looking for Schumacher views.
Graaff-Reinet is built inside a big loop in the river as shown by this picture by Wolweseun.

Graaff-Reinet seems to take little pleasure from having the river there as it is choked with riet.  It could be made into a lovely winding park around the town if someone had a little imagination.

I crossed the canal bringing water from the Gariep to the Sondags just after leaving Somerset East – the Cookhouse tunnel ends at Uitkeer.  I saw it but did not realise its significance so failed to take a picture.  The water flows into the Little Fish and down to the De Mistkraal weir.  Then it goes by canal to a small river flowing into the Darlington Dam on the Sundays River.
This is the Sondags downstream of the dam flowing towards Kirkwood.

Upstream is the Korhaans weir with Kirkwood canal on E side of river.  The first significant irrigation scheme in the country was built there in 1913.  Kirkwood was the person who had the vision; by 1883 he had 21 farms there but when he tried to float a company on the Stock Exchange it failed because of the Great Depression.  He died two years later.  Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Jock of the Bushveld) saw the potential here (after visiting the pioneer citrus farm) & invested.  The irrigation scheme suffered due to both drought & flood but that was resolved when Lake Mentz (Darlington Dam) was built in 1922. (Bulpin p420).  The water from the Gariep arrived in 1987 when the De Mistkraal Weir and canal were built on the Little Fish River.  There is an excellent write up of the whole scheme  *here* (http://www.dwa.gov.za/orange/mid_orange/fish-sun.aspx)

I wanted to see the Kirkwood irrigated area as I had long known about it but never seen it. The Kirkwood irrigation canal.

This is the river just before Addo village which is after the whole irrigation scheme.

Le Vaillant ‘Crossing the Sundays River’.  I did not look for this scene.

I first met Trailrider at the 2007 WD Bash in Hogsback and joined him and Snap Crackle Pop for their ride back.  TR had arranged for us to camp at Colechester.  This is what I wrote about it in my RR of that trip. (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=12185.0)

I was gobsmacked by the beauty of the place.  Why?  Because it is still the same as when Bartholomew Dias sailed past, still the same as when Mohammed walked this earth probably.  Absolutely pristine.  I am an old surfer & my favourite surf spot on the peninsula is Scarbourough because when you stand in the car park & check the break (point, not the beach break as the rip there kills me) you see not even a telegraph pole; there is nothing to show you that people have been around.  It is a great wave to surf but that setting really makes a big difference to how I feel about the spot.  (You can surf in the Cape Point Nature Reserve also & those spots are absolutely unspoiled but then you are not in an urban area.  I salute Nature Conservation for permitting surfing there).  Here is an estuary 30km from PE which is pristine; I had never imagined such a thing could exist.


Schumacher did a panoramic picture of the estuary as two pictures.  I have stitched them together.

There is nowhere for Schumacher to have been to get this birds-eye view.  He has created it so that he can better represent the locality.  Here is the left hand portion by itself.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 18, 2010, 11:05:09 am

Van Stadens River

Schumacher did four pictures of the Van Stadens river.  This is the most upstream picture  looking inland (northwards).

I took this picture from the N2 bridge looking downstream at the same part of the river.

The old road and pass can be seen at the bottom.  Slightly further upstream is the narrow gauge Apple Express railway bridge,  *this* (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=45150.0;topicseen) WD thread tells you how to get there – quite obscure.  A very elegant steel trestle bridge.

This is the bridge I was standing on.

It was built in 1971 whereas the Storms River bridge was built in 1956.  It is known as ‘Suicide Bridge’ .http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Stadens_Bridge.

Those Lifeline phones at each end of the bridge have been *misused a lot* (http://securitysa.com/regular.aspx?pklRegularId=2208), in March the  *75th suicide* (http://www.algoafm.co.za/newsarticle.asp?newsid=182631) took place.

The next Schumacher picture shows a fork in the river.  The map shows one upstream from the N2 road bridge.  There is a red dashed road shown on map #3324 going to Sunnyside station on the narrow gauge railway.  That road would be along the top of the hills in the background of this picture.  The WD link I gave above probably describes how to get there.

