Kameel Stoepstorie: Vryburg Museum

People without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. Marcus Garvey

A short, but long overdue, visit the Vryburg Museum. It is situated on the N14 to Kuruman. The original wall of the goal that was built in 1887 is incorporated in the building and the masoned stones from the old demolished Town Hall were used to build the rest of the building which is the entrance to the Leon Taljaard Game Reserve. This building houses a museum and a Bio-museum.

Vryburg, or “Fort of Freedom”, was established in 1882 as the capital of a short-lived independent republic called Stellaland, established by Boers escaping the clutches of the British in the Cape Colony. Just two years later the Stellaland become part of the Cape Colony. It’s loctated on the banks of the Huhudi River. The plaque commemorates the Stellaland era. The original flag of the Stellaland Republic is not on display. Van Niekerk’s house was situated on the piece of land where the Pick and Pay parking are are now.

I remember preparing food for the thousands of Angolan Portuguese refugees passing through Vryburg in 1974. They were frightened & exhausted. They weren’t walking though, but drove trucks carrying their families and possessions from Angola. A transit camp was set up in the veld at the old goal wall. There, the refugees could wash and rest for a while or sleep over. They were given water, food & essentials. Remember that there was a Red Cross tent treating minor injuries and ailments & tending to exhausted mothers with hungry & over-tired babies & toddlers. I remember clearly the pain of exhaustion & anguish and the loss of self-respect in their eyes.

Today there is a small mention of this happening. The memorial seems to be incomplete.
Reg van Toegang
Direito de AdmissiaoVryburg
03-04-1992

Vryburg was once used as a concentration camp by the British during the Boer War. The gatehouse was built on the former Boer War prison and where prisoners captured by the British forces were incarcerated. The plaque that commemorates the prisoners that were executed here should be at the museum but we could not find it due to the long grass that is growing around the building.

Copyright Johan Viktor via eGGSA
Google Earth Project Information:-
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We were met by Jennifer Lecholo. An energetic young lady who was giving her best to help us during our visit. There are two exhibit areas a Bio-museum where you will find a lot of stuffed animals that were not up to our alley and the museum. We love the rock engravings from Kinderdam the farm where we spend lots of fond memories visiting Uncle Alfie & Aunt Nellie Fincham. There is a small display with no information on the Koi-san.

The museum is small but we were charmed by the displays. Unfortunately, there is no information available and our guide is still new on the premises. It sheds some light on the town’s economic and social history.

The Townhall now demolished

The old Gentleman’s Club that was later utilized as police quarters.

The Stellaland Flag should be on display in the Townhall is the original flag of the short-lived Stellaland Republic. Its history includes having been presented to Queen Victoria as a gift and hanging in Windsor Castle until 1934 when King George V returned it to Vryburg. The museum curator could not help with the location of the flag.

Till next time

Sandra

Kameel Stoepstorie: Rovos Rail and Kameel Railway Station

When Rovos Rail – The Pride of Africa stops at Kameel it is always a special occasion.

For those that is still wondering Rovos Rail is a train-hotel.. The trains consist of restored coaches with lounges, dinning cars, private sleeping compartments, each with private ensuite facilities. Then there is the observation car which is like sitting on the stoep of the train.

The train has different types of accommodation on board. With names like Pullman. Delux and the Royal Suite, which is half a train car

The company was started in 1989 by Rohan Vos and is family owned and Rovos Rail has its private station at Capital Park in Pretoria.

The dining car reminds of  Edwardian train travel with beautiful pre-1940 and is characterized by the carved roof that is supported with pillars and arches. The button leather seating, cristal glass and branded cutlery is all enhanced with the beautiful light fittings. The fans add to the glamour. This car is referred to as the Pillars.

The lounge car is fitted with deep sofas and wing back chairs and seems like the ideal place for an afternoon snooze as the train makes its way over the plains of Africa. Even the train is air conditioned the windows can open and you can enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of Africa.

The Observation Car is like the stoep of Africa.

Till next time

Sandra

Kameel Stoepstorie: Ouma Barlow en die dorp Stella

Die dorp Stella het wonderlike kinderdae herinneringe vir my. In besonder Brandstraat. Dit was die straat waarin Oupa Jimmy en Ouma Sannie se huis was. Nommer 10. Vandag lyk Brandstraat heel anders as wat my kinderdae se onthou dit voorgestel het.

