Posted: 12/2/2007
Title: BLYDE RIVER CANYON & JOCK OF THE BUSHVELD

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        It was 1846 and Henrich Potgeiter and his families were trying to find a route through the Drakonsberg Mountains to the coast in what is now Mozambique. They said goodbye to the elderly men and the women and children and said they hoped to return in 3 months to fetch them, and if they didn't then they should return to the safety of their Boer homeland. Three months were up and the families were sad, and named the river nearby the River of Tears. As they were about to decamp the men returned and they renamed it The River of Joy-Blyde River.

    It's about half an hours drive from Hoedspruit into the canyon and the river has now been damed to produce a beautiful canyon lake. We went to the lookout next to the interpretation centre at the park headquarters at Swadini, with spectacular views of the Drakonsbergs and the three Rondavels, or huge spiral rock formations like giant rondavels, the huts of the indiginous peoples. The  stripes in the sandstone rock are white and yellow, coloured with the lichen that grows there ,and they rise to about 2,000 feet above the river.  Its the world's third biggest canyon, after The Grand Canyon in USA and Fish River Canyon in Namibia. Rock climbing, hiking, horse riding, abseiling, canoeing, swimming, hot air ballooning, and the Tufa waterfall are attractions.  You can also travel by bicycle, 4 x 4 or even enter the marathon.  We come across a profusion of wild birds and some antelope.  It's part of the Panorama Route that starts at Graskop and included God's Window, The Pinnacle and Bourke's Landing Potholes.  200 million years ago it was here that Madagascar and Antarctica  broke off from Africa and the giant super continent Gondwanagar. I learned to say nkomo. or thank you in Shangaan language, to the local people at the park.

   I have written about dogs before, the Rotweiler in Rotweil in the Black Forest just after World Cup 2006,(blog 7/14/2006) and the famous Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh  thee months ago(blog 9/1/2007). There is a famous dog in these parts called Jock of the Bushveld, made famous in the early 1900's by author Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. It saved its master on numerous occasions from Lions, Snakes and Buffalo and there is a monument to its bravery. It was a runt in a large litter and Percy saved it from being drowned in a bucket of water and trained it to hunt. It was a cross between a Staffordshire Terrier and a Boerboet. Sir Percy, who was an ox-cart driver, a journalist, a warehouse man and other things ,wrote stories about their adventures together and read the stories to his four children at bedtime. Famed author Rudyard Kipling encouraged Percy to put the stories into a book which he published in 1907. It was very successful and had 4 reprintings its first year alone, and over 100 editions including English, Dutch, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, French.  Jock lost his hearing while fighting off a predator and eventually was tragically shot dead by his master by mistake. 

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