This one is closer to the coast.

The Maitland River which is similar – it is the next river along from Van Stadens.  When I took the picture I was riding upstream from the river mouth and I did not realise that I had crossed over to the Maitland river.  There is no public road alongside the Van Stadens river.  The 1:250 000 map #3324 shows a road to Yellowwood farm on the east bank which should give you a glimpse of the Schumacher view shown above. A similar bend on the Maitland river.

This is the river mouth.

The distant hills match; my point is that Schumacher painted accurately though his style was naive.  I really like his naive paintings.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 18, 2010, 11:07:08 am

Fish River

I saw the Great Fish River a few times.  I think this would be a particularly good river to follow from source to mouth by bike.  Downstream from Somerset East.  Very muddy.

A bit further on is this handsome bridge.  The arches are elegantly flat and the columns have an aesthetically pleasing rounded and tapering form with a capital like a Greek temple column. Today’s concrete bridges are purely functional but this has an aesthetic aspect as well.  I wrote about  several bridges in France *here* (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=29244.0)

The hillside maintains its original well wooded covering making it a very special sight for someone from the Western Cape.

Getting down towards the coast.  This is preserved because it is Kap River Nature Reserve on the left of the Fish River in this picture.


Right at the coast looking upstream.  I was really impressed by how unspoiled much of the Eastern Cape is.  Burchell would have seen pretty much the same scene.  If this was in the Western Cape you would be looking at some ‘developers’ abomination – think of Still Bay.

I rode down to the mouth and walked to the sea.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 18, 2010, 11:08:11 am


Burchell visited a friend who had recently returned from an expedition to Brazil which resulted in him going there in 1825. It is probable that the publisher’s decision not to bring out the third volume was conveyed to Burchell when he delivered the second so Burchell was then free to travel again (i:i13).  He was stuck in Rio de Janeiro for a year while he tried to get papers allowing him to travel overland across Peru, he did three local treks during this period.  When the papers arrived he moved to Santos then trekked northwards to Goias (due west of present day Brasilia) where he stayed for nine months.  He then heard that his father was ill so he abandoned the plan to travel through the jungle to Peru and instead went north to the mouth of the Amazon.  He travelled down the Tocantins river which has lots of rapids and waterfalls.  He had to wait eight months at Belem (then called Para but that is now the name of the state) before he could catch a boat to England.  He was away for just over five years.  His father had died by the time he got back. (1:i17).  He brought back over 20 000 insect specimens from this trip.  They together with his notes about them are at Oxford University now.  All his plant specimens (SA & Brazil) and notes are at Kew Gardens. The journals he made during both of his travels have been lost.

He returned from Brazil in 1830 but, sadly, published nothing during the next 33 years.  Burchell became an invalid and died by suicide in 1863 aged 82.

He was 29 when he arrived at the Cape.  That trip lasted 5 years.  He spent 10 years in the UK before going to Brazil when he was 44.  He was again away for 5 years.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 18, 2010, 11:10:31 am


I camped next to the Kowie in Port Alfred.

There is an interesting history to this place.  I copy what Bulpin says.  Burchell advocated that the settlers live alongside the river so that they could be serviced by seagoing ships – not as easy as he thought.

When the 1820 Settlers came to the Eastern Cape, they viewed the mouth of the Kowie with interest. At that time the estuary consisted of a swampy mixture of islets, canals and reeds confined east and west by the low hills known as the East and West banks. The area was entirely unpopulated and a great resort for birds and fish.

Several individuals conceived the idea of a port at the mouth of the river. In 1821 the government, at their suggestion, sent a small brig, the Locust, to sound the entrance to the river, and this was the first vessel ever known to sail the waters of the Kowie. The bar across the entrance to the river varied from 1 m to over 2 m in depth, with reasonably deep water further inland. A rich fishing ground lay in the roadstead east of the river mouth close to the Fountain Rocks, so named on account of the swell which at high tide spouted up there in a jet of water.

