This publication contains two journals covering two journeys by Olof Bergh to the North along the Cape West Coast as far as Namaqualand in 1682 and 1683. Also included is the journal of Isaac Schrijver’s expedition to the East in search of the Inqua Hottentots to trade cattle. This journey took place in 1689 into the Great Karoo as far as the Camdeboo.


Portrait of Ensign Olof Bergh in 1685

Olof Bergh, a Swede from Gothenburg, born in about 1643 into an aristocratic family, arrived in the Cape in 1676. Before his first journey along the West Coast he undertook a number of bartering trips to the Overberg and to salvage the English ship Joanna that had run aground at Danger Point.

The purpose of Bergh’s journeys to the North was to negotiate and trade with the ‘Hottentots’ and to familiarise himself with the region up the Cape west coast. The first journey took him and his party as far as the Groen River close to today’s Garies. On the second journey they again could not get over the Kamiesberg and turned back at almost the same spot as they did during the first journey.

Map of Olof Bergh JourneysMap of the journeys of Olof Bergh.

The editor, Dr Mossop, includes in the Foreword of the publication the fascinating story of how Bergh was arrested in 1687 because he stole valuable items from wrecks which he was sent to salvage by the Cape Government. He was sent to Robben Island and was detained for more than four years until a letter from Holland instructed the Cape Governor to release him. He, with his family, went to Ceylon but returned to the Cape in 1695 with such a good record of service that he was appointed Captain of the Garrison and later to the Council of Policy, a position that he had occupied before his arrest.


Ensign Isaq Schrijver of Leiden was, like Bergh, a capable officer who was used by the Government to lead exploration and cattle bartering expeditions. His most unusual quest was a search for runaway slaves being sheltered by Hottentots who inhabited the Sandveld near Piketberg. Governor Simon van der Stel gave him instructions to procure the return of these slaves or “in the most civil manner…., without employing any bloodshed, to obtain a Hottentot Captain or some of their women and children as hostages.”

‘The place where we have lain was named Vervallen Casteel by us’

In December 1686 Schrijver was appointed as leader of an expedition to find and trade for cattle with the Inqua Hottentots, whose country was reportedly “overflowing with oxen, cows and sheep.” Schrijver succeeded in his quest and on the forty-sixth day from the Castle met the Inqua Captain named Hijkon. The three months’ journey to the Camdeboo (close to today’s Aberdeen) and back took the expedition on a route that passes close to the present Caledon, Swellendam, Heidelberg, Oudtshoorn and then over the Swartberg to the Great Karoo. Their route followed along the banks of the Kariega River to the section of the Camdeboo mountains which they called “Vervallen Casteel”. The Inqua stronghold is thought to have been hidden up a kloof in the Camdeboo Moutains about 25 kilometers north-northeast of present-day Aberdeen.

Map of  Schrijver’s Journey

They obtained by barter more than 500 cattle and a flock of sheep. On their journey back they were attacked by another Hottentot tribe trying to steal their cattle. They decided to loose off a salvo and by doing that, killed thirty of them. The party arrived back at the Cape on 10 April 1689.


Saturday, 28th November. This morn there came to us a great number of Hottentots, both men and women, well over 200. They brought no cattle save only an old and meagre cow, a calf and 2 sheep. The Ensign obtained the calf and 2 sheep by barter. They remained near us sitting round about and prating of naught save tobacco. They giggled and laughed with our Hottentots, poking fun at us, so it seemed, and had they the chance would have treated us as enemies, so that it was hardly to be endured. They said outright they would not trade with us, pretending that their cattle had been taken from them; from others we learned that this was untrue and they merely sought to cheat us. At midday we again packed our goods on the wagons and left about one o’clock. We returned the way we had come. We could have done another day’s journey, but turned back for there was nothing more to be achieved for the service of the Company; moreover, our wagons were beginning to fail us and we might find less water on the return journey and be put to the greatest embarrassment. At 4 o’clock we returned to the camping place that we had left and remained the night. There came 13 or 14 Amacquas with their women folk, bringing 5 calves and 4 sheep, of which the Ensign bartered four calves and sheep.

Sunday, November 29th. We broke camp early this morning and marched the way by which we had come. About 1 o’clock we reached the place from which we departed on November 24th and there we rested.

Monday, November 30th. Early this morning we gathered a load of hay, for from here to the Oliphants […]

[…] the said Hottentots back to him  with  some small  gifts in order that Heijkon  might  haste  the  more  to  come to us. We had a N. wind to-day, towards evening  (wind from the) E .S.E., with warm weather.

Wednesday 16 dio. We continued to lie at our old resting place and sent back 2 more of the Hottentots  sent by Heijkon to get information concerning our Hottentots sent out on the 13th. The wind to-day was variable with an overcast sky; it turned to a strong E.S. Easter in the evening.

Thursday 17 dto. We remained at our restplace aforesaid and  this  day  received  not  the  least  tiding of  Heijkon  nor  news  of  our  Hottentots sent  by  us. In the forenoon a changeable wind which in the afternoon was charged heavily with rain from the N. by W.

Friday 18 dto. Towards morning one of our Hot­tentots, sent out on the 13th, returned and told us that Heijkon and his kraal had set out on the march yes­terday afternoon with the intention of meeting us. Towards evening 2 more of Heijkon’s  Hottentots  arrived,  who said that  he and his kraal would be with  us by noon to-morrow. The wind changeable and accompanied by clouds with rain.

Saturday 19  dto.  About  1  o’clock in the afternoon  9 of Heikon’s deputies  arrived;  they  besought  us  in his name not to go hence before their Captain came. When they had delivered their message each  received a piece of tobacco and also a portion for their Captain, and they immediately hastened at their best pace back to him. When an hour had passed he at  last  arrived with fully 150 followers under guidance of our Hottentots  sent  out  on  the  13th […]


Transcribed, translated into English and edited with a foreword and footnotes by Dr E.E. Mossop.
(Author of Old Cape Highways)

Map of Olof Bergh Journeys