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Brandstraat

Oupa en Ouma se huis was wit geverf en het so ‘n wye voorstoep waarop Oupa Jimmy graag gesit het en die wêreld bespiet het. Oupa het so ‘n skaaphak kierie gehad waarmee hy jou sommer so nader gehak het. Dit is die straat wat gelei het na die ou klipsaal. Die straat het sommer net daar by die klipsaal gestop. Vandag sou ons praat van ‘n cul-de-sac, maar daardie dae was dit ‘n vreemde woord. Die saal was die middelpunt van die dorp. Dit is nou naas die kerk. Daar was konserte en vergaderings gehou en natuurlik ook het die Vroue Landbou Vereniging hul vergaderings gehou. Ouma Sannie was ‘n raakvatter tussen die vroue van die VLV.

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Die Klipsaal word vandag gebruik as ‘n stoor deur die Munisipaliteit.

Brandstraat se huise het elkeen sy eie styl gehad. Almal was wit geverf. Almal naby die straat. Sommer so naby genoeg dat jy met die uit loop slag in die straat was. Daar was die Celliers huis op die punt naaste aan die klipsaal. Die huis het ‘n stoepie tussen die twee kamers wat soos vleuels op die stoep uit geloop het. gehad. Dan was daar die huis met die geboogde sinkplate oor die stoep. So ‘n regte Karoo-styl stoep. Die stoep waarop die oompie sy pyp gesit en rook het. Die hoekhuis lyk vandag nog baie dieselfde. ‘n Lekker stoep met die lae muurtjie.

Die water in Stella is brak want die soutpan lê naby die dorp. Vir baie jare is hier sout ontgin. Ongeag die brak water was daar heel party windpompe in die dorp, want almal het groentetuine gemaak. Ouma Sannie het ‘n Lemon Verbena by die agterdeur gehad. Dit was ‘n fees om die blare tussen ons hande te vryf en dan die reuk vir die hele dag saam te dra. ‘n Lekker vrugteboord was oupa se pride and joy. Die ingelgde geelperskes met dik vla, was ons kinders se gunsteling.

Oupa en Ouma was altwee kinders van die Willowmore, Patensie en die Gamtoos, soos Oupa het altyd na die Kolonie verwys as sy grootword wêreld gepraat het. Hy en Ouma het mekaar van kindsbeen geken. Hy het die plaas Langverwagt naby Kameel gekoop. Op hul oudag het hulle op Stella afgetree.

Ouma het geduld gehad met ons. Sy het die fynste kant hekel met sulke fyn gare en ‘n blink hekelpen. Dollies was ‘n groot gunsteling. Elkeen het die mooiste glaskrale gehad. Dit het geklingel wanneer sy die koffie ingebring het en dit oor die melkbertjie daarmee toegemaak was. Sy het geduld gehad om my te leer hekel – hotklou en al.

Die kombuis het ‘n houttafel gehad. So wit geskrop naby die koolstoof. In die eetkamer was ‘n bal-en-klou tafel wat ‘n verlengstuk gehad het. Op Sondae was die tafel gedek met ‘n gehekelde tafeldoek en haar beenhef eetgerei. Sy sou op ‘n oggend bel en sommer so terloops sê dat sy my pa se gunsteling skaapboud gaar gemaak het en ons moes oorkom vir ete. Sy kon selfs haar skoonseun onder ‘n wip vang met haar kos wat altyd vol verrassings was. Wanneer dit vetkoekdag was, was dit wonderlik om die vormpies van die vetkoeke in die olie te probeer assosieer met ‘n diertjie. Eendjies en hasies was altyd ‘n reg raai.

Ouma het lang hare gehad. Sy het dit in ‘n lang vlegsel aan die eenkant van haar kop gevleg en dan om haar kop gedraai. Na Oupa oorlede is en Ouma by haarself gewoon het, het die dogters op ‘n dag besluit – Ouma se hare moes kort geknip word. Wat ‘n tragedie was dit. Ouma kon nooit met die kort hare vrede maak nie. Ek het baie dae my tas gepak om by ouma te gaan bly maar het maar elke keer weer terug gekom huis toe.

Ouma Sannie het ook die swaar van die lewe geken. Haar een dogtertjie is oorlede en twee van Ouma se seuns is tydens WWII oorlede. Ek het altyd gewonder hoe sy dit oorleef het want daar was altyd ‘n glimlag op haar gesit.

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Oupa en Ouma met hul kinders op hul 50ste huweliksherdenking

Ouma het nog in die tyd van briewe skryf gelewe. Onlangs het ek hierdie stukkie kosbaarheid van ‘n niggie ontvang. Die brief is gerig aan haar suster, Tant Pollie, wat in Uitenhage gewoon het. Die inhoud is kosbaar!