As a result of this investigation, Mr J Dyason was appointed pilot and harbour-master of the Kowie, a flagstaff was erected on the East Bank and a boat's crew appointed. This was the beginning of Port Kowie. A special light-draught schooner, the Elizabeth, was built to serve the port; and on 9 November 1821 this little vessel successfully entered the river. Unfortunately, on her next voyage from Port Elizabeth the schooner was totally wrecked on Cape Recife.

Other coasters soon replaced the wreck, for there was a genuine need for a port to serve the Settler country. But, like all shallow river mouths, the Kowie was a death-trap for sailing vessels. A sudden drop in wind or an unexpected rush of tidal water could defeat the genius of any sailing master and land his vessel unceremoniously on the beach.

For the next ten years the government struggled to develop Port Kowie into a harbour. The town which grew up on the banks of the river was at first called Port Frances in honour of the wife of Colonel Henry Somerset, son of the Governor, but in 1860 the name was finally changed to Port Alfred in honour of Prince Alfred who was on a visit to South Africa at the time.

The efforts to develop a harbour failed. In 1831 the office of harbour-master was abolished and the port was left to a few fishermen and the enterprise of private individuals. Among these was William Cock who in 1836 settled there, building on the West Bank what became known as Cock's Castle. His daughter, Mary, has left her name on Mary's Cove. For years these private individuals laboured, trying a series of schemes to open the river mouth. Cock was the motivating force for most of these efforts and it was he who changed the flow of the river to a new channel below the West Bank.

A vast amount of energy and money was expended on the Kowie by Cock and other people. Ships came and went, but the number that were wrecked was considerable and professional ship¬masters detested the place because of its dangers and uncertainties. The only saving grace was that Port Elizabeth, the nearest harbour, was also a great hazard to shipping.

In 1857 the government once again launched a scheme to develop the port. Piers were built, a steam tug was stationed there in 1863 and a dredger employed in deepening the channel. A company, the Kowie Harbour Improvement Company, had the running of the port. This was the golden age of the harbour, with ships such as the 340 ton Icon trading there. Larger ships anchored in the roadstead and were serviced by lighters. In this way the mailships of the Union Steamship Navigation Company paid regular visits from 1875 onwards, with 101 ships landing 12 750 tons of cargo in Port Alfred in 1876.

The year 1881 saw a great activity, with a railway being built from Port Alfred to Grahamstown. The constructional materials and rolling-stock were all shipped to the harbour. Included with this material was the steelwork for the 61 m high bridge over the Blaauwkranz where the railway disaster took place in 1911. The railway was built by a private company, the Kowie Railway Company, which went into liquidation in 1886 and was taken over by another concern. It is interesting to know that two of the locomotives used on this railway are still preserved, one on a pedestal in the Cape Town railway station and the other in the Port Elizabeth Museum.

That locomotive in Cape Town Station is a National Monument.  The Station has been redeveloped ready for the soccer WC.  The locomotive has been illegally moved during the renovations.  I don’t know if it has been put back or what has happened to it.

This is the entrance to the sea now.  Rocks all the way out past the breakers so that it remains open all the time (no sandbar).  Photo taken on the 2007 WD Bash trip.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 18, 2010, 11:13:20 am
I have pictures of some of the other rivers along the trip so i will include them here for completeness. 


The Swartkops just downstream of Uitenhage. Looking upstream.

But looking downstream it is sad.  Water hyacinth; from South America but a plague in Africa (& elsewhere).  They have a weevil that does it some harm but nothing yet to keep it in check other than physically removing it.

Le Vaillant.  Swartkops river crossing.

I don’t have the mountains in the background but Le Vaillant took liberties with his pictures (and writing).

This is at the same place as the other pictures just outside Utenhage.  The road still goes where it used to go.



They look similar but Schumacher has the end of the Langeberg in the background.  The river has several loops in this area at Herbertsdale.



It is very similar to the Gaurits loop.  The Bushmans is a very crinkly river but I did not see much of it.

