Saturday, May 22, 2010

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.

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 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 a 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 *post*.

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* 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*. 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.

Schumacher. Winterhoek farm. This is the Tulbagh valley.

I am not as high as Schumacher was.

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 ports & passes then strung lines of them across the country in a vain attempt to contain the Boer commandos.)

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.

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).

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

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:

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.)


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