Back in the Day
HENDRIK LE ROUX FROM CLANWILLIAM WRITES: The hiking club of Stellenbosch University, known as the Berg- en Toerklub (BTK for short), will celebrate its 90th anniversary this year. The club, founded on 4 June 1928, arranges mountain-climbing outings and hiking tours for students during the holidays. A lot has changed over the years. The hikers (called BTKaners) used to travel to the mountains on a truck; we stayed in big army tents when we weren’t sleeping under the stars and we all cooked together. Every student was assigned a job for the duration of the tour – the “stokers” had to build the fires, the “blikwassers” had to wash the cooking pots and the tent committee had to make sure the tents were pitched when required. The more trips you did, the better your jobs became. Nowadays, the tours are mostly multi-day hikes: The students carry their own backpacks and equipment and sleep in small tents. They’re divided into small groups that cook and eat together. Each group still has a “stoker”, responsible for the gas stove, and a cook who takes the lead with the food preparation. There are also still “blikwassers”, but the pots that have to be washed are much smaller. The BTK is ingrained in my family life. I’ve hiked thousands of kilometres with the club and made wonderful friends. My mother Leonie (88) did her first BTK tour in 1947. She grew up in the Bushveld and the 1 800 km train ride home from Stellenbosch was too far to do after every term, so she explored the mountains of the Boland and the Southern Cape with the BTK instead. A few years later, when one of her classmates, Piet le Roux, was courting her, he signed up for a trip – they got married in 1952. Piet and Leonie sent their four children to Stellenbosch University in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite living much closer to the university, in Goodwood, we also didn’t go home for the holidays and spent time exploring with the BTK instead. My siblings Japie, Marié, Pieta and I did more than 20 trips in total. My sister Marié met her husband Johan Schutte on a BTK outing near Franschhoek in 1979. They did more trips together and got married in 1982. Two of their children, Lionie and Hendrik, also became BTKaners. My four children – Piet, Esterbeth, Gerrie and Grietjie – were members of the BTK between 2003 and 2015, clocking up another 20-odd trips between them. Esterbeth also met her husband Francois Singels on a BTK trip to the West Coast in 2015!
The BTK reunion will take place from 27 April to 1 May in Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch. All former BTK members are welcome – visit btk.org.za for more information. We want your photos! Do you have old black-and-white photos of tours, family holidays and adventures? Send them to email@example.com
IN THE BEGINNING. Piet le Roux (above, holding a container of Vim) was a “on his first BTK tour in the Koo district in 1950. New members (called “eerstetoeriste”) were usually the dish washers. After 70 years, Leonie le Roux is still known as “tannie Dok” – a nickname she acquired thanks to her abilities as a “toe doctor” on BTK tours. Every group has one member assigned to first-aid duty, called “because he or she is responsible for treating blisters.