These cannons outside the Fort Beaufort Museum hark back to the Frontier Wars.
If you have never read Neville Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel, On the Beach then give it a try. It is probably more appropriate to read now – when nuclear threats are so real – than when it was first published in 1957. The novel came to mind while we were walking along an isolated beach in the Transkei, where we hardly saw another soul. I thought of the splendid isolation, the peace that comes with it, and marvelled at the ‘treasures’ not trampled or smashed by hundreds of human feet kicking up the sand. The contrast between our reality and that of the people in the novel awaiting the arrival of the deadly nuclear contamination from the northern hemisphere was a stark one. Here then is the first instalment of some of those ‘treasures’:
While the leaves of the Agave attenuata, also known as Swan’s Neck or Fox Tail are attractive on their own, for me the real attraction is their flowers.
The long spikes of flowers appear as each of these rosettes of sharply pointed grey-green leaves matures over a period of four to five years.
As you can see, these flower spikes grow to be about 3m tall and bend over so that from certain angles they look akin to the curve of a swan’s neck – hence that common name, although it is also known here in Afrikaans as Die Sonkyker.
Probably due to their weight, these tall spikes reflex towards the ground before arching up again – apparently like the tail of a fox, giving rise to another common name.
Each of these spikes is filled with a myriad creamy flowers. Once a rosette of leaves has produced a flower, it dies.
This plant originates from Mexico and is a popular plant for large gardens and in public gardens. This particular specimen grows next to the road leading into our town, along with various colour varieties of bougainvillea – plants suited to ‘neglect’ as they have been planted on a bank and are never watered by the municipality.
Who can resist the sight of a fuzzy young zebra foal staying close to its mother for protection?
This mother appears to have an unusually large rump – or a sunken back.
A Blesbuck is on the right of her. A mixed herd of normal blesbuck and white blesbuck roam on this farm a few minutes from town – this one seems to be an ‘in-betweener’. Something must be annoying the mother.
NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger view.
There is a persistent rumour circulating this country that President Paul Kruger had the gold belonging to the Transvaal Republic buried somewhere to avoid it falling into the hands of the British during the Anglo-Boer War. The hoard is said to be worth about eight to ten million Rand in today’s terms – small wonder people long to find it! No-one has. Areas of the Lowveld have been dug up in the hope of finding this wondrous ‘pot of gold’, but to no avail. According to the legend the gold was buried in the Blyde River area in what is now known as Mpumalanga. In fact, there is no substantial proof that this treasure ever really existed.
When the British occupied Pretoria on 5th June 1900, Lord Alfred Milner established that a large amount of gold had been removed from the Mint and the National Bank a month earlier. What happened to it? There is a detailed account of the story of the Kruger Millions at https://sabie.co.za/blog/?p=1612 which is worth reading.
In 1967 the first Kruger Rand was minted in Pretoria, a series of coins designed to promote the sale of gold. These Kruger Rands were worth 1 troy ounce of fine gold, although other weights were subsequently minted too. The obverse depicts Paul Kruger, who was the President of the old South African Republic.
South Africa’s national animal, the Springbuck, graces the reverse of the coin.
These coins are designed as collector’s items – a means for individuals to own gold.
The legend of the ‘lost’ Kruger millions is likely to persist for many years to come and the possibility of owning a Kruger Rand depends on how much spare money you happen to have, for they are not cheap. So, the Kruger Rand depicted above is clearly not a real one in my possession – it proved to be a ‘missing treasure’ of some kind though for it was discovered by my granddaughters in their father’s workshop: a gold coin chocolate!
Such a treasure! Alas, once we had prised open the gold foil covering, the chocolate inside looked far from edible – we will have to keep on looking!