Stoepstorie 4: The abundance of pears

There is a pear tree in our neighbor’s garden but we are fortunate that a couple of branches arched into our driveway. On a windy day the pears would end-up on our driveway and were to bruised to eat or use. Every year we would safe some but end up with a bottle or two chutney or perhaps a starter of blushing poached pears.

This year there was a good crop of little Hood pears hanging over our driveway.

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A little research and we were ready for our harvest. Pears ripen from the inside out. Left to ripen on the tree, they may become mushy. They ripen quite nicely once harvested. The old trick of storing the pears in a cool, dry place and the add of bananas did the trick. I put the bananas on top of the pears—and the more bananas, the faster the pears ripen.

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Yesterday was Mulled Pear day.

We peeled and core the pears and let is sit in a bowl with salt water to prevent the pears to turn brown.

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First the oven needs to be preheat to 150oC.

Then it was time to make the Mulled syrup. I used crab apples to give the syrup a nice pink color. Once there was a nice pink color in the water. The crab apples were removed.

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Then cinnamon, star Aniseeds, gloves and allspice were added to the crab apple water.

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The water was put to a rapid boil and then sugar was added. The sugar was then added and once the sugar dissolved a good bottle of red wine was added. A Merlot is a fruity wine that add to the flavor. The smells from the big pot was divine. It reminded we of my Mom and the many bottles that she filled during the summer months. Her specialty was canned whole peaches. We called it cling peaches because the pip was left inside and when eating the whole peach you really have to cling on to it or it would flew over the dinning table.

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The syrup was then strained through a muslin cloth and I must say the color was looking just right.

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The pears pack into warm, sterilized jars. Pears are very bottom-heavy and I find that you have to fill the bottles with more pears than originally though. Heat the syrup to boil and pour into the jars.

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Cover the jars with lids, but do not tighten it properly. Place the jars about 5cm apart in the oven for about 2 hours. This will also depend on the size of the jars.

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Remove from the oven and seal properly and place on a wooden surface. Leave undisturbed until completely cool and check the seal the following day.

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It will last for about 12 months on the shelf of your canning cupboard.

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Proof is always in the tasting. For an early evening we had mulled pears, with Parma Ham and Goat’s Cheese Salad

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

De Oude Huize Yard

Van Reenen’s Railway Pass

Next time when you travel between Johannesburg and Durban on the N3 and follow the Van Reenens pass – just pause a moment and notice the beauty around you. DSC_0001

This road is often mistakenly called the Old Van Reenen’s Pass, which is incorrect because the original pass mostly followed the course of the present-day N3 route. The road tracks the course of the railway line, which follows a series of contorted loops and tunnels in an effort to keep the gradient to a reasonable level. There does not appear to be an official name for this pass, so it can be confusing to research and to locate. The road, which is mostly gravel, is in a surprisingly good condition and can be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather allows; like Van Reenen’s Pass, the route is subject to both snow in winter and violent thunderstorms in summer. Thanks to Mountain Passes South Africa for the information

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The landscapes around the Van Reenen Pass are stunning and the railway service roads and tunnels top off the adventure. The route is a superb gravel pass but easy going and we duck off the N3 just just after Van Reenen. We traveled on the downhill mode. The scenery is stunning. This is the service road of the railway line and we traveled pass sidings, tunnels and farms. It include a 200m tunnel built in 1925, with a curve.

Watch the video that will take you with us Van Reenen Railroad pass

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Bookmark this pass for a sunny day and get lost in time and space and escape the frenetic traffic off the N3.

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

Die Legende van Rensburgkop

Hierdie legende is geskryf deur Leon Strachan en gepubliseer in die kontrei koerant Maluti Berg en Dal.

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Die erg onstellende storie van die pa wat sy seun in ‘n klipskeur moes doodskiet om hom ‘n verskriklik pynlike lyding en uiteindelike dood te spaar, was een wat ek saam met moedersmelk ingekry het en waarmee ek grootgeword het.

Ons bly naby Rensburgkop en het ten minste elke tweede Sondag daar verbygery op pad om by my Engelse oupa en ouma op Rainfall te gaan eet. Ek het altyd grootoog opgekyk na die hoë dramatiese gekeepte sandsteenkroon en met ‘n hol kol op die maag gewonder in watter skeur die neerdrukkende storie afgespeel het.

