Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And the winners are ...

Lynne Smit
Enjo Nature Farm
Andrea Bruns*
Vanessa Boyd
Rudi de Lange

Well done! ... and thanks to all who participated. We’ll post to the winners as soon as the office is up and running again and there are no more mince pies or turkey left-overs.

*Andrea has pointed out that she’s the same as Enjo Nature Farm, and has asked that we pass the second map on to another winner. Thanks, Andrea! The next lucky person in the draw is

JP Watson

Well done all, and a Happy Happy 2013!

from all at Chez Kaartman

Monday, December 10, 2012

Season’s Greetings: Win a Prezzie

It’s been a good year for the Kaartmans [on the whole] – we don’t go for all the gloom n doom stuff that so many people seem to love wallowing in – so we thought we’d end our blogs for the year with a free gift for you. Or at least a chance at a free gift. 

Send us a message with your name and postal address [South Africa only] and on Friday 21 December at 12 noon we’ll draw five messages out of the hat and send the winners each a copy of our brand new, waterproof Cape Peninsula map. Ordinary postage, it should reach you by New Year!  Send your message via: http://www.slingsbymaps.com/contactus.aspx 

If you’re on Facebook you could double your chances of winning by liking our page there (http://www.facebook.com/slingsbymaps?ref=hl) and sharing the news of this giveaway. Every share will count as an extra entry.

And to you, whether you’re a winner or not, all the very best for the Season and the whole of 2013!

Kaartman, Krismis 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Notes for a Novel #3: About snakes

Time for some light relief before moving on. There’s an elephant in the room that needs to be winkled out – apartheid, a prodigious pachyderm if there ever was one – but it can wait for next time. 
      Not everything in the life of a rural child was – is – unutterably dreadful. There’s a lot of humour, too. As anyone who has ever worked with kids (or had their own!) knows, children of all ages come packaged with a hugely generous dollop of good humour and a massive subscription of smiles.
The Kaartman Kids were rural children, too, of course, with some tales of their own. When our oldest boychild, Kaartmannetjie (Manne for short) was about seven he and a ragtag of tiny mates, including his own younger brother, used to go out into the veld near our Plumfoot house to catch taddies. There was an open sandy break there, a place where cables or pipes had once been laid, known to the kleintjies as the “Sandy Track”. The winter rains would fill the sandy depressions with clean, clear water, breeding grounds for frogs of several kinds. For weeks the puddles would be filled with thousands of wriggly tadpoles, all desperately growing and metamorphosing before the early summer sunshine dried up their nurseries and turned the unlucky ones into tiny shreds of biltong.
Manne and his mates would squat at edge of a puddle, their homemade nets hopefully scooping the water for hapless pollywogs, glass jars of pond water waiting to take home the catch. It was one of the truly great privileges of a rural childhood that even kids so small could enjoy that kind of freedom, unsupervised but within earshot of Mrs Kaartman’s voluble call that would summon them to the next meal, or baths, or whatever. So it was that one bright September morning the small people were well-established at their puddleside posts when Dickie, a neighbour’s kid, poked Manne in the ribs and whispered, “Mannetjie, what’s that?”
Manne looked up and froze. “Keep very still,” he whispered to the others; “If you keep absolutely still it won’t see you and it will go away.”
They all sat very, very still as a very large puff adder sidled slowly down across the sand, its black forked tongue flickering in and out of its clamped mouth, its deadly fangs hidden beneath its broad, pig-flat nose.
“Shhh!” whispered Manne softly as the fat, yellow-chevronned snake sniffed the water with its tongue, then immersed half its head and drank, long slow gulps that rolled and pulsated down its scaly sides. The serpent blew a few bubbles from its submerged nostrils, then withdrew from the water and slowly turned around. It was huge, one of the biggest snakes any of them had ever seen, and for a few moments its yellow, unlidded eyes met Manne’s. Then it turned and oozed away – puff adders don’t wriggle, they sort of ooze with subtle, peristaltic waves of ribs through patterned hide. Some people are repulsed by them; herpetologists love ’em.
When the snake had gone Kaartmannetjie stood up. “What was it?” whispered Dickie.
“It was a puff adder,” Manne breathed; “and if any of you ever tell Mum that we saw it here, I promise I’ll kill you!”
The manifest sincerity in Manne’s threat clearly impressed the ragtag, for nary a word of this was ever spoken by any of them, either to Mrs Kaartman or their own mamas. Manne confessed to his mother just last year, for the first time. It might have been his 33rd birthday, a full quarter-century post facto, but Mrs K was undeterred. “If I ever catch you going to the Sandy Track to catch taddies ... ever again ... I’ll tan your hide, young man!”
Of course the junior Kaartmanne were amongst the privileged rural kids. That was an accident of their birth, not their fault, and, as we shall see, lack of privilege did not prevent a great many funny things happening amongst the less well-off. Nevertheless, despite the freedoms the Kaartman Kids enjoyed they did have a few disadvantages, compared to city kids. Mrs K once landed on the first floor of the Golden Acre building in Cape Town, with an urgent bus to catch on the ground floor. The only apparent way down was via the escalators. The littlest Kaartman, these days an urbane, well-travelled scientist of growing repute, had never seen an escalator in his life and nothing, not even the loving arms of his mama, could persuade him to descend a machine that regurgitated and then swallowed its own steps. It took them half-an-hour to find the fixed stairs, and by then the bus had long gone ...
I have tales of rural waifs visiting the big city, too, but those will have to wait for another day.

Kaartman, December 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fat Dog’s Last Walk

Mourning Minnie

Minnie’s book, “Walks with a Fat Dog”, went out of print in April 2012. Minnie outlived her book by just eight months.

All the Kaartman dogs have been the Best Kind: indeterminate Faithfuls just as totally descended from wolves as any snooty pedigreed woossies with bad hips and pink bows in their just-as-smelly powdered hair. The Official Birthday for all our dogs is July 5th. On July 5th this year Minnie turned 15. That’s supposed to be 105 in Dog Years, a helluvan age when blindness and deafness are just so very excusable, and manageable too.

Minnie came into our lives by mistake. Annie, her predecessor, chewed up some organo-phosphates left by a callous farmer to thwart his jackals, and died in agony in the vet’s arms in Vredendal, up the West Coast. Days after the Kaartmans returned home fighting tears a friend phoned. A friend of the friend had a dog, a brakkie that had stopped the traffic on the N2 near the airport. Fleeing in terror through squealing tyres from several overweight traffic cops, the brak had jumped eagerly into the opened door of the friend’s friend’s car. 

She was filthy and shaggy with dreadlocks, but the vet said that she was in good shape, a well-kept dog, probably just lost or stolen, a properly spayed bitch who had had at least one litter of pups. He cleaned her up and got her hair cut, and the friend’s friend called her ‘Sophie’ and set about finding a home for her because they already had five pooches of their own.

