Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tail on the Tortoise

Time to talk turtle. Well, tortoise, actually – I’ve never been able to understand why Americans lump all chelonians together as ‘turtles’. Turtles [and terrapins] live in water and are all carnivorous; tortoises bumble around on the land and they are, as far as I can tell, the only herbivorous reptiles left on Earth. [I have since been reliably informed that large lizards – leguaans, monitors etc. – have carnivorous young, but these mature into herbivores. —Ed]

Mr Foley, the largest leopard tortoise I have ever seen,
lives at Sevilla in the Agter-Pakhuis.
He might be vegetarian but he has a disturbingly
hungry-looking way of following you around ...

We have a tortoise in our garden. She’s always been there [she’s about 25 years old] and her name is Dink. We hoped for a long time that we might find a man-tortoise for her, and he was to be named ‘Humper’, after the singer most of us have forgotten – that Engelbert fellow. However, the best we could do for Dink was to borrow an extremely aggro and probably carnivorous male [tortoises, if fed enough meat, convert – rather like pigs].

This violent fellow had mad eyes and a vicious charge capable of knocking you off your feet. He was affectionately known as Mad Bob. I don’t think he was Zimbabwean but I am certain that he was, like his namesake, a closet gay. Mad Bob used to charge around the garden seeking anything that moved, or that he could move; he could roll a metre-long round pole from one end of the lawn to the other, head-butting it all the way. 

This Yzerfontein tortoise closely
resembles Mad Bob, but has much
kinder eyes.
We would shut Mad Bob up by putting a panama hat over him. This usually resulted in him sulking silently under the hat, wondering in his extremely basic reptilian way what had happened to the lights. However, there were unexpected consequences, like the perplexed passers-by who knocked on the door to report that there was an unleashed hat walking around on our lawn.

Mad Bob was quite unable to impregnate Dink, even though he tried and tried and tried to mount her. She would merely walk away in search of dandelion leaves, and Mad Bob would slide off and land with a thump on the ground. Not very sexy. 

We had to get rid of Mad Bob when he tried to mount the cat.

My brother sent me this pic that graphically illustrates
what neither Mad Bob nor his namesake
are probably capable of

We think that Dink is probably quite a happy tortoise, though there is no way to tell, really. She wanders blissfully around the garden eating everything newly planted, especially small things with pretty flowers. She destroys groundcovers and gazanias in particular, but you can’t smack a naughty torty’s bottom. She’s not entirely untrainable, however – she’ll come to you if you call her by clicking your tongue, because she’s learned to associate the noise with red fruits, like strawberries. Every morning when we have breakfast on the stoep Dink arrives and begs at the edge of the grass, fixing us with her dark, beady eyes.

Dink enjoying a strawberry.
It was her second for the morning and
it defeated her in the end, but
she returned later and polished it off.

Dink has also learned – presumably the hard way – to avoid the grandchildren on their regular visits. Like our ancient dog, the Fat Dog of walkies fame, Dink only has to hear the wild cries of our angelic little girls, the crashing thunder of their twinkly little feet, and she’s off into the agapanthus. Agapanthus are good, because they also harbour large hairy spiders, the kind that twinkly little girls tend not to favour.

A friendly-looking torty
from Baviaanskloof
We’ve met lots of tortoises on our mapping travels; some have their portraits here. They’ve given us insight into one of those mind-games with which humans like to torture and abuse each other: intelligent design vs creationism vs evolution. I’ll explain ...

Kangaroos have large tails; they are essential for balance when hopping through the outback. Crocs use their tails for swimming and knocking prey about. Hippos have tails like fans, that they use for spraying their faeces all over the place; porcupines have short, hard spines on their tails with which to club their enemies. Dogs have tails for balance when they run, and for wagging at their owners, and these days it’s illegal to dock them. Horses have tails as fly-whisks ... the list goes on and on. And on.

But why do tortoises have tails? Every tortoise has a vestigial little tail that has absolutely no use at all. Like stomach-appendixes and male nipples, tortoises’ tails are an unanswerable argument against so-called ‘intelligent design’. Not only are tortoises’ tails quite useless, they also look amazingly stupid ...

I guess you could take this further and ask why a ‘creator’ gave torties tails, but if you are an evolutionist you’ll be completely easy with the explanation that their tails used to be long, large and useful for swimming ... as the fossil record, indeed, shows.

Speaking of which, I discovered something really interesting the other day. A long time ago a loopy cleric known as Bishop Usher ‘worked out’ in a fit of mathematical inexactitude that the Earth was created in 4004 BC. What I discovered was that this antediluvian nutcase also claimed that the date of this fundamental event was the 22nd of October. My birthday! Hooray! I was born on Creation Day! Isn’t that great?

Then I stopped and thought, if the unfortunate Bishop was right, as countless millions of deluded people (especially 60% of Americans) appear to believe, why is my birthday not a world-wide public holiday? Surely there could be no more important day of the year, even more important than Christmas, than Creation Day, the day it all began?

A large and rather boring torty
who terrorizes small children
at Helderberg Nature Reserve
Or does the fact that it’s not even noted on calendars, let alone proclaimed a public holiday, suggest that humankind is in fact a lot more sane than we all thought? Or [much more likely] that creationists are by no means at one about the day it all began, almost as divided in fact as the religious sects that they belong to.

Which is a pity – be really nice if my birthday was always a holiday. 

Tortoises and all that have only a passing link to maps – in Afrikaans their name is skilpad, or ‘shell road’. Don’t ask me why, but maps also have roads, so there it is. Happy New Year!

Kaartman, Summer Solstice, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Clever animals

This week, some signs about clever ... and other ... animals that we’ve found on our travels.
Are you as clever as our baboons?

Could give you quite a scare ...

Can you stamp? Can you buck? Sounds bucking dangerous ...

The Ladies and Gents are around the corner ...

... The dung beetles will try to roll you away, and the elephant dung will ... well ...
Who wants dead elephant dung anyway?

and invading my dog’s privacy, of course.

... and you might be invading their privacy too, dammit.