Tant Sannie Brief P1

Tot volgende keer

Sandra

Kameel Stoepstorie: Devondale tot Kameel

Al ooit gehoor van Devondale?

Die stasie is 25km vanaf Kameel. Vandag is daar min oor van die eens tuiste en besigheid van my Oupa Victor en Ouma Hester. Na hulle huwelik het hulle Devondale Store besit en in die huis langs die winkel gewoon. In die goeie dae van Devondale was daar die watertenks waar die stoomtreine water gevat het. Ek onthou nog die ou Convent wat een van die groot geboue in die omgewing was.

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Wanneer daar by die familie op Kameel gaan kuier is, het oupa en ouma met die motorfiets en side-car gery.

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Oupa Victor op die motorfiets reg om die pad te vat Kameel toe, maardaar was darem tyd vir ‘n foto sessie.

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Dan was dit Ouma Hester se beurt in die syspan. Sou wat wou gee om daardie hoed van nader te kon besigtig.

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Ouma op die motorfiets. Kyk die leer kamaste. In my opinie sien ons altyd ons oumas en oupas as baie streng maar as ek so na die foto’s kyk haal ek my hoed vir hulle af. Niks kon hulle onderkry nie.

Ek is seker hulle het by al die bekendes van die omgewing gekuier. Aunt Ethel (oupa se suster) en Uncle Rex Collins het, net oorkant die spoor op Devondale, gewoon. Ek is seker dat daar ook gekuier is by Uncle Alfi and Ant Nellie Fincham, wat op Kinderdam gewoon het. Ook onthou ek die Starkes van Curnow. Daar was die Barlow’s (my ouma en ouma aan moederskant) van Langverwag.

Pa Gerald het altyd vertel van die spook op Devondale – ouma en oupa het na die 4 uur tee gaan stap. Toe hulle terug kom was die tafeldoek onder die koppies en teepot uitgetrek en bo-oor alles gegooi, sonder dat iets uit sy plek was. Daar was natuurlik die fosfor-ligte op die drade waarvan Ma Floss vertel het.

Victor en Hester September 1940
Groot-Oupa Alfred Ernest is in 1937 oorlede en Oupa en Ouma Fincham het toe Kameelbult toe getrek.

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Die dae op die plaas was gevul met daaglikse plaas aktiwiteite. Die eerste trekker was ‘n groot aanwins.

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Die dorsmasjien

Kameel het ‘n winkel gekry – Mr McKay se winkel. Mr McKay was natuurlik Tannie Glen se pa. Hy het vir jare die winkel besit, maar die beste was die stories oor die mak kraanvoël, Jock, wat almal gejaag het.

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Oom Ernest en Tannie Glen op hul troudag. Tannie Glen was ‘n legende in die plaaslike poskantoor waar sy vir jare gewerk het.

Die winkel is later jare deur Oom Daan en tant Lizzi bedryf. Nadat hulle vertrek het, het oom Russel en tannie Corrie Olewage die winkel bedryf. Later jare sou my ouers die winkel bedryf. Nadat hulle genoeg gehad het, het Patrick, my broer die winkel bedryf en later jare het hy dit verhuur. Toe die laaste huurders van die winkel hom, na vele kere gesoebat het om die winkel terug te neem, het hy die bul by die horings gepak en die deure van Wilrick Kontrei winkel geopen.

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Kameel se “Mall” ‘n kontrei-winkel, posagentskap, ATM en die bottelstoor

Daar was ook die Italiaanse kryggevangenes wat op die plaas kom uithelp het na die Tweede Wêreld Oorlog. Pa Gerald het hulle by Zonderwater gevangenes gaan haal en weer teruggevat. Renato het vir baie jare kontak met die familie gehou.

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My Pa, Gerald staan links

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Pa Gerald, Oupa Victor, Ouma Hester, Jean voor en die Italiaaners.

Oupa Victor is in 1954 oorlede en ouma het die Cafee langs die treinspoor begin.

Kameel is een van die dae ek en Hennie se nuwe tuiste ons hoop om in die voetspore van ons ouers, groot-ouers en geliefdes te kan stap.

Tot ‘n volgende keer

Sandra en Hennie

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Stoepstorie 8: Stuart Street Harrismith

Stuart Street Harrismith as Autumn sets in

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We are part of the street as much as we are part of the town.