We renamed her Minnie because she was so like Annie that we kept using that name, and ‘Minnie’ seemed closer to ‘Annie’ than ‘Sophie’. Besides, she didn’t look much like Meryl Streep. She was the soppiest dog we’ve ever known, with a most fetching habit of snuggling her head up against you if you picked her up. 

Minnie had wondrously soft fur; we later discovered that, if not a thoroughbred, she was so like a breed called a “wheaten soft-haired Irish terrier” that she had to have lots of that amongst her varieties. She was wheaten coloured, soft-haired and, if truth be told, not the brightest spark as doggies go, but she was incredibly faithful and loving and a brilliant walker, too. She was never really fat, but her soft fur grew very rapidly and if not groomed every three to four weeks she blew up into a furry ball. We couldn’t call our book “Walks with a Fat Wife”, could we? – and Minnie didn’t mind being the patsy. 

Her white and wheaten coat would get pretty smelly and descend into that grubby-pyjamas look that tends to turn visitors into stand-offs, but whenever she’d been groomed everyone loved her. She was a helluva flirt, chasing the boy-dogs whenever she saw them, but toys like tennis balls were quite beyond her understanding.

The sadness that goes with your beloved pets’ short lives is a cliché, I guess, but you can’t avoid it. Unconditional love, forgiveness, hope, affection are tough things to lose. This morning when Minnie came into the kitchen I knew it was Time. Her legs just wouldn’t work properly; she’d messed herself; she couldn’t see me or hear me. She wagged her tail when I touched her, but she howled in pain when we tried to clean her.

“You’ll know when it’s time,” the radio vet had said. “Always remember this – you can do a kindness for your pet that you can’t do for your human loved ones. And your beloved pet will never hold it against you, either.”

Totsiens, hondjie.

Kaartman, November 30 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Being Abroad

Spent most of September 2012 in the United Kingdom, visiting family and parts previously unknown to us – Scotland and the Western Isles, northern Wales, the Northumberland coast ... a fabulous trip when Mrs Kaartman and I spent only one night of thirty out of the company of excellent friends or family.
The Cutty Sark [London];
the 1400-year old Chapel of St Columba [Mull of Kintyre]
It was an absolute treat. Travel leads to interesting reflections – despite being a born and bred Suid-Afrikaner with African roots snatching back to the 17th century, I find myself strongly drawn to those northern isles. I love them, even their grotty bits (and they have ’em!) – but I could not live there. Not sure why. Too cold? I love the sun-soaked, dry interior of my country – it speaks to me with very persuasive voices. I love empty spaces, too. We found one in the UK – I’m sure there are more. Rannoch Moor is remote; in the middle of it is a railway siding that is reached by a single, dead-end road. It is the place that is the furthest from anywhere else in the whole of the British Isles. It’s bleak, lonely and lovely, but it has not the colours, the skies, the scents of the remote Karoo. It’s too different: I loved the visit, even the proliferation of dank and cheerless Scots monuments, but I could not live there.
A gloomy Scottish B&B: no toilets;
A pale and gloomy Scottish knight
You might say that it’s too cold and wet, and there are too many people, so many that to accommodate them all and their cars the motorway lanes are terribly narrow, the houses small and viewless, the supermarkets inhumanly vast, the traffic always and everywhere congested. But we did not complain. Congestion is what happens when a country has too many people (imagine China or India!), and when you know you’re merely a visitor you love the lovable, you ogle and gasp, and you embrace a bit of a branch – it’s only one of many branches, hey – of your cultural roots. It’s not your place as a visitor to complain, to criticise; you don’t live there, your four weeks are too short for you to contribute anything at all. My fierce maternal grandmother always said that the rudest, most uncouth thing a guest could do was to complain about the house and household of his host. Her name was Grace; she was not a person one easily crossed.
Good thing Poms can’t read Afrikaans;
Was that
really Mrs Gripper’s first name?
Which is why I was perturbed by an email recently received from a friend of many years standing; and why I need to address some remarks to you, John. It seems daft and improbable that we were in England, unknowingly, only a few miles from where you now live, and even more daft that when, a few weeks later, you appeared in South Africa, we were away in the desert. So sorry to have missed you, old friend, and to have missed the chance to interrogate why and when you left SA – apparently with your boys? I have no problems with your emigration, your adoption of England as a your new home. Time was when we might have done the same – the Kaartmans even contemplated Australia, until we decided that we could stay here if – a big ‘if’ of course – we could contribute meaningfully to change. But that’s our story, for another meeting. This one is about you. 
Down the ages people have uprooted themselves and moved, given the chance. Down the ages people have rejected the “take root or die” option, and sought greener pastures. It’s why human beings occupy our entire planet, after all! Without that urge humanity might, for better or worse, have remained squatting around the fading firelight in Klasies River Cave, gnawing at an endless diet of blue mussels and half-done porcupine. I have no problems at all with your re-location.
Re-located Romans:
Kaartman inspects Hadrian’s defences; apartheid failed there too!
Kaartman being sacrilegious in the Sacrum 
But having relocated of your own free choice you’re now a Brit, and you’re a guest when you visit South Africa, a guest as Granma Grace described. Yet you wrote to me (and others), “I now desperately want to get home to the UK ... ”
Why were you, our guest, so desperate to get home to the UK? Because, as you also wrote, most B and B’s you stayed in in SA were like ‘toilets’? The Kaartman’s mapping takes us all over our country; we’ve stayed in a huge variety of lodgings, but hell man, you had bad luck – none of ours were like toilets. In fact, every single one of them was as good as anywhere we stayed in in the UK – and I include the Welsh Georgian hotel at £250 per night (for the same price, in Wales you could go ‘glamping’ in a luxury tent sourced from Cristy Sports, in Diep River, Cape Town, or bathe in a Sundance pool imported from Somerset West ... but I digress ...)
While in the UK we stumbled upon a Scottish Nationalist rally in Edinburgh; elsewhere, in Bristol, it was Party Congress time; and somewhere in London a cabinet minister told a policeman that he was a ‘peasant’. A man called Miliband made a speech on TV that had the media in raptures; another man, a Prime Minister perhaps, made a speech about the stumbling economy; the Scottish Nats made speeches about Perfidious Albion. The level of fatuous inanity in every one of these politicians’ sundry utterances made George Bush II seem like an admirable orator. Later, we passed through Campbeltown in Kintyre, a filthy, shabby place that was made the worse by the realisation that all its dirty, indigent inhabitants have enjoyed the benefit of a century and a half of free education and full democracy. And while they were enjoying that, their compatriots, masters, apparatchiks and idols were busy denying the same benefits to the majority of South Africans ...
Windsor Castle: Kaartman inspects this early British Nkandla;
Rannoch Moor: no toilets there either
On neither issue did we ever complain, either to ourselves or our generous, lovely hosts. Petrol might have been R20 per litre, bus fares out of sight, house prices beyond belief, TV licences over R1700 per year, but we did not complain. We were guests, and we behaved like guests, and in our emails to our friends we thanked them truthfully and sincerely for a really wonderful holiday, filled with hospitality, leaving us with great, great memories.
So I’m sorry we missed you in Cape Town, Johnno, old friend. You clearly needed a bit of cheering up, and if WP winning the Currie Cup didn’t do it for you, mebbe we could have – in our home, of course, not in a ‘toilet’. Next time maybe we won’t be away basking in the desert sunshine, relishing its empty spaces ... ? 
London: They must have imported this vaatjie from the Western Cape;
London: a typically warm, sunny day

