In the springtime, the Hantam region of Namaqualand becomes a glistening array of blooms. Driving north from Nieuwoudtville, you pass a quiver tree forest on a mountainside and suddenly you’re in the village of Loeriesfontein, where the daisies run riot in the homesteads and streets.
They also grow, in great profusion, among one of the most remarkable collections of wind pumps in the world.
The Steel Flowers of Loeriesfontein are busy today. There’s a stiff breeze coming up from Cape Town and the blades are spinning. You’ll seldom see a Canadian North model spinning on the Karoo plains anymore, but here it is, pumping water like gangbusters. The Star Zephyr swings proudly in the breeze, catching the light of the sun. The Conquest and the Gearing Self-Oiled and the Dandy creak out a mournful dirge in rusty harmony. A few seasoned veld warriors shift restlessly against the chains that hold them motionless, head tied to tail. It seems they want to join the conversation.
Walk around the Fred Turner Museum grounds and you will find many of the other wind pump brands that helped to open the Karoo and Kalahari for settlement: Massey-Harris, Leers, Spartan, Atlas, Wonder, Springbok, Beatty Pumper, Spilhaus & Co, Eclipse, Fairbanks, Malcomess, Vetsak President and the ever-popular Climax and Aermotor.
By making ground water accessible, the windpump opened the arid areas of the United States, Australia and South Africa to farming and the development of small towns. In many parts of the world, this new source of on-site water allowed for the arrival of the steam train, and all the benefits of rail transportation.
One of the most interesting engineer-writers in South Africa was Dr James Walton. He was mad about wind pumps and co-wrote the classic and out-of-print Wind Pumps in South Africa. Walton put out a national appeal for the establishment of a wind pump museum – and Loeriesfontein answered that call – in true Namaqualand style.
A distinguished-looking museum curator will show you all the displays, from an old hearing trumpet to a baptismal font, from books on Bushmanland to a particular species of succulent growing among the wind pumps.
Be sure to spend a moment alone among the Steel Flowers as they spin you their yarns of the open prairies.
Excerpt from Karoo Keepsakes II – The Journeys Continue…
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