Our house address is 17A Stuart Street.

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De Oude Huize Yard was built in 1860! You will find it in the little block right on the right hand side.

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First Title Deed of De Oude Huize Yard

The name Stuart relates to two possibilities.
*Major Warden named all his children after the Royal house of Stuart. Rumors were that he was an unofficial grandson of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
* Stuart Jacobus, 1803 – 1878, author, diplomatic agent and advocate of emigration, took part in the Sand River Convention in 1852.

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Stuart Street in 1904 with a Rickshaw left wide sidewalk right and a railway line. Horses pulled the wagons (or coco-pans “coco pans”).

After the Boer War in 1904, the British had a huge camp on Kings Hill. Here they broke many stones, cut and trimmed it to be used for building purposes. To get these stones in the town a track was laid from Kings Hill to the town. Some of these stones were used when the Town hall was built. This information probably also explains the existence of many houses and buildings in Stuart St, which were built of stone. There were also traces of the track in Vowe and Bester streets.

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The first public building in Harrismith was the Court house, serving the community as a venue for the school, public meetings, bazaars and entertainments. All church services were held in the Court house until 1879 when the first church, the Dutch Reformed Church, was built on the site of the present Moederkerk. (Hawkins 1982)

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Stuart street on a peaceful Sunday morning. The trafic light is situated on the corner of Stuart and Piet Retief Streets.

The early magistrates were Bester, Chauvin, Theron, D Cloete, J De Kock, Bramley, (that was accused of high treason), Canisius, J N Boshoff, J Z de Villiers, F W van der Riet, Charles Warden. (Steytler 1932)

Mr. Joseph De Kock resides at De Oude Huize Yard from 23 July 1861 till 23 April 1903 almost 42 years.

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The corner of Stuart and Retief streets. The Court House on the Left. The trees planted in a square at the foot of Platberg were planted by the “konsentrasiekampkinders” and the indication where the Concentration camp was. The people of the Camp were then transferred to “Tin Town” in Ladysmith

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Corner of Stuart and Piet Retief streets today. The Court House made room for the new Post Office. The trees has grown and where the Concentration Camp use to be is now the town goal.

An almost mad Kitchener was tormented by the Concentration Camp women and children when they did not show respect when the funeral procession of Dr Godfrey Reid pass them. Instead a hissing sound was made. Reid was killed during the Groenkop battle on Christmas day. The women and children were then moved to “Tin Town” close to Ladysmith. Some were transported in open train carriages and the luck ones in proper passenger car.

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This picture was taken on the morning of 8 August 1900. A very interesting photo with significant history. On this morning more than 200 burgers of the Harrismith Commando came into town by horse, by “kapkar” and even Spaaiders. They were ready to hand in their weapons and take the consequences. In front of the Court House the Boer’s were ready to sign neutralizing document. The horses were tied to the railings. The name hendsoppers was given to the Commando members. Some came to town in their best Sunday outfits and hard hats while some came in worn out cloths. One of them was the Member of Parlement – Commandant Piet Maree.

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The guns that was handed in was demolished and was loaded onto a “bokwa”. There it was transported to the courtyard of the Court House. Here the 5th Coy Royal Engineers destroyed the weapons with a 16 pond-hammer on a anvil and hit to pieces.

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The house on the left was the home of the Sieberts-family on the corner of Stuart and Mauritz streets. The building on the right was a private school.

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Further down Stuart street is the Harrismith Club. This is still standing but been looted.

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Sandstone curbs in Stuart Street

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Stuart street with 42nd Hill in the back

Thank you to Leon Strachan, Nico Moolman en Biebie de Vos for their contribution

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

De Oude Huize Yard

Kameel Stoepstorie: A farm school in Kameel

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This farm school opened it’s doors in 1934 in a room in my grand-parents house. My Granny – Hester Fincham was very involved with the day to day issues of the school. My parents and family also attended the farm school.

Growth was evident and soon my grandfather – Victor Fincham built a school. Till today it is fondly remembered as the ‘Wit skool” due to the fact that since I can remember it was painted white.

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The Wit skool

Mrs Vic (Granny Hester) as she was known in the community was still seeing over the day to day running of the school. During break the learners would go to the post-office to get the mail. En route to the post-office was Mr Mackay’s shop and here you could buy to huge Wilson toffees for one penny.

