Consider this: nearly two centuries ago, after having travelled for several weeks by ox wagon, you arrive in an inhospitable, uninhabited place. There are no roads to speak of; no neighbours to welcome you and ease you into your new environment; the nearest town – if there is one – requires a journey of several days to reach; there are no shops or fresh produce markets – only the dry veld, the intense heat, and a river some distance away. This is where you are going to create a home for your wife and where you plan to bring up your family.
Everything has to be done by hand: hewing the local rocks into usable shapes; hoisting them into position to build walls; and making a weather-proof roof – not to mention having to provide food and water sans any of the conveniences we are used to.
South Africa is dotted about with the remnants of the labour of early inhabitants. This ruined homestead in the Hell’s Poort valley in the Eastern Cape is an example of where a variety of local rocks were shaped and fitted together to make the walls. On the left-hand side is what is left of a layer of plaster.
In this case patterns were made in the plaster to represent a more even appearance of stone work.
The rocks were, however, of different sizes.
The thick walls were held together with mud.
Sun-baked clay bricks lined what would have been an afdak or veranda.
We can still see remnants of how the people here lived and worked once they had settled in:
They had horses.
They built a cooler for keeping their meat and other food as fresh as possible.
They used an ox wagon.
They even made a garden.