Thomas Bain was a true son of Knysna, having spent many years of his life in the seaside town. He was born in Graaff Reinet and passed away in Cape Town at the age of 63. Wrenching ourselves back to reality, we intersected with the N2 and enjoyed a brief drive along the shores of the Knysna Lagoon and as luck would have it, it was high tide, when the lagoon looks its best. It's hard to believe this town was devastated by fire just a few years ago.
Next up was a short drive up the route of the Jaguar Simola Hill Climb, where evidence of car body parts and skid marks could still be seen several weeks after the event. Once past the entrance gates to the Simola Golf Estate, it was back off the tar as we plunged down into the Gouna basin with its stunning indigenous forest. This short but very steep pass took us past the Gouna State Forest and then east along Kom se Pad - one of the longest roads one can still drive completely immersed in indigenous forests. Tree ferns and burbling streams accompany shafts of sunlight as those with their windows rolled down were treated to the birdsong from within the forest. Such a beautiful drive - and no wonder author Daleen Matthee was so inspired by the atmosphere to write her magical novel "Kringe in die Bos"
We connected with Prince Alfred's Pass at Diepwalle Forestry Station and turned north to drive SA's longest pass. After Buffelsnek, we took the group up to the Spitskop view site, which for many was the highlight of the day. Although it was blustery at the peak, it did not detract from the magnificent 360 views on show. Even the ocean was visible from this point, some 50 km away. A vast network of forestry roads disappear into the forests, begging to be explored.
Another interesting stop was at the interactive sculpture "Calling the Herd" at the intersection of the R340 from Plettenberg Bay. Those with bugle or trumpet playing experience could produce the trumpeting sounds through the extended cones where it is meant to symbolise calling the long lost elephant herds back to the region. The unusual sculpture was produced by celebrated South African sculptor Strijdom van der Merwe.
A bakkie pulled up whilst we were calling elephants with none other than Harold and Angie Beaumont the occupants. The beleaguered owners of Angie's G-Spot who have fought for a decade for their rights to run their little business at De Vlugt in the face of opposition from a wealthy neighbour, where things finally reached the point where the sheriff of the court arrived with a court order to dismantle their buildings. They have continued to fight and are back in business with a great deal of help from sympathisers from 4x4 clubs and motorcycle groups. Their new timber chalet is just about ready for commissioning and whilst they are not out of the woods yet, it looks promising that Angies is here to stay. We did a short video interview with them:
[Next week we will take you through the final section of Day 1]
South African History - Part 10
Establishment of the Boer Republics
After the demise of the short-lived Republic of Natalia and the British annexation of Natal, many of the Boer families living in the region trekked back over the Drakensberg Mountains to join up with the Voortrekker communities that had established themselves in the central and northern parts of the country.
The scattered Trekker groups had started to form what they called “Republics”, but in essence these usually consisted of an established town (e.g. Winburg, Potchefstroom, Lydenburg and Utrecht) and its surrounding area. At least 10 of these republics were established in the period from 1836 to 1854. As alliances evolved and boundaries changed due to ongoing wars or treaties with the indigenous peoples, these communities started to band together, eventually ending up with two main groups; those to the north of the Vaal River as well as the eastern part of the highveld plateau, and the group located between the Orange and Vaal Rivers in the central region of the country.
The British, at this stage, had no interest whatsoever in these developments. As far as they were concerned, they controlled the Cape, Natal, and virtually the entire coastline of the country, and the Boers were welcome to the hot, dry and apparently worthless interior. Besides, they had enough problems with the Xhosa on their eastern frontier and the Zulus in Natal. They agreed to recognise Boer independence, and the South African Republic (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, usually known as the ZAR) was officially established on 17 January 1852 with the signing of the Sand River Convention. The Republic of the Orange Free State (Oranje-Vrijstaat) followed two years later, on 23 February 1854.
PODCAST: We chat about Day 2 of our recent Thomas Bain Heritage Tour. Click to listen.
Pass of the Week: This week we introduce you to a lovely and relatively unknown tarred pass near Heidelberg in the Western Cape, with some fascinating local history dating back to the mid 1800's.
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New passes added this week:
Kranspoort (S508) - A beautiful and unknown poort near Fouriesburg in the Free State
Thought for the day: "The gladdest moment in human life is a departure into unknown lands" ~ Sir Richard Burton.