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Fifty-seven years ago, my brother, Julian headed off to school. This was a huge family celebration as he was the eldest grandchild of Mrs Vic

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Front Douglas and Julian. Middle Patric and Francis on Granny’s lap. Back Myself and Elaine

It looked like great fun and he even got to take sandwiches everyday too! He had a smart suitcase, BOOKS, CRAYONS AND PAPERS! After not too much persuasion, I went off to school with him. I must have been the first 4-year-old in “Grade 0!”

Our teacher – I can’t remember if it was Miss Betsie or not, but she let me practice writing with the left hand and when that was tired, with the right hand. My mum would come and pick me up at break time soon after all the sandwiches had been devoured.

Meisies van Kameel Laerskool
Front Riana, Maggie, Rita and Amanda. Middle Mariette, Elmarie, Elize, Myself and Ansie Next row Analize, Heila, Marieta, Velmay, Elaine and Ria. Roux, Hanelie, Anina, and Martjie (So sorry I have lost a name) Miss Betsie. Miss Betsie traveled by horse cart to school.

The most memorable thing from that first school year was Julian’s speech about what happened at home just prior to his leaving for school. I have never quite understood why children must always write a speech or composition about their holiday or what happened at home on a particular day.

Getting back to the story – like most farm children of the day, Ouboet (Big brother) was quite capable of driving the Ford. Hennie says it was a Ford 100. We would catch Uncle Koos’s bus to school. With Ouboet behind the wheel, we would drive to the farm gate and then get onto the bus.

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His speech went as follows, “Miss, this morning on the way to school, the Ford’s clutch slipped and the gears locked which nearly resulted in us being late for the bus.”

The following year, school really began and it was a serious business. I recall Maggie and Elmarie who had the most delicious peach jam sandwiches. The sandwiches were later replaced by the most delicious chocolate cake. Elaine could go home whenever she felt like it. She was also my cousin and I would accompany her home during many a break time. She could run like a streak of lightening. Then there was Marieta and Mariette who could both sing so beautifully. Years later they would even get to sing the Drummer Boy song in the NG Church’s gallery. The clever girls were Heila, Riana and Amanda.

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Still remember some of the boys names Koos Swart, Johan, Evert, Karel, Kosie, Julian, Hennie, Pieter, Henry, Douglas, Patrick, Gertjie, Theo, Pokkie, Johnny, Pierre, Diekie, Johannes Mr Olivier is the teacher. Ouboet is standing in the second row from the top just behind Gertjie with the black blazer. Next to ouboet is Kosie with the badge on his lapel.

It was during this time of my life that I came to meet a certain school inspector. As he walked between the desks, he stopped at my desk. I think it was quite unusual at the time that a child could cope quite well writing with both their left and right hand. Perhaps he had not yet heard of the word ambidextrous! Who would have heard of such a thing back in 1963!

With the following words, “Miss, you had better decide which hand you are going to use to write with!” I got such a fright, I decided to go with the hand in which the crayon was held at the time – it was my left hand. Fortunately, all left handed people are seen by myself as somewhat special, many of whom happen to be in our family.

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I remember Mr Basson – he had his classes in the old white school building. We sat according to our classes. The standard 3’s in front, then 4’s and then the 5’s. As the standards progressed each year, we would also move further back too. The thing I remember the most about Mr Basson were his essays. He taught me to write about mountains. He would write key words on the black board and we would have to create a story around them. I always wondered if he were missing the mountains of the Cape Boland as he would spend so much time teaching us about these majestic blue giants. I must say that from where I sit right now, living at the foot of the Platberg, I could even wax lyrical about the colors of this beautiful mountain.

Mnr Basson

Later on, Andrew would arrive at school with his bandy legs. Like Elaine, he would run so fast you would just spot him disappearing into the distance!

And so, the years marched on. Many of our, “clutches,” would slip and our, “gears,” would jam but at the same time we learned of the Majesty of God’s Grace and Mercy.

May God’s blessings always fall on the Kameel Primary School like a soft and gentle rain.

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

31 December 2017

The year came to an end

We celebrate live and awaits the blessings of 2018.

