Politician's Roots in the Baviaanskloof

The Herald - January 31, 2014

By Guy Rogers

aloeDo you remember Allan Hendrikse? The founder member of the Labour Party is probably best remembered for his historic December 1986 dip off Port Elizabeth's then "whites only" Kings Beach and how that was the end of his tenuous tenure as a coloured minister without portfolio in President PW Botha's apartheid cabinet.

Hendrikse's name surfaces in Bart Logic's wonderful new book, Boots in the Baviaans, an exploration of the Baviaanskioof - the places, the rivers, mountains and
animals, the stories and also, of course, the people.

Logie writes that in the 1930s the first United Congregational Church was established on the farm Zandvlakte in the western 'kloof by Rev Charles Hendrikse. He ministered there for half a century and was in later years often accompanied by his son, Helenard Joe, better known as Allan.

Before he dived into politics, Allan followed in his dad's footsteps as teacher and minister, serving the same congregation deep in the 'kloof.

It was Zandvlakte owner David Gellman who facilitated the establishment of the church, a cemetery and a house for the minister on his quarterly visits, Logie notes. Gellman himself was a remarkable character. A Jewish businessman from Latvia, he initially set himself up as an ostrich feather merchant, visiting farms on his bicycle.

He was already fluent in Russian, German, English and Yiddish, and before long he could make himself understood in Afrikaans.

One story follows another as the author ranges effortlessly back and forth in time across this unique mountain kingdom. Like the late great naturalist, Dr Jack Skead, he understands the intrinsic value of names, of placesand families espe¬cially, and there is often something of Herman Charles Bosman's sly and gentle humour in his tales. Running parallel to the Eastern Cape coast but set back from it behind rugged mountains, the Kouga and Baviaanskloof valleys once facilitated the east-west migration of the early San people, he explains in a preface.

These are the same folk who frequented sites lower down the coast like Klasies Cave and Pinnacle Point, some 125000 years ago.

boots2At the western end of the 'kloof, we read of the kaalblad, the spineless prickly pear which almost became the perfect livestock food in times of drought before it got wiped out by the moth and beetle introduced to tackle the invasive Mexican prickly pear. The problem was, it seems, neither the moth nor the beetle could tell the difference between the different varieties.

There is the story in the central 'kloof of the construction of Beervlei Dam and how it drove up the salinity levels of the Groot River and eventually resulted in the collapse of communities like Goede Hoop. "Today all that remains of the once thriving settlements are piles of broken masonry [and] homemade irrigation pipes of bamboo or wood reinforced with wire. The pipes were treated internally with beeswax and externally with aloe sap."

Interesting characters traverse the pages, like Boer War leader Gideon Scheepers and his Witkoppen (they wore white bands on their hats), and legendary Khoekhoe commanders Klaas and David Stuurman.

There is schoolgirl Poemie Jackson, who walked a way with the Logies at Rus en Vrede, and Veronica Maganie, of Vero's Restaurant at Hingoe, baker of "the best roosterkoek in the 'kloof" and niece of Jan Maganie who, on June 19 1956, tracked down a weerwolf which was thought to be taking lambs (it turned out to be one of the few brown hyenas ever seen in the 'kloof).

Logic's narrative is rich with plants and animals spotted and discussed along their journey: buig-my-nie, baroe and protea, the Baviaanskloof cedar, cycads, waboom and yel-lowoods; hamerkop, Derek Clark's left-handed awl snail, kakkelaars (wood hoopoes), otters and of course baboons.

Fascinating places include Thomas Bain's Nuwekloof Pass, the extended stone walls of Bergplaas (a yard of roltabak was paid to the artisans for every yard of wall completed) and the Waterpoort cable car, constructed by Andries Blignaut, principal of the Motherwell Technical College, for his farmer friend, Winston le Roux.

At any of the 12 Witrivier crossings at Poortjies, Logie notes, you can dangle your feet in the water and the endemic redfin minnow will probably nibble your toes.
GPS co-ordinates for 220 places named in the book are listed at the end.