This dove wasn’t all that clever.
It left this perfect print of itself on
my living room window ...


Just for fun. We'll have some more on another day.

Kaartman, nearly Krismis, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What's up with tourism???

There’s been a whole lot of weepin’, wailin’ and gernashin’ of teeth lately about the state of tourism in our fair land ... in Cape Town there has been a disastrous drop in tourism despite all the fatuous promises made around the soccer world cup – Blatter got fatter, not to mention half of Fifa, Safa, Barfer and Benny McCarfer, but the rest of us got the Fan walk, the Fatuous promises and a Cape Town stadium that seems to get used mainly for a series of increasingly childish wrangles between the City and the WP Rugby Union. Complete with foot-stamping and toys-out-the-cot stuff. Edifying hay – these people are adults, really. Really?

... and World Cup benefits
In Cape Town the tourism debate needs to seen, notably, against an atmosphere of considerable acrimony amongst those worthies charged with actually promoting Cape Town through its tourism agency. Sadly, the fact is that the Tourism Authorities in this country are almost all, in our experience, Beyond Redemption.

Starting with the Honourable Minister, a spawn of the apartheid-and democracy-loving National Party.

I’m a mapmaker and obviously I try to promote my stuff – that’s my living. But I also try my best to make maps to the standards you’ll find overseas, to help tourists and, by extension, to help Tourism agencies and entrepreneurs.

So it’s really great when you come across Info Bureaux like the ones at Bredasdorp, Citrusdal and Clanwilliam, who use my maps to promote the enjoyment of their lekker areas by visitors. Of course they sell lots of maps too – helps me, but it also helps them, because like most Municipal Tourism Agencies they’re supposed to be self-supporting.

And it’s really head-scratchingly confusing when you come across Tourism Agencies like the one in Ladismith, Cape. They looked at my Swartberg map and promptly said, ‘No, tourists don’t want stuff like that.’ 
Then they whipped out a bad photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of someone else’s map [no copyright sensitivities here!]. 
‘We just give them this,’ they said disarmingly.
‘Strange,’ they went on. ‘They still get lost!’

O the painful irony.

My favourite map is this one. I won’t embarrass the agency by naming it. It also refuses to sell my map of their area. Perhaps because mine has names on it. Or it might make money for them. Or help their visitors.

The wife and I swore never to go back to Plett again, after the then-boss of their tourism agency shouted at us [yes, pretty rudely, too], ‘Don’t show me another map of the Garden Route! They’re all wrong!’

She never even looked at ours; reminds you a lot of 200 ANC members of parliament voting for the Suppression of Information Bill without even reading it. Ag, actually reading a proposed Act of Parliament is such a whitey tendency, I guess.

Lastly, here’s an email I received, unaltered [well, I spruced up the spelling ...]:

From: De Oude Meul Country Lodge 
Subject: Re: Slingsby Swartberg and Klein Karoo
It is a fantastic map and a lot of work has gone into it. People are not interested to buy it, but they love to have a look at it. Most people are here for a day, then they are gone. Some will stay for a day or two to explore Oudtshoorn. To buy a map? The question is : What do you do with it for the rest of your life? 
Hope you understand.
Boy Spies (Owner)

Clearly De Oude Meul Country Lodge does not cater for [or believe in encouraging] returning visitors ... I wonder why. Perhaps it’s a great place and a lot of work has gone into it, but who’d want to spend the rest of their life in it?

Jissie Boy, jy’s darem snaaks.

I’m not even gonna mention Calitzdorp, Prince Albert, Barrydale, Caledon. The Citrusdal/Clanwilliam agencies have sold about 10 000 Cederberg maps over the past few years. That’s about 10 000 more families better informed about that region than there are who know anything about Ladismith, or Caledon, or ... De Oude Meul Country Lodge!

I’ll end with two quotes.

Louis Willemse, formerly of FGASA and the best tourist guide in the Overberg, wrote of the info offices in his area, in 2005: 

‘The good news is the Tourism bureaux are coming alive at last. Thanks to you. After all they have been happily selling your maps all these years without knowing what the hell they were selling.’

The ever-cheerful Louis stuck in an Elim ditch

Maarten Groos of the utterly excellent Farm 215 wrote:

‘Oxwagons still rule in the Overberg ... none of the noise made by persons annoying you is of any importance. I think there was a line in The Brothers Kamarazov: “Some persons are as dust on the road; once the wind blows, they are gone”.’

Think on these things.

– Kaartman 26 November Twintig-Elf

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hike the Cederberg #2

[continued from previous page]

... so we hired Matt Britton to do some of the walking for us [well, most of it actually] [if not nearly all of it]. Which is not to say that I haven’t been to most of those Cederberg corners myself, some even in the last millenium, but Matt has a 35-year advantage on us and is a young botanist of note doing what young botanists do best, ie hopping around from peak to peak collecting and studying often rather obscure plants.
Matt horsing around with
 a friend at Groot-Hartseer

Also, he had to carry a heavy GPS tracker [with spare batteries: 393g] and a GPS camera, and have a map-reading ability second to none, an enormous appetite and new boots courtesy of Outward Ventures.

Matt walked about 650km over a total of 25 days, GPS-tracking and waypointing and taking over 16000 GPS-referenced photos, possibly the most comprehensive photo-record of the Cederberg ever made over five months of a single year.

In between his Cederberg trips for us Matt has been collecting fossilized dassie urine for a fellow-botanist, an ou who is doing research on fossil pollens all over Africa. This involves cutting out huge, heavy blocks of that black, tar-like stuff you find in caves and outcrops – which is fossilized dassie pee, not dung as many people think – and carrying the blocks for miles o’er hill and dale back to the vehicle. Back at the ranch the research man extracts cores, dates them and finds out what the flora was like a very long, long time ago.

Fascinating – but you do need to be strong to carry all that ancient wee.

Although Matt recorded lots of leopard-signs – including old traps and trees where they sharpen their claws [we’ll put these on the map] – he never actually saw one. The nearest was on the Pakhuisberg path north of the pass, where Matt backtracked for some reason and, after returning to his route, found fresh spoor on top of his boot-tracks.

