Archive for the Friends Category

Alexander Bay to Elands Bay – The Highs

Overall I enjoyed my 2 month journey from the Richtersveld through Namaqualand and down the West Coast and although there were some lows there were  many more highs. The highs include places, sights and people that I met along the way. Overall it was the people that I met and chatted to that really made the trip worth while for me.

Koos and Letia
Koos and Lieta Prince

Met up with Koos and Lieta at Brandkaros and I am sure that it was the 2 days that we shared that spurred me on to continue my journey in spite of all the set backs  I had suffered. They have been caravanning around SA for years and taught me a lot. Wonderful couple.

Pieter van Wyk
Pieter van Wyk.

Meeting up with and spending a morning with this young man was definitely one of the highlights of my journey. I am not going 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 opportunity to further his education at University.

Annemarie and Saome Reck.
Annemarie and Saome Reck.

I spent a wonderful morning with this mother and daughter team who manage a B&B right on the banks of the Orange River. Talk about making the most of very little.

Alta
Alta Kotze.

I enjoyed Port Nolloth and also received one of my biggest surprises in a long time when the lady above broke into song so that I could hear her voice and one of her own compositions. Truly amazing. I hope she gets the opportunity to further her ambitions and become a full time singer/composer.

George Moyses.
George Moyses.

Although I was not too happy with the caravan park at McDougalls Bay I did love the setting and also got to meet a real character who lives there in diamond diver George.

Dragline at Kleinzee.
Dragline at Kleinzee.
Ship wreck just south of Kleinzee.
Ship wreck just south of Kleinzee.

The 2 photographs above represent one of the the most pleasant days of my journey and I have to thank Gert Klopper of De Beers for showing me round Kleinzee and Dudley Wessels for taking me on the 4×4 trail along the coast. I thought Kleinzee was great and was amazed at what is being done there to make sure that the town does not go the way of places such as Alexander Bay. I see a big future for Kleinzee and if I had some spare cash I would buy property in the area as an investment or as a retirement option.

I enjoyed Springbok,  the Springbok Caravan Park and exploring places like Nababeep and Okiep as I had travelled there 40 years ago and it was interesting to see how much things had changed –  for the good and  the bad.

Fields of flowers at Skilpad.
Fields of flowers at Skilpad.

Kamieskroon, because of the good caravan park was great and I also enjoyed my visit to Skilpad in the Namaqua Park where I spent a day looking at the beautiful Spring flowers.

Hondeklip Baai

Hondeklip Baai

Friendly people.

Friendly people.

Loved Hondeklip Baai and the people. If you love the sea I think it would be a great place to have a holiday house or even to retire.

Strandfontein

My set-up at Strandfontein

Although I found Strandfontein a bit of a strange place I did enjoy my caravan site with its private ablution block.

Doring Baai and the power of the sea.

Doringbaai and the power of the sea.

The last part of my journey included Lamberts Bay and Elands Bay. Lamberts Bay was interesting and I enjoyed exploring and meeting some of the locals. To be honest the best thing about Elands Bay was that it was only 5 km’s from my final caravan park call Vensterklip.

Set-up at Vensterklip.

Set-up at Vensterklip with Verlorenvlei in the background.

Vensterklip was great as, again, I had a private ablution block and it was really quiet and peaceful. It also provided me with an opportunity to try my hand at photographing birds.

On the wing?

On the wing?

If you read my previous post you will see that the highs far out way the lows of my journey.  As to the question will I carry on with my voyage of discovery the answer is YES. There are still so many more interesting places to see and people to meet that, God willing, I would like to carry on until I have covered the whole of the South African coast line.

Hondeklipbaai – Part 2

To be honest I wish I could have spent a few days in this quaint little fishing village. The people are so friendly and willing to chat that I got caught up, and ended up not having enough time to meet half the characters I wanted to.

On going into the village itself  the first person I met was one of the local constabulary standing in a very pretty garden in front of his neat house. What a nice guy. He told me about which roads I should take and which to avoid when he heard that I wanted to visit Koingnaas on my my back to Kamieskroon.

A very colourfull flower bush in the policemans garden.

A colourful flower bush in the policeman's garden. The bee loved it!

About a hundred meters  from the policeman’s house I came to the little harbour which has been used for many different purposes over the years – shipping copper ore, as a base for the diamond diving boats and for the fishing and crayfishing boats.

The harbour area

The harbour area

The fish and chips shop right at the edge of the beach.

The fish and chips shop right at the edge of the beach.

