Friday, October 2, 2009

Sak river day10 Kakamas to Nieuwoudtville


Sak river day10 Kakamas to Nieuwoudtville 091002 Friday 390km

I had supper in the hotel. I was surprised to find a proper sushi bar with caterpillar track there (not food that I care for). It is quite popular; that night 20 people had supper there, some coming from as far as Upington for the food. I would never have thought sushi would be available in Brackenfell, let alone Kakamas. After supper I had a look at the 1:250 000 maps. The Hartbees splits into two before joining the Gariep, hence the two bridges at Alheit. I decided to look for the second confluence in the morning. I am pleased I did because it is the more significant one.

On this Google track I parked at the end of the leftwards track because the donga there was too steep & walked across and down to the Gariep on the left bank of the Hartbees (I think this is the more important of the two bits of it here).

There is this pumpstation there (just visible in Google) with the Hartbees behind the reeds.

There was a small path through the reeds which I forced my way through.

Here is the Hartbees on the right joining up with the Gariep.

Panorama of the whole scene.

Looking upstream undistorted.

Looking downstream undistorted (but obscured).

Then I turned south & set off back home. Next dorp is Loeriesfontein. 282km away without a turn in between. I know the Ceres Calvinia road is the longest gravel road between two towns but this is in the same league.

I had come to ride long flat straight roads so this was ok.

More of the same. I did not wear my cool vest although I had the previous day.

Well there was a crossroads along the way.

This is dolerite reduced to pebble size, well on its way to becoming sand – the rich red sand of the Karoo & Northern Cape. A whole field of stretching to the horizon and hardly a big piece to be seen

I was interested to see the Sishen Saldanha railway line at Loeriesfontein. When it was being built my sister used to drive up here from Cape Town to visit her boyfriend who was working there having graduated as a Civil Engineer the year before. They got married some time later. It was his 60th birthday recently and a story was told by Guy Louw about this embankment:


Martin Burger, the Railway Engineer

The year was 1971, Martin's third year at UCT studying Civil Engineering.

A compulsory course was Railway Engineering, lectured by Prof DC Robertson, the legendry railway engineer of years gone by. DC was well into his seventies, but his sense of humour had retired a few years previously.

One particular lecture was about Long Chains and Short Chains. For over an hour, DC lectured passionately about how Long and Short Chains occurred when a deviation was made to a railway track route. About 15 minutes before the end of the lecture, DC looked up, removed his glasses and asked "Any questions?"

From the back of the lecture theatre, a voice was heard "Please Sir, could you explain what a Long Chain is?"

DC's face turned red as he spluttered "Who said that?"


DC then demanded "Will the student who asked that question please stand up!" At the back of the lecture theatre, Martin Burger rose to his feet.

DC "Get out of my lecture theatre!"

As Martin made his way down the aisle steps, DC was further enraged as he said "What is more, you have the audacity to attend my lecture barefoot! You are a disgrace to this University. Get out and never return to my lectures."

Little did Martin know that Long and Short Chains were to plague his working career. After graduating in 1972, Martin, a Clifford Harris bursary student, was sent to work on the Sishen - Saldanha Railway Line. Being over 800 km long, the railway line was riddled with Long and Short Chains.

Many years later, 2009 in fact, Guy Louw came across evidence of Martin's knowledge, or lack thereof, of Long and Short Chains. Whilst working on the upgrade of the Sishen - Saldanha railway line, Guy found the "As Built" drawings for the section of railway line near Loeriesfontein that Martin was involved with. Long and Short Chains abound.

On one particular section, it is evident that there was a variation in the track route. Martin had done his calculations (rumour has it that there was beer involved) and presented his
calculations to the Resident Engineer in order for the "As Built" drawings to be prepared.

There was ambiguity as to whether it should be a Long Chain or Short Chain. Eventually, to solve the dilemma, it was indicated as a Burger Chain. (See attached "As Built" drawing).

I went to the Fred Turner Windpump museum as I am a great admirer of them for what they contributed towards the development of this country. It was not open but there is a list of people to phone who will come and open it. I photographed the list and went to the pub for a beer. The very helpful barman phoned the person on duty and soon he was there to let me in. I pointed out earlier that the trekboers were prevented from taking their sheep further east than the Sak river because the rainfall was too scarce. Once windpumps were introduced and it was found that there was plenty of fossil water under the Karoo the land was opened up to sheep farming.

