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ROBERTSON, SWELLENDAM, AND SOUTHEY'S PASS.
FROM Worcester we went on to a little town called Robertson, which is also the capital of an electoral division. The country here is altogether a country of mountains, varying from three to seven thousand feet high. The valleys between them are broad, so as to give ample space for agriculture, if only agriculture can be made to pay. Having heard much of the continual plains of South Africa I had imagined that every thing beyond the hills immediately surrounding Capetown would be flat; but in lieu of that I found myself travelling through a country in which one series of mountains succeeds another for hundreds of miles. The Cape Colony is very large, especially the Western Province, which extends almost from the 28th to much below the 34th degree of latitude S., and from the 17th to the 23rd of longitude E. Of this immense area I was able to see comparatively only a small part;-but in what I did see I was never out of the neighbourhood of mountains. The highest mountain in South Africa is Cathkin Peak, in Natal, and that is over 10,000 feet. In the districts belonging to the Cape Colony the highest is in Basuto, and is the Mont aux Sources. The highest in the
Western Province is called The Seven Weeks Poort, which is in the neighbourhood of Swellendam and belongs to the district of which I am now speaking. It is 7,600 feet high. As the first and most important consequence of this the making of roads within a couple of hundred miles of Capetown has been a matter of great difficulty. In every direction passes through the mountains have had to be found, which when found have required great skill and a very heavy expenditure before they could be used for roads. But a second consequence has been that a large extent of magnificent scenery has been thrown open, which, as the different parts of the world are made nearer to each other by new discoveries and advancing science, will become a delight and a playground to travellers, as are the Alps and the Pyrenees and the Apennines in Europe. At present I think that but few people in England are aware that among the mountains of the Cape Colony there is scenery as grand as in Switzerland or the south-west of France. And the fact that such scenery is close to them attracts the notice of but a small portion of the inhabitants of the Colony itself. The Dutch I fancy regarded the mountains simply as barriers or disagreeable obstacles, and the English community which has come since has hardly as yet achieved idleness sufficient for the true enjoyment of tourist travelling.
Robertson itself is not an interesting town, though it lies close under the mountains. Why it should have missed the beauty of The Paarl, of Ceres, and of Swellendam which we were about to visit, I can hardly say. Probably its youth is against it. It has none of the quaintness of Dutch
architecture; and the oaks,-for it has oaks,-are not yet large enough to be thoroughly delightful. We found, however, in its neighbourhood a modern little wood large enough to enable us to lose ourselves, and were gratified by the excitement.
I have said that in these districts, mountainous as they are, the valleys are broad enough for agriculture, if only agriculture can be made to pay. The fertility of the soil is apparent everywhere. Robertson itself is devoted to the making of brandy, and its vineyards are flourishing. Patches of corn were to be seen and trees had grown luxuriantly here and there. It seemed that almost anything would grow. But little or nothing useful will grow without the aid of other water than that bestowed in the regular course of nature. "I plant as many trees," said the magistrate of the district, speaking to me of the streets of the town, "as I can get convicts to water." Wheat;-oh yes, I can grow any amount of wheat," a farmer said to me in another place, "where I can lead water." In Messrs. Silver and Co.'s Guide book, page 99, I find the following passage in reference to the Cape Colony. "The whole question of the storing of water by means of scientifically constructed dams is one that cannot be too strongly urged on the Cape Government." Of the truth of this there can be no doubt, nor is the district one in which the fall of rain is deficient, if the rain could be utilized. It amounts to something over 24 inches annually, which would suffice for all the purposes required if the supply given could be made to flow upon the lands. But it falls in sudden storms, is attracted by the
mountains, and then runs off into the rivers and down to the sea without effecting those beneficent objects which I think we may say it was intended to produce. The consequence is that agriculture is everywhere patchy, and that the patches are generally small. The farmer according to his means or according to his energy will subject 10, 20, 30, or 40 acres to artificial irrigation. When he does so he can produce anything. When he does not do so he can produce nothing.*
There are the mountains and the rains fall upon them, running off uselessly to the ocean with their purpose unaccomplished. When we want to store the rain water from our roof for domestic uses we construct pipes and tanks and keep the blessing by us so as to have it when we want it. The side of a mountain is much like the roof of a house, -only larger. And the pipes are for the most part made to our hand by nature in the shape of gullies, kloofs, and rivulets. It is but the tanks that we want, and some adjustment as to the right of using them. This, if ever done, must be done by the appliance of science, and I of all men am the last to suggest how such appliance should be made. But that it is practicable appears to be probable, and that if done it would greatly increase the produce of the lands affected and the general well being of the Colony no one can doubt. But the work is I fear beyond the compass of private enterprise in a small community, and seems to be one which
At the present time about a hundredth part of the area of the Cape Colony is under cultivation. The total area comprises 20,454,602 morgen, whereas only 217,692 morgen are cultivated. The morgen is a little more than two acres. Of the proportion cultivated, nearly a half is under wheat.
requires the fostering hand of Government. If a Governor of the Cape Colony, or a Prime Minister,-could stop the waters as they rush down from the mountains and spread them over the fields before they reach the sea he would do more for the Colony than has been effected by any conqueror of Kafirs. From Robertson we went a little off our road to Montague for the sake of seeing Cogman's Pass. That also is interesting though not as fine as some others. Whence it has taken
its name I could not discover. It was
suggested to me that
it was so called because of its lizards; and the lizards certainly were there in great numbers. I could not find that Cogman meant lizard either in Hottentot language or in Dutch. Nor did it appear that any man of note of the name of Cogman had connected himself with the road. But there is the Pass with its ugly name leading gallantly and cleverly through the rocks into the little town of Montague.
Montague like Oudtshoorn and Robertson makes brandy, the Montague brandy being, I was assured, equal to the Cango brandy which comes from Oodtshoorn, and much superior to that made at Robertson. I tasted them all round and declare them to be equally villainous. I was assured that it was an acquired taste. I hope that I may not be called on to go through the practice necessary for acquiring it. I shall perhaps be told that I formed my judgment on the new spirit, and that the brandy ought to be kept before it is used. I tried it new and old. The new spirit is certainly the more venomous, but they are equally nasty. It is generally called Cape Smoke. Let me warn my readers against Cape Smoke should they ever visit South Africa.