The four in picture placing their orders, all residents of Hondeklipbaai,  were very friendly and invited me to sit down and have lunch with them. The guy on left of picture and his wife, 3rd from left, have had a plot in Hondeklipbaai for 10 years and over time built a house and moved in  permanently just over 9 months ago. The guy 2nd from the left, Stanley Cierenberg, is an artist and also runs a small art gallery from his home.

The Cierenberg Gallery.

The Cierenberg Gallery.

Inside the gallery.

Inside the gallery.

Stanley sitting at his favourite spot for tea and breakfast.

Stanley sitting at his favourite spot for tea and breakfast.

One of the artists on display at the gallery is local photographer “Roberto”. Roberto and his wife Dawn also run a restaurant, and offer tented self-catering accommodation called Skulpieskrall.

Sheltered tenting accomodation.

Sheltered tented accommodation.

Skulpieskraal tented camp comprises six comfortable tents with two single beds and bedding in each. The tents are pitched on timber decks under A–frame structures which are covered with shade netting where one can relax and enjoy a late afternoon sundowner.

Die Rooi Spinnekop Restaurant run by Roberto & wife Dawn.

Die Rooi Spinnekop Restaurant run by Roberto & wife Dawn.

This old sailing boat, I think it might be a Dabchick, is used as a serving table.

This sail boat is used as a serving table.

Unfortunately Roberto was not available to have a chat so my friendly guide, Stanley and I moved on as I was a bit worried about what I still wanted to see and do and it was getting late.

The Outside Gallery run by Villain.

The Outside Gallery run by Villain.

A wreck in the harbour area.

A wreck in the harbour area.

While I was sitting at the Fish and Chips shop having a bite to eat I spotted this wreck on the other side of the bay. I have no idea what, how or when but thought it looked quite dramatic and I also wanted to a view shot of Hondeklipbaai from the same angle.

View of Hondeklipbaai across the bay.

View of Hondeklipbaai across the bay.

It was getting quite late, and I still had a long way to drive, so I reluctantly left and started the rest of my journey for the day. I also wanted to make sure that I did not have to drive on the gravel roads in the dark.

Entrance to Koingnaas.

Entrance to Koingnaas.

I should probably have stayed longer in Hondeklip than try and rush through to Koingnaas as there was just not enough time to get signed in at security and get to have a look round the town. So once again I was on my way and hoping to see  flowers on my way to Soebatsfontein. I don’t know if it was to late in the day but I saw very little in the way of flowers. What I did get was the worst road I have travelled on so far in my journey and thought the old Pajero was going to get shaken to pieces.

Soebatsfontein rugby field.

Soebatsfontein rugby field.

I did find something interesting at Soebatsfontein and that was the Wallabies (Australian Rugby Team) having a secret scrummaging practice in preparation for the rest of the Tri Nations Rugby Competition.

All in all a good day but I do wish I could have spent a least 3 or 4 days exploring Hondeklipbaai and its interesting, friendly inhabitants. There is such a great attmosphere there and all seem to live in peace and harmony.

Visit to Nababeep and Okiep.

Two towns close to Springbok, that used to be part of my sales territory, are Nababeep and Okiep. Both are old copper mining towns that have now shut down all mining. I think the last mine to shut down was in 2003, and by the look of things they are both are battling to survive.

Saw this display of flowers just outside Nababeep.
Saw this display of flowers just outside Nababeep.

Namaqualand daisies.
Namaqualand daisies.

Nababeep is about 30km’s from Springbok and to get there one must travel on a road that has the most potholes I have ever come across on one  road. They must like them because there are notices  the whole way reminding you “Potholes”.  The name Nababeep combines two Nama words, naba meaning “hump of an animal” and  bib meaning “small spring”. Mining began here in the 1850’s and from 1876 ore was taken through to Port Nolloth by train for export.

Clara, a narrow-gauge steam locamotive used to rail copper ore to Port Nolloth.
Clara, a narrow-gauge steam locomotive, used to rail copper ore to Port Nolloth.

Outside display at the museum of old mining equipment.
Outside display at the museum of old mining equipment. (Also nice flower display)
For some reason this outfit reminded me of George the diamond diver.
For some reason this outfit reminded me of George the diamond diver.

"Fools" copper?

"Fools" copper?

While having a look at all the ore samples in the museum came across this one and thought this must be the mother load only to be told it was a very poor sample and of no value.

Ancient copper symbol.

Ancient copper symbol.

This symbol stems from the time when people believed that there were only 6 real metals – gold, silver, copper, tin, lead and iron.

All anyone could tell me about this old building was that it used to be a video shop.

All anyone could tell me about this old building was that it used to be a video shop.