Gril gril. As we said to Matt, he never saw the beastie but it sure saw him ... Shortly after Matt arrived back at the Travellers’ Rest Farm Stall a lady rushed into the shop to announce that a leopard had just run across the road in front of her, near Alpha farm – where Matt had driven past just five minutes earlier. So Matt missed that one too.

Matt had Jasper Slingsby for company on a couple of his walks, and Rudolf Andrag on others. Our communication process meant that we also captured data on all the places where there is cell-phone reception. Useful stuff. Matt also avoided actual climbing routes, of course – this is only a hiking map – and over the entire period he met one firewood-gatherer [near Algeria] and a bunch of Russian botanists [off the Pakhuis Pass]. Oh yes, and a couple of students at Sneeuberg Hut, who were still asleep when Matt got there from Eikeboom at 7:30 am ... and he also met two klipspringers, a cobra and a retired airport luggage handler. Semper Afrika aliquid novae, as Mac Maharaj said to the Weekly Mail ...

If you'd like to keep in touch with progress on the Cederberg hiking map, go to ...

Finally, I sadly have to report that this was written on Black Tuesday, when South Africa’s 17-year old democracy started to die ... ’n groot, groot eina. May those responsible ultimately rot in a hell of their own making. South Africa will certainly not remember them well when the story of these days is one day told ...

Tussentyd, gaan maar goed.
Kaartman, 2011-11-22

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hike the Cederberg ... #1

At last I can tell you that we’re getting stuck into a new map – Hike the Cederberg – the walkers’ map of the Cederberg that I’ve always wanted to draw.

Back in 1980 I was asked by the Dept Bosbou to quote for a hiking map of the Cederberg. Before I could even lift a drawing pen the then-boss of Trig Survey announced that his department would draw the map, instead of me. Well, I was just the private enterprise guy; I wasn't a member of the Broederbond, and the SADF didn't like me a lot either, so for the next 29 years Cederberg hikers used the big map with the pincushion and the snow protea on the cover, because that’s all there was.

It wasn’t that bad as maps go, and later editions were printed on PolyArt/Duraflex waterproof paper, too, but it was never revised and it slowly drifted into a state of increasing inaccuracy. The Earth is a dynamic, ever-changing place and every map, no matter who drew it, is out of date on the very day it’s printed. This might not have bothered everyone, but I used to worry that the map still announced the existence – and the location – of the Heuningvlei Forest Station. Well, that Forest Station was demolished at about the time that the map was first published; there is nary a trace left of the village, the offices and even the school that once stood there – not even a rusty beercan.

Which isn’t so hot if, while seeking help for your injured friend on Groot-Krakadouw in the gathering mist, you thought that – of course! – at the Forest Station there’ll be help, and a telephone at least.

Sad about your friend, hay.

In due course Cape Nature took over the Cederberg from the old Forestry Department – rumour has it that the change was made to ‘save’ the Cederberg from National Parks. That may be true or not, but in 2009 a veld fire raged down the Algeria valley and took out the old thatched Cape Nature office. With the office went valuable research files, and the entire remaining stock of the 1981 map.

Something Had to be Done – and fast, because a hiker without a map is a lost hiker waiting for a rescue. Time was short and an ‘interim’ map was compiled.

Although it had some improvements, it also repeated lots of the boo-boo’s for which the 1981 map had become well-known. Even the ghostly Heuningvlei Forest Station, now gone for 30 years, was faithfully resurrected. I won’t mention the Welbedacht Forest Station as well – there is at least a small pile of rubble and a grave for that one. And a couple of rusty fences. And, if you know where to look, one rather lost snow protea assiduously cultivated by a long-gone forester.

So – well, we took the gap. With the agreement of Cape Nature our intrepid researcher Matt set out to walk and track and photograph every path ...

Of which more anon, because I'm told my blogs are too long, so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for Episode #2 ...

Hike the Cederberg blog
Slingsby Maps

To be continued ...
Kaartman, 15 November 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Global Positioning what???

New Wild Coast map blog is two down ...

One of the most frequent questions with which I am assailed by both my fans is this: do you think maps are still relevant in this techno age of GPS and Google Earth? - and if so, why?

I reply [with no hint of bias], "Of course they are!"

An outstanding feature of the age of techno is how easily we humans are seduced into believing wrong stuff about our newly-invented tools (because that's what all these gaudy gimgaws are - just tools, like hammers or stone hand-axes). People once believed that computers would be the end of paper documents. They believed that newspapers would disappear in the face of the internet. They still believe that using a credit card on the internet is dangerous, whereas it's actually the safest place you can use one. People believe that GPS machines are infallibly accurate. They believe that cellphone mast-transmissions will cause babies to be born with four legs, and some even believe that the Chinese are civilized.
Great for tracking Afrika ...

GPS stands for "global positioning system" and it relies upon bouncing radio signals off fixed-orbit satellites to "triangulate" or calculate, by fairly simple mathematics, exactly where you are on the planet. There are two types of GPS machines - those that record a track of your movements in relation to the Earth's surface, and those that are pre-loaded with tracks or points so that you can punch in a placename and the machine will [theoretically] direct you to it. It's often supposed to to do this via the shortest route, but don't hold your breathe.

A map, by contrast, is a picture of a part of the Earth's surface that helps you to see one place in relation to another.

I repeat: "that helps you to see one place in relation to another."

In a nutshell, a GPS reader will direct you to a place whose name you already know and which you want to get to. It won't tell you what's on the other side of those mountains. It has a dinky little screen with a teeny-weeny little maplet on it, but it's like looking through a keyhole. A map, on the other hand, is a magnificent sheet of paper filled with information about roads and mountain ranges and towns and places of interest, and you can spread it out on the table and see all these marvellous things at a glance and how they relate to each other.

Don't try spreading this out across your table ...
You can't spread a GPS reader out on the table unless you use a rolling pin, which might be expensive and not really what you intended.