Kaartman, November 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Notes for a Novel #2

... so I carried the smaller one to the house, while the other one followed me with small snivels through the dark garden. Mrs Kaartman put them both into a warm bath while I sorted out some soup and bread. Mrs K dressed them in two adult T-shirts; they supped their soup in silence, watching our every move with large, deep brown eyes.
We put them to bed in the spare room; Mrs K had the presence of mind to equip the bed with a plastic undersheet, a thoughtful move. Our own babies slept on; the dog was long in her own basket; the cat stalked outside somewhere in the night. By midnight everyone was asleep except Mrs K and I; we lay awake staring at the ceiling, our next move long talked out.
The morning was bleary but we felt it was necessary to find out what the story was. The father was a large man, an ex-policeman who had been fired from the force, not so much for his heavy-handedness with his arrestees as for being drunk on duty. It was a Friday night, of course. The children had been asleep in bed; the father was drinking with his poacher-friends around the outside fireplace; the mother was ... well, who knows. Wanting a bed for a friend who could no longer stand up, the father had woken the kids and chased them out. Discovering that one had wet the bed, he had started to take off his belt, whereupon the kids had escaped his grasping hands and run away.
The situation was dire; it was a very dark, moonless night and the streetlights of Plumfoot were, well, few and far between. The smaller boy had abandoned his wet, chafing onderbroekie, the better to run fast enough to keep up with big bro. With nowhere to go, the eldest had remembered coming to our house some weeks before, with his mother, on a begging expedition. It seems we already had a reputation of the “there be sandwiches” kind. 
They’d arrived breathless, tearful and probably terrified and, they said, knocked on the back door, but no one had answered.
They must have knocked very softly, very timidly, because we had not heard them at all – and nor had the dog. With no options left they had decided to ‘nest’ under a bush in our garden ...
Well, we had to find them some clothes etc etc etc, and we sent them on their way, noting their names and addresses for the social worker who, if they were lucky, would visit Plumfoot some time in the next month or so.
We called them ‘the waifs’, and over the next decade and a half we would encounter some forty of them, mostly boys, one little girl. They had varying and different stories, though alcohol abuse was a common theme. Most came to us unbidden; some were reported to us by others, runaway kids who had built nests in the bush somewhere, and we had to winkle them out and persuade them to return to the real world.
Friday nights were the most common, and if we were away we would leave the outside room unlocked with blankets on the bed and plate of fortified biscuits. The biscuits were always gone when we returned; the bed slept in. One small boy spent an entire week at our house, alone, while we were on a trip. I don’t know what he ate; he never explained.
Saturday nights were less common, but did occur. Thursdays became frequent for a while, too, which surprised us until we realised why. Thursday was not a drinking night, but Thursday was the day before pay day. By Thursday the money had run out and there was no food left in the house. There would be food at the Kaartmans, of course.
Our youngest waif was four years old. He knocked loudly on the door late one Friday evening; the dog exploded. We opened the door; Bessie – his nickname, it means ‘berry’ in Afrikaans – was so small that at first we did not see him. He was the size of a two year old and weighed 9 kg. In the morning his mother came looking for him, anger in her bloodshot, hungover eyes.
“Kom!” she screamed at Bessie.
“Nee!” screamed Bessie, aged only four, “Ek wil nie ’n dronk ma hê nie!” [No, I don’t want a drunk mother].
 The most we ever had all at once was six, but generally they appeared in a long, unbroken queue – sort out one or two, within days another would fill the vacant niche. They all came from unspeakably poor homes; they all had to be taught to use a flush loo – when you only have a bucket loo you stand on the seat, not sit – and warned not to jump into a hot bath until they’d tested the water. They were all terribly undersized and many were ill. One seven year old was literally fading away – he was riddled with TB and was too weak to feed himself. Our eldest son would hold him like a three  year old on his lap – he weighed 11 kg – and spoon-feed him.
I have many more waif stories, but in the meantime South Africa was rapidly unravelling. In 1978 P W Botha took over from John Balthazar Vorster as Prime Minister and from there it was down hill all the way. Unrest at schools and universities continued; in May 1980 Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” was banned. Bombs were going off all over and opposition politicians and press were being suppressed wherever the apartheid state could find them. In 1981 Desmond Tutu was arrested and his passport confiscated; Mandela and most of the ANC old guard were still firmly incarcerated on Robben Island. Our waif problems were finding no resolution in the face of a complete lack of interest by any form of ‘welfare’ authority. By 1982 we’d had enough; we went to the embassy and collected the forms. We took them home to Plumfoot, filled them in, and began to plan the logistics of emigrating, lock, stock, three kids and a small scruffy dog, to Australia.

Kaartman, November 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Notes for a Novel #1

My favourite blogger, C is for Cape Town [and see Blog], recently encouraged us all to Help a Rural Child, a fantastic project that I fell instantly in love with.
Like C we too spent many years in the rural hinterland of the Cape, and Mrs Kaartman and I and the junior Kaartmanne were not uninvolved with the rural children of those times. There’s a story to be told here ... the occasional Kaartman blog might indulge. I have no fear of being sued, but I will say that I’m sure that all my characters are entirely fictitious, at least the guilty ones. Tuesday 13th November is an important anniversary in our particular struggle, too, as may eventually be revealed, if I remember.