Van Rensburg en sy opgeskote seun het glo ‘n bok vir die pot gaan skiet. Hulle het aan die oostekant van Rensburgkop ‘n troppie rooiribbokke gekry. Die eerste skoot was rakelings mis en die bok het blitsvinnig voete gekry. Pa en seun volg die bokke teen die vloethewel aan die suidoostelike hoek van die loop op, maar die diere swenk vlugvoetig nog hoër teen die kop uit. Die tweede is uitasem agterna tot bo. Die bokke is skaam, Van Rensburg kry egter sy skoot in. Hy kwes die bok swaar, maar die seun sit die hinkende bok agterna. Net toe hy na die bok gryp swenk dit op die rand van die kop skielik wes. Die seun se momentum bring hom tot op die rand, waar hy sy balans verloor en vooroor val. Hy tuimel gillend seker ‘n goeie honderd en tagtig voet daar af.

‘n Erg getraumatiseerde Van Rensburg sien hoe sy kind deur die lug trek en met ‘n siek slag in ‘n skeur land. Gelukkig leef die kind, want hy kreun en huil en skree van die pyn. Hy probeer waansinnig vinnig afklim, maar dis regaf, en hy kom nêrens nie. Hy probeer van die kant af daar kom, en toe van onder af, maar dis ‘n onmoontlike plek – en sy seun lë in ‘n eienaardige posisie, sy rug waarskynlik af.

Helpers en osrieme is haastig gehaal. Van Rensburg is vasgewoel en versigtig oor die krans laat sak. Hy probeer naarstigtelik om onder die effense oorhang in te swaai en sodoende op ‘n lysie te beland waarvandaan hy by sy kind sou kon kom, maar dit was pure verniet. Teen laatmiddag word die seun se kreune al flouer en die aasvoëls begin draai. Naderhand is daar nie meer planne nie. Die genadeskoot klap, ‘n ouer se loodsware hart sou nooit weer herstel nie.

***

Boonop was CM van den Heever se Waar Ruwe Rotse destyds, in my sentimentele tienerjare, ‘n mooi en aangrypende gedig wat realiteit en beelde van die storie opgetower het.

Waar ruwe rotse teen die hemel klim,
waar morerooi se eerste traanglans glim,

waar aasvoëls hoog in sirkelbane sweef,
hul rou gekras in afgronde laat leef;

waar grou-wit kranse na die klowe val,
gekeep-hou tot spelonke bo ‘n dal;

waar oopgeskeurde klippekake wag
met draketande wat daar grynsend lag –

daar knal opeens geweerskoot bo die kruin
en eggo’s antwoord hard met skelbasuin.

Die dassies wip verskrik oor gladde krans,
patryse saai vlerktrillend uit hul skans.

Skuins glip ‘n voet en drillend val ‘n roer…
‘n skerp geskuur – ‘n pad wat afwaarts voer.

Twee hande gryp ‘n bos, die angs oorstelp,
benoud klink uit die diepte: “Here, help!”

Twee vader-oë kyk verward…sy seun,
die afgrond lag oor wilde skuurgedreun.

Die kruit en stof vlek oor die lug se blou,
die vader bly sy hand oor sy oë hou.

En dan gewaar hy in die skemering
sy kind, deur rotseskouers vasgedring.

‘n Riem rol na die seun daaronder neer,
“Bind vas, my kind…en Pa die sal probeer.”

Maar dis vergeefs…die kransedraak hou vas,
die riem bly stukkend breek, kry las op las.

En hulp snel by…die rotsetande gryns,
hier moet die mensverstand terug voor deins.

Dan klaag daar uit die diepte, sag en flou:
“Ek smeek dat Pa my skiet…en nou…”

‘n Roer die bewe in die growwe hand,
sag sif in skemerafgrond korrels sand.

Vas lê die kolf teen vaderskouer aan,
en langs die sneller glans ‘n afloop-traan.

“Vergeef my, God!”…’n skoot gedemp en dof…
en bo die bergegraf styg kruit en stof.

Nog skuur iets rog’lend in die diepte daar,
dis stil…die aasvoëls kras…’n vader staar.