People forget that, just as maps are only as good as the cartographers who drew them, GPS readers are only as good as the info which a human being pre-loaded into them. They often hold massive amounts of info of which lots and lots is incorrect. Of course it is - they are programmed by humans! They contain massive amounts of data, and they overcome the "error" problem using a simple principle.

It's the same principle that's used for street atlases for large cities. The atlas/GPS assumes that, of the millions of possibilities available, you are only going to use a really small fraction in the lifetime of your atlas or device. If the info is 80 - 90% accurate, your chances of coming across errors are pretty miniscule; your chances of finding more than one error are even smaller, etc etc.

You should also be aware that the global GPS system is getting old and creaky these days - it's all-American in origin, and pretty short on fine detail. Europe is busy developing its Galileo system - the first satellites have already been launched - that will be 20 times more accurate than GPS. Find space in the attic for that old Garmin!

In the end, it's a simple equation. You use GPS to find a known destination; you use a map to explore, to find new, unknown places, to discover the gobsmacking hidden beauties of our wonderful land.

And when you've used your map and discovered those beauties, you can track them and put them on your GPS so that you can find your way back again. Me, I do that by looking out of my car window, not peering at my TomTom. It's much more fun!

Kaartman, 30 Oktober 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Finders Keepers

 New Wild Coast map - next blog down!

One of the benefits of map making is that you get to hike and travel a lot - and one of the side-effects of hiking and travelling a lot is that you get to find stuff.

Unexpected stuff, sometimes.

For years we used to spend the New Year weekend camping on a bit of private land on the banks of a large lagoon. The General Public were pretty much confined to the other bank, about four km away across the water. Their Bank was upwind of Our Bank, and most days we'd trawl up and down the lagoon edge finding all sorts of washed-up stuff the GP had inadvertently dropped into the water - hats and beach balls and even buckets and spades. We had a rule that always worked - if you found a shoe / plakkie / boot etc, within 100 metres you'd find the other one - hurled into the water, no doubt, by a pissed-off owner who thought that having only one shoe left was no use at all.

Once, on a rare change-of-wind, one of our kids lost his beachball - it sailed away until it was nothing but a teeny weeny little dot in the watery distance. Floods of inconsolable tears followed. Exactly one year later the same ball - it had his name on it - sailed back to Our Bank and was retrieved, with whoops of joy.


One day we thought there was a body in the water - oh dear - but it turned out to be nothing but an old leather armchair. How we mistook an armchair for a body [or how it got lost in the lagoon!] is another story, but after we'd dried it out it was a great addition to our summer campsite.

Then there was the time we stopped to admire the view from the top of Middelberg Pass, near Citrusdal. Opened the car door and there, on the ground, was a brand-new R100 note winking at me. Much discussion followed, involving fantasies of down-trodden women tramping dusty miles to the town clinic with a ragtag of sick kids, losing her last R100 ... so we stopped at Tulbagh and enjoyed a reasonably slap-up meal, R100 being worth a bit more in those days.

This looked like becoming a dangerous habit when, a couple of years later, we stepped out of the car at Leipoldt's Grave in the Pakhuis Pass. There on the ground was a brand-new R100 note. This time we naively asked some other quite dishonest-looking people who had also parked there whether they had lost any money.

"Yes," they said (a bit too eagerly, I thought), but we handed it over at once, something we've regretted ever since. They for sure were NOT down-trodden women with a ragtag of sick kids ...

Near the Heuningvlei donkey trail - can you locate this for me?
Most extraordinary of all, though, was my son's find. He was recently walking one of the most isolated paths in the Cederberg, doing some mapping for a new map [more exciting news later], when he and his mate stopped for a rest. My son pulled off the path and sat down on a lonely rock, miles from nowhere, and found ... a real-live Blackberry.

Well, it wouldn't work, of course [this was before the whole world's Blackberry's crashed, by the way], but he eventually reached base camp where, in a flash of brilliance, he extracted a flash-memory card from the thing. We plugged the card into our laptop ... and the card worked, revealing a plethora of folders. These included photographs and we brightly realised that there might be photos of the owner's very own Cederberg trip on it. Sure enough, there they were, horribly low-res but I guess that's a Blackberry for you.

The photos had file dates, of course, so we were able to trace the owner through the bookings at the Algeria office. The Blackberry had sat on its rock through rain and shine, snow and heat, for about three months. Whether it ever worked again I do not know - the owner eventually collected it - but it had been chewed by some small animal. Shame hay, imagine living in the deep Cederberg all your life and stumbling upon a delicious blackberry - only to find that it's made of Chinese plastic, after all.

Bremer, the owner, was a young fellow so filled with amazed gratitude that he wrote a letter and sent a box of chocs.

"Ek wil net dankie sê vir u, vir u menslikheid ... die storie het onlangs my gunstelling een geword; ek het al naby aan ’n 100 mense vertel -- my ma het al meer as 200 mense vertel."

Feels to good to know that not only did we find and return the Blackberry, we gave Bremer and his ma a story to dine out on many, many times ... not like that poor little Cederberg mouse or whatever. Hope he didn't get indigestion.

Toothmarks on B² 's Blackberry

It's my birthday today, I hope both my fans will share my happiness at being another year richer in life, love and lots of good stuff.

-- Die Kaartman, 22 Okt 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wild Coast edition 3

The sad thing for me about the production of Wild Coast edition 3 is that I wasn't able to get up there myself, wandering around those awful roads and that absolutely stunning, achingly lovely countryside.

In fact I hadn't imagined that there would be all that many changes, but I'd hardly dusted off the old edition 2 files and got 'em up on the screen when the announcement came through that, in order to enrich all sorts of people with the right political connections and, in complete disregard of the opinions of the local residents and every environmentalist on the planet, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, the Honourable Edna Molewa, having applied her mind, had approved the construction of the N2 "Pondoland" Toll Road.

Avoiding the temptation to refer to the Hon Minister as Edna Bucket I realised that the new edition of the map would at the very least have to include the route of the proposed road ... which a quick google search provided. I made it fairly prominent on the map, hoping that that ugly scar across the landscape might touch a few consciences and even maybe [fat hope!] get some heads out of some buckets.