Here’s the background. A few months after the 1976 Soweto tragedy the Kaartmans relocated to Plumfoot, a small rural town on the Cape coast. Its real name is, geographically speaking, just as dom as Plumfoot – you can call it Pruimvoet, if that sounds more authentic. The Kaartmans’ move had nothing to do with Soweto, but everything to do with some mapping contracts for the all-new National Hiking Way.
Don’t get me wrong – we were not politically naive, we’d had our share of the Cathedral steps, Twickenham protests, student unions, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd, but we were frankly absolutely skint with a small child, and there was a family holiday home going cheap at Plumfoot. We were almost, but not quite, remittance men [actually man, woman and girlchild].
We rapidly discovered that full-time living in Plumfoot wasn’t quite the same as our childhood holiday experience. For starters the social hierarchy was quite beyond our ken. At a crude level it went like this:
1. Afrikaners, with obligatory membership of the NG Kerk and the National Party; the “ruling elite”, like today’s ANC fatties.
2. Germans, mostly retired from Namibia, mostly living on pensions from the West German government;
3. Engelse like us, a teeny sprinkling of entrepreneurs and remittance men.
6. The Coloured population, the labouring class with a few self-employed poachers.
Each of these categories could be further subdivided several times: 
in category 1, depending upon favourite social activities; religious groupings in category 6; 
native or foreign born in category 2; 
and, in our category 3, age, income, dress habits and the probability that you were a secret communist. 
      There were no categories 7. Asians, or 8. Black Africans because neither of these population groups were represented. Actually there was a solitary Black African, who lived in a small tin shack at the bottom of the garden of a prominent retired Afrikaans professor, but he didn’t really count. He had no friends or social contacts at all and I always felt that for him life in Plumfoot must have felt exactly as it would if you were a solitary human, captured by aliens and forced to live amongst weird monsters in a galaxy far, far away.
Asians were completely unknown in Plumfoot. Many years later we landed in Durban with a bunch of Plumfoot kleintjies; to feed the hungry masses we ducked into a KFC. After a few minutes I felt a tug on my elbow.
“Pietta,” [my name] whispered Sandy Khoikhoi [his nickname], pointing to the shop attendants, “is dié almal Mexikane?”
The Plumfoot political breakdown was unspeakable. If there were any liberal, apartheid-hating Afrikaners at all we never came across them; of course, the entire community we knew must have died by 1994 because in that year there were no apartheid supporters at all still alive in Plumfoot.
The German community remained stolidly indifferent to all local and national politics. Secure in their multi-Deutschmark pensions they could no more contemplate getting politically involved in SA than fly the East German flag. Besides, some of them were ivory and diamond smugglers, of which more anon.
The Engelse kept their heads down and the Coloured community did not squeak. There was no tri-cameral parliament yet and resistance movements such as the ANC were but improbable rumours on the wind. The school children of the Scheme, the township, had not risen up in 1976 to confront the apartheid police.
The mayor of Plumfoot was a retired policeman, a surprisingly short, chubby little fellow, Colonel Johannes Jacobus Knoetze. Everyone knew him as “Kolonel” and in our first year at Plumfoot, in his Christmas message to the holiday makers who annually streamed into the village he placed his cards firmly on the table by describing Plumfoot as an “Afrikaner Seaside Resort” [his actual words were “Boere Kusdorp”]. This despite the fact that the majority of residents were Coloured, German or Engelse, in that order, and at least 50% of the holiday makers were Engelse, too, but facts, then as now, were not important if you were part of the ruling elite.
The elite’s racial attitudes were, to us, unfathomable. There was a retired dominee in the town – one of many, and we’ll meet more of them later – whom I always found to be a charming, educated and cultured man. Dominee Gysbert was tall and aristocratic; his family were part of the old Stellenbosch aristocracy and his brother was a prominent Advocate. Dominee Gysbert had won gold for South Africa throwing the javelin at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. He had been personally congratulated by the Fuhrer and had shaken Hitler’s hand; he was often rumoured to have been a personal acquaintance of the traitor, Robey Leibbrandt. 
Gysbert played a prominent role in the town’s White social life; he was a conservationist of note, but he was not known for charitable work amongst the poor and oppressed. I once asked him for a donation – he was a wealthy man – towards a bursary fund that sent impoverished Coloured children to high school.
“One thing you must understand,” the good dominee said to me, pulling himself up to his full, aristocratic, refined, educated, god-fearing height, “is that the Coloured people are still children. They might not be ready for high school education, they might be better off not reaching for heights which they cannot attain.” He declined to donate; he died before 1994, which I have always felt was a real pity. Maybe his god had mercy upon him.
There it is. May these notes set the scene, for what I hope will be an unfolding story of hope as much as its bizarre dramatis personae might allow. There was plenty of humour in Plumfoot as well as pathos; bathos as well as inspiring stuff. So what, prithee, does this all have to do with the rural child?
Well, there came an evening in Plumfoot when I put the dog out to wee before closing up the house for the night. From the bottom of the garden the dog, a small hairy mongrel, barked and barked. I took a torch, expecting to find a treed cat, a snared buck or even a snake. I found two tiny shivering children, boys, one seven, one eight, hiding in the bushes, staring out with huge, frightened eyes. One was wearing a dirty sleeveless vest and underpants; the other was wearing just a vest. That’s where my tale can rest, until another time.

Kaartman, November 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Incredible Rip-offs

Last week Microsoft released Windows 8. That’s not so much a rip-off as a small deception. Many of us started with Windows 3.1, back in about 1990. Windows 95 was really Windows 4; Win 98 was really Win 4.1 and Win XP was version 5. The awful Vista was version 6 ... now here comes the rub. Windows 7 isn’t, it’s really Windows 6.1, and 8 – believe me, it’s there in the works – is actually Windows 6.2.
But that’s not my beef. Last week a prominent computer chainstore sent me a glossy adsheet which announced that I could save an incredible R1800 by buying Windows 8 at the incredible price of R699.95 [= R700, they haven’t heard about 5c pieces yet]. “Limited to one customer; no dealers,” they puffed magnanimously. “Reduced from R2499.95.”
Isn’t that strange? Go to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/upgrade-to-windows-8 and there you can download the upgrade for $40. That’s R345.60 at today’s exchange rate – or a cool R354.35 less than the incredible offer above. It’s a 2Gb download so it takes a while, but if you have a 4Mbps ADSL line it shouldn’t take more than about 15 minutes. Mine took nearly an hour, but I chose a busy time. If you don’t want to download it you can pay an extra $14.99 and they’ll airmail you a DVD; mine took 5 days to arrive. The total – equal to R475.03 – is still an incredible R224.92 cheaper than the incredible offer above ... and what’s more, you can buy up to 5 licences on this real special offer!
And so to maps. We recommend retail prices to our outlets, but we can’t compel them to charge those prices. We haven’t raised our wholesale prices since 2009, but we recently found that many of our retailers nevertheless put up their prices on a regular basis. How about that! You wonder how many retailers do that for how many other products! You should not pay more than R99.90 for our Table Mountain map – you can get it for that from us online, or for even less at Kirstenbosch or the National Park HQ, but at some retailers the price has crept up to an incredible R150 [of which this Kaartman, who put his heart, soul and effort into making the thing, is lucky to clear a huge R42!] 
Buy online – saves you money, and it’s 100% secure.
My incredible product plug is over, next time I’ll go non-commercial again. All the best.

