Saturday, April 8, 2017

Champagne walking club Peak View Forest

After a two-week break, Grant and I joined our friends on a hike again last Tuesday. It was an easy walk around the Peak View Forests. (We buy the wood for our boiler from Ant Gray, owner of the Peak View Forestry.)
Meeting at Ant and Anne Gray's house before the walk
Ant petting his old Labrador and very young puppy while Anne looks on (these dogs feature as two of the three critters in my post today!)
The group: Neil, Sharyn, Anne, Jo, Grant, Amelia, Jenny and Ant Muirhead (Ant and Anne Gray didn't walk with us as they had other commitments. Trish and Price were outside the property with their dog, Buddy - the third critter in my post) Photo by Anne Gray 
Setting off on the hike
I think everyone stopped to watch the hot-air balloon 
The autumn mornings are warm and still and hot-air balloons are a regular sight over the Drakensberg

The first section of the hike was along a tarred road

Cosmos as far as the eye can see

Although the write-up of the walk said "easy" I found that I was panting after the first five minutes walking up a steep track alongside the forest. 
I snapped Jenny having a drink at the top of the hill - you can see the forests in the valley below where we'd started the hike
Grant, Ant and Amelia joined up with us as we rested at the top 

A special feature of this hike was a wall of huge rocks which Ant Gray had built to keep cattle out

Buddy, the sheepdog belonging to Price and Trish (He with the red shirt and black back pack and Trish wearing a pink tee shirt in this picture) 
Wild dagga (wild cannabis) Leonotis leonurus is another shrub which flowers in autumn
Ant, our intrepid 76-year-old friend poses for Jenny above the wall (Photo Jenny Braithewaite) 
Hiking along the top ridge through a corridor of black jacks /bidens pilosa. the seeds from these plants stuck to our clothes, especially our socks
Further along we climbed the wall again, this time to get to the bottom of the ridge 

Everyone stopped often to pick the black jack seeds off their clothes! 
The cosmos flower which I played with in an earlier post today! 
Hiking the cool forest trails 
By now we were thirsty and looking for a spot to have breakfast

Imagine a bunch of 60-year-old- plus hikers sitting on a forest floor, chewing the fat er, their sandwiches. 

We had an enjoyable 45 minutes of reminiscing about the days of a manual telephone exchange. The two younger ladies with us were enthralled by the stories of how subscribers on farm lines had personal ring tones. In the eighties Grant and I lived along the 21 line. Our number was 2112; so our ring was one long one and two short ones. There could be up to ten subscribers on a farm line. You knew your own ring so well, that you hardly heard the other rings but would react to your own even while you were asleep!

Many years before, on my 16th birthday I applied for and received my identity card. I was now eligible to work. During my school holidays I worked in the telephone exchange in our town. In medium-sized telephone exchange you'd have banks of upright plug boards with hundreds of small square numbered metal plates. Next to each plate was a round hole. At 90 degrees to this (like a school desk) was a surface with two rows of holes. In these were long cords weighted at the bottom (this was not visible) and a bullet-shaped  jack at the top end. In front of each one of these was a lever switch which operated those two jacks. 

As a number rang, the metal plate fell open; you pulled out a cord from the rear and inserted it into the hole next to the metal plate. You politely asked: "Number please? The caller asks for 1203 please. You pick up the cord in the front row and insert it into a row of holes (may be  on a board next door to you) with farm lines: 11, 12, 13 etc. You insert the jack into the one-two line and give three long rings by using a small lever in line with those connecting cords. You close the key which allowed you to answer the caller in the first place and leave the callers to communicate in private.  

At the same time,  there are little square pigeon holes at the top of the switchboard containing printed cards. While answering the caller and connecting him, you write his number down on a card. As he's connected you click a timer above the pigeon holes to time the call. Every three minutes, you go in on the call and tell them the length of the call. You mark this on the card. 

All the while, you may answer calls from a three boards down (operators all assisted each other) which may be the incoming calls board. Here other cities and towns would be ringing your exchange and that operator asks you for a number in your town. Then a local number rings again and asks for a number in another town or city. This is called a trunk call. You reach up or across (depending where the trunk call board is) insert the jack and using the telephone dial, you ring that city by code. When a caller requests an international call, you take down all the details and tell him you will ring him when you have connected. You dial an international code in Cape Town, an operator answers and you give through the information. This person tells you the delay and that he/she will ring you when connected to the overseas call. You drop that call and ring the local number to tell them the delay. This is all written down on a specific card for later billing. When Cape Town has the overseas person on the line, they ring you at the exchange; you ring the local subscriber and finally the two are connected. 

You performed all these tasks almost simultaneously. And although there were many more woman operators than men, I knew of men who could multi-task just as efficiently while doing this job.  

Although this switchboard below is dated 1924, the one I worked on in the sixties, was very similar! We wore headsets so that your hands were free to work. 

As you can imagine, the telephone exhange operators knew everybody's business! LOL 
See here for a visual of these switchboards. 

Once we'd all had enough to eat and drink, we dusted ourselves off, picked up and our packs and walked the last couple of hundred meters back to where our cars were parked. 

Before we greeted each other and went our seperate ways, Jenny gave me the stats for the hike. We'd hiked a distance of 7.3km; walked 11, 610 steps and climbed the equivalent of 11 storeys. The huge boulders accounted for the latter, I'm sure. 

I'm linking to Saturday Critters with Eileen here. I'm sure Eileen won't mind the lack of conventional critters when the post has so much nature - and that's what Eileen's posts are famous for: Nature! 



  1. Hello Jo, I enjoyed going along on your hike. I love seeing the dogs too, so you did well including the critters. The views and flowers are gorgeous. I was about 15 1/2 when I got my first job, seems so long ago. I am glad the phone technology has approved. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

  2. your critters are fine and I loved the rock climbing Grant although I was holding my breathe watching him. LOL... yet another beautiful hike...with all those beautiful friends. I love those suspenders, my dad wore them with all his pants. I never worked the switchboard but I do remember them. for the years we lived in Kentucky, our number was 3.... and to call someone we picked up the handset off the wall and jiggled the thingy up and down and she answered and we would say please ring number 12 or 2 or place a long distance call to Savannah... in 59 we were on a party line, which is what you described here. there were about 10 of us on one line with the different rings. no privacy at all since when it rang if we wanted to we could pick it up and listen to others...

  3. I love the group hikes. I believe my grandmother was a phone operator like that. With our three party lines we each had distinctive rings. Great story.


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