Very good description of sand problems at Bushmans http://www.brm.org.za/articles/Dredging%20Project%20Proposal.pdf
St Francis bay has huge problems caused by the buildings sitting on the sandfield.  It is to prevent things like this happening that Environmental Impact assessments are required. http://www.asrltd.com/projects/st_francis_bay/


This is the Gamtoos river with the N2 bridge in the distance.

The bridge in the foreground is over 100 years old.

But ‘negative displacement’* (as I refer to BEE) has resulted in the loss of responsible and competent people.  If you fail to do routine maintenance on a steel bridge (= cleaning & painting) it rusts.  As you will see in the picture the main girders are almost completely rusted through at the overlaps.

*Note: I am a B.Sc Mech Eng. Positive displacement = a type of pump where the fluid is pushed away by a piston.  My term is a play on that.


You need to look at this carefully; the main plate is rusted half way through and bent aside by the swelling rust.

Too late to save it now in my opinion but will they even close it before it fails?  The weakest link pretty well determines the overall strength of a structure like this.


The river = Sonderend.  The town = Riviersonderend. Map #3319 gives Riviesonderend.  It is a bit like Onrust becoming Onrus.  Burchell refers to it as the Zondereinde river (1:104  1:116).  Even the town of Riviersonderend refers to the river as the Sonderend *see here* (http://www.riviersonderend.co.za/)
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 19, 2010, 04:22:42 pm

Algoa & Home

After Salem I cut through towards Kirkwood.  Burchell went that way and I was interested in seeing the Kirkwood citrus irrigation scheme.  My gravel road route took me through Shamwari although I did not realise it when planning the route in Mapsource – not the main part with free range lions in it it turned out.  Man at the gate acted as though I had to plead for permission to ride on a public road but reluctantly wrote down my details & let me enter the convalescent area.  I ride across but I can’t make out how to get through to the road outside the fence.  There was the vetenary hospital where I found someone to ask.  The gate has been closed because they had a security (poaching?) problem.  I have very mixed feelings about places like Shamwari that behave as if they are national parks but, in fact, they are just tourist attractions like Disneyland or uSharka Marine World.  I like that they conserve the environment and provide a habitat for game (especially the simple little animals & plants).  I object to their intrusion into public open space but have to admit that if they own farms on both sides of a public road they should be allowed to take down the fences and control access.  In this case they were not doing that as they had completely closed off the connection from the road across their land to the bordering main road – they had stolen the public road.  I have had the same problem at Sanbona – I did not know there were lions there when i was denied entry on a bike.  I spent the night at Addo village.

The Cockscomb is a landmark from all sides.  I was riding down from Kirkwood to Uitenhage.

This is the old court house named Victoria Tower – very Teutonic. But notice the big Royal Coat of Arms still above the door – I am amazed that survived when SA became a Republic.  I am very pleased it did as it adds to the interest of the building.  Above it is a boars head (griffon?), I don’t know what the significance of it is.  Things like that may be offensive to some but if they obliterate them when they gain control a piece of our heritage is lost.  If all the ghastly mine hostels with concrete bunks on the Reef are knocked down what will there be for later generations to visit to appreciate the awful conditions their predecessors lived in?

Beside it is this Dutch Reformed church.  I very much like the colour scheme and the dignified but restrained design.  An unusual church.  I said I did not much care for all the decorations on the DRC in Graaff-Reinet.  Well this is bit the other way to me – very harsh without any decoration. Apparently the people of Graaff-Reinet felt the same for their previous church was very much like this so that wedding cake was the reaction when they built the present one.  The two buildings standing near each other make a grand sight.

I had my usual late breakfast and beer at the wonderful Browns cafe in Utenhage.

Burchell went out to Cape Recife.  In PE I wanted to see the replica of the cross that Dias erected at Cape Padrone (near Kenton-on-Sea).  It is in the Mayor’s garden.  It is not shown by Garmin or T4A so I asked & was directed to this cross.  Not the one I wanted.  The inscription reads ‘In memory of those seafarers who searched for Prester John 1145 – 1645’.  Dias was here in 1488; I wonder which seafarers are commemorated from before that date.