Kaartman, Oktober 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Arguing with the ANC

A large part of politics is all about debate, the cut and thrust of fine arguments, the use of reason tinged with lots of bullshit in attempts to sway your opponent’s beliefs ... 
Years ago the old Nationalist regime ran out of arguments, reason and even bullshit and it became impossible to argue with them. If you tried you were simply dismissed as a Catholic, a Liberal, a Fellow-traveller or a Communist in that order of increasing opprobrium. It’s thus interesting to observe that, now that the African National Congress has happily abandoned any pretence at morality, or the practice of higher forms of thought, or indeed even the operation for which they were elected, viz. basic governance, they too are becoming increasingly difficult to argue with.
In essence, whatever you say, they have three responses, in this order, trotted out without consideration for such silly concepts as relevance ...
1. You’re suggesting that life was better under the previous apartheid regime;
2. You’re suggesting that nothing has been achieved since 1994;
...  and, the ultimate stinger, the thought-killer to tear apart any remaining threads of debate:—
3. You’re a racist.
For my sins I recently entered a mild email debate around the merits of a contention by Howard Zinn, that ‘civil disobedience’ is actually a Good Thing. I wrote:
“I think Mamphela Ramphele got it right when she said that SA’s problem is that the Codesa negotiators never set any sort of civil education in place. None of them ever sat down and said to each other, ‘but SA’s never been a democracy, the people don’t understand democracy.’ They thought it would be enough to put a great constitution in place and use the IEC to teach everyone how to vote. They forgot that very few Africans had been brought up to an understanding of modern democracy or civil rights or civil whatevers. The ‘mixed race’ peoples came from different cultures that had all been strangled during the slavery era, and left with a kind of depauperate Westernism and strongly authoritarian religions in place of those cultures; the Afrikaners came out of a tradition of paternalistic and religious authoritarianism second to none, and the Engelse were by-and-large either descended from the entreprenurial merchant class or from Irish navvies, and either way ‘rights’ were something you had in the home counties and need not worry about here in case the Boers or the Darkies wanted them ...
“That’s why we are ruled by an authoritarian, militaristic ‘liberation movement’ that has no understanding of democratic politics or civil liberties ...” etc etc. 
Well, I had no idea of the politics of my audience until one lady sent this as part of her first reply:
“There is a preoccupation in SA to point fingers especially at the new government and the fallacy that things were better before ...”
ANC Argument #1 ... 
I responded and duly received the following as part of her second reply:
“Are there any achievements and progress in our country? I can clearly see them. Why are they not evident [to you]?”
ANC Argument #2, right on schedule.
It was a bright sunny Sunday afternoon and I decided at that point that I really wasn’t prepared to spoil my day, so I abandoned the debate.
Now I’ll never know if I am a racist or not.

– Kaartman, October 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

G is for Grandparenting

Came across a truly wonderful blog the other day. It’s called C is for Cape Town, written by a young mum, a sunny, creative person who is housebound with her two small childers. It’s full of helpful stuff for young mums – experiences to share, coping with fractious kleintjies, holding birthday parties, getting play-dough out of hair and ears, watching important little people developing and growing up in a world that belongs entirely to them. Nothing mundane about it either – it’s as brightly-lit as its creator, and full of lekker, evocative photos too. C’s observations are more than a guide for parents – there’s a profundity to them, reflections upon life itself, thought-provoking stuff for any age.
C is for Cape Town has two little girls, fivish and two-and-a-halfish, and they are so like the junior generation of Kaartmans that it’s uncanny. She calls her girls Friday and Sunday – I’ll call ours February and September. Because if there can be such creative value in a blog about parenting, then maybe there can be a little in one about grandparenting.
Postman Pat Re-run with two small wrigglies
Not that I have a snowball’s hope of being as creative as C, but I guess a couple of our observations might be useful for those of you planning for your own future tribe of smalls.
Just as one’s own kids did so very long ago, grandchildren start out as warm, immobile little lumps that gaze at your wrinkly old face with slightly glazed eyes, then suddenly crease their sweet little faces into enormous smiles that would turn the hardest of hearts into goo. This is frequently accompanied by a fairly unsubtle sense of dampness and followed almost instantaneously by odours of an indescribable kind.
It’s at moments like these that you gain important insights into why humans are biologically designed to breed while young. The older generation – ourselves – are there to observe and impart wisdom, while the younger are there to change nappies, to suckle, to prepare bottles of milk formula and bowls of unspeakably bland porridges. Quickly, pass the smelly baby to its mum.
As the grandchildren grow older they become rapidly mobile and distinctly noisier. By the age of two they can reach any precious object in your home, no matter how high above the floor it may be, how deep the cupboard recess, how firmly locked the office. They can outrun any grandparent, and they can definitely outconverse them too, albeit sometimes in languages that only they can understand. But if you think that the crying of a newborn is a noise, you ain’t heard nothing yet.
They even boss the boss's dog ....
Mrs K and I played host to Feb and Sept the other day. Mr K – that’s me – is inclined to indulge in a short post-prandial nap in the middle of the day, something that is surely the birthright of any sixty-something. Mrs K also takes to the couch sometimes, but with F n S running around maybe she didn’t. Whatever the case, the girls devised a game involving large empty plastic barrels. Each barrel was loosely filled with small hollow brass spheres, each containing a number of loose steel ball-bearings. Feb and Sept then ran competitive races complete with loud cheers and cries, rolling said barrels up and down the rough-screed concrete stoep immediately outside my bedroom window.
A full description of the effect is beyond my creative powers. I swam up out of the deepest sleep, desperately planning to seize my wallet, back-up harddrive, dog and wife in that order and flee like the wind to higher ground before the origin of the magnitude 10 earthquake impinged on befuddled brain. As I sat up in despair February ran over September’s small bare foot with her plastic motorbike and the resulting shriek, more of anger than of pain, caused twenty-seven hadedas to abandon their systematic stripping of the neighbouring field of endangered frog spawn. They took off on hectic flapping wings but even their uncouth, importunate cries were no match at all for September’s max-decibel wails.
Grandad's boyhood dream; Share my toast, Grandad
I love them. There’s no greater pleasure than indulging in yet another rerun of Postman Pat, with two small wrigglies warmly sharing your space. There’s that small, warm hand in yours as you walk down to the pond to feed the ducks. The gentle touch on your shoulder as you peer myopically at your computer screen, and the soft little voice behind you that says, “Grandad, Granny says you must come for your lunch.”
Dunno why, but Granny has a predilection for gazing
into water (or whales) with the smalls ...
When did someone last bring you your dog’s leash [apart from the dog, of course] and ask, “Grandad, would you like to take a walk?” When did you last finish off the small plastic bowl of luke-warm macaroni cheese, the half a toasted sarmie, the marmite sandwich with the crusts cut off?
I love ’em. And that’s why we have ’em, of course. So’s we can love ’em.
Thank you, C is for Cape Town. Thank you F and S.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Going Abroad

