Kamieskroon to Robertson
Continued from Namaqualand Spring: Lily Fountain and flowers
Saturday 22 August 2015
We were sad to leave Kamieskroon after spending three nights there, and we left before dawn and drove down the N7 towards the Western Cape. The sun rose just after we passed Garies, where we stopped for petrol, but the national road bypasses most of the towns along the way.
We bypassed Bitterfontein, with its railway line — it was still the railhead for points further north. As we approached Vanrhynsdorp there was a large rectangular mountain to the left, looking, as Val put it, like a slab of butter. I thought it looked like an alien artifact, and imagined one day the rocky comouflage crumbling away to reveal an enormous spaceship or something.
We bypassed Vanrhynsdorp as well, and there was a sign pointing to the mountain labelled “Gifberg”. After Vanrhynsdorp the countryside was more familiar to me, and the previous times I had travelled this road, in 1971 and 1972, it had still been daylight.
We crossed the Olifants River at 10:20 am, 242 km from Kamieskroon, and stopped to take photos, as Val’s great great great grandfather Frank Stewardson had taken 5 days to cross the river with his herd of cattle back in 1862, though it may not have been at this particular point.
The road followed the course of the river southwards for some distance, though it was shorter than I remembered, and we only got one or two glimpses of the irrigation canal, which in my recollection had seen almost endless the first time I saw it, though perhaps one gets a better view of it travelling the other way. I believe wit was built during the Great Depression as a project to create employment, back in those days only for white people.
As we approached Clanwilliam there were road works, with stop/go sections, though we were lucky, and arrived at the tail of the queue, and did not actually have to stop once. There were still spring flowers along the sides of the road, giving the countryside a festive air, mainly yellow ones, with occasional patches of the orange Namaqualand daisies as well. We by-passed Clanwilliam, and the traffic on the N7 was heavier, and the road works continued for some way beyond, though we still passed through the stop/go sections without having to stop.
We turned off the N7 at Citrusdal and drove straight through, and up and over the Middelberg Pass, 1071 metres high, which was similar to the pass leading from Kamieskroon to Leliefontein. If there were any cedars growing on the Cederberg range, we didn’t notice them. Beyond that we drove through a wide flat cultivated valley between two ranges of hills, not as scenic as I had imagiend it would be. We passed several signs warnong of pothols, but the potholes seemed to have been repaired. I’ve sometimes wondered why they go to the trouble and expense of erecting such signs, rather than just repairing the potholes.
We drove down the Gydo pass, which we reached at 12:55 , 424 km from Kamieskroon, to Prince Alfred Hamlet and Ceres, stopping a a viewpoint halfway down to take photos, and recalled the impression of that I had had when we stayed at Ceres 40 years ago that it was in a bowl of mountains, entirely surrounded by a circular range of mountains. There were fields of plum trees with pink blossoms in places. We looked for somewhere to have lunch in Ceres, but most of the eating places seemed to be in shopping malls which were busy with Saturday afternoon shoppers, so we opted for take-away “hero” rolls from Steers, and drove to a sitplekkie on Michell’s Pass, and ate our lunch there. In the kloof below we could see the railway line winding down the side of the mountain, and from above it looked like a narrow-gauge one, because of the size of the surroundings, but when, after lunch, we crossed it, it turned out to be a standard (3′ 6″/1067 mm) gauge one.
We then drove alongside the Langeberg through a much wider valley than the previous one, with fields and more spring flowers at the side of the road. and sometimes whole field of them. We passed teams of people repainting the lines of the road, which looked as though it had recently been resurfaced, and they were just packing up for the day. There were signs saying “No lines” but they seemed to have finished the job.
At Worcester we got lost, as there were signs pointing to the R43 to Villiersdorp, but none pointing to the R60 to Robertson, and we drove around looking for at least one sign, and eventually went out on the Villiersdorp Road, and saw one turning off that, which eventually led us to the R60. We were rather surprised to see that the cultivation ended a short way out of town, and the road passed through uncultivated country, and there didn’t even seem to be many animals grazing. The railway line ran alongside the road, and it still seemed to be narrow gauge, even though it could not have been. Perhaps it is travelling on the Gautrain, with its broader gauge, that makes the others seem narrow.
As we got closer to Robertson we saw some passenger coaches in a siding, and wondered if that indicated that there was still a passenger service along here, though perhaps they had retired, as one had a big Steers advertising sign attached to it. We later discovered that they were retired, and at least one of the coaches was used as a church.
We drove straight through Robertson to Fr Zacharias van Wyk’s place, Bedehuis Bethanië, where we arrived just after 4:00, and Val and I went to see Macrina Walker at the Life-Giving Spring next door, an old dairy that she had converted into living and working quarters. She did her bookbinding there, but said she is now more into soap making, and has been living there for three years. We went over to Vespers at 5:00, sung in Afrikaans.
Fr Zacharias cooked supper, a special fish dish, and we sat on the veranda talking in the dusk, discussing the church, and the mission-mindedness, or lack of it. Fr Zacharias said they had installed green energy, and most of their electricity came from solar power. It again felt like something out of Tolkien, the last homely house, and I would noit have been surprised if elves and dwarves had joined us at the meal.