Scott Balson's trip to South Africa -
20th September 2006 - Griquatown

Perth : Johannesburg : Pretoria : Pietersburg : Pilgrim's Rest : Ladysmith : Champagne Castle : Estcourt : Durban : Ixopo
Kokstad : Port Elizabeth : Plettenburg Bay : Cape Town : Victoria West : Griquatown : Mafikeng : Johannesburg : Perth

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20th September - 21st September

I left Victoria West at about 7.30am and started on my trip to Griquatown (Griquastad). It was another perfect day without a cloud in the sky. The road was excellent - unlike the stop start experience I had had from Cape Town on the previous day.

Although I had about 500km to cover I had time to stop at Hopetown and see original window scratched in the 1870s when the first diamond was identified; visit the the historic Boer War battleground of Magersfontein (where the Scottish Black Watch were slaughtered); Kimberley (the Big Hole was closed to the public)!; Campbell (and the historic Church where David Livingstone preached and met the alcoholic Mary Livingstone who would later become his wife)! I arrived at Griquatown at about 3pm and had time to present my final copy of "Children of the Mist" to Hetta Hager, the Curator of the Mary Moffat Museum.

Before moving on I have to strongly recommend the Griqua Guest House whose owners, Karien and Jim (the local pastor of the NGK) de Villiers, are fantastic and entertaining hosts. They can be emailed here if you want to make a booking.

Victoria West at about 6.30am

De Oude Pastorie from back

On the road to Hopetown

Flat, dry, grassy scenery

A communal birds nest!

The region where the first

diamond was discovered

Historic Hope Town

The first building in Hopetown with

coloureds posing at a price!!

Mr Rousseau who now owns the

business with the historic window pane

was cut by the first diamond

The original lock and key c1854
 

and the room where the first diamond
was sold

The sign that has always hung in
the store

The shanty town outside Hopetown

Magersfontein is a very sad place. Isolated, desolate and you can still smell the death on the tree scattered plains below a large hill where the Black Watch were massacred through the idiocy of a British Commander and the cunning of the Boers. The site is on a dirt road about 30km from Kimberley and well worth a visit with the museum and a short film graphically describing the slaughter. It was a hot December day, the British knew that the Boers were in the vicinity so started firing their guns at the large hill to "soften up" the Boers. The Boer General, Cronje, had cleverly dug his men in in trenches near the base of the large hill so the artillery fire was totally wasted.

In the pre-dawn several hundred men of the Black Watch, under command of Captain Bruce Cumming, were ordered to advance on the hill in close formation so that they would not get lost in the dark. They approached the hill and at about 300 yards from the hidden Boer trenches rested briefly. The noise of the men caught the attention of the Boers who started firing at the soldiers from, close range and caught on open ground. The British Commander sent hundreds more Royal Highlanders to join the slaughter as the sun rose. Now hundreds of dead and dying men lay in this open, exposed position as the hot summer sun rose in the sky. The Boers shot at anything that moved in front of them - the injured Scotsmen calling out for water were shot, while others trapped simply lay dead still in the heat.

Then a few soldiers started running from their exposed position - hundreds of men trapped in the open field thought that a general call for retreat had been made and as they got up to escape were shot at close range. The rout of the Black Watch was complete. That night the injured were taken from the field and the next day the British did break through for the relief of Kimberley causing Cronje and his men to flee for Bloemfontein.

On the road to Magersfontein

The well signed battle fields

The fields where the Black Watch were massacred by the Boers

The memorial stone

The view from the Boer trenches

Historic picture of the Boer
trenches before the battle

In the

Museum

The Celtic Memorial stone

The view of the battlefield from the hill - see position of slaughter

Thorn tree on hill

Shells found at Magersfontein

Kimberley was a big, dry disappointment.

Apparently they are working on upgrading this tourist attraction so have shut it down - the Big Hole is so big they could have provided some sort of viewing platform, but no they did not. we heard of several other tourists who were upset by the typically South African way of doing things - slowly like the Roendas - the rock rabbit that only moves to keep in the shade.

Kimberley

The sign says it all

The bank of the big hole

The best view of the Big Hole

that I could find.

A historic old pub

On the road to Griquatown

Crossing the Vaal River

The small town of Campbell, just 40km from Griquatown, remains just that. It has a shop called Livingstone that was not open and a petrol station with two bowsers that were closed at 2pm in the afternoon.

There is a growing shanty town on its outskirts but very little else of note for such a historic place. It was here that Rev John Campbell visited in 1820 and thus the name of the village, it was here that Dr Livingstone preached and met his wife Mary Moffat - daughter of the famous missionary Robert Moffat. That union was to cause generations of strife between the Moffats and the Livingstones as Mary Moffat died not long after embarking on an inland trip with Livingstone. Some say, somewhat nastily, that it was self inflicted because she could not get any alcohol.

For me a highlight of my trip was standing where Dr Livingstone had once preached in the small stone and thatch church which still stands today.

The innocuous entrance to Campbell

The memorial to Bartlett

and plaque

The church built in 1831

The bell

Inside - from the pulpit

Thatch roof

Looking towards the pulpit

The walls

Bartlett

Livingstone

On the road to Griquatown

At last I arrived at Griquatown - the first settlement north of the Orange River. The town is still not much larger than it was a hundred years ago. There is still a Griqua Kaptyn, Andries Waterboer, descended from the original Kaptyn of the same name. There were a large number of Griquas and, of course, the Mary Moffat Museum - one of the oldest buildings in the town. it was here that I met Hetta Hager the Curator of the Museum. Hetta has a conspiracy theory about the Griquatown coins saying that a couple of Griquas said that they have a coin and, although she has no doubt they never circulated, is sure that a number did arrive because there is a tale of a hidden cache of the coins in a nearby valley... of course, like the Kruger millions, nothing more is known about them. I told her about my research and the finding that the Griquatown coins never even arrived here. She admitted that in her 14 years here she had never found any reference to the coins by any visitors to Griquatown at that time and that she had never been shown a coin by a Griqua who tended to fabricate stories.

I presented Hetta with a copy of "Children of the Mist" - she was delighted and agreed to have her photo taken - apparently the first time since she has been at Griquatown! I left an hour later with ZAR700 worth of books - including three written by Hetta on the unique Griqua language - all inscribed by her.

I had time to visit the "Galgboom" or execution tree in the garden of Andries Waterboer... although the Kaptyn was out of town. Tonight I am staying at the Griqua Guest House - which belongs to Jim and Karien de Villiers. Jim is the minister of the local Presbyterian Church and has been here for 14 years. 

Coming into

Griquatown

The town centre

And the other direction

The Mary Moffat Museum -
once used by Barclays Bank

Presenting Hetta with a copy of
"Children of the Mist"

The museum's coverage of the
Griquatown coins

Moffat's pulpit

The Galgboom sign

The hanging tree in Waterboer's
backyard

The hanging branch

Waterboer's "palace"

One of Griquatown's streets

Carla with the dominee' wife

With my beautiful Carla

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