In the bad old days rich young Poms would Go Abroad to Further Their Education. Or so they said. The cynic in me suggests that the most important motive was to reassure themselves that the Colonials were still backward, and the Natives were still firmly In Their Place. Their imperial superiority reaffirmed, the Poms would return home to their Sceptred Isle full of bullshit about lions, elephants, distant drums, unspeakable customs, diseases and decorative body-mutilation, and how you dared not drink the water.
Nowadays everyone who can afford an air ticket can Go Abroad from anywhere, just so long as your papers are in order. Some years ago Mrs Kaartman and I went abroad and were greeted everywhere without let or hindrance. Our pre-1994 Green Mamba passport had morphed into a dark royal blue stamped in gold-leaf with an image of elephant tusks, rock art and a catchy slogan in /Xam which, like Latin, no one can speak any more. Or pronounce.
Staying Abroad ...
Clockwise from top left:
1. Our friend’s modest little shack
2. Another gloomy pile
3. This one is still inhabited!
4. Morning Tea [elevenses] delivery to the SA Embassy: cadre deployment
Then everything changed. Our post-liberation government, bless their cholesterol-laden, overweight little hearts, decided to allow all sorts of forgers, Nigerians, golfing pals of the chief, Islamic Fundamentalists and Friends of the Mafia to make and distribute South African passports to anyone with a fistful of dollars. Without let or hindrance.
The Great Imperial Power lashed back with a vicious spasm of intense, creative bureaucracy, the kind of pen-pushing crap that once greased the wheels of the Victorian Empire and fooled petty potentates, chieftains and thousand-year-old cultures to sign away their rights and possessions in a welter of thumb-prints, crosses and mislaid birth certificates.
The Land of the Fat King: no visa required
Oh, you can still wait for three hours at the Golela Gate before presenting your dark royal blue book to a man with a broken PC and attitude, and with a flick of a rubber stamp he’ll admit you to the rotten fiefdom of a disgustingly overweight sex-maniac who rules his tiny, candle-lit kingdom by Divine Right, with two pink feathers in his hair raised up in a traditional gesture more usually associated with fingers – but if you want to really Go Abroad, to the failing fleshpots of the Great Imperial Power, nowadays you have to get a visa.
You can go online to fill in your visa application – isn’t that great? –  www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/ApplyNow.aspx – and after two or three hours of describing everything about yourself, down to the colour of your belly-button lint and which side you fought on in the Anglo-Boer war – you will be asked to pay quite a large amount of cash [they need our rands, after all]. The “fco” in the URL line clearly stands for “f**k colonials”.
But here’s the catch – you have to pay online, immediately, and you have to pay by credit card.
If you keep your money in a box under your bed, you can’t get a visa. If you still pay people with cheques [for the under-thirties: a cheque is a little piece of paper that we used in the old days to pay bills] you can’t get a visa.
And now here’s the next catch. In case you don’t normally buy stuff online you need to know this. Right at the end of your transaction, three hours after you started to fill in your application and you’ve dug your birth certificate, your marriage licence and your Crimean War Medals out of the filing cabinet, your credit card server will ask you to Please Enter Your Secure Code.
When you can’t fill that in because you haven’t got one and nor do you have the faintest idea what it is, try hitting Enter. The entire website, transaction, all those hours of work will disappear in a flash, never to be found again.
But don’t worry, the Poms love animals ...
Clockwise from Top Left:
1. Blue spot: even the pampered sheep have no fleas
2. Pampered UK kitty had tail-graft [but white tails were out of stock]
3. Pampered geese don't have to Keep Off the Grass
4. Pampered Welsh autumn leaves
Before you phone your bank’s helpline [‘please be patient, your call is number 117 in the queue’], read thisthe only way to get a Secure Code is to buy something online. Anything except a visa. Just don’t ask why, because nobody knows, not even the banks. Go buy a cheap R20 mouse from an online computer store. You can always use a spare mouse.
Get over all that, do the form again, pay the fee, print out the appointment details from the website and not from the email [why? Only God and the Queen know], discover that if you live in Upington you’re gonna have to go to Cape Town or Pretoria to complete the application, keep the appointment to find that they don’t even look at all the stuff you sent them, get body-searched and thumb-printed, pay more to have your visa couriered to you [only credit cards accepted, hay] ... and three weeks later they will return your life’s documents and your medals in a plastic bag, with your visa.
We haven’t gone Abroad yet, but we’ll revert with further lurid tales sometime in October ...
– Kaartman, Augustus 2012
Dinky stuff to temp you into making that visa application – dinky streets, dinky church, dinky river, dinky view. Lekker hay?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Clippety-Clop Blog

Mrs Kaartman and I began our married life teaching at Kettley’s Country Day School. I mention that because Kettley’s has not a single entry on Google, and it’s high time it did – anyone who would like to share anything about that extraordinary school can contact me at http://www.slingsbymaps.com/contactus.aspx
    This was the only non-racial South African school during the apartheid years of BJ Vorster – and it was, to boot, a private school that uniquely served the economically disadvantaged. It sadly died when a crooked lawyer wrote a crooked constitution for its Board of Governors, and a huge grant of cash that Anglo-American wanted to pump into the place simply withered away ... but I digress. My sole purpose in mentioning Kettley’s was a sneaky way of bringing me to Cape Town High School. 

A Kettley’s kid in the school playground

One of my jobs at Kettley’s was to find high school places for our graduating Standard Fives – usually two or three kids in the early stages of spotty adolescence. There were five of them in that year when all their parents wanted them to move on to Cape Town High School.  I was sent off into the City to see the Principal, hoping to convince him that our Kettley’s kids would be worthy entrants.
        Max Leeuwenburg was the Principal at the time, a tall, rangy man with bushy eyebrows, a ready smile and (so his son Jeff always claimed) a grandfather who had been a Dutch pirate in the Sumatran sea. Before I could put my kiddies’ case to Max he smiled piratically and said, “Tell their parents that they’re all accepted. Would you like a cup of tea?”
    That was that – no entrance tests, no academic records, no nuthin’. “Kettley’s kids are always,” Max explained, “an asset to my school.” Turned out that Kettley’s tiny contribution in numbers had led to a regular stream of Cape Town High head girls and boys over the years; my lot were no exception – two of them went on to become heads of their new school.

Some Kettley’s kids – a couple of future Head Girls and Boys
 amongst them – with some friends. At Toorwater hot springs in
 the Karoo; the two under-dressed little girls flanking the boy
 with the snowball have just come out of the 38°C pool ...

