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