Then I had comprehensive info from Roger Galloway and Clive Dennison about stuff that needed changing.

Clive is well-known for his books about the history of the area, and he gave me some good info about airstrips and other great bits and pieces.

Roger gave me excellent info about newly-tarred and upgraded roads, names of clinics, etc. Roger heads up the Wild Wild Coast, an organization that promotes environmental education and awareness in the Zithulele area south of Hole in the Wall. He manages the Mbolompo Homestay as well and is closely linked to the Jabulani Foundation ... names, names ... but what Roger does is similar to the fantastic work done by Dave Martin of Bulungula and Aidan Lawrence of Wild Lubanzi. These three ous form a triumvirate who not only provided fantastic, clear and helpful info about their part of the Wild Coast, they are also all involved in the most constructive and inspiring community programmes imaginable.

Over the years, through the mapping we've probably come across 2000 to 3000 accommodation establishments of all kinds, from the simplest of camp sites to huge larnie 5-star hotels. The number of them who run community-based programmes or even, let it be said, appear to give a fig about the poor and needy in their areas can be counted on the fingers, maybe of both hands, and the toes of one foot. The Galloway/Martin/Lawrence experience was like a breath of very fresh wild sea air. Go for these websites to find out more [and contribute too, if you can!]

David Kramer wrote poignantly about the effects [or lack of them] of tourism on some areas in his "Dans Mettie Dood", a provocative, poetic song about the despair of poverty ...

Mense kom van oorie see
En die Boere bou net b en b ...
Hylle ry op en af met kameras en vier-by-vier ...
Almal is op soek na die ou Karoo;
As jy daai wil soek, kyk hier in my oë ...
Wêreld verander voor jy jou oë uitvee

Then I found that in northern Pondoland our road info was pretty inadequate ... after discovering the Mtentu River Lodge I discovered a whole spiderweb of little roads that should've been on the map, so there they are now. How we missed this lodge on our first maps I dunno ... but I wrote to the guys there to apologise ... still don't know their names, they just call themselves "the team". Poor guys are horribly close to that toll road ...

At this point our original First Researcher, the invaluable, indefatigable and ever-helpful Gavin Stewart stepped up to the plate ... he uncovered Denver Webb, who gave me great stuff about old battle sites. Try these Google Earth coords - them ancient forts are still there, if only as patterns in the ground under ploughed fields ...

Fort Beechamwood:
32 19 52.24S 28 42 20.65E

Fort Owen [near Centani]:
32 28 37.63S 28 16 30.25E

Gavin also unearthed and dusted off Craig McLachlan of the Eastern Cape Dept of Public Works, who passed on fantastic info about the proposed upgrading of various roads and the dates - so the map will stay up to date a little longer!

Finally, Laura Mileham helped update the Jikeleza Route insets on the map, with lots of interesting new stuff.

All that was left was a complaint passed on by Kob Inn's Daan van Zyl ... that the GPS coords on the map were wrong. Well, that just ain't true - they are and always have been 100% correct!

What's wrong is that users of Tom-Toms and other machines - which, by the way, are only as good as the human-drawn maps that are preloaded into them - can't distinguish between coordinates given in degrees, minutes and seconds, and coords given in degrees and decimals of degrees. I have changed them to degrees, minutes and decimals of minutes, however, on the new map, because that's the way most modern GPS readers are preset, and if anyone tells you they are wrong, they are simply mathematically inept and ought to go back to Grade 5. And that's that.

- Kaartman, 14 October 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Da lie [about Tibet]

