googleed3ca5fea536c11e.html South African Mineral Specimens: May 2011

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A Mineral specimen blog by which we want to share our mineral outings as well as our experiences in the Western Cape mountains.


Monday, May 2, 2011


I should have written this long ago, soon after it happened, but it’s no wonder that the saying goes, “Procrastination is the thief of time …”  Now it's already 4 months later, but I guess, still worth sharing.

On 31 December 2010 we started feeling panicky / agitated, because we could see preparations for a massive New Year’s Eve celebration, right across the street from our home.  We hate loud music, and especially the madness that usually accompanies it, with people shouting, yelling, and cars racing down the street.  The anticipation gave us a claustrophobic feeling, so we grabbed a few essentials and by about 5.30 pm we were on our way to the Roggeveld, a vastly open, semi-desert space, that starts about 50 km from our home, but we traveled a total of 107 km before we eventually stopped, because we decided to make it more pleasurable by looking for gypsum and calcite too.  Along the way we stopped for a few minutes to look for quartz crystals, because there were many promising areas, but we found only a few tiny ones.

We arrived at the abandoned roadworks quarry at about 7 pm, with a very strong westerly wind blowing.  We decided to first look for gypsum while it was still light, before pitching our tent.  There were only a few dark clouds in the sky.  After a while we suddenly realized that the wind had ceased.  There was awesome silence (the Roggeveld must be one of the most quiet places on Earth, being so remote), and for a few minutes we enjoyed it, and proceeded looking for gypsum.  Then the wind picked up again, but this time it came from a north-easterly direction.  Suddenly Pierre shouted to me to run for the car, and then I saw a huge dust- / sandstorm, like a brown wall, coming towards us.

Pierre was about 20 metres ahead of me when the wall of sand / dust hit us, and for a few moments we were so engulfed in the sand and dust, that I couldn’t even see him.  The wind was terribly strong, and I thought I was going to be swept off my feet!  We jumped into the car (opening the door on the side away from the onslaught) and were releaved when we could shut the door.  There was sand and dust all around us, and the wind was terribly strong, and the way our car shook, had us fear that it might be overturned.  So Pierre then parked the car about 90 degrees to the left, so we’d be parked facing the same direction as the wind, which helped.

The sandstorm was followed by a thunderstorm and heavy rain, and within about 50 minutes from the onset of the sandstorm, the ground was covered with puddles of water, and lots of clay and mud.  (The next day we struggled to get the car dislodged from it!)  There was definitely no chance of us pitching our tent, and we were glad that we hadn’t done so earlier, because it would probably have been blown away or, at least, soaked. 

Within a few minutes we could hear numerous little waterfalls, where the gush of water had washed away topsoil from the sides of the quarry, and then ran down into it.  These little waterfalls lasted only about two hours or so, then the sound subsided. 

We spent the night quite uncomfortably, because our camping gear was stashed in the back of our hatchback car, but we could put our seats back.  Unfortunately many mosquitoes invited themselves, and their buzzing and tickling kept us awake most of the night.  It seemed like our insect repellant was not tough enough for these Roggeveld mossies!  Yet we enjoyed the absence of manmade town and city noise, as well as the lovely, fresh, unpolluted air and I spent literally hours gazing at the beautiful starlit sky, and my binoculars came in very handy in this respect. 

Eventually we did fall asleep, and the next morning we awoke to a beautiful sunrise.  Initially there were clouds in the sky, but very soon they disappeared and the hot sun took its place.  After a quick breakfast, we went about our business scratching around for calcite and gypsum specimens.  Where we had heard the little waterfalls after the storm, we then saw that many seams, containing gypsum, had been exposed.  It was lovely to see these specimens, but unfortunately (especially because the ground was still moist from the rain) it was extremely soft, and we only managed to get a few pieces intact.  We also found cavities, lined with beautiful dogtooth calcite crystals and Pierre found a few crystals, which we couldn’t identify positively. 

It gets very hot in summer, and we were armed with suntan lotion and hats.  But we did not expect the mosquitoes to bite us in the middle of a hot day!  They caught us quite off-guard!

There was quite a big pool at the bottom of the quarry, after all the water that had gushed into it the previous night.  At a stage we rinsed our hands in this water, but it felt very strange.  When they dried, our hands were covered with a coating of gypsum powder!  We quickly rinsed them off with fresh water, which we had brought along, to prevent them from drying out too much!

Later that afternoon, on our way back, we again enjoyed rain in the Roggeveld, with puddles of water and bubbling rivulets alongside the road, and water streaming across the road in many places.  It was an exhilirating feeling, especially knowing that we were in a semi-desert area!

By the time we got back to Ceres, the New Year’s madness had worn off, and we enjoyed being home, and sleeping properly that night.  But all-in-all, we had a lovely transition from 2010 to 2011.  We just love quietness and Nature! 

We hope that you will enjoy the following photographs with us.


The Roggeveld - a vastly open and remote place.
We found a few tiny quartz crystals near the road.
Pierre found a few crystals in this rock
Sunset in the Roggeveld, 31/12/10
Riana (black speck on the left against
the quarry wall) looking for crystals
The wall of sand
The sandstorm has just passed ...
Rain on our windscreen ...
Puddles of water and mud / clay everywhere!
Sunrise over the quarry, 1/1/11.
Cavities lined with dogtooth calcite crystals
Crystals from a mineral we cannot identify
Lovely gypsum crystals in layers of shale
More gypsum crystals
 Pool of water in the quarry after the storm (left)
 & Pierre removes a crystal from a rock (front)
A crystal we cannot identify
Exposed seams on the quarry walls
where we found gypsum crystals
Water streaming across the road
Everything is nice and wet!