I had with me this t-shirt:

There is a post about this t-shirt where I thank Plore for giving it to me. I showed it to the man at the museum who had not seen one before so I gave it to the museum. They were amused and pleased to have it. There are 28 different windpumps there. I asked about the huge one I had seen on the way to Kakamas but they did not know about it. I had also mentioned it to the barman & he said it was a 24 foot windpump & suggested who made it.
I have no idea who sponsers the museum and, like most other museums, I am sure it operates on a shoestring budget. The windpumps are all freshly painted and well looked after. The museum building is an old Baptist church (no wonder it closed down – how many Baptists could there be up there?). There is a photocopy list of the windpumps with pertinent information about each. So many ‘museums’ just attach a name plate to each exhibit. If you know about the thing that you are looking at that is fine but for the new items you come away from a museum like that having gained nothing. Displays like that are really just reference collections for the informed. Here is an example of a board in the London Science Museum.

This is the label attached to the Jumo engine. It points out the additional merit of the engine; its simplicity of construction. Every exhibit in the Science Museum has a label or board with information like this. It identifies the object then it always puts it into perspective telling you what is significant about it or how it compared to others or affected the development of the product. Most museums just put items on display and identify them; that is absolutely wrong as a museum is not a collection, it is a source of information and knowledge. The Science Museum is an excellent example of how it should be done.

All the signs to Nieuwoudtville are like this. Apparently they wrote Nieuwoudtsville and fixed it by just obliterating the ‘s’; is it any better like this as both a blank & s are wrong?

Here is the start of the edge of the Karoo plateau as it drops down to the Atlantic coastal plain. The bushes are quite a bit bigger here; probably get more rain but I also suspect that nothing is eating them just here so the veld is slowly recovering.

I am interested in old buildings. Nieuwoudtville has some good stone buildings. I will show some of them.

The DR Church in Nieuwoudtville. It has a rather nice spire. Made out of local stone – as are quite a few houses in the town.

A Victorian house nearby. Nice ogee curved corrugated iron roof on the stoep. The advantage of these roofs, besides being elegant, is there is no wooden support required under it (which is required if the sheets are left flat)

This building is used by several professional societies as their local base when they come to work in the area (botany, entomology, geology, environment etc).

A Cape Dutch gable in stone. Avery peculiarly shaped gable. The upper inward curving part is called the hol, the lower outwardly curving bit is called the bol. Usually the hol and the bol are about the same size. I am not complaining; just saying why it looks peculiar to me.

More Cape Dutch stone gables. I find these very pretty. This only has hols. It has the more usual as high as it is wide proportion.

The bedroom of the cottage I stayed in. There was a book of photos showing the restoration of this building. The whole right hand end (as in this picture) was dismantled and the stones laid in their correct position on the ground, then it was re-built with each stone going back where it belonged (the wall had been about to fall down). That is how proper restoration should be done. The house has also been renovated (it was a garage or shed) so changes have been made but it has stayed faithful to the original style.

The table in the beer garden at Smidswinkel restaurant where I had a very nice supper. I think this is white sandstone (the pulpit in the church is white sandstone but I did not see it) but it might be marble as there is a marble mine near Vanrhynsdorp (though the marble I have seen from there is light grey).



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Anonymous said...

Greetings and started my morning browsing for corrugated stoep roofing and thanks to you I now know I am actually looking for 'Ogee' panels. Can I recommend a favoutite trip of mine, inspired by Lawrence Green's To the Rivers End. ( get the book from the library and take it with )Up to O'Okiep and check out the 'diesel in the desert' A huge 4 pot MAN diesel/dynamo genset standing on the veldt, it was used for genetating dc power in the mines - look at it and try to imagine how it was brought up from the coast and erected, no railways then... Next stop Goodhouse on the river, I used to cross on the old pont and roam the then SWA from here. Read the chapter on Karl Weidner, visit the family graveyard on the hill side and then walk upstream on the higher river bank and you will find old Karls pump houses still containing the original pumps allthough mostly buried in sand, I did some digging last time I was there for my photo's but covered it up when I left on my way to Pella, ask the Nuns there to show you the R.C. Priests Vestements, all hand made in situ by the nuns themselves, sit in the church and reflect on your life, the place was a favourite 'retreat' for Catholic priests at the end of their days, I did my trips in my old fleetline van, cruise control a stick with two notches, one good for 60k the other 80k. Got more if you're interested, gotta keep looking for those ogee panels, thanks for the blog.

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