I nearly pulled my previous post when I read a letter in today's Cape Times from Sydney Kaye. Kaye quite rightly pointed out that "old" Tibet [ie before the Chinese invasion] was anything but a land of sweetness and light - it was a savage, barbaric medieval fiefdom run by religious despots and aristocratic clans, rife with semi-slavery, systematic sexual abuse of the poor, mutilation of "criminals" including such gentle Buddhist practices as the putting out of eyes and chopping off of hands, etc etc. The religion cheerfully justified all this savage repression with the following [I quote]: "The poor and afflicted brought their troubles on themselves because of their wicked ways in previous lives and had to accept their current miseries as atonement, in anticipation of a better lot in the next life." God, religious oppressors have such convenient dogmas, hay. Presumably the fat-cats were those who had lived amazingly pure and blameless previous lives and their reward was to be able to kick the peasants around. May bucket loads of vomit be poured upon your re-incarnated heads, you bunch of sh*ts.
I wondered whether Archbish Des had ever discussed these charming aspects of Tibetan cultural and religious life with the man in the big square specs.
When I had calmed down, however, I realised that even though the state of old Tibet was hardly improved by the bloodthirsty Chinese savages taking over and liquidating everyone they didn't like, it still didn't change the fact that both Clayson and Kgalema lied to the people of South Africa, thus putting themselves out with the rest of the political rubbish with which history is sadly littered.
What has this got to do with maps? Well, Tibet is in the Himalayas, right? And they are the highest mountains on Earth, right? I rest my case.
- Kaartman, 10 October 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Anyone who thinks that map-making has nothing to do with politics needs to think again. My very first blog had to do with that unspeakable Egyptian Mubarak being thrown out of power, by his own brave people. Politics is about countries, and countries are boundaries and geography and maps. Kaartmanne like me make maps for tourists: good politics = good tourism. Look what happened after 1994. Floods of overseas tourists; so many that we started making international-standard maps for all those wonderful dollar- and pound-bearing people. But bad politics = bad tourism. At the moment we're going through about as rotten a bout of politics as we've ever had in the whole history of our Beloved Country.
    I'll explain. Tutu said [I don't always agree with the Arch, but this time I certainly did] that the ANC-govt action regarding a visa for the Dalai Lama was worse than any similar action by those disgusting, racist Nationalists - because at least with the Nats you knew before you planned anything that they would respond in a disgusting, racist way. It was the only way they knew how. But the ANC? They were supposed to be liberators, democrats, filled with sweetness and light and literally ponging of righteousness, of resolve to help the poor [or, as they say ad nauseam, "the poorest of the poor"] and downtrodden peoples of the world. Instead, they obfuscated, cringed and crawled in a really very disgustingly obsequious way to Earth's new imperialists, savage oppressors of Tibet and any other minority nation that stands in their way [like South Africa?] - the savage, barbarian Chinese government.
    The words "savage" and "barbarian" are the only words in the English language that are appropriate for any self-appointed, unelected government - see below.
    I heard Richard Branson on the radio this evening. Virgin Dick [as he is fondly known in some quarters] banged on about Mandela and what a great guy he was, and how the world would view our government's actions over the Dalai rather poorly. Richard saved the bankrupt Health and Racquet club, remember? But Richard missed the same point that Arch-Bish-Emeritus Tutu did, a point none-the-less picked up by some of the sharper and braver radio commentators of our day: with regard to the Dalai Lama and his Visa, our Government, quite simply, lied to its own people.
Two GREAT South Africans: non-liars!!!
    Specifically, Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the "Dept of Foreign Affairs" [sorry, it has a new handle for reasons that no one understands], lied - as did the oh-so dishonourable Vice-President Kgalema Motlanthe.
    Which is bad news for anyone who thought that Motlanthe, freshly returned from shoving his distinguished head firmly up a savage, barbarian Chinese fundament, might make a suitable substitute for the other lip-licking philanderer who currently occupies the hot seat.
    The only other President we've ever had who licked his lips like one of those poisonous desert lizards was ... PW Botha. Remember that?
    Now, I can't remember who said it, and if someone out there can help me I would be delighted, but what they said was, "When a government lies to its own people, its demise is certain - and, no matter how long it takes, its downfall will come as sure as night follows day."
    This I hold to be self-evidently true. There is no repressive regime in modern history that has lasted for more than a few decades at best. All repressive regimes lie to their people - by their very nature they have to. Hitler, Stalin, Breshnev, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Franco, Mubarak, Gaddafi, Reza Shah, Hirohito, Mussolini, Pinochet, PW Botha ... how many more have lied to, insulted and upset and abused us [their citizens], and are now gone for ever? Where are they now [apart from being stone dead, thank God]? They are all in history's trashcan where they absolutely belong. No one on today's Earth has a single good word to say for any of these freaks ... except maybe a few freaks. The history books will sure as hell have nothing good to say for them, either. Ivan the Terrible, Emperor Nero, Oliver Cromwell, Louis XV - these ous still get a bad press, hundreds of years after no one can even remember the horrible, crappy things they did to their own people.
    So that's the real problem. Lying to us about the Dalai Lama's visa might seem like a small thing, but it's all part of a larger picture whereby the ANC - a once-noble liberation organization - has ultimately condemned itself to the same oh-so-filthy historical trashcan. To see that larger picture, consider this: what do the governments of unelected savage barbarians [individuals who impose themselves on their own populations without choice are by definition bullies and therefore savage barbarians - see above] like Muammar Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe, China's Hu, North Korea's [?] [- should I bother?], Castro, King Mswati, that awful ou in Equitorial Guinea, Assad in Syria, etc etc have in common? Well, they're all deposed and/or hated and despised by their own people - that's one thing they all know they have. The other thing that they can fondly embrace is that the ANC - our governing party, the party of the people who run and seem, almost daily, to want to ruin our beautiful, proud land - snuggles up to all of them, without exception.
    And you can bet that if there is a single other foul, repressive, unelected barbaric savage repressing his/her own people anywhere in the world, our ANC government loves them too.
    There you have it - liars, liars, liars. And the Freedom Charter ... in tatters?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On the Naming of Names

One of the most enduring controversies that a mapmaker has to put up with is the question of names. Place names: town names, farm names, mountain names, river names, all sorts of names on a map cause concern, sometimes rightly so, often because the objector confuses the role of the map and the mapmaker as far as names are concerned.
   Where do place names come from? Most of the time they just seem to "be there", and we don't have to think much about them. Some might strike us as odd ["Douse the Glim"] or funny ["Hotazel"] or even almost rude ["Pisgoedkraal"], others are ... well, just names.
   Most of the oldest names in the world are simply descriptive. Hence you find a name like "Karoo", an ancient San word meaning "Flat, dry place". Some come from legends that arose in the mists of the past: Rome, from the legend of Romulus and Remus. Others simply arise from geography: Cape Town. Colonisers annoyed the colonised by importing their favourite names from the home country, and these soon got thrown out when decolonization took place: Salisbury in Rhodesia became Harare in Zimbabwe.
   Powerful political figures named towns after themselves or their family members: scores of Cape villages were so named by long-forgotten Dutch and British governors and other apparatchiks: Clanwilliam, Malmesbury, Simon's Town, Somerset West [and East], Barkly East [and West], Riebeeks West and East, Stellenbosch, Oudtshoorn, Cathcart, Swellendam, Tulbagh, Wolseley, Wellington ... or local dominees, like Moorreesburg or Robertson or Sutherland. How many people know that Hopefield is named after two very ornery civil servants: Mr Hope and Mr Field?
    All of this ignores the traditional and ancient role of mapmakers in naming places on the earth, often whose shapes and contours and relationships they first deliminated. The Americas, the Pacific Ocean, Australia, Ethiopia, India, the West Indies are just a few examples of some of the places you may have heard of whose contemporary names first appeared on maps, named by the mapmaker.
    Which is where the controversy comes in. I have put names on maps and later been asked, "How dare you give that place that name?" I've always replied, "Well, what is its name, then?" Reply: "It has no name, but you have no right to give it a name!"
    Many years ago I knew a ranger named Dick, who was in charge of a well-known nature reserve. Dick named a rock formation "Lizzie's Leap" after his wife, and a waterfall "Fryth's Falls" after a daughter. What Dick hadn't reckoned on was that this display of family loyalty inevitably led his colleagues to rename a local, particularly tumescent rock pinnacle [known boringly as "The Pinnacle"] after Dick himself ... I'll say no more.
   So, who should be allowed to name a place: a river, a mountain, a funny-looking rock, a street, a campsite? There is not one among you who does not assume the right to name her or his own house or farm or factory or business enterprise with the name of your choice - and rightly so. But if you had named your farm Bloemfontein or Mitchell's Plain or Constantia, or named your favorite holiday campsite after yourself [Hermanus or Herold or Camp's Bay], what gave your choice the right to be enshrined as the place name of a dorp, a town, or even a city?
    Sadly, lots of these "given" names eventually disappear with their owners; one of the things we try to do is to enshrine old farm names on our maps, so that they do not die. Here's a part of the Swartberg with a couple of just-such, intriguing names ... I assume that "Kabooka" and "Kookooboo" are derived from old Khoi names.

