Pieter the librarian et al

Tuesday 7th I spent virtually the whole day trying to get my act together so that this site could go live on Thursday. I have found it extremely difficult and frustrating to do because of the  slow internet connection I have here. Its been on a par with working, in the good old days, with a 56k modem. To be honest I am lucky to have any kind of data connection as I am 25k’s from Alex Bay and only got a GPRS signal there.

Wednesday 8th arrived and I set off early to meet up with Pieter van Wyk the librarian who was going to give me a tour round some of the interesting parts of Alex Bay. What an amazing young man – a virtual walking encyclopaedia of facts, plant names and history. A  librarian, photographer, writer, museum curator, ornithologist and conservationist and he is only 21 years old!!  He was born, schooled and raised in the area and his family have lived in the Richtersveld since the 1800’s. He has been writing a book for the last 6 years and it is due for publication in September this year.

Pieter van Wyk

Pieter van Wyk

Pieter the Librarian

His biggest passion are the Lichens of the area. There is a huge field of them, now declared a world heritage site and one of the largest collections in the world, that overlooks the town and that is where we started.

Lichen: plant organism made up of a fungus and an alga which grow together on rocks“.

If, like me, you are a total philistine who had never even heard the name before, and would like to find out more then please follow this link. Lichens.

Lichen field

Lichen field

The Lichen field overlooking Alexander Bay in the background

Pieter van Wyk

Pieter van Wyk

Pieter, in the Lichen field, doing what he loves most.

Pieters passion for what he is doing, research, conservation etc is so strong that it becomes infectious. The field is surrounded by a fence but the lock on the gate has been broken and all and sundry have unsupervised access to the plants which then get walked on, driven over or stolen. They can’t survive dust and while we were there about 6 police cars roared through the field, on the way to a shooting range. Even I was upset by that.

Lichen flower

Lichen flower

If I remember correctly this is known as “window of the world”

After spending some time in the field it was off to the Museum which is situated in the security area of the mine and I had to be signed in and a security card issued.

Pieters knowledge of the history of Alexander Bay and surrounds is quite staggering and we spent a good few hours going from section to section of artefacts on display, some of which he had put together himself. He has been appointed by the mine management to look after the museum and do tours but finds it very difficult to do justice to the work as he is employed full time at the Library. This was the 1st time he had been in the museum for 2 months and there was dust everywhere. I felt very privileged to be given the tour all on my own.

Museum display

Museum display

Time was running short as Pieter had to be back at the library by 1pm so we took a quick drive to the restricted boarder crossing into Namibia to get a photo of the longest bridge in South Africa.

Bridge spanning  the Orange River

Bridge spanning the Orange River

Difficult shot to get but also illustrates what the soil and vegetation is like.

On our way back to town we came across some more flamingos and I learnt that the area is also a Ramsar site.



My time was up and we said our goodbyes.  I went to the restaurant to have a bite to eat and ponder on all I had heard and seen from this very knowledgeable young man and work out how I was going to try and capture the essence of it all on this blog. I have tried my best.

For more photographs of the day go to pix

If you wished to learn more about what has happened, and is still going on, in the lands claim scenario please go to Link


  1. Hanlie on July 11th, 2009

    What an extraordinary young man! I will be sure to look him up if I’m ever in the area… I just love people like that – people who have passions and interests.

  2. pbdphoto on July 12th, 2009

    Hi Hanlie Yes extraordinary is the correct word to describe him and I know I did not really scratch the surface in the post. His detailed knowledge over a wide range range of subjects just blew me away.

  3. Lee on August 29th, 2009

    Good day.

    I love the story about Alex bay and my good friend Pieter. I know him well and would like to say that I am proud to say that he is the biggest and greatest bird lover I know. He loves staying busy. There are more to know behind the sense. Someone with a big heart and soul. Someone that loves nature and have great knowledge about earth and Mother Nature. Plants and animals. Just to let all know that most of that he learned on his own, I never seen someone that read almost every book on the shelves about nature.. I will recommend anyone that want to go on a great nature plain Namaqwa route or learn more about plants, birds or even “kruie” He is the perfect person to go to. A friendly, open minded and full of joy!!!

    have a wonderful day

    Take care
    God Bless

  4. pbdphoto on August 29th, 2009

    Hi Lee I believe that Pieter is one of the most impressive young men that I have met in a long time and that he truly needs to be given the opportunity to further his education at university. It is sad that the lack of finance has prevented this thus far.

  5. […] to try and recap all about this remarkable 21 year old so if you want to read more about him go to this link. I hope that one day, soon, he will have his book published, be awarded a bursary and given the […]

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