This is the first stone built building by Europeans in the Eastern Cape.  Daniell picture of Fort Frederick built 1799 by British.   

It is not very clear but this is a similar view.  The Bakens River has now been filled in and developed with industrial warehouses.

The upper wooden superstructure has been lost.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 19, 2010, 04:24:24 pm
I then headed out towards Cape Recife.  I was really impressed by the PE seafront.  It is not well looked after (PE is a very poorly administered city) but the road is set back from the coast with no buildings between the road and coast.  The whole way you have this public open space between the ocean & road.  In new developments the prime sites are the front ones so houses spring up right on the beach front and the general public get excluded (such as Sea View not far away) – a very anti social & anti community approach.  Melkbosch is brilliant with a big open space alongside the beach which is occupied by lots of the community each day – many schoolchildren but lots of other people besides.  A real community asset.  The space in PE is not utilised to the same degree but the potential remains.

I did not get to Cape Recife because it is a reserve but Burchell did, that is the lighthouse.

I continued round the big cape that shelters Port Elizabeth.  Past the handsome  Maitland river mouth and on to Van Stadens mouth as described in the previous post. Burchell actually went back to Uitenhage from Recife then went to Van Stadens afterwards.  Burchell then went up the Langkloof  because the Outeniqua Forest stretched from Humansdorp as far as Plettenberg Bay.

Schumacher picture of the Langkloof.

Sadly it was cloudy & rainy as I went through so I could not get good viewpoint.

The little road down to De Vlugt. 

The road was pretty slippery & slidy and I had expected to have to replace my back tyre in Graaff-Reinet as I had now done 20 000 km on it but I had felt I could make it home on it.  (Fronts wear out quicker than backs on a TW it seems as I fitted a new one before the start of this trip.)  I stopped for a beer at Angie’s G Spot.  Now we are in the area of the 4x4 Burchell Route which was the instigator of this whole thing.  The ride report for when I did it with Trailrider and Letsgofishing is  *here* (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=41363.0;topicseen)
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 19, 2010, 04:26:25 pm
Talking about how things start it is appropriate to tell how William Burchell came to do his trip.  He was born in 1781.  His father was the prosperous owner of the Fulham Nursery, 3,8 hectares in what is now a very desirable part of London.  William never had a proper job so his father must have been very wealthy.  He had four sisters but no brothers are mentioned in the introduction to my book or Wikipedia.  He did not go to university and declined to join his father in the business. When he was 24 he wanted to become engaged to Miss Lucia Green but his parents disapproved.  Shortly afterwards William left for St Helena; whether it was to escape his parents domination or not can only be speculated upon.  He started a merchant business there together with a partner from London, William Balcombe.  A year of trading saw Burchell unhappy as he found running a business very stressful so the partnership was dissolved.

As a side note:  When Napoleon was banished to St Helena he stayed in a house on Balcombe’s property for the first seven weeks.  A friendship developed and Balcombe visited Napoleon frequently.  The Governor alleged that Balcome was helping to smuggle letters from Napoleon to Europe resulting in Balcome suddenly leaving St Helena.

William became the schoolmaster and superintendent of the botanical garden. He had kept writing to Lucia and his parent’s attitude towards her had softened.  It was arranged for her to go out and marry him there.  She went by the Walmer Castle but transferred her affections to the Captain on the voyage and married him before they arrived in St Helena. Poor William never did marry.  That was in 1808.  He carried on as schoolmaster and botanist for two years but became bored and told the Governor that he would refuse any more salary until he was usefully employed. He finally resigned and sailed to Cape Town where he had been in correspondence with the Rev Hesse of the Lutheran Church in Cape Town.  He stayed with the Rev Hesse in Martin Melk House in Strand Street.  (That is now the Gold of Africa Museum; my daughter was married in that building a few years ago and my parents had a small reception after their wedding there too so it has some connection to me as well.)  Somewhere in his book he mentions the advantage of being single but I can’t find the passage now.