***

Met die skryf van Abe Sparks se storie in Blafboom (1999) soek ek na verwysings vir die Rensburgkop-legende. Daar is geen gerapporteerde weergawe van die verhaal in die destydse Harrismith News (tot 1903) of die Harrismith Chronicle (sedert 1903) nie. Ook geen rekord daarvan in die twee uitstekende geskiedenis bronne van ons omgewing (FA Steytler se Die Geskiedenis van Harrismith of Blanche Hawkins se The Story of Harrismith) nie. Inteendeel, Hawkins verwys daarna, noem dat sy ook geen bewyse daarvan kon kry in haar navorsing nie en spekuleer dat dit kroegstories is.

‘n Soeke na ‘n Van Rensburg wat in die geweste geboer het, was ook vrugeloos. Die landmeter (gewoonlik van Britse, Duitse of Nederlandse herkoms) wat die plaas in die 1850’s afgemeet het, het waarskynklik van Rynsburg (Nederland) of Rendsburg (Duitsland) af gekom en vandaar die naam.

In D J Opperman se Junior Verseboek merk die samesteller op dat dit ‘n volksvertelling is wat in die bergstreke van verskillende dele van Suid-Afrika voortleef. In een van die studiereekse oor daardie Junior Verseboek word gesê dat ‘n ou en bekende legende deur Van den Heever spannend verhaal word.

In ‘n onlangse bespreking van die storie op Facebook het baie mense gereageer. Almal ken die storie, maar verskil dramaties oor waar dit plaasgevind het. Die volgende plekke is genoem: Volksrust, Danielsrus naby Bethlehem, Kogmanskloof (tussen Bonnievale en Montagu), naby Montagu in Ashton (Winterhoekberge) Golden Gate, Rensburgskop en Gordon Rots in Paarl Berg.

Van den Heever het glo sy gedig op ‘n verhaal wat in Smithfielddistrik by Aasvogelkop, naby Gladdedrif (Caledonrivier) oorvertel word, gebaseer. Dit wil voorkom asof die legende die prominentste by Aasvogelkop en Rensburgskop is.

‘n Ander bekende Van Heerden, Ettienne, se Toorberg is klaarblyklik ook deur die legende geiinspireer (‘n vader skiet sy seun wat in ‘n boorgat vassit).

In ons geweste is die legende van Rensburgkop wyd bekend en word dit sonder bevraagtekening geglo, van Johannesburg af met die N3 langs tot in Durban. In so ‘n mate dat die SAUK destyds die drama The Mountain, wat oor die legende handel, hier geskiet het met Sandra Prinsloo in die rol van die seun se ma. Die filmspan het in die plaas Stirling (net oos van die kop) se woonhuis gebly tydens die verfilming.

Alles dui daarop dat dit ‘n sogenaamde ‘urban-legend’, of stoepstorie, is.

 

Dankie aan Biebie de Vos vir ‘n fotos wat ons gebruik het en ook fotokrediet aan die Bald Ibis staproete.

Tot ‘n volgende keer

Hennie & Sandra

 

 

 

 

 

The Oliviershoek Pass via the R74

The R74 is the primary route to the Northern uKhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage site
The road runs alongside the spectacular Sterkfontein Dam and down the equally spectacular Olivierhoek pass on to the mountains.
For many years this section of the R74 that runs along the dam has fallen into
terrible disrepair but in December 2015 the newly built road was once again opened.
We took the road and like to share our experience.
First stop is the Sterkfontein Dam
The dam is located just outside Harrismith and is part of the Tugela-Vaal Water Project, and located on the Nuwejaarspruit, a tributary of the Wilge River in the upper catchment area of the Vaal River. The dam receives its water via the Tugela-Vaal Project which is a pumped-storage scheme involving the net transfer of up to 630 million m3 of water from KwaZulu-Natal.
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Sterkfontein Dam and all the interesting names
Sandy Bay is the area situated next to the R74
The name Poacher’s Corner keeps us wondering.