The Joy of the Season

During our 52 week challenge we have shared with you the following

  • Town hall in Harrismith
  • The old station building in Harrismith
  • The fossilized tree next to the Town Hall
  • A road trip pass Swinburne to Geluksburg
  • The history of Warden Street
  • The Great War Memorial
  • The old Goal on the sport grounds of Harrismith
  • A road trip to Geluksburg
  • The history of Stuart Street
  • The Westley Hall
  • The Toll bridge at Swinburne
  • The Block house or as we call it the Castles of the veld.
  • Odell’s
  • The Club house
  • The steel bridge at Abberfeldy
  • The house of Mary Bland (Granny Bland nee Caskie)
  • Caithness in Stuart Street
  • Freemasonry Southern Cross 1778
  • St John’s sandstone church
  • A road trip to Sandspruit
  • De Oude Huize Yard
  • Cloete and Neveling building in Southey street
  • Bergburgers written by Leon Strachan
  • Train bridge at Swinburne
  • Kaalvoet vrou
  • Royal family visit to Harrismith
  • Debora Retief park
  • Rear-Admiral Maxmimilian John Ludwick Weston
  • Burger Monument
  • The boy with a very long name
  • Farm school on the banks of the Meul river
  • Hamilton bridge in Harrismith
  • Military Insignia around Harrismith
  • The Hills and Mountains around Harrismith
  • The old hotels of Harrismith
  • Annie Baine
  • Road trip to Golden Gate
  • Mountain passes around Harrismith
  • Stain glass windows of the Town Hall in Harrismith
  • Road trip to Verkykerskop
  • A farm museum visit
  • The sustainability of De Oude Huize Yard
  • Platberg
  • M.O.T.H’S
  • Route R74
  • Rensburgkop
  • Free State Harlem
  • Mont Pelaan
  • Plums and Christmas

We hope that you have enjoyed the challenge as much as we did.

Lots of blessings for 2018

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

Sterkies Nature
The nature reserve is host to some wild animals. It is also a favorite spot for fly fishing.

Sterkies swim Collage
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

Driekloof dam
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.

Oliviershoek summit
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

The Memorable Order of Tin Hats (M.O.T.H.)

We paid a visit to the Platberg Shellhole. It is believed that it was founded in 1928. The Shellhole lapsed rather towards the 1930’s. With the 2nd Great War there was as great influx of returned servicemen, all keen to carry on the true ideals of the Moth’s.

In 1962 the building in Stuart Street Harrismith was purchased as a Shellhole.

The Flag was hosted it waved in the slight breeze. The dark blue of the naval service, red for the army and light blue for the air force. The Tin Hat and lighted candle reminds of of the sun which rises and falls over the world’s battlefields, above all known and unknown graves. DSC02791

Then you walk into the door and the emblem greets you.

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The emblem with the tin hat and lighted candle signify the comradeship of the front line. The two rifles with fixed bayonets are leaning as if thrust into the battlefield soil, they are crossed to signify sacrifice and are revered in a token of remembrance. A circle of stars denoted the eternal universe forever that has no end. The twelve stars as in a clock indicate the hours of the day reminding us that every hour presents opportunities of harmony among mankind through tolerance and help.

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On entering there is a beautiful collection of a uniform and tin hat.

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The members stopped in front of the uniform and show a moment of silence and honor to the fallen soldiers.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them”

The Shellhole is dedicated to preserve the military history and the people of Harrismith has donated to keep it updated. The display dates back from the Anglo Boer War to modern day war fare.

 

 

On the day of our visit the Shellhole was giving honor to the battle of El Alahmein that took place from 8 – 12 November 1942. During this battle more than 100 000 men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The Shellhole was decorated according to the theme.

 

Nati Collage
During the battle of El Alahmein my uncle Ignatius (Natie) Barlow was one of the fallen soldiers.    Early 1942 they were forst toe retreat to a little railway station called El Alamein. They were suppose to patrol the desert. On 6 July 1942 Nati and two of comrades were blown away by a German bom that hit their panser kar. They died instantly. Their tempory burial ground would be the desert. After the battle they were re-buried in El Alahmein Military Cemetary.
“Where the tree has fallen let it lie”

 

During the war the Cartoonist, Bruce Bairnsfather’s Old Bill sketches boosted the moral at home and on the front line. The trench humour, cubby pipe-smoking British “Tommy” during the First World War.  A weary Old Bill, pictured top left is also part of the Platberg Shellhole.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the guns fell silent – we will remember

We all know about the poppies on Remembrance Day. In the spring of 1915, John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields and he wrote that famous poem – Flanders Fields. After the First World War, the poppy was adopted a a symbol of Remembrance.

In Flanders Fields

Flanders Poppy on the First World War battlefields.

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

One minute of memory of the fallen,

One minute in gratitude for survivors.

 

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://deoudehuize.blogspot.co.za/2014/06/the-moths-sheephead-long-table-banquet.html

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.

Zeeland Collage
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.

Caves Collage
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.

Platberg blomme
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

Waterval 1 Collage

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