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Grahamstown, Umtata, Natal.
- To: The armchair travellers <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: Grahamstown, Umtata, Natal.
- From: Andy Rabagliati <email@example.com>
- Date: Mon, 05 May 1997 15:54:28 +0200
I stopped by the home of Rhodes University - a quaint, very
British town in the Eastern cape, originally founded by settlers
who were bought in as a 'buffer' between warring factions at
The University is in the town, and has a beautiful campus.
I had been corresponding with a couple of people who were the
original founders of Internet in South Africa. I saw the lab,
and the FreeBSD machine that originally had a Fidonet connection,
and then a 9600 Baud dialup connection to the States.
They now have their connection through a commercial provider
in Johannesburg, and it is a 128K connection for all South Africas
Universities. That translates to a connection about two orders
of magnitude slower than a comparable US university.
To help it along, they run a WWW cache of 24 Gigabytes, but .. it
is still very slow.
I visited a black township, a very nice man who had built his
wattle-and-mud house, and was in the process of building his new
brick house by himself. His wife would have the old house - in
traditional African style, where the wives kept their own house,
and, as he put it, did not bother him with her problems. He
supported about ten people with his builders job in town.
I visited the Hogsback, a town reminiscent of an old indian
hill station, which is a vacation retreat for South Africans.
Stunning scenery, rolling hills, local people trying to sell
you little unfired clay hogs. Nothing else, just a dozen people
all trying to sell the same thing. South Africa lacks entrepreneurs.
I headed back East, and spent a night in Umtata, the capital of
the old Transkei. Busy, noisy town, with a large university - which,
of course, I visited. The Computer science department was not
impressive. The Computer Services department was run by an accountant
who, frankly, was afraid of computers and did not know the difference
between a program and an operating system. 64K link to Rhodes.
Everyone warned me against the Transkei, and Umtata in particular,
but I liked it, and the only hazards were the HUGE potholes that
would appear without warning in the road, and "stray animals for
North-eastern Transkei is very beautiful, running into the equally
beautiful Western Natal. I am staying with some retired friends
of my fathers, and Dr. George Campbell has a nice Pentium computer,
Internet, a scanner, and three color printers to keep him occupied
in his old age ..
Thanks to the Duvalls for their excellent book on touring South
Africa. The scenery is much the same 25 years later.