The Sterkfontein Dam was commissioned in 1977 and a full supply capacity of
2 616 900 megalitres. It has a surface area of no more than 70 km2. The circumsphere is aproxamitely 102 km. The dam wall contains 17 million m3 of material making it the largest dam wall in South Africa with regard to volume, while the reservoir formed by the dam is the third largest in the country.
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Nuwejaarsspruit when the sluice gates are open. This Spruit was named by the Voortrekkers during the Trek. They camped at Christmasspruit on 25 December and then moved on to camp at Nuwejaarsspruit (only about 6km apart).
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Views over the dam. The Dam is a highly effective reservoir, since it has the depth to store a large amount of water, with very little loss to evaporation.
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It comprises of a 93 meters high earth fill embankment 3,050 long with no spillway. 
Thanks to Joburg2c for sharing the photo
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The nature reserve is host to some wild animals. It is also a favorite spot for fly fishing.
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It is also home to the annual Sterkiesswim 3000 m in February 
The next stop is at the vulture restaurant used to be a place where fresh and poison free carcasses were put out to feed the vultures and it contribute to the survival of the birds especially during periods of food scarcity and when young birds fledge.
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Sterkies Endanger
It is home to the endangered Oribi and White Tail Rat, 
the vulnerable De Winton’s long-eared bats, 
the Near-threatened South African Hedgehog and the the Lammergeier
Our next stop is at Kerkenberg.  The site is so named because the Voortrekker’s priest, Erasmus Smit, deemed the cluster of rocks at its base was worthy of a church. The heritage markers that can be visited are the Retief Klip, a stone engraved by the leader’s daughter Deborah on his birthday to commemorate the Boer’s successful land negotiations, and Retief Pass, the old wagon trail used by Piet Retief to descend into KwaZulu-Natal.

Next up is the Kaalvoet vrou. You can read all about the history of this monument on our blog spot. Kaalvoetvrou

 

 A visit in this area will not be complete if you do not take the dirt road to Leon and Elsa. They share a passion for the beauty of the past and have established a farm museum.

 

We returned to the R74 and pass the Driekloof dam

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Driekloof dam at the bottom
The old sandstone quarry
You will find a little bit more about the quarry and a certain Flip Pieterse
on this blog post
Wild flowers
Old ruin

We continue and reach the summit point of 1758 m above sea level of Oliviershoek Pass and is close to the most southerly arm of the Sterkfontein Dam.
The descent is gentle and enters a wide S-bed which straightens out at the 2 km point.
it is often used as an alternative route to Van Reenen’s Pass but for us it is a scenic alternative to the Northern Drakensberg. Interestingly, and to add a little history to the mix, it was along this area in October 1837, that Piet Retief and his trek party climbed the Drakensberg.

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The view into Kwa-zulu Natal from the summit of Oliviershoek pass.

Thanks you for joining us on this wonderful scenic drive

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

Platberg the Free State’s own Table Mountain

The Platberg, the Free State’s own “Table Mountain”, overlooks the town of Harrismith. It literally means the flat-mountain; the 2377m high inselberg is a landmark & forms an imposing backdrop to the town.  It is an extension of the eastern foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. Its western slopes & the summit of the mountain are a nature reserve with a number of endemic/near-endemic alpine plants that are unique to the region. The reserve is also home to eland, black wildebeest, blesbok & mountain reedbuck.

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In October Harrismith welcomes outdoor sports enthusiasts to the town to participate in one of South Africa’s toughest running events: the Platberg Marathon also known as the Platberg Mountain Race. The history of the race is legendary. In 1922 local residents, incensed by a remark from a British Major who disparagingly referred to the Platberg as “that little hill of yours”, challenged a soldier to a race to the summit in less than one hour. Major Belcher accepted, won the challenge & challenge & to this day his floating trophy is awarded to the first person to reach the Platberg’s summit top in what has become a prestigious & grueling cross-country race and is known as the Platberg Mountain Marathon. This arguably is the ‘toughest in the world’ route as it climbs approximately 600m in 5 kilometers to the summit of Platberg (2377m) The race is the oldest in South Africa, older than the Comrades Marathon.

Platberg’s altitude ranges from 1900m to 2394m. The surface area covers approximately 3000ha. The slopes are steep with numerous vegetated gullies and boulder green slopes below vertical cliffs that are 20m to 45m high. Waterfalls cascade down the southern cliffs after rain. A permanent stream arising from the Gibson Dam on the undulating plateau flows off the escarpment and cascades as a waterfall.

From a distance, Platberg appears to have a distinct flat top. However, once on the summit the plateau is found to be undulating, with rolling grass-covered slopes.

Platberg was known “Mount D’Urban” till about 1850. The name then changed to   Taba’Nchu (Tafelberg) but the name Platberg stuck.