Which was why, a few years later, I went back to Cape Town High with a problem around a child who had reached the registration age for national service in the bad old SADF. The head had changed; Neil Berens was as tall as Max, with a beady eye and a ready smile but (probably) no pirates in his family tree. I put my problem to him: how to register this boy – who might have held foreign citizenship – for National Service. Neil smiled; he winked engagingly and piratically and replied, “What National Service?”
That was about 1979, and I reckon that this singular act of civil defiance might have been the tipping point that eventually led to the collapse of the authoritarian National Party government, also known as the Apartheid Regime.
At about the same time we got to know Neil’s wife Penny – not well, you understand, but through the regular appearance of the Std 5 girls from Micklefield School on an environmental course we ran. Penny was principal of the school, but the girls would be accompanied by June Clark, a most wonderful person who, as the girl’s geography teacher, was constantly embarrassed on these courses because the Micklefield girls were from the only school that regularly got lost. We used to set visiting kids off to find the campsite all by themselves; they had to walk about 3km down a wide-open beach, cross a large, open and shallow pan with no geophysical obstacles, where they would be met by local kids who would guide them the rest of the way (often by actually holding their hands).

Of all the schools who ever came to us, only the Micklefield girls regularly (in fact, on an annual basis) got lost during this challenging endeavour ...
Which is a sneaky way of introducing the very excellent Chris Berens, the son of Neil and Penny, who has made up for the geographical ineptitude of generations of Micklefield Std 5s and his father’s wilful disregard for dictatorial authority by becoming a most estimable mapmaker and artist extraordinaire. With Fiona Berrisford he is the creator of those amazing silver and blue moon and tide charts that you’ve seen in your own and your friends’ houses.
Chris also creates maps, and you can find out more about them at http://www.slingsbymaps.com/clipclop.aspx . He also runs MapLand, a spatial data management consultancy that specialises in a “common sense approach to mapping”. Which is why we asked Chris to produce this superb relief shading for our forthcoming Cederberg Hiking map:

Chris’s work on the left; combined with
our own height shading, on the right ... 

... and here’s a little piece of the final map, to whet your appetite ...

Click on the map sample to enlarge it ...

Chris’s own commercial maps include wall maps of South Africa, the Western Cape and Limpopo, but you should also visit ClipClop’s own site to see the full range of their creative genius: http://clipclop.co.za/index.html . There’s a great glimpse of Fiona’s wonderful mosaics, too. Buy ClipClop products now – they come in neat cardboard tubes and make absolutely fantastic birthday, wedding, Christmas, you-name-it presents, too.
Kom koop!
Kaartman, July 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Bunch of Baboons

“Get Peter Slingsby’s Baviaanskloof map – a Baviaanskloof adventure without it is like a house without a stoep.” So wrote Barnie Louw, Editor of ‘Drive Out’ mag a year or so ago. Clearly ‘Drive Out’s sister mag ‘Weg’ felt that the stoep was big enough for two, and they’ve banged out their own ‘Baviaanskloof’. On the same waterproof paper, too, probably about the same size [I haven’t bought one yet], and R23 or 20% more in price. Oh well, competition’s good for us all, but I couldn’t help feeling that ‘Weg’ might have started off with one of the many areas that desperately needs a map, but hasn’t got a good one yet – like Richtersveld or Magaliesberg or somewhere.

But I’m not here to promote someone else’s stuff, especially if I haven’t seen it yet. Our ‘Baviaanskloof #3’ is about to hit the shelves [Friday 6 July] and it’s a substantive upgrade on edition #2. We never ever ever reprint a map without upgrading, and we’ve had great inputs from Jane Zaayman, o/c of the official Baviaanskloof Tourism in Willowmore, who endorse our map. At the other end of the Kloof some of our best fans are at the famous Tolbos Farm Stall in Patensie; Hetsie Scheepers gave us some good stuff to improve the eastern end. Finally, Dieter van den Broeck and his wife Sylvia Weel of ‘Living Lands’, who have become an integral part of the whole Baviaanskloof community, filled us in on the Presence Learning Village and their other projects.

Click on the sample piece of the map to see an enlargement
Add to that an all-round improvement in colouring, symbolization and GPS info that’s now in line with our other more recent maps, and first class world-class printing by Creda Communications, a great local company – local is lekker, especially local employment [we don’t print at three times the price offshore, in Italy for example ] ... and the price is still the same, R87.50 online, or even less at some retailers, for this superlative, double-sided map.
Entering Baviaanskloof at the Willowmore end: 
Nuwekloof Pass, Die Slot van Baviaanskloof, Rooikuif Rocks
One thing we could not determine – apparently the steeper parts of a couple of the internal passes are being concreted, but no info was available when we went to press, so for safety’s sake we have still characterised those routes as 4x4 recommended. Mind you, raising the Kouga Dam wall is in the pipeline and that’s going to mean the re-routing and rebuilding of at least 12km of the R332 at some future date, but it won’t be for a couple of years yet.
Willowmore cedars; Leguaan; Pelargoniums; one of the
 countless side-ravines for which Baviaanskloof is famous
In the meantime, enjoy the Bavvies with our ever-helpful map; there are 64 places to stay located with their telephone numbers, full GPS info and distances, and a host of activities from hiking to twitching, 4x4 routes, where to eat, where to picnic, all the great stuff I hope you expect from our maps. On 111 gsm waterproof, tear-resistant Duraflex paper, too.
Baviaanskloof people
You can even read it while sipping coffee, on your stoep. Remember – it was the first map, and it’s still the best!
Some of the 64 great places to stay

Witpoortjie; Kouga Dam; Combrink’s Pass
Kaartman, July 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Another Universe

