re. VISITS TO KEEROM, MESSELPAD. Notes by N.F.[(Afrikaans: keer = turn; om = round) ( messel = lay bricks/mortar, build. pad = road )

In July 2003 ? a month before leaving Africa for Australia, - Elwyn, Clara and I went on a trip to Cape Town
via Queenstown, East London, and Worcester. We returned via Langebaan (*), Namaqualand, Namibia and Botswana.
Six months earlier Elwyn had fractured her vertebrae and was in considerable discomfort. She sat the whole trip
against the tailboard of the Isuzu, and occasionally lay down. Because of things like this I sometimes think of her as Mater II.
The decision to return via the west coast was partly influenced I suppose by young Hugh who, more than a decade
had made a sentimental visit to Keerom, the farm where our grandfathers, and possibly even their brother Tom, were born.
Hugh had shown me photographs he took at Keerom. I seem to remember particularly a sort of rocky water hole or drift, and a
bit of a ruin which he said was the old homestead. I thought this trip would probably be the last chance I would ever have of
making a similar visit.
South of Springbok we spent the night in Kamieskroon where we spoke to the owner/manager of the hotel, a Mr. Stone.
He said there had been changes in the ownership of Keerom, that it belonged to the government, and now part of a national park,
and presently closed to the public. He made a few telephone enquiries to see if a visit to the homestead was possible, but was not
able to get any response.
We decided nevertheless to see something of the the Messelpad. Stone put us on to a shortcut - faint tracks across
farms through dry Karroo-type veld. We had the SA topographical map of the area which young Hugh had given me some years
previously, and Clara did the navigation. Fortunately these maps indicate windmills, and we were both amused and pleased when
each lonely windmill came into view to reassure us of our position.
We eventually intersected the very corrugated main road from Springbok to Hondeklip Bay, and turned west onto it
not far from a farm homestead, probably of what is called Arriskraal on PcP?s work map of 1868, shown below.
A little further on the road descends into the Buffels River valley. Near the descent a view (below, looking more or less
west and towards Keerom) shows the sort of terrain which the copper transport oxwagons crossed before the construction of the
Messelpad, blasted out of the valley side on a suitable gradient in the 1860s.

Near Descent to Buffels River. View looking West

After descending to river level on the northern - (but locally eastern) - bank the road quickly crosses the dry rocky
bed and begins its ascent of the other bank in a northerly direction at first, then shortly loops back almost south again before
bending westerly towards a part called Tiger Kloof, and a little further west Wildepaarde Hoek.This is the Messelpad Pass, whose
construction was promoted by Patrick (Peter) Fletcher and others, and built by convict labour under his supervision. (*)


PF Map in 1868 work report. [Detail]

Detail of P. Fletcher?s map in his report:?Showing progress of the Namaqualand Road in December 1868?.
The horizontal distance shown here is about 15 miles. Small dotted lines indicate wagon roads of the time. The new road
is shown as a heavier dotted line, and the completed section as a solid line.
Satellite view - Main Station & Keerom
Satellite view - Site Office

The total distance for the wagons from Springbok to Hondeklip Bay was 70 miles or so.

Satellite view - Springbok, Keerom, Main St., Hondeklip

Further details of construction on the various sections of this road can be seen in the Endnotes, and links to other aspects of the
subject can be be found there as well.