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An interesting fact is that the hagiographer who was sending from Platberg during the Anglo-Boer War could be read in Escourt.
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It towers about 2000 feet above the town with a dolerite cape and halfway up its slopes can be seen cave-sandstone beds, with their characteristic incipient caves.
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Above the Alexandra plantation is the only real cave, namely the Zeeland Cave as in the main picture of this collage.  On Spur is running out to the west and is known as Palm Grove see left bottom and a close-up next to it.  The Swiss cave in line with the Khyber Pass cuts aeons ago out of the solid rock by the stream which flows below it, or one might say, between the two halves is shown in the below pictures next to the Spur. The picture on the bottom right is  close-up.
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The picture at the top right is the round Turkey cave, set high in the cliff and entry requires a cool head and strong arms, but success gives a wonderful sense of achievement and a magnificent view of the mountains in that quarter. A close-up is shown under that. .
The Dining cave is a large over-hang with a monkey path running round a good part of it.  It is the recognized resting place before attempting the last part of the climb up the One Man Pass on the right top.
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It has wooded kloofs, filled with ferns and flowers, Agapanthus, Watsonias, Kniphofias, Leonotis, Selago, Phygelius and many others.

Woody patches of Leucosidea, Budleia, Kiggelaria, Polygala, Heteromorpha and Rhus shrubs, as well as the indigenous Mountain Bamboo Thamnocalamus tessellates, grow along the base of the cliffs. The shrub land vegetation is concentrated on the cool side of Platberg on sandstone of the Clarens Formation, in gullies, on screen slopes, mobile boulder beds, and on rocky ridges, Shrubs and trees also occur in a riparian habitat in the south-facing cleft, in which the only road ascends steeply to the summit. An occasional Yellow wood, a sad relic of the many that once flourished here, can be found.

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The Rhodesian Flame Lilly (Littonia Modesta) is a climbing perennial of up to 1 meter. It is found in tall grass on forest margin at 4800feet. It flowers in January and is very rare and is protected in KwaZulu-Natal. What makes this lily so exceptional is that it has also been found on the back slopes of Platberg.
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The waterfalls during the rainy season

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There are a number of passes running through the mountain.

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The most popular pass is called One Mans Pass, so called because from a distance an isolated column of rocks standing out against the skyline presents the appearance of a single person standing upright. Up this Pass lies the route for those taking part in the annual mountain race held each October.
Zig-Zag Collage
Zig-Zag Pass holds a romantic tale used to be told of a large rock, roughly four feet square, which could be seen at the foot of the Zig-Zag pass, a little towards the west. On it the words ‘Iris Isabelle” was deeply cut. The story ran that a newcomer in this country climbed up and down the Pass and them, wearied out, fell asleep in the shadow of the rock. As he slept he dreamed of the girl he left behind and on waking he carved her name in the rock. But the Isabelle Rock, as it was called is now no more seen. It was probably crushed for use when the mountain Drive was first made in about 1925.  The Zig Zag pass is visible just right of the Z-shaped rock formation and was utilized to descend from the mountain.

Donkey Pass Collage

The longest and the easiest is the Donkey Pass. It was previously known as the Flat Rock Pass which leads up to the huge Robert Gibson Dam, ear the eastern end of the mountain. In the past farmers would hire grazing on the summit and the story is told of a tremendous storm which burst on the summit and caused a herd of some thirty cattle to move before it. As still heavier sheets of rain fell the animals quickened their pace in an effort to escape. Moving blindly towards the edge of the cliff they fell to their death on the rocks 200 feet below. As the leaders felt the irresistible pressure of those behind them.
The Donkey pass which was constructed in the early 1900’s using donkeys – which is where it got its name from, consists of two concrete strips, with a radical 3 km ascent.   From the onset, due to its steepness, the Donkey Pass is only accessible via four-wheel drive vehicles & equipment. When you look back from the top, this pass beautifully frames the glittering Sterkfontein Dam & Drakensberg Mountains.
Khyber Collage
Die  Khyber pass reminds of the sight of a gun. It was named after the Khyber pas in India.

The acting Governor, HF Wilson and his sister came to plant the first trees and suggested that the plantation should be called the Alexandra Forest after the Queen. The suggestion was adopted but the name was never in general use it was better known as the Government Forestry. On this occasion tea was served in the area set aside for the nursery and for many years afterwards townspeople were allowed to make fires there and have picnics and move freely about the whole area.