    Some would say: a name has to evolve, it has to come from what Afrikaners rather well-describe as "die volksmond" [the voice of the people]. That's a funny idea to me; the excellent Afrikaans descriptive sadly leaves a trail of hundreds of Grootriviere ["big river"], Kleinriviere ["small river"], Rietfonteins ["reed fountain"], Spitskoppe ["pointy peak"] etc etc in its wake. My favorite farm name is that of a wheat farm near Moorreesburg. Its name? "Koringplaas" [wheat farm], proudly carried on a sign at the side of the N7 highway. Not far away is a sheep farm named "Skaapkraal". The voice of the people is not always, shall we say, the most creative or illuminating voice around ...
    Others say, we need a democratic decision. Well, it has taken the City of Cape Town more than ten years to rename three streets in a "democratic" process, so maybe we should laugh that one off right away. They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee, and the same process seems to true for placenames. That said, one wonders at the sheer arrogance of the Nationalist Government's "Place Names Commission" that decreed, without a moment's reference to the wishes of the towns' inhabitants, that Simon's Town should be Simonstown, Wupperthal should be Wuppertal, and Onrust should be Onrus ... they later caved in on Simon's Town because the SA Navy wanted it so, but the other two are still "officially" known by the names that their inhabitants reject. What arrant nonsense!  Sadly this "commission" still seems to exist somewhere, and it's just as arrogant as ever.
    The other recent form of "democratic" naming seems to be that applied to informal settlements, many of which sport highly descriptive if uncomplimentary names. But I always wonder how our worthy struggle heroes must feel about some of the poverty-stricken places named after them ...
    Every noteworthy place deserves a name. Names provide us with a geographic framework so that we can put places into their correct relationships with each other. We don't each have a built in GPS and, if you think about it, it would be pretty awful if we identified places by their long/lat coords! "Where are you off to on holiday this year?" "Oh, we thought we'd go to -32.001894S 22.319672E for a change - lovely beaches!" 
    The mapmaker, though, often has a problem - he needs to identify a landmark to help the traveller, whether a motorist or a hiker. It has no name that he can find ... so he gives it one! 
    Recently in the Cederberg we identified a few such places - the purists will be shocked. But if they have better names for Seven Waterfalls, Black Falls, Squat Rock and several other noteworthy features, we'll be glad to hear from them!
    There's a powerful safety angle involved here. A hiker's map with a dearth of names is a dangerous map, because the verbal description of a locality, especially in an emergency, becomes very problematic. "My injured friend is about 500 metres from the path near a big rock that looks like an apple, but from the other side it looks like an upside-down banana" is so not-gonna-make-it compared to "My friend is ten metres from Apple Rock - there, on the map."
    And if you prefer to call it "upside down Banana Rock", well, that's your democratic right, and we hope you'll soon publish your own map too!
-  Kaartman, 5 October 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Yips yips, after two years of research and six months of drawing, "Swartberg and the Klein-Karoo" has gone to the printer at last. It's our first new commercial map since 2007, so it's a bit of an event. All the details are on the website, but here's the sample bit to save you having to dig all the way down for it:

When I told Chris Berens I was doing this map he commented,
"I'm hoping for some fab photos of the sickly-lit stalactites." Well, it's a map, Chris, so it doesn't have a lot of photos, but I was able to oblige you with this one:

Enjoy it!
Oh ja, if you sent in an email asking to be told about this map, when its ready, you should receive the answer in the next coupla weeks. There'll probably be an initial special price on the map, too.
I've got lots of people to thank for useful inputs to this map - too many to mention by name; and of course many thanks to all the places-to-stay, many of whom sent in very useful comments. 
Last but not least desperate thanks to Thomas, whose many hours of labour have not been in vain, and mebbe soon he'll be able to pay me back!

More soon.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GPS Coordinates - Eish! Eina!

Every now and then some Tom-Tom or Garmin fan sends me an email complaining that the GPS coordinates printed on a map are "all wrong".
... and every now and then we get on to Google to find the location of someone's B & B, so we can locate it correctly on our map ... and when we enter the co-ords in Google Earth we find  - for example - that the Tranquillity Backpackers, Nature's Valley, free canoe in every room, is located in an empty part of the Klein-Karoo near De Rust. Or that other larny guest house, street address Ladismith, who locate themselves in northern Zambia.

Both of which problems would be entertaining if they were not so damn frustrating. The problem with GPS readers, useful as they are, is that they introduced a large number of enthusiastic people to a set of basic mathematical principles that lots of those guys didn't understand.
So here goes, Kaartman's Guide to Long/Lat, or Please Either work in Decimals or in Base 60, but not in Both. Please.

Early navigators got it into their heads to divide the surface of the Earth by a set of imaginary lines running around the Earth, through the North and South Poles. These are called lines of longitude, and there are 360 of them, called Degrees. Why not 100 or 400 or 1000? Well, mainly because 360 is divisible exactly by 2, 3 and 5. Early navigators didn't have digital calculators, they had to do sums in their heads [seems incredible, doesn't it?] Because the guys who invented this crazy system lived and worked in Greenwich, near London, England they numbered the line that ran through their lab Number 0 [zero].

They also divided the earth from north to south into degrees, with line Number 0 running around the Equator, and 90 more lines that are parallel with that one, going North, and 90 lines going South. They called these lines of latitude.