From Nababeep I drove back along the potholed road to get to Okiep which is only about 8 km’s from Springbok. Okiep derived it’s name from the Nama word ‘U-gieb’ meaning ‘the great, brackish spring’. It was , until production stopped in 1918 the world’s richest copper mine. It was also the oldest mining town in South Africa where copper was first discovered and mined in 1855.

Two of the main attractions to see are the Smokestack and the Cornish Pump House.

Smokestack built by the Cape Copper Company as a ventilation shaft in 1880

Smokestack

Smokestack built by the Cape Copper Company as a ventilation shaft in 1880 and which is now a national monument.

The Cornish Pump House.

The Cornish Pump House.

A fully intact steam engine and the only remaining pump house of it’s sort in the Southern Hemisphere was used from 1882 to pump water from the mine.

All in all not sure what is going to happen to these 2 small towns. I remember Nababeep as being quite a modern progressive – for those days – town with a nice little hotel, golf course and other sporting facilities. Not much there now I’m afraid.

Kleinzee – part 1

On Monday the 3rd, at the invitation of Gert Klopper – Public and Corporate Affairs Manager, De Beers, Namaqualand, I  spent the the day at the diamond mining town of Kleinzee on  the West Coast.

I am doing 2 posts, this one about the town itself and part 2 about some of the exciting new tourism ventures that are being developed.

Situated about 50 kilometres south of Port Nolloth, Kleinzee was established as a town in 1942. Diamonds had been discovered on the farm Kleyne Zee in about 1927 and in 1930 the first recovery plant was built. Diamond mining went through many ups and downs because of diamond market crashes and also due to the start of World War 2. It was only toward the end of the war that mining started again.

The well maintained Kleinzee Museum

The well maintained Kleinzee Museum

Boulder Heritage Route

Boulder Heritage Route

This is where the mining at Kleinzee began in the late 1920s. The neatly stacked mounds of rocks are kept intact to remind us of days gone by when mining diamonds was hard manual labour. In the foreground  is one of the boulders with the pick and shovel that marks this site as part of the “Boulder Heritage Route” – an easy 5 km walk down the rich history of diamond mining at Kleinzee

Early pick and shovel mining.

Early pick and shovel mining

The Golf Course.

The Golf Course.

The first thing that one notices while driving through the town is how clean and neat everything is. The population of the town has dropped from a high of about 7000 inhabitants to less than 1000 today because of the closing down of much of the mining operation. As Gert explained  diamonds are a finite resource and once an area is mined then that’s it. But the difference that I saw and heard here is that there are plans in operation to keep the town not only going but to increase the population with the establishment of new types of sustainable businesses to take over from the diamonds in the near future.

An area between the beach and town that is being restored.

An area between the beach and town that is being restored.

Abundant birdlife at the Buffels River estuary at Kleinzee.

Abundant bird life at the Buffels River estuary at Kleinzee.

The seal colony.

The seal colony.

The Kleinzee Cape Fur Seal colony just north of Kleinzee is, with its 300 000 to 400 000 animals, the largest on-land colony in South Africa.

The local Angling Club

The local Angling Club

There are many sporting facilities, fishing , golf, rugby, cricket, netball, bowls, squash etc. and from what I saw all the fields and courts are in tip top condition.

The oyster farm of Kleinzee Mariculture

The oyster farm of Kleinzee Mariculture

The current dam is used to grow out oysters to specific sizes before they are passed on to other farmers for growing to market size. This will change in the future when the dam is extended,  see below, and full size oysters will be grown and exported from Kleinzee.

A basketful of the “big ones that got away”.

A basketful of the “big ones that got away”

Looking down from the recently constructed platform of the abalone farm

Looking down from the recently constructed platform of the abalone farm

These dams came about as a more productive way of using mined-out areas to create an industry that has the potential of sustaining itself – and the economy of the region – for a very long time to come. Apart from the Mariculture there are plans to establish wind farms for the generation of electricity.

Bucyrus Erie dragline machine which is powered by electicity.

Bucyrus Erie dragline machine which is powered by electicity.

In previous years, De Beers Namaqualand Mines used this Bucyrus Erie dragline as a cost-effective means of removing millions of tons of overburden to expose diamond bearing gravels. Today, this 3500 ton monster is being used to rehabilitate the disturbed land and move the soil back into the pits it created – ready for reprofiling and restoration.

The Final Recovery plant.

The Final Recovery plant..

The checkpoint building and security offices at the entrance to the Buffels Marine Mining Complex north of Kleinzee.

The checkpoint building and security offices at the entrance to the Buffels Marine Mining Complex north of Kleinzee.