Seeds of the trees came from the Cape, Transvaal Europe and the United State of America, Australia and from Paris, France. 38 varieties were planted. Within 3 years the whole area had been divided into 12 acre blocks with wagon roads between, fences had been put up, pipes or drains laid down and a dam made. By 1920 a quarter of a million trees had been planted in the streets, the Park, the Golf course and the commonage, at the Old Homestead, to the Gymkhana and the polo clubs and to the SA Railways.

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In the early days picnics were very popular. Perhaps because houses were not very comfortable, and had few of the conveniences which today are considered essentials, the early inhabitants of the town found that one of their greatest pleasures was getting out-doors and going for picnics. Picnics were often arranged to the “Flat Rock” and people could climb to the Gibson Dam.   Akkerbos, near the base of Donkey Pass, is a grove of oak trees that provided a picnic site during a Royal Tour by the British monarchy, including Elizabeth II in 1947.

The Gibson Dam and the Water pans on Platberg

Gibson Collage
An improvement by the British Military’s Royal Engineers helped to improve the supply of more water to the town. A dam on Platberg, built by the Royal Engineers, was named the Gibson Dam after Mr. Gibson, a member of the town board. The wall of the dam was subsequently raised three times thereby increasing its capacity to 540 million liters.  The main water reservoirs were constructed in 1904 on the highest point on King’s Hill. Water was pumped from the stream which flows through the then Botanic Gardens. From the reservoir it flowed downhill to the buildings on King’s Hill. The reservoir foundation stone is seen between the two reservoirs. 
The water supply of the town, which is always an important matter, was obtained from springs and surface water collected in the upland basins of the Platberg. The water flowed down the cliff through a deep Krantz and forms a clear mountain stream, which passed through bush and over basalt boulders to the town reservoirs.  The large dam The Platberg dam with a wall 200ft long 9ft high and capable of impounding 120 million gallons of water was built by the Royal Engineers and completed in 1904. An account of 386GBP was presented to the council of Harrismith.
Platberg Hawkins Collage
Hawkins and Von During Dams – The dam was built in 1899 and named after Captain Harlan Hawkins. He was also in command of “Harrismith Volunteer Light Horse” from 1914 to 1918.
In the last years of the century the Council once again took thought for the water supply of the town, and planned a storage dam. This dam is today known as the Von During Dam, after a very popular mayor in office long after its construction, but it was felt desirable for him to have a memorial of some sort.
Mr. Hawkins was responsible for making the dam, and pointed out to the Council that a second dam high up the stream could be built. His suggestion was adopted and the present Hawkins dam came into being

Blockhouse still stands guard over the Dams  Blokhuis Collage

sandsteen curbs
During 1963 water was brought to the town via water furrow. This changed in July 1877 when the the furrow were paved with sandstone.

Thanks to Biebie de Vos for his pictures of our beautiful mountain.

Thanks to Adam Truscott for the painting

Thanks to Dan Wessels for the beautiful fauna pictures.

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

 

Grandfather of Aviation and a caravan

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John Weston was a South African aeronautical engineer, pioneer aviator, farmer and soldier. He travelled in a motor caravan that he designed and built himself with the help of his family.

Weston was born on 17 June 1873, in an ox wagon at Fort Marshall, South of Vryheid, Kwa-ZuluNatal.  He was married to Elizabeth Maria Jacoba Weston (nee Roux) a direct descendent of Adam Tas. The couple had three children, Anna, Kathleen and Max.

Known as the THE “GRANDFATHER OF AVIATION IN SOUTH AFRICA

John Weston, a civil engineer, began the construction of his own aeroplane in 1907 at Brandfort, in the Free State. This was the first South African built aeroplane. He lacked an engine with enough power so he dismantled the aircraft and shipped it to France. In France he fitted a Gnome rotary engine (50hp) and flew it successfully (in France) in 1910. On 16 June 1911 John made the first flight in Kimberley establishing a South African non-stop flight record of eight-and-a-half minutes in his Weston-Farman biplane.

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On his return to South Africa in 1933, Weston bought a farm in the Bergville district, near the Sterkfontein dam.

At the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) Weston was appointed ground officer in charge of landing grounds in South West Africa and prepared an airfield with hangars and workshops at Walvisbay. For services rendered to the Greek Ministry of Marine he was made an honorary vice-admiral in the Royal Hellenic Navy.