They soon found that at the Equator, for example, longitude degrees were more that 100 km apart, as were the latitudes, so they needed some smaller units. In their infinite wisdom they divided longitude and latitude degrees into 60 divisions called "minutes", and each minute into 60 divisions called "seconds" - rather like time has hours, minutes, seconds. 60 is also divisible exactly by 2, 3 and 5, you see.

However, Modern Man and Modern Woman [that's us] like using decimals, which most of us don't understand so we have dinky little electronic gizmos to do it for us. We measure where we are with our tame Garmin and it says something like "32.075643786°S, 22.118796567°E". We have no idea what that means, but it's comforting to know that we are somewhere on Earth. Then we hop into our 4x4 LUV and set the Tom-Tom to find our destination. It gets to a right turn and it says "34°15'00"S, 22°30'00"E" - but even though John Cleese's disembodied voice says we must turn right we are confused, because the map says "34.2500°S, 22.5000°E". Goodness me, the map must be wrong because Cleese never lies.
What we are not seeing is that the map has the coords in decimals, but the Tom-Tom has them in deg/min/sec, or Base 60, not Base 10, so the numbers just ain't gonna be the same, are they?

So please, before you send me another email, check that we're using the same mathematical system.

Oh yes, another thing - GPS readings that have more than 4 decimal places are generally nonsense. It's amusing to read that your B&B is at 32.075643786°S, but nine decimal places means you are measuring to the millimetre - not really necessary to find you!

Hope this helps!

-- Die Kaartman

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shocking housing ...

[our Cederberg map offer is still valid - see second blog below]

One of the more pleasant aspects of mapping large rural areas such as the Swartberg or the Cederberg, the Baviaanskloof or the Overberg, is that we have to drive every driveable road - every highway and every byway. It's the byways that are the best, full of wonderful surprises, full of those "you'd never guess it was here" moments.
But the byways - and even the highways - also have their sadder, their gut-wrenching moments. As we've driven around these magic places, our notebooks filling up with distances and scribbles, our cameras clicking, we've gradually become more and more sensitized to one of the most disturbing - and disgusting - sides of rural life in the Cape.

On many farms - on more farms than ever before - from wine farms to wheat farms to mixed grazing and grain farms - there has been an enormous improvement in the standard of housing for farm workers. The houses may be modest in size, but they have neat gardens, glass in the windows, clean walls, TV aerials, electricity connections ...

Which is as it should be. Farm workers, especially in the Western Cape, are potentially the most marginalised of South Africa's people. They [usually] don't own their houses; they are tied to their farms, almost as securely as they were tied in the days of their slave forefathers, their ancestors from the shattered clans of the Khoi and San. They have nowhere else to go, and they do not even have the remnants of tribal support structures to fall back upon. Huge numbers of enlightened farmers have responded to their plight, and it's not just in housing either, it's also in training programmes, from tractor driving to high managerial positioning.

But not everywhere. Drive north out of the leafy suburbs of the west end of Oudtshoorn, on the back road to Schoemanshoek and its lofty church, its boutique wine estates and guest houses. Across the valley, not far away, the Cango Caves road carries thousands of tourists past ostrich palaces, crocodile farms and cheetah sanctuaries, all entreating you to spend your bucks, have a good time. The tar ends and you leave the SAPS Dog Training school behind. The guest houses and lodges are only a few kilometres away, but before you reach them you'll pass these places.

At first you might think they are ruins ... but they're not. They all belong to a farmer somewhere, and they all have people living in them, people who don't own them. They have no windows, almost no roofs, no electricity ... what they must be like inside in the 40 degree Oudtshoorn summers and minus 10 winter nights is, well. Every one of them houses young South African children, everyone of them houses people, people with hopes and dreams and needs.

But those houses are quite out of the way, not many people get to see them, so we needn't be too concerned that our tourists will be upset by them. However, at Herold, near George, there are some very larny places to stay, yet another wine estate, and a National Road, the N9, running past not far away. The house on the left is right in the town of Herold, the houses on the right are at Doringrivier farm, next to the N9 highway, at Herold.

Here's a funny thing. It's a Local Government election year in SA. Politics are heating up - the ANC says there are too many Coloured people in the Western Cape and the Freedom Front says there are too many black people in South Africa [only joking]. Two of the mayoral candidates for Cape Town might be Tony Ehrenreich, head honcho of the trade union movement Cosatu in the Cape, and Patricia de Lille, Minister of Welfare in the Cape Provincial government. I might have missed something, but I have never heard either of these worthies addressing the housing plight of thousands of Western Cape people in the rural areas ... have you? Ever heard Tokyo Sexwale, Minister of Housing, on the subject? Helen Zille? Julius Malema? Marthinus god-bless-im van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism? President Zuma?

The answer is No, because the children in these houses, and their parents, just don't count. And if the tourist view from the national highways is bad, well, too bad!

Last two pics. The first is off the N9 in the Long Kloof, less than 7 km from the wine estate of a well-known SA golfing hero; I wonder if he's ever stopped and looked at it. The other is near Goudini, home of many huge wine estates including some that boast a lot (especially overseas) about their fair labour practices ...

In his poignant song "Dans mettie dood" (Dance with Death) David Kramer sings poignantly and brilliantly of the lot of these forgotten, cast-off people ... [translation below]

ek trek ’n skuif en ek drink ’n bier
ek soek jou lyf vir my plesier
hoeners pik die bitter grond
kinners hardloop kaalgat rond
ek dans mettie dood
die lewe bly maar duur.

I pull on a smoke and I drink a beer;
I look to your body for my pleasure.
Chickens scratch in the bitter earth,
children run around naked ...
I dance with death -
This life just costs too much.

I can't get Kramer's rhyming metre into my crude translation, I'm afraid ... but I'll save more pictures for another time.

In the meantime, if you have pics of Shocking Housing, mail them in. We're thinking of starting a dedicated website, to name and shame the landowners who perpetuate this awful squalor upon our countrymen, in our fair land.


PS I'm hoping to find some emails for the politicians, so you can mail your thoughts to them directly.