Mrs Kaartman and I recently spent most of a week in Heuningvlei, a tiny Cederberg village of just 25 families. We were collecting local place-names for our forthcoming hiking map of the area [more info at http://cederbergmap.blogspot.com]; we so much enjoyed our contact with the friendly and enthusiastic Heuningvleiers and the incredible peace and beauty of the place that we’ve gotta share it. 
Heuningvlei is one of the Wupperthal ‘buiteposte’, a scatter of tiny hamlets on the Wupperthal mission lands. They variously house from two to maybe thirty families; most breadwinners are effectively subsistence farmers, growing food crops, rooibos tea, and herding goats, sheep and a few cows. These days they have electricity, telephones and satellite TV, but power in the fields and on the roads is still largely supplied by donkeys and mules. All the buiteposte – the cleanest, most litter-free settlements we’ve ever come across in all of South Africa [without a single exception!] – are situated fifteen kilometres or less from the Wupperthal ‘moederkerk’, and all are reached via a network of [mostly] quite appalling roads.
Don’t let that put you off; the buiteposte are villages from another universe, corners of astonishing beauty that lie like beads on a wire down the eastern boundary of the Cederberg Wilderness, from Heuningvlei in the north to Langkloof in the south. Some years ago Peter Hart and Denis Lejeune, amongst others, established [with commendable foresight, I reckon] the Cederberg Heritage Route, a series of guided, “slack-packing” routes that [at a price of course!]  will take you on foot through the mountains to home-stays and guest houses in the middle of the very buitepos villages themselves [see http://www.cedheroute.co.za].
But you don’t need to spend big bucks to enrich your experience of the Cederberg in these lekker little towns. You can easily hike – free – between various overnighting options, or drive – any high-clearance vehicle is fine, you don’t need a V8 or even a four-by-four. Or, for pretty moderate fees, you can be transported between them in bumpy but exhilarating donkey carts [take your own cushions]. You’ll pump some much-valued income into these needy communities, too, but make sure you have cash – no card facilities here, hay. No EFTs.
Klipspringer on the ‘Noodpad’,
the donkey track from Pakhuis to Heuningvlei
You could start at the summit of the Pakhuis Pass, where you can either hike the 12km to Heuningvlei with a CapeNature permit, or book to go by donkey cart [see numbers below]. That said, you probably and wisely don’t want to leave your car on the Pass for several days, so it might be best to drive to Heuningvlei. It’s a slow road but quite passable, about 1½ to 2 hours from Clanwilliam. At Heuningvlei the old primary school has been converted into a Backpackers’ Lodge. It’s been well done, too. We were there in violently-cold overnight temperatures [knypend, hay] but the thatched building with its efficient fireplace was pretty snug. It’s well-equipped, too – there’s even bedding – but you need to remember to turn off the mains electricity at night. There are very bright outside lights that turn on automatically at sunset – with no override switch – creating a bit of a stalag atmosphere that’s not much good for star-gazing, either.
Heuningvlei Backpackers Lodge
There are some truly great day walks around Heuningvlei; a permit is needed for the Wilderness but not for the network of paths in the Wupperthal commonage. The friendly locals will provide an inexpensive guide to the many peaks, caves, and rock art sites, too.
Down the track lie the settlements of Ghoeboom and Langkuilshoek [one house/two houses] before Witwater. It’s a high-clearance vehicle road, an easy walk or a bumpy donkey-cart ride. Witwater is a village with maybe twelve families; if you’ve never read M. I. Murray’s “Witwater se Mense” do yourself a literary favour – you won’t regret it, it’s a gem of SA Lit that’s not properly recognized. I blame Tafelberg, who never translated it and let it go out of print ...
About 8km from Heuningvlei you climb over Rooihoogte through really rich and beautiful fynbos, wabooms and tolbos and gorgeous silvery paranomus, to reach Brugkraal, a tiny settlement with pretty good self-catering guest house [details below].
Self-catering cottage at Brugkraal – the one
on the right. Note braaiplekkie behind
There is a three kilometre footpath between Brugkraal and Grasvlei, the next settlement on the string. At Grasvlei there is a really remarkable “toolshed” [see pic], and if your permits are in order you should penetrate the Wilderness for a few km on the Boontjieskloof path, to some of the finest swimming holes in the Cederberg. 
Brugkraal toolshed
From Grasvlei you can either take the awful road across the Tra Tra Bridge and past Agterstevlei to the substantial little village of Kleinvlei or, if you’re hiking, the “secret” footpath down the river, passing the Nooiensgat Waterfall before climbing over the nek at Die Punt and down across the Dassiesbos to Kleinvlei.
Beautiful view – awful road; the track past Agterstevlei
It’s worth spending some time at Kleinvlei. Not only is it a charmingly-pretty little place, it’s the trail head for hikes into the ’Berg to Crystal Pool and beyond. There is an impressive day walk to Wupperthal, through Sas se Kloof with its series of cool pools and its spring-loaded “bobbejaan hek” [sorry, you’ll have to go there for an explanation]. 
Pools in Sas se Kloof
        Kleinvlei has a small campsite for tents, with a kookskerm and ablutions – but sadly it has never had any visitors! It’s worthy of better than that; it was constructed in 2011 as a community effort in a beautiful little place that needs – and deserves – your custom. Go there, fans – please.
The Kleinvlei campsite: in the bottom-right corner of the
pic on the left; Right: the Kleinvlei guesthouse
There is also a self-catering guest house that must be booked ahead – see pics above and numbers below.
From Kleinvlei it’s a longish drive to Eselbank, starting with the bad track back all the way to Brugkraal. If you take this option you should visit Heiveldt and Kouberg before plunging down the steep pass into Wupperthal. 
Kouberg settlement, with Wupperthal valley behind
       The Kerskop Pass out on the southern side of Wupps is one helluva road, 11km to Eselbank that will take at least 30 minutes or more to negotiate [high clearance again, 4x4 not necessary]. You could also walk to Eselbank from Kleinvlei, a 6km walk over the Uitkyk nek, a walk that’s a bit dull and dry compared to most of the startling local countryside.
Accomadation sign at Eselbank
There is a self-advertising self-catering “B & B” at Eselbank [see pic], but, more important, there is the Ereboog and the Eselbank Falls, and if you have never seen them before you certainly need to – they are by themselves worth the visit to this lonely outpost.
The extraordinary 25-metre high Eselbank Ereboog;
ask in the village for a guide to this and the Falls
Eselbank is less isolated than it once was, thanks to some improvement of the road south to Matjiesrivier, but it seems to have a less carefree atmosphere than many of the other buiteposte. If you’ve ever wondered where Cederberg names like Filander se Werf, Muller se Water, Asjas se Kloof, Sas se Hoek etc etc come from ... well, those were the names of the subsistence farmers forcibly evicted, with zero compensation of course – what did you expect? – from their long-held lands in the high Cederberg, by the Cape Colonial Government in 1896. Many of them were resettled at Eselbank; their descendants are less than happy that the 1994 Land Restitution process set an historical cut-off date of 1913 for claims. For the Eselbank families that was seventeen years too late ... takes a bit of the gloss off CapeNature’s so-called “wilderness”, somehow.
You could continue from Eselbank to Langkloof, even further south, where there is an overnight home-stay, but I don’t have the details, unfortunately.
The track south out of Eselbank; heading for Matjiesrivier
Below are the contact details you need for days and nights that you will definitely not regret! Make sure that your camera is loaded with plenty of memory, too.

Backpackers, donkey cart rides, trail guides: phone Dalene van der Westhuizen at 027 492 3070
Self-catering guest house: phone Evert Manuel at 027 492 3223
Tent camping and self-catering guest house, donkey cart rides and hiking tours: phone Mary Anne at 027 492 3025
Eselbank: see pic! – self-catering or B&B cottage, phone 021 931 4890

Bly lekker, besoek gerus, keep warm.
Kaartman 9 June 2012