In 1918, John Weston who is often glorified by the title of admiral, took his family on an amazing adventure in this motorhome. From about 1920 for 12 years, he and his family travelled with a motor caravan.

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 It doesn’t look like much, from the outside. And, if the truth be told, the interior is enough to give anyone claustrophobia. Yet, remarkably, this ingenious camper van once travelled the world − the ‘seven-by-fourteen-foot mansion’ ferrying the pioneering Weston family on the kinds of far-flung adventures many of us can only dream about. Even the girls are handy mechanics. The result has been a neat and compact arrangement of luggage, folding bed, ext, all of which can be removed from the chassis proper with the minimum trouble in 10 minutes.

The ‘Weston caravan’, as it’s called, is an extraordinary example of our forefathers’ tenacity and ingenuity, and can be found in the museum of the picturesque little town of Winterton, KwaZulu-Natal.

The ‘motorised caravan’ took him and his family on various journeys, including a 15-month Trans-African trip: an odyssey fraught with challenges and tribulations. They had run-ins with elephants, occasionally had to float their vehicle across rivers on logs, and on several occasions, ‘entire villages of more than a hundred natives’ had to dig them out of mud and thick sand, and pull them up river banks. And, in those days, there were no fuel stations dotted along the route; and there was no easy access to water or spares shops.

After fifteen months spent in caravanning from Cape Town to Londen. During the caravanning trip they had suffered misfortunes in the Southern Sudan when the rains broke later than usual. Weston broke a bone in his foot and the two daughters were laid up with injuries.

On the family’s caravan trip Weston used to fly the South African blue ensign from a long bamboo pole on the sides of his “South-Afrika” as he called the caravan conversion of his Commer truk, the following inscription was painted:

“Our mansion: seven by fourteen feet

Our field: the whole world

Our family: mankind”

 

On Friday night 21 July 1950 Weston and his wife (70) were in the dining-room of the family house of “Admiralty Estate” when they were attacked by three masked men. Mrs Weston regained unconscious three days late in the Harrismith hospital. John at the age of 78 on  24 July 1950 went on his last mission. It was his wish that his funeral should be quiet and simple. His body was cremated and no last word spoken.              Lily recovered from the attack although certain permanent injuries persisted until she passed away on 14th April 1967 at the age of  91.

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

Kaalvoet Vrou Monument

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Oliviershoek Pass

Wanneer jy voor die monument staan besef jy dat die vrou klein van postuur is. Haar skouers is smal, byna asof sy koud kry in haar gegote gewaad. Sy is geklee in haar Voortrekkerkappie en lang rok. Onder haar rok steek haar fyn kaalvoete uit.

Haar regtervoet trap op ‘n klip. ‘n Mens verwag amper ‘n gebalde vuis of ‘n intimiderende gesig wat luidkeels uitroep, maar alles behalwe. Haar arms hang langs haar sye, verseker nie die lyftaal van ‘n veglustige aktivis nie. Sy het ‘n tipe kyk wat met jare se ondervinding kom. Liefdevol, wys, sag, geduldig en omdat die geskiedenis dit laat deurskemer, maar met ‘n goeie skoot vasberadenheid op.

Beeldhouer was Anton van Wouw

Die kaalvoet vrou is ‘n interessante hartseer storie van Susanna Catherina Smit. Susanna was die suster van Gert Maritz en die vrou van eerwaarde Erasmus Smit wat as die Voortrekkers se predikant opgetree het.

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Die groep vroue was deel van Piet Retief se trek wat besluit het om die groen land van Natal as weivelde te kies. Volgens oorlewering het van die Voortrekker-vroue met ‘n Britse kommissaris in ‘n woordewisseling betrokke geraak. Hulle het met hom gestry omdat hulle nie onder Britse gesag wou staan nie en gesê dat vryheid vir hulle meer werd was as hulle lewens. Dit is toe dat Susanna Smit die bekende woorde uiter, “Liewer kaalvoet terug oor die Drakensberge as om onder Britse beheer te staan.” Susanna is egter in die destydse Natal dood, wat beteken dat sy nooit kaalvoet terug oor die Drakensberge geloop het nie.

Tot ‘n volgende keer

Groetnis

Hennie & Sandra