It is significant that the first governor of the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck, noted in his diary on the 4th August 1652 that he had sent men out to make a road “for the wagon to transport wood” for it reminds us that there were no roads at the time, nor would there be any for the next 150 years. Dr. Malcolm Mitchell points out in an article published in the January/February 2014 issue of Civil Engineering that “the ox wagons of the time merely follow[ed] the footpaths and game trails over the mountains.” The two passes I have already highlighted, Uniondale Poort and Meirings Poort, are examples of this.
Wagon transport has been integral to the early development of South Africa. Not only did the early settlers move their families as well as their goods into the untamed country by ox-wagon, but wagons were the most effective means of conducting trade for many years until the system of railways and roads was opened up. It is thus not surprising to find remnants of old wagons dotted about the country.
Several examples are still preserved in museums.
The part of wagons found most commonly are the wheels – they are symbolic of adventure, overcoming apparently insurmountable obstacles, and are visual reminders of our past history. Wagon wheels – and the stylised form of them – formed the theme of our self-catering accommodation in Calitzdorp.
De Wawielhuis (The wagon wheel house) lived up to its name, with the specially designed gates:
Wagon wheels in the garden:
There is something ‘romantic’ in the sense of having an idealised view of the past wrapped up in wagon wheels. Given that De Wawielhuis offered comfortable accommodation after a long journey – and the hospitality we received there was delightful – the name is an apt one!