Page 4 – ‘Notes of a trip’ by Robert Jameson

bogs between the low rolling hills indicate trouble for travellers during the summer rains.

                     Across this “high veldt” as it is called (or as we would term it “high lands”), we began our journey on Monday at daylight, our wheels crashing through the ice the first stream we crossed quite a novel sensation for coast folks. This “high veldt” being cold and shelterless in winter is then abandoned by the Boer farmers, who with their families, flocks and herds, migrate to the warmer low country for the lambing season, living like the patriarchs of old in tents pitched near some stream, and moving about from spot to spot as the necessities of their flocks demand; quite an idyllic and no doubt an enjoyable life for a people to whom the terms railway, telegraphs, banks, bills of lading, stocks and shares (except plough-shares), are as Greek. Happy people! The sky in these altitudes in winter is cloudless, the air dry and bracing to a wonderful degree; perpetual sunshine floods the landscape, vigorous exercise becomes a positive pleasure, and one feels as buoyant and youthful as if the fabled “elixir of life” coursed through one’s veins. the round and rosy cheeks of the bairns we met with bore ample testimony to the salubrity of the climate, had such testimony been necessary.
We are in Natal perfectly familiar with ant heaps, but here they not only attain huge proportions, but in some places were in such numbers as to seem to monopolise every foot of space. Dotted whitely in thousands over the burnt grass, they gave the country in some places the aspect of a vast necropolis. In the faded leaves of innumerable bulbs I could perceive that with the first rains the country must resemble a vast flower garden, resembling in this respect our Natal veldt, and probably of the same genera. Horses travelling across these uplands in winter are liable to sudden and violent attacks of diarrhoea, which in a very short time renders them utterly useless. There is no alternative then but to outspan them and give them rest, or leave them behind altogether. Various theories are offered in explanation the frequent change of air, bad food, intensely cold water, etc. None of these seem to fit our case, as Nimrod was indefatigable in his attentions to our horses, and brought much experience to bear upon their care; and yet we suffered. Finding one horse affected near Mr. Robertson’s at Rolfontein, we left it there, taking a fresh one, and we had to do the same on another occasion further on. For the information of others we may say we found that a bit of alum in the early stages seemed to afford relief, or later, laudanum or chlorodyne. At Rolfontein, to our intense astonishment, we found an observatory admirably equipped, and equally admirably worked in his leisure hours by a young English gentleman, Mr. Ballot, Mr. Robertson’s nephew. Shades of Newton! fancy an observatory in the Transvaal! This young gentleman takes his share in the daily duties of the store and the farm, and finds time to pursue his scientific studies after those are over, with such success as to have earned for himself a name among astronomers in Europe. The fine telescope, the gift of his uncle, has been erected entirely by himself no mean feat alone and the observatory is of his own construction, although he has had no instruction in science beyond what he has culled for himself from books! The Transvaal should be proud of so modest and ardent a student citizen, doing as he is for it, what other governments are glad to pay handsomely for, as well as rewarding in other ways. I detect in this unassuming young scientist a contributor to your columns (under a nom de plume) of articles on astronomy, which have excited much speculation as to the authorship. I append a description of the observatory, which those who are not interested in such subjects can, skip and pass on:
                     The observatory is situated on a little rise, near the dwelling house. It is a