Monday, October 7, 2013

Clocking the Daisies

Got a request the other day to answer a Q & A for a magazine article. One of the questions asked how we did our map research. We gave the short answer; here’s the long one.
It was a dark and stormy day when we woke up somewhere in the Agter-Pakhuis. The plan was to head west and north, to research the land beyond the Doring River for an extension to the touring map of the Cederberg. It’s harsh country out there – ever been to Loeriesfontein in high summer?
Don’t go there in summer, high or low. We resolved to research the area in spring, in the time of the daisies. There’d be lots of lovelies to look at, in between clocking the miles.
It was a dark and stormy day when we woke up. Our destination was Vanrhynsdorp, but many miles of slippery Brandberg Pass lay between us. We visited our neighbours instead, for a mid-morning rugby match. The recent one that that French ref stuffed up so badly. I made a mental note to forgive my daughters-in-law if they did not name a future grandchild ‘Bismarck’. It was too early for beer, but by the time we left it was still lightly raining.
Rain near Urionskraal; rain on the Knersvlakte: miles and miles of b all
We slipped over the Brandberg Pass and wolfed down a Wimpy at Klawer. At Vanrhynsdorp it was still a dark and stormy day. There wasn’t a daisy in sight, but they’ve got the biggest gaol in the country there. Helluva place. We clocked in to a bee-n-bee called Riverside Palms, quite far from the gaol. Some palms, no rivers. Hit the road to Koebee.
‘Koebee’ means the ‘place of fighting’. You can’t argue with that. The roads were dark, wet, slippery. The Koebee Pass is very steep, with a wrong-way camber, a yawning chasm. The road wound ever upwards, disappearing into mist. We turned back, took the Urionskraal road instead.
Fynbos in the rain; and daisies at last!
We clocked no daisies on that road, but there were several drunks. Not much to do on a rainy Saturday in Urionskraal. The road ended after  a sweet little pass. Gorgeous fynbos glowed in the mist. Pendoringkraal, said the name on the gate. It’s not translatable, said the dictionary. We turned back and cheered ourselves up in a Vanrhynsdorp pub, while WP trashed the Blou Bulle. What a pleasure.
Riverside Palms was quite warm and cosy. Outside the rain dribbled ever onwards. We hit the highway to Nieuwoudtville, up Vanrhyn’s Pass, wondering who he was. The Knersvlakte was bare, no daisies to be clocked at all. We swung off the R27 where the sign said ‘Oorlogskloof’. You can’t argue with that, either.
The sign also said, ‘No Entry Without Permit’. We drove in, looking for a man with permits for us. Eleven kilometres later we turned around at an empty entrance arch. One of those thatchy, bushveld things that mark Nature Reserves. In RSA, if you don’t have thatch on your gate, it’s not a proper reserve. It was freezing cold, mist whipping through the sopping wet bossies, not a daisy in sight. The road was bad beyond reason.
L to R: Nieuwoudtville waterfall; Elmarie se Plek; Owls on the road
Photos by Jeanne Ward
Elmarie se Plek welcomed us at Nieuwoudtville. It’s the old school boarding house, but we clocked in anyway. Chilly, but well-enough appointed. The dorm beds even had electric blankets; the TV had one channel. We dumped our gear and set off in the mist; the sign said ‘Perdekraal’. We saw owls and empty houses. We tried to remember the ghastly tale of Doggy-Dog Ruiters and his murderous mates; we passed a stork, then the road ended in a gate. ‘Absolutely No Entry’ said the friendly sign. We discovered a diversion to the left. Die Hel Pass, apparently. No signs, only an open gate.
‘A car fell off there last month,’ the lady at the info office had said. We found low gear and headed down. The road was steep, but we did not fall off. There were kokerboom. Quiver trees, if you didn’t know. An hour later we bottomed out. Back in the Knersvlakte. It means gnashing flats, as in teeth. Sheep there were, no daisies. A few pendoring trees. More and more pendoring trees – omigod, we oathed, we’re in a river bed. The ruts ahead got deeper. We gnashed the gears, put foot, clocked up to 60 as we sped over the drying mud.
Phew, we said, emerging on solid ground once more. No human beings for forty kays, no water or food in car, could have been tricky there.
Loeriesfontein: wall to wall flowers and windpompe
But on the third day there was sunshine and daisies. We put foot for Loeriesfontein, a revelation. Prettiest place you ever saw, wall-to-wall daisies absolutely everywhere, even in the empty parking lots. And the pride of Loeriesfontein – the Windpomp-Museum.
History in the countryside: a Nieuwoudtville Boer met sy roer, and a railway bus at Loeriesfontein
That was really interesting, we enjoyed that. We marked it on the map and sped south, a long dry drag full of gorgeous daisies, all the way past Koppieskraal to Vosfontein and Beeswater. We turned off and passed Naresie – o what a pretty sight it was – to Slaaiakker and Heitoes and back to the R27. Thirty minutes to Calvinia became two hours as the rygoes got us, one after the other. Daisies everywhere, even at Doega. Circled back through Gannabos; if you thought you’d seen kokerboom before, well, you hadn’t really until you got to Gannabos.
Wash-day at Lokenburg; flowers at Papkuilsfontein
On the fourth day we headed south. We found a wondrous place called Papkuilsfontein, but we can sadly say little about the Rietjiehuis Ecolodge because the gate was locked. Another sign said Lokenburg, so we followed it.
Confession time follows. There was a farm gate. Under the fence next to the gate was a trap. An iron thing, it had drop-doors at both ends, released by a pressure plate in the middle. If you were a beastie who can’t open gates, it was the only way through the fine-mesh fence. Porcupines clearly can’t, because there were a couple of quills in the trap.
Animal rights: donkeys waiting for hay; a goat waiting for The Flood
If you were a terrified beastie stuck in a trap without food or water, maybe for days at a time, you would have sprung that trap too. After a brief discussion, we marked it. With human scent. That’s enough information about that.
Our animal rights proclivities satisfied, we headed south in gathering sunshine. Daisies, daisies everywhere; we clocked them all.
The Wupperthal Band, and the Kokerboom Forest
On the fifth day we were welcomed to Wupperthal by a brass band and the President of the Moravian Church of South Africa, but we’ve written about that elsewhere.
Now you know all about how we research a map. A touring map, that is. While clocking the daisies, too.

Kaartman, Oct 7 2013: Happy birthday, Arch!