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History of the Hot Springs



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It can be seen at a glance what is the nature of the work the new owners of the Sanatorium have on hand. They are practically remodeling the Baths and the approach, enlarging the boardinghouse adjoining, and what is more important than even these expensive improvements, they are extending the overflow and drain pipes as to ensure, with a sufficient fall, that all waste water is carried away to the river, and the dryness and cleanliness of the surroundings thus maintained. As pointed out in a previous article, the situation of the Baths down in the old bed of the river adds enormously to the difficulties (now being overcome) and expense of the promoters, but skilled engineers have put their heads together over these problems and are solving them now, as never before. Just under an overhanging rock, on which a number of initials and dates are deeply engraved, is a somewhat flat but broken sandstone formation, some portion of which has the appearance of having been blasted away within the last few years, but about this no reliable information can be obtained. This low lying rock has now been surrounded with four dwarf concrete walls, 12ft. by 10ft. so as to retain the rising water. In these walls are two out-fall pipes inserted, one communicating with the Bath-house adjoining but on a lower level ; the other pipe taking the overflow to the bathing hole for the natives, already described, and from thence away down the gorge.

On looking into the chamber with concrete walls one is struck by the pureness of quality of the water it contains, and whilst watching, the reservoir is seen to be continually disturbed with the inrush from below. Two or three tiny cracks are to be observed at the bottom of the reservoir, some 16ft. down, in which during intervals of about 20 seconds, bubbles of bluish tint, gather together, and then rise to the surface in little strings, the size of them varying form that of peas to marbles. In former days before the surface soil on this rock was wholly cleared away, the water was seen to issue from only crevase ; but now three have been exposed and the yield from the additional sources has correspondingly increased. It can only be surmised that formerly the water of the two newfound springs escaped underground to the river, and on the way added to the trouble of former owners to keep the bathhouse dry.

The work of the clearing away of the stratum of earth on the generating rock, and enclosing it with concrete, was not accomplished without some expense and anxiety. In the first place the discharge of the springs had to be drawn away quickly without interfering with the work whilst in progress, and for this purpose a 4h.p. engine and powerful centrifugal pump was employed to prevent the water from accumulating. Then the company's engineer (Mr. Myburgh) had to exercise the greatest care so that in constructing the walls of the reservoir the water should not be permitted to rise above the natural level, lest it should again escape underground, and so cause the value of the new work to be lost. However, by raising the walls 16ft. from the lowest level of rock, the springs do not appear to have been interfered with in any way, as there is always a steady flow out through the pipes inserted at almost the tops of the walls. Thus the initial difficulty was conquered, and to show the strength of the springs I would like to mention an incident that occurred there when the reservoir was completed and the General Manager and Engineer visited the Baths together to view the work. At their request the engine was started and the reservoir was completely emptied before they went to luncheon. Before they had finished the repast (in half an hour) the man in charge informed them that the reservoir was overflowing again, at the rate of about 50 gals. per minute.

Another, and the greatest, difficulty was to permanently provide for the carrying away of this overflow, so that the Bathroom and premises around might no longer be in a perpetually sloppy state under all conditions. Levels were taken, and it was found that in order to obtain a 4ft. fall to the river the drain pipes would have to be carried down the gorge no less than 350 yds. gangs were set to work excavating the trench, and even at only a moderate depth beneath the surface, water came into the trench from the river on the one side and from the rocks on the other, showing that there is an abundance of the highly mineralised water ; but what is remarkable about it is that it is not all hot water, but at least one spring is decidedly cold. In this connection Mr. A. Rhind, the resident manager, showed me a shallow furrow he had cut with a spade in the fallow land on the other side of the river on the day previous to my visit. He did this merely to lead the water out from another furrow. In digging down only about 6 ins. below the surface he tapped a strong spring that had not previously made its presence known by darkening or softening the soil around. This water I felt to be icy cold ; whilst over the reservoir - to which a stone could be easily flung from the cold fountain - the temperature was 112 degs. Fahr! Here is an interesting problem for scientists to investigate.

The water from the cold fountain was sufficiently strong to irrigate a good slice of land, and the bulk of it flowed down into the river. On the other bank the trench was dug straight away to about mid-distance, and a double pipe line was laid down to carry the waste from both the Baths and Bathroom, and boardinghouse. From the manhole here the trench was deflected, and a 6 ins. earthenware glazed pipe completed the distance to the out-fall in the river. Altogether eight manholes have been put in so as to effect the prompt removal of silt from the pipes in seasons of flood.

The Bathhouse is also of concrete walls and floors, and cost R32,000. It contains eight separate bathrooms approached by a short flight of steps, each room being 10ft. by 10ft., and each is supplied with an iron enameled bath to which is led on directly from the reservoir. The temperature is only lowered a trifle in its passage through the pipes, but the patient need not immerse himself until the temperature has been reduced to blood heat; although its curative value is in the high temperature as well as in its greatly mineralised properties.

The Bathhouse is now to be approached by a covered and glass-screened verandah, 100ft. long, connected with the boardinghouse. The latter is being considerably enlarged and renovated ; in fact there will be very little left of the old structure. The new premises will contain 12 bedrooms, a dining room 12ft. by 20ft. (which has been provided with a new recess adding 18ft. by 6ft.) and a drawing room over, of the same dimensions. These premises will be refurnished at a cost of nearly R3200, and the appointments (including a billiard table) will be up-to-date. The kitchens and the apartments of the manager are also being enlarged and refitted, as a part of the new scheme.

Other sections of this scheme include the laying out of the grounds as a plasaunce, with tennis and croquet courts and golf-links, and the opening up of one or more of the several grottoes in the immediate vicinity. One of these is situated fully 100ft. above the Bathhouse, and is very large and roomy. Those who have climbed up the rough rocks to it say the outlook at the entrance is quite romantic, and commands an extensive sweep of the surrounding country, which, however, does not take in a view of Montagu. The mountain shuts that out. To make the approach to this grotto very easy and accessible to all, steps are to be cut into rock, and the mouth of the cave cleared of the brushwood. There are many caves in the kloof, and one in the bed of the river is almost directly under the grotto already described. There yet remains to be told a good deal concerning the wonderful cures effected by the use of this spring water.