Burchell went down to Plettenberg Bay but I was wanting to push on towards home so skipped it out.  However after I did the Burchell Route with TR & LGF I did go to Plett so I have done that piece of the original trek in context already.  I would like to include this picture of the bay and lagoon by Le Vaillant because to me it is particularly attractive.

I went through Kom se Pad down to Knysna.  I had planned on taking the 7 passes route to George but time was marching on, the roads were wet and I wanted to get to Trairiders before dark so I took the tar N2 to George.  Trailrider and Viervlieggie welcomed me, fed me & gave me a room.  Many thanks.

Here is the story of the Great Fire of 1869 which took out the forest that prevented Burchell from getting to Plett along the coast from PE.

150 years ago, the Tsitsikamma Forest between Plettenberg Bay and Humansdorp was the thickest and most forbidding in the entire Cape colony, and it presented travellers with an impassable, virtually solid barrier. Many a determined explorer had to turn back, hat in hand, for the Tsitsikamma with its dense underbrush, deep ravines, mighty rivers, tangled roots and tall trees would not be conquered easily. In 1839, the chief engineer of the Cape Colony even insisted that “there is no practical way – not even a foot path – to get from Plettenberg Bay to the Tsitsikamma country“. But in 1869, nature did what armies of engineers could not. The Great Fire of 1869 was the first fire in South Africa to be officially declared a disaster. It was extremely widespread and raged across almost the whole area from Swellendam to Uitenhage and inland to Meiringspoort, through the Langkloof and over the mountains almost right to the sea at Great Brak River, Victoria Bay and Knysna. Ash fell on ships far out to sea. This huge fire thinned out the forest, and gave legendary road builder Thomas Bain the opportunity to build the much-anticipated road through the once impenetrable wilderness. With many of the trees gone, Bain’s main problem was not clearing the path, but conquering the sheer river gorges that cut through the land. With three great gorges – the Groot, Bloukrans and Storms River – to be crossed, this would be a gargantuan task. But Bain would not be deterred, and in 1885, after six years of painstaking road building, his Gorges Road was complete – a winding and complex route carefully picking its way through wooded terrain and around the river gorges.
*Source* (http://www.shorelinesa.co.za/?m=4&idkey=576)

Unfortunately we do not have Burchell’s account of how he got through the forest from Plett to Mossel bay.  We do have his map from which we can see he followed where the N2 goes more or less from Plettenberg Bay to Mossel Bay but then he followed the base of the mountains all the way to Swellendam and beyond.

Knysna.  It was a bit misty and dizzeling.

I am a fan of corrugated iron houses.  Trailrider had told me of two in Klein Brak so I went looking for them.   I have always driven past Klein & Great Brak.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 19, 2010, 04:27:48 pm
I went to Mossel Bay.  There is another replica of a Portugese Padrao in the museum and I also wanted to see the Post Office Tree and the caravel.  I spent 1,5 hours there.  The Post Office Tree; it is quite likely the original tree where the Portugese used to leave messages.

The Padrao.  It is a replica donated by the Portugese government.  It was erected by Vasco Da Gama in 1497; he came here 9 years after Dias and succeeded in getting to India. It was as padrao like this that I was expecting in PE but never found.  I am interested in getting to significant places like where Dias erected his cross & seeing a replica.   *Brief history of Mossel Bay* (http://www.susandeacon.co.za/MosselBay.htm)

A Scotsman was given a licence to hunt the seals in the bay but ended up running a pub from these buildings now in the museum as representative of what the early buildings were like.  (Many seals on Seal Island so there are many great whites in the bay.  There is also excellent surfing.)

The spring that the Portugese drew their water from is next to the milkwood tree but has not flowed above surface since the 1970s.  There is an aquarium.  These two fish as you walk in.  Sadly the spotty one was a bit quick for my camera settings.  When I was a schoolboy & you collected stamps then the Mozambique ones with their fishes (like this) were very sought after.

The highlight of the museum is the full size replica of a Portuguese caravel as used by Dias and Da Gama.  I say full size but it was how small it is that made such an impression on me.  The fishing boats in Kalk Bay are longer.  There is a person under the red cross on the sail for scale. 