All in all I found Kleinzee to be a great little town and I believe that with all the planning and hard work that is going on that it has a really bright future. If I am still around in 5 years from now I would love to go back and see all the progress that would have been made.

If you want to have a look around Kleinzee make sure you have your ID Book with you. If you plan to spend a night or two there then you must get security clearance at least 5 days prior to arrival. There are caravan parks, guest houses and a backpackers in the town and surrounding area.

George Moyses – Diamond diver

I met George on one of my walks along the beach soon after I got to McDougalls Bay. He was being interviewed by  Get Away Magazine so I said I would catch up with him on another day. He has become quite famous in the area as he was also recently on SABC 2 in the 1st episode of a  programme called “Shoreline”. It took me a number of attempts to catch up with him but yesterday I was eventually able to sit down and hear his story.

George in front of his house which is right on the waters edge.
George in front of his house.

George, who is 57, is a well spoken friendly guy, who has been living in the area for the past 30 years earning a living as a diver, extracting  diamonds from the sea at various locations along the West Coast. He is passionate about the sea and diving. He is also a keen surfer and windsurfer and enjoys the solitude of living on his own at McDougalls Bay in his small house on the beach.

The house right on the beach front.
The house right on the beach front.

Training at Simonstown.
Training at Simonstown.

He received his diving training while serving in the navy at  Simonstown.

It was near Simonstown that he and a friend salvaged a fishing boat, the Arabian Star, that had sunk without major damage.  They restored, fitted out and renamed her Blues Breaker, then  headed up the West Coast to try and make their fortunes.

Blues Breaker.
Blues Breaker.

I have watched a video that George  made called “Diamond Divers” and can say that you have to be slightly crazy to do that kind of work. It is incredibly dangerous, they loose at least 2 divers annually, very physical and really long hours for generally not much reward. George has been fairly lucky and only had one major accident, right at the beginning of his career, when he was hit in the face by a propeller.

They can of course strike it lucky and have a really good pay day, of maybe R100,000,  but that is an exception, a bit like hitting the lotto. They normally earn about R7,000.00 to R10,000.00 per month. These guys carry all the costs and only receive 50% of what they take out. They can only work when weather and sea conditions are favourable, which might be only 10 days of the month.

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Some underwater photographs of the dredging process.

George no longer works off his boat but  from the shoreline. They use converted tractors to haul all the pipes, pumps and sifters right on to the rocks. In the video you see them working in the gullies as they look for and extract the gravel that contains the diamonds. I would not last an 10 minutes  if I tried to do what they do.

The once proud Blues Breaker is no longer looking to good.
The once proud Blues Breaker is no longer looking too good.

George is a multi talented guy and supplements his income in different ways. He is a keen photographer and videographer  and has produced a video which he sells for R100.00. I bought one of the videos and it has some fascinating footage of what these men go through in order to make a living. Most of the divers seen on the video are not young, average age of 50+ , and must be extremely tough and fit to survive. Many of the younger, experienced, divers have left for the oil rigs where they earn a good wage and work in far better conditions.

Front Entrance to house.
Front entrance to George’s house.

He has converted part of his house into a small museum for which he charges R10.00 a visit and he also makes various articles from driftwood which he sells. He is separated, in a very friendly way, from his wife who lives and works in Port Nolloth and has 3 daughters, the youngest of whom is just about to matriculate.

George with old diving suite.
George with an old diving suite.
Model ship made from scrap wood.
Model ship he made from scrap wood.
Info about the model ship.
Info about the model ship.
George with some of the goods he sells.
George with some of the goods he sells.

I gather from the video interviews and what George says, that there is a lot of uncertainty as to how much longer these divers are going to be able to make a living if things do not change. Right now the only ones making  money  are the mining companies who take 50% off the top with virtually no cost to themselves.

UPDATE ON GEORGE:

This post about George has been one of the most popular and most read so I thought I would post a quick update, thanks to Ludwig Venter, an old school friend who caught up with George and family a few weeks ago. Ludwig sent me some pix so I am posting these for all who might be interested.

Ludwig and George meet again after 40 years.

George and wife Debbie

George with family.

George's cabin which is right on the high water mark.

Another update on George:

George went to his 43rd school class reunion in Senekal recently and his friend Ludwig Venter sent me these photographs to post on this site.

George with a group of old school friends

George with daughter Helen looking at a slide show of his school days.

George after a quick dip in the pool - still looks pretty fit for a 60 year old.

Having a nice cold one.

George checking out all the messages and photos about him on "Gone Fishing"

All the very best for the future George and may you strike the “BIG” one soon.


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