Mmegi Blogs :: Low level bridges
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Last Updated
Wednesday 23 August 2017, 06:00 am.
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Low level bridges

Low level bridges across significant rivers used to be a familiar feature of the landscape in those long ago days. The first point to be made, however, is that several of these bridges, such as this one over the Shashe River, were intended to provide a means of getting through sand, not constructed in order to cross water.
By Sandy Grant Wed 09 Aug 2017, 17:12 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Low level bridges








Of course, this point was unlikely to have occurred to drivers who, because of floodwater, were unable to cross for a few days each year. Many would have cursed the designers of such bridges who had failed to make them higher.  They would not have appreciated that for the whole year bar a few days, the bridge provided for them a more or less trouble free means of getting across the sand. Most of these bridges, perhaps all, were narrow and had no guardrails as can be seen in this photo. Most have now disappeared but some idea of what they were like can still be experienced at Platjan.

When the Shashe River was in flood, there was no way that anyone could make it across. The situation at Morwa was somewhat different because the relatively short low-level bridge there was crossing the Metsemotlhaba, a sand-less river. It was there that Col. Rey was held up on more than one occasion. Other drivers, however, didn’t wait for the river to subside.

When they felt that it was worth taking a risk, they chanced their arm and drove across but without guardrails, having no certainty as to the whereabouts of the edge! Had those bridges survived today, the probability would be that there would be major traffic snarl-ups with no one accepting the need to give way for someone else. Perhaps

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this didn’t happen in the past because there were so few vehicles using the roads.

The crossing of rivers is, however, is not limited to low bridges. The points where rivers could be crossed on foot in the drier months of the year are known as Drifts, such as Ponts Drift, and Baines Drift. Buffels Drift is an historical curiosity today because it no longer exist other than as a name on a map. To my surprise I gather that ‘Drifts’ is the near equivalent of the English word ‘ford’, a tit-bit that opens up all sorts of new angles regarding the history of the country’s borders.

But an obvious problem now is to pin down why some crossing points, such as at the Jesuit Tree on the banks of the Madikwe near Oliphants Drift and the two historically key crossings of the Notwane River at Gaborone and Ramotswa, were given no name at all.  Both these old crossing points belong to the past having been replaced by higher-level bridges.

Something seems to have gone wrong here because all the crossing points of the Notwane River in Mochudi, for instance, boasted specific names. But then again, there had to be some way of crossing the Madikwe at Sikwane because the Bakgatla managed to do so, in November 1899, when they attacked the Boers who were encamped at  Deerdepoort.

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