Who knew the Free State was this pretty

Leaving Kimberley actually was nowhere as easy as leaving Jozi. The time I spent there was great. Filled with great times with old and new friends, I learnt a lot about our country and how it is run as well as learning a lot about me. Even though this is the case, it was time to leave – my yearning for the ocean tugged at my calf muscles telling them to get a move on. It would be a few days before I eventually get to the ocean – a lot of South Africa still lay ahead of me.

My initial plans would take me westwards towards the diamond-strewn West Coast along with the cold Benguela Current that ravishes this desolate coast. Instead, I head east on the N8 between Kimberley and Bloemfontein. It seriously is a supremely boring road with nothing going for it whatsoever. One feature stood out – what appeared to be a huge, dried body of water now resembling a salt pan. I still don’t know what this was as it was pretty huge to be, um, insignificant.

Travelling along the N8 takes you into the non-scenic part of Bloemfontein. I was here back in 2001 and honestly, remember nothing about the actual city. This scene of industria and construction that I am greeted with doesn’t do much to help the image of the city. I do see four cooling towers that are now the property of FNB with a disused power station across the road. Early 60s architecture and low rising chimney stacks give away the age of this relic. Cooling towers command such awe. The simple design is purely functional but the aesthetics command such respect. It is a testament to human ingenuity. I drive further and get even more lost in Bloemfontein. I see a local construct of the Eiffel Tower. I use this as a sign that I really need to leave this city!

The N6 is nicknamed the Friendly Route – after Aliwal North, the route is fashioned upon what the R62 in the Cape has become. Then again, Aliwal North is in the Eastern Cape (or is it?) and the Free State is renowned for its lack of scenery. Au contraire – this part of the country borders Lesotho. Driving south, the right hand side of the road is Platte Land and whilst the left is has gentle, undulating, straw coloured hills with patches of happy green dotting the landscape. The gentle hills give one but a hint of the marvels of the Maluti.

Just outside Bloemfontein, I stop at the Cheeta Padstal for a bite to eat. The place is a quaint little winkel manned by a tannie. After shocking her with my Indianness, I look at the menu and see something called a “pannekoek” which I order. The tannie explodes like I just mentioned the words that set of the apocalypse. Okay, that didn’t happen but apparently these take way too long to make so she wouldn’t be able to make it for me. I get a Cheese and Tomato sandwich and a Coke and settle into the eating area. It was just right. Knitted ornaments adorned the room with the simplest tables and chairs neatly set. It was just so homely. She served my food – it tasted so great even though it is the easiest thing to make. You could taste the love and care put into it. I get a knitted ornament, pay and leave. The bill came to a grand total of R30 with the gift included. Makes one wonder about the establishments in metropolitanland where you pay that three times the price for only a piece of cardboard slapped together mechanically that’s coloured to look like Cheese and Tomato.

At the little town of Smithfield, I take the R701. Quaint little town but I just had that vibe that I shouldn’t get off the car. The R701 is like a whole new world altogether. It’s Gariep country – or, as the authorities has christened it, The Gariep Lake Route. The Gariep Dam is South Africa’s largest dam where around four rivers converge. Named after the Gariep River, which is also known as the Orange River, this dam is the closest thing we have to a lake (I lie – we have ONE natural lake in Limpopo known as Lake Fundudzi. It’s a magical lake set deep in Venda mythology and Venda country. You need a special permit to grace its shores.) My destination: A little Free State town called Bethulie.

Day 29: Remember the Days of the 330 Engine Room

This blog has nothing to do with 330 at all. It just seemed a good title! This week was spent in this little part of the power station called the Boiler. And by little, I mean huge. It’s probably the most complex bit of the station and it does not resemble a kettle! It’s like a never-ending maze of pipes going in and out of the metal housings and walls and feeding the turbine with the special steam that is needed to make power for us in South Africa. I’ve always found it quite funny that we still use Steam for the most important aspect of Power Generation seeing that it’s a technology thought about in the 1700s. However, those English guys who pioneered it back then would be in awe of what they see in today’s modern steam powered power plants.

Anyway, this blog my first picture blog of this course so I will try and keep the words to a minimum from here on in. The pictures, well, technically, we aren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside of a Power Station but well, as you will see, most aren’t actually from inside!

So this is the drive on the way to Duvha Power Station pre-7am. Power Stations start work at 7am and, so to maximise our experience, we did the same. Waking up at that ungodly hour is really taxing! The crap thing is that after you do this for weeks on end, you get used to it and end up waking at that time on weekends as well! Disturbing I tell you…

The sheer size of the components inside the plant was something that just wowed me. This is the Hot Reheat Piping that takes the reheated water from the superheater to the IP turbine blades. In English, heat from here is transferred to the turbine blades which turns and makes electricity. You can see the guard rails around if you are worried about scale.

These are ducts for the fans that provide air to the system. The air is usually used to transfer the pulverised coal into the furnace for combustion. I think you could even transport Kanye West’s ego using these ducts.

The thing with a Power Plant is that it is so huge that basically, you could have a waterfall that’s around five metres high in the middle of the auxiliary plant and its okay. It does give you a shock when you see it, but it is okay!

Anyway, the highlight of the week was going onto the roof of the plant and seeing the magnificent view. The roof is around 110m above ground level and apart from being very scary, it is awe-inspiring. This is a picture with the Northern Cooling Tower in the foreground and the Witbank Dam in the background. At the bottom is the HV yard. If you need to braai some meat really quickly, I suggest you throw the meat in there. Anyway, the next couple pictures were also taken on top of the roof. Enjoy them!

The little structure that’s been pointed to is the 250m or so tall Smoke stack at Duvha which, if I’m not mistaken is probably the country’s tallest structure at present. Power Plants nowadays have either precipitators or fabric filters which get rid of the gunk before it’s expelled into the atmosphere. These include the NOx and SOx gases (pretty catchy names!) though when the Boilers are being lit, they tend to burn quite dirtily so these are expelled into the atmosphere. The theory behind the height is that the higher the tower, the less chance of the air infiltrating the air we breathe. Well, go to Witbank and take a deep breath in and you can judge for yourself. Then again, from what I’ve seen, the amount Power Stations lets out into the clear blue sky is miniscule compared to some factories in Witbank. I saw this one factory with brown smoke coming out from the roof – not even the stack! Oh well, so much for a small carbon footprint. Anyway, the rest of these pictures are just general pictures I took out. Yet again, enjoy!

Professional Write does indeed suck. They don’t even have a WYSIWIG interface. Come to think of it, neither did WordPerfect back in the 90s.

I don’t know. Do not even ask!

I thought this was a Coal Plant. I apparently was wrong…

Beautiful 🙂

There is something about narrow corridors that has this oh so powerful effect. If you look at the doorway at the end of the picture, it looks like someone is emerging from the fiery pits of hell!

Apparently, Witbank was the actual setting for the Blair Witch Project.

Dusty Duvha – the one thing about this plant is the immense ash deposits EVERYWHERE! The furnace and precipitators have these opening everywhere which makes the ash from the coal get all over the place. On the 87m platform, the ash deposits on the pipes were around 5cm high. Approximate that using your fingers and you’ll realise that it is quite a lot! Even worse is that the ash is supremely fine and breathing it in is bad for your health. I was like a kid and made sure that I got as dirty as I could! Hey, it was fun okay!!! But anyway, there is my hand, hair and my hard hat. They don’t really tell the story though but you get the picture I hope. Well that was my first foray into the world of Duvha and it was rather enjoyable even though I was covered in ash! Ash Ketchum – he’s my hero!