Boots in the Baviaans reminded me how lucky we are to live in the Eastern Cape and what a treasure we have in the Baviaanskioof.


A Treasure of Tales from Baviaanskloof

TALK OF THE TOWN (Port Afred) - February 26, 2015

By Jon Houzet

combrinksADVENTURER, author and raconteur Bartle Logie delighted members of the Lower Albany Historical Society Recently with anecdotes and slides from his latest book, Boots in the Baviaans.
The book is Logic's seventh on the Eastern Gape, a compilation of meticulous historical research and his personal experiences hiking through the Baviaans with his wife, Caryl.

The Logies started their journey at Nuwekloof Pass, and travelled about 220km over a two-week period, making a number of detours, before ending at the Gamtoos River mouth. Rather than do it all in one go, they broke their trip into two parts.

A fifth generation South African of Scots descent, Logie has a keen interest in small communities and their everyday lives, and he had many tales to tell of the pioneers that made their home in the rugged and beautiful Baviaanskloof.

He explained that the Baviaans, now a World Heritage Site, got its name because of the baboons that live there, but there is much more wildlife to appreciate in the kloof.

Logie found inspiration for his latest adventure in a book by Francis Galton, The Art of Travel or Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries.
Galton was a first cousin of Charles Darwin and is credited with the discovery of using fingerprints to uniquely identify people.

"He was particularly interested in human characteristics. He called it eugenics, which got a very bad name in World War 2 when the Nazis used it to exterminate the Jews," Logie said. Published in 1872, The Art of Travel offers advice from how to avoid blisters to how to stop a donkey braying the middle of night. Logie enjoyed quoting snip¬pets in his chapter in¬troductions.

In addition to its variety of fauna, the Baviaans scenery ranges from the Cape floral kingdom, to subtropical thicket, riverine forests and arid Karoo landscape. The kloof has the appearance of a land wrenched apart.

Huge movement in strata untold millennia ago resulted in caves being formed, probably first inhabited the San and used by travellers to this day. Excavations have found stone tools, bone and reeds for bedding.

Logie related how the Kloof saw action during the Anglo Boer War, when Cape Rebels joined up to fight the British.

"There was a group of recruits led by Gert Botha. One was Daniel Honey. Less than three weeks before the end of the war they came back. They were disillusioned and tired of sleeping in the bush," Logie said.

He said the rebels suspected they were being followed and dismounted for an ambush. It turned out they were being followed, but by members of the District Mounted Troop (DMT) who were looking for horses rather than rebels.

The first two DMT riders were told to put up their hands. One raced off but the other, Ignatius Oosthuysen, was shot dead by Honey.
They had known each other and both were just 19. Honey hid from the authorities in the Waterkloof in the Baviaans, and then on his father's farm, where he lived till his death in 1959.

Another well-known personality in the Baviaans was the leopard hunter Lieb Bekker, who claimed to have shot 40 leopards and also fancied himself a sculptor. He sculpted two leopards to stand at the entrance to his farmhouse at Matjiesfontein, but his wife did not like them so they were placed in the bush, where they can still be found.

Former prime minister JG Strydom was born on the farm Zandvlakte, a very successful farm and the first with electric lighting in the Kloof. His father, Pieter, made most of his money selling ostrich feathers, but went bankrupt when that industry collapsed at the start of World War 1.

Coleskeplaas is named for Johannes Jacobus Coleske. One genealogy has him as a Polish immigrant and the other as a Frenchman who was a spy for Napoleon, wanted by the British. The legend is that he met the real Coleske on a ship to South Africa, threw him overboard and assumed his identity.

Logie ended his talk with a quote from Galton: "It is better to think of a return to civilisation, not as an end to hardship and a haven from ill, but as a close to an adventurous and pleasant life."

Picture shows Bart in Combrink's Pass in the Baviaans

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