I spent 1,5 hours at the museum and still wanted to get back to Cape Town this day.  I went out to the swimming pool for late breakfast and beer.  I have had two lovely surf sessions there but it was wild then & no one was out.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on June 19, 2010, 04:29:09 pm
I had a nice route planned from Herbetsdale but once again T4A was wrong & the road has long been closed. I was forced onto the usual road to Riversdale.  Some ericas growing by the roadside; I have grown to love our fynbos.

Garcia Pass goes through that kloof.  The light was nice even though it was the middle of the day. Beautiful scene.

Grootvadersbosch area.  I have just passed the entrance to Gysmanshoek – a very easy pass but the Tradouw Pass was developed through a much more challenging valley simply because it was closer to Swellendam showing how important minimum distance was in the days of animal drawn vehicles.

Schumacher Grootvadersbosch.

I should be quite a bit more to the left but you can recognise that sharp peak.

Schumacher has this picture of the Drostdy at Swellendam.

My picture is from pretty much the same place.  It is all the oak trees that make it not obvious; the Drostdy is completely hidden now but the tar road runs just where the road in Schumacher’s picture goes.

Time was getting on & I wanted to get home now that I was in familiar territory so I abandoned the gravel roads of my route & went home on the N2.  Arrived home at 19h20.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Spore on June 21, 2010, 12:38:40 pm
Fantasties en dankie vir al jou moeite om met ons te deel!! Groetnis en sterkte met volgende trip! :thumleft:
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: DRAZIL on April 12, 2011, 09:55:09 am
I do not know how I missed this awesome RR,Thanks for the link tok-tokkie.
This is what I really enjoy doing.Reading your report was an absolute pleasure.I shall have to purchase a lighter bike if I want to do what you did and follow the old wagon routes ect.
  :thumleft: :thumleft:
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: sidetrack on October 27, 2014, 02:13:48 pm
Fantastic RR  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: tok-tokkie on October 27, 2014, 06:43:31 pm
Pleased you liked it.  i was a bit disappointed with it in retrospect.  It is very dry- just about his trip & mine but there was no real human interest in it.  I learned from that & later wrote up trip I did visiting steam engines in England where I deliberately added human interest to make it more interesting & that thread (on ADV Rider) gets a lot of hits - 50 000 in less than 3 years.  So this thread contributed a lot to the success of that one.  http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=756771 (http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=756771)

It is now 200 years since he went through the Garden Route on that trip.  There was a commemorative gathering in George during September attended by a group of people who know a lot about him - including one from Canada & another from England.  The George Botanical Gardens have been renamed in his honour.  I linked this thread as an external link on Wikipedia which makes the odd person come & read it - I was invited to the George meeting but did not attend but they asked for a picture of me.
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: sidetrack on October 27, 2014, 09:26:25 pm
Pleased you liked it.  i was a bit disappointed with it in retrospect.  It is very dry- just about his trip & mine but there was no real human interest in it.  I learned from that & later wrote up trip I did visiting steam engines in England where I deliberately added human interest to make it more interesting & that thread (on ADV Rider) gets a lot of hits - 50 000 in less than 3 years.  So this thread contributed a lot to the success of that one.  http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=756771 (http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=756771)

It is now 200 years since he went through the Garden Route on that trip.  There was a commemorative gathering in George during September attended by a group of people who know a lot about him - including one from Canada & another from England.  The George Botanical Gardens have been renamed in his honour.  I linked this thread as an external link on Wikipedia which makes the odd person come & read it - I was invited to the George meeting but did not attend but they asked for a picture of me.
The best RR's to me are the ones that takes you back in time and serves up a good history lesson. I really enjoy Bigdogs posts on Advrider. He will go and look for water mills, old suspended bridges and even natural springs !
Title: Re: Burchell's Travels by Bike; 2010
Post by: Beltzer on November 11, 2014, 12:59:03 pm
I'm not one for reading long stories, never did well in languages and history etc... but this is very interesting, thanks! Going to keep me busy for a while here in Sudan.  :thumleft: