Monday, April 2, 2012

What lies over that Hill?


As it turns out, Vaandrigsdrif was named after August Frederik Beutler. He was an ensign ('Vaandrig' being Dutch for ensign) in the employ of the Dutch East India Company who headed an epic 1752 reconnaissance expedition lasting 8 months from 29 February to November, eastward from Cape Town as far as the present-day site of Butterworth. Beutler wrote a comprehensive account (Ride Report ) of his pioneering expedition which was first published in 1896.

His company, consisting of 42 men, 11 wagons and a boat () crossed the Zonderendriver (river without end, translated literally) here.

And as it turns out, there are two places named after Beutler, the other being 'Bottelierskop' near Klein-Brakrivier ('Bottelier' being a corruption of his name). Bottelierskop is a distinct rock outcrop in the area:

(Photo from this site)

Botlierskop (the farm the formation is on and from where it took it's name) has featured in several of the reports on this blog including the very first where my son and I took photos of the wildlife on the Botlierskop farm. The famous "Moordkuyl" route with it's big stones and hectic water crossings also is situated on the same land (it runs right past Bottelierskop) and that also featured on this blog regularly. Small world.

So, ensign Beutler, we meet again!

I find it difficult to describe the real feeling of excitement when I am about to tackle a new route I have not seen before. I must have been an explorer in a previous life.

I wished I was on two wheels though. On a bike you really experience all the elements of an area with all your senses. But having four wheels wasn't going to rob me from seeing what lies over that hill. Sometimes you just have to make do with what life presented you and this Ranger ain't half bad.

This is the Overberg region of South Africa. The scenery around here changes dramatically as the seasons progress. In spring when the farmers start planting the area turns a lush green. Soon after the Canola they plant goes into flower and turn the landscapes into bright yellow. A sight to behold. After the harvest the area is dust brown:

Just over the hill the Sonderend River snakes along, providing the farmers on the adjacent land with water for irrigation. You can already see the landscape turning green in the distance:

I rolled down all the windows to try and mimic the experience I would have on a bike, also taking in the sounds and smells. From the dusty heat the fragrance quickly changed to the smell of earth wet after the rain. It was the land being irrigated and springing into life.

I stopped to soak in the fragrance, only to find that the huge dust cloud engulfed the whole cabin through the open windows. Four wheels makes a lot more dust than two! Windows back up quickly!

Some scenery:

The road continues a short way past the farm to a small plantation:

This is private property and clearly marked "no entry", so I had to turn around. But not before standing among the trees and sneaking a quick photo!

So what was on the other side of the hill?

Some would say: "Nothing. It's just a dead end."

Some more scenery shots on the way out:

Greens and blues:

Shades of dark greens and browns:

And on top of the hill looking back to the road - the reverse shot of the view I always wondered about.

What did I find on the other side of the hill?

I found plenty. Beautiful landscapes, varying scenery and one of the best smells in the world. I also discovered more history on this little stretch of road than I could ever imagine. I found an unlikely link not only to a Dutch officer, but also to a place close to home. I gained a story to tell my kids the next time they travel with me to Cape Town.

I had a 40 minute holiday.

I could not reach the river, but when I studied the maps of where I've been later I realized that there is no crossing. But there is a placename on the map on the other side of the river called "Vaandrigsdrif" and a road leading right to it! That must be the spot where Beutler crossed!

The map for today:

(Click for full size)


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