Messelpad near Main Station

The stretch of road after the river crossing and leading up to the bend, near what is shown as Main Station in the map, is seen here, looking both ways.
In the upper photo the dry river on the left, flowing towards the camera, and the descending road can be imagined to intersect at a
crossing point as shown in the drawing. Before the Messelpad was built wagons crossed the river further upstream still. This is
indicated as Drift in the drawing, and apparently a toll house was nearby.
It will be seen that the Pass, with its relatively low dry-stone retaining walls, is not the vertigo-inducing type found elsewhere in the Cape, such as Bains Kloof for instance.
It should be remembered that at the time of its construction this work was done on an inhospitable frontier.
At Honderklipbaai for instance water for the small community there was brought by boat from Cape Town, xxx km away.
PF realised that the success of the oxwagon transport route depended on the availability of water along the way. Although average rainfall in the region was only about 6-8 inches, falling mostly in winter, on the granite hillsides of some of the route this water would have run off rather than percolated as in areas with deeper soils or sands. This run- off was collected and channelled into small dams, rather than being allowed to run to waste through culverts under the road. According to Ross, a similar idea was used 100+ years later by etc blah blah
Declared a National Monument.
At the bend a signpost ?Convict Station? points to some small ruins a short distance from the road towards the dry river. It would
probably be wrong to accept this stone ruin as the actual building that housed the convicts. blah blah
Main Base today The remains of Main Base can still be seen 140 years later. .(GoogleEarth 29 53 44.09 S, 17 39 36.03E).
Since coming to Australia I have examined photocopies of PF?s report on the roadwork in December 1868, given to me by young Hugh when we visited him when he still lived in Botha. This site is indicated on one of his maps as Main Station, presumably a sort of site office, equipment and blasting powder (*) store etc., yet on another map as Convict Station. The site was almost certainly both of these.
In this report much detail is given about a Barracks, a structure weighing upwards of forty tons sent by ship from Cape Town and hauled piecemeal by oxwagon from the Bay. It was set up in short order before construction began on the pass, as were other buildings made of stone etc get report blah blah
Later a subsidiary convict facility was made it seems near Tiger Kloof, when work was proceeding there. I have not discovered any visible evidence of the place surviving today, but it is near a road intersection and a stream according to the work map of PcP, where it is marked ?Barracks?
Hugh's letter re kraal Annelize's emails re this....

Keerom and its turnoff to the south is clearly indicated on the modern map. In view of the state of the road, Elwyn's back, and the
distance we still had to travel, I reluctantly decided against further attempts at root establishment. I had also been told by Stone
the road had been closed after the farm's acquisition by the government blah blah
The terrain here is granite and much like a treeless Matopos transferred to the Karoo. The granite seemed a little redder than ours. It is dry, but there is scrub. Those who have this landscape in the blood would find it very attractive. Others would find it hell.
Young Hugh's letters, which inspired our visit to the area:

Letters to Peter and Neil

Annelize Erasmus of Springbok has a family connection to Keerom:

E-mails from Annelize Erasmusl

Keerom satellite photos. The shiny rectangles are undoubtedly modern corrugated iron roofs. The old ruin might be at two oclock
from the other buildings.

Keerom Google Earth

These notes should be read in conjunction with the biography of PcP and Agnes, and files linked therein. blah blah
A brief Summary of mainpoints in Patrick Fletcher?s Reports on the Construction of the Namaqualand Road.
Report dated: ?Tiger Kloof, 27 April 1869 ? for work done on the road during 1868, and on the result of surveys completed
"of the whole line from the Bay to Springbok.?.

Monthly average of convicts employed?.223. Scarping (gravel & stones) 41080 cubic yards. Rock blasting 2000 cubic yards. Retaining walls 1711 c.y.

Bridle-path 2 miles.

At Tiger Kloof: Barracks (mason work) 46x24. Constables? quarters (mason work) 46x15. Inspectors' ditto 21x32

At Buffel's River Station: Medical officers? quarters 34x20.5

Costs estimated for 1868:
63804 labour days @ 2s 6d per day = ? 7975.10. 0.
Tools, inspector and blacksmith?s salary = ? 1219.?. 8.
Total 1868 ? 9194.2.8

Expenditure in 1867:
Convict labour ? 4658.2. 6
Tools, inspector?s salary etc ? 1087.18.11
Total expenditure since commenced ? 14,940 .14.1
Value of tools and stores on hand December 1868 ?534 14s

Value of convict labour expended on buildings with a frontage of 600 feet, about ?960??.

Maximum number of convicts engaged on the road during one month was 238. Average monthly number since commencement (23 months) was 170.

During 1868 work was confined to section between Wildepaarde Hoek and the ascent on north side of Buffels River;

blah blah
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