The Garden Route, Central and Klein Karoos have joined hands and created a Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) , under the chairmanship of Central Karoo tourism co-cordinator, Rose Willis, in an effort in an effort to market their areas as a whole to wider local and international markets. The reason this is that this huge area includes every kind of holiday destination from sun-soaked beaches to mountain experiences, from top star hotels, to homely farm-style accommodation; venues soaked in history, those for bikers and hikers and those offering wildlife or birding experiences, among others. To support this, a sister publication to Round-up has been created and named Rambler. It will cover all aspects of this combined tourism effort. From time to time a supplement will be sent out with Round-up covering items used in Rambler that are of specific interest to those interested in the Great Karoo.



Shows have been with us for a long time and back in the 1860s it was proved that they worked. Take one in 1867, for example. The Cape was virtually bankrupt. The causes were severe drought and the Basuto Wars. Several Karoo towns and hinterland farmers had helped the Free State in these conflicts. So, in an effort to improve the failing economy Governor Philip Wodehouse decided to promote the Cape internationally at the huge Paris International exhibition (of 1867). A committee was formed in Cape Town and members from as far away as the Karoo were elected. A Richmond farmer got things moving in the hinterland by bv submitting samples of wheat, barley, sheep and ox tallow, sheep tail fat, oil, beexwax, ganna ash for soap, and a bar of “boer”soap. Items from the interior were so novel that they were first shown in Cape Town before being sent to Paris. The exhibition was a success and the products were highly acclaimed, so much so that the judges drank the 60 bottles of wine sent from the Cape and ate all the preserves from the Karoo, states Barclay Simpson in his book Richmonds of the World.- Rambler 1, January, 1995


Art and literature are part of the soul of the Karoo. One of the immortal Afrikaans writers and poets was born in the Karoo. He was Cornelis Jacob Langenhoven, born at Hoeko, near Ladismith in 1873. His writings brought the Karoo and its people to the attention of the literary world. During his life he wrote more than 50 books on the widest range of subjects and he is one of the first authors to have an edition of collected works published in Afrikaans Langenhoven wrote sharp political pamphlets, witty short stories and tender poetry – especially for the girl with whom he fell in love who came from Prince Albert. (Her father would not allow them to marry) His story is closely intertwined in the histories of the Klein and Great Karoo. It is thus fitting that his imaginary elephant Herrie is honoured by a stone onto which Langenhoven carved his name in Meiringspoort. This has been declared a national monument. – Rambler 2, February, 1995.


The memory of the lovely Helena de Vries, the secret love of South African poet C J Langenhoven, lingers on the farm Gideon’s Hoop, near Klaarstroom, once known as “The Cold Valley”.  Helena was born in Prince Albert in 1872 and lived in a house known as Mirtlehof (Mirtle Grove).   While studying at Bloemhof Seminary in the Stellenbosch area in the late 1890s she was introduced to “Petite”, as Langenhoven was known because of his small stature. Some believed it was love at first sight.  After they met Helena and “”Petite” were seldom out of each other’s company and within short they became engaged.  This lasted for two years and then her pious, austere Dutch father stepped in.  He considered Langenhoven, a self-confessed atheist, far too liberal for his daughter and he forbade them to continue seeing each other. In time Helena married the dour,twice-widowed Gideon Muller, who had six children.  She bore him only one child, a son, who they named Giedie. In 1894 Langenhoven wrote an English poem in Helena’s honour.  The first letter of each decending line spells “Helena”.  Today Helena’s spirit still fills Gideon’s Hoop.  There are fading photographs of her in several rooms of the house.   Langenhoven’s Afrikaans Birthday Book, dedicated to her in his on hand, lies on a little side table and one of two pressed roses rests in her Bible.   He kept its twin together with a lock of her hair.


One of the leading lights of Afrikaans theatre, Hendrik Andries “Tokkies Hanekom, was born in Beaufort West in 1893 His career began with performances at church concerts and auctions throughout the Karoo. By 1925 he was a well-known professional and two years later he launched one of the country’s first and most successful Afrikaans theatre groups. He was also responsible for establishing a theatre school in Bloemfontein. A proposed tour of Europe was stopped by the outbreak of World War II, but the company nevertheless went from strength to strength locally and was the first recipient of the S A Akademie’s commemorative medal for dramatic art. – Rambler 2, February, 1995.

Note: Also in this issue, was A Dancing Delight – the story of prima-ballerina Dulcie Howes. Born in Mossel Bay in 1908 she rose to become a powerful force in South African ballet. A headstrong lass she persuaded her parents to send her to England to study long before girls were allowed to travel abroad alone. She made a name for herself dancing and teaching in London. Back in South Africa she became a top teacher, a legend of the theatre and principal of the University of Cape Town Ballet School. She helped establish CAPAB. – Rambler 2, February, 1995.


The Anglo-Boer War Interest Group is organising an outing scheduled for October this year. This will include a field trip which will follow the route Smits and his raiders took through Meiringspoort, De Rust, along the foothills of the Swartberg and into the Hell. The Smuts raids through the Karoo were considered to be among the most daring of the War. – Rambler 2, February, 1995.


Wounds suffered by a British officer in an engagement in the Karoo during the Anglo-Boer War is thought to have led directly to the death of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his entire polar party. The story will be revealed by a Karoo Boer War expert Mrs Taffy Shearing of Beaufort West when she addresses the Military History Society in Cape Town on March 9. Her talk will deal with Captain Lawrence Edward Grace “Titus” Oates and his part in the attack in Aberdeen in 1900. She will discuss Oates’s wounds and the fact that these had not healed properly by the time he joined Captain Scot’s expedition to the South Pole. The death of the whole party is often attributed to Oates who left their shelter on a stormy night in March, 1912, announcing ‘I’ll be some time.” He never returned. The other men waited for him and that cost them their lives – Rambler 3, March, 1995


Ostriches are synonymous with the Klein Karoo, so seeing these birds in the Leeu Gamka and Prince Albert areas in the Central Karoo intrigues tourists. Few realise that the Great Karoo played an important role in this industry. In the last century a world record price was obtained for feathers from Montana a farm near Nelspoort. But everyone loves the story of the British soldier who during the Anglo-Boer War looked out of a train window and on seeing an ostrich for the first time said “If this is the size of the chickens, just how big are these Boers?” – Rambler 3, March, 1995


Out in the wild split-second timing now associated with sports such as motor racing was already honed to perfection when men were still swinging from branches. The daily duel on the Karoo plains between the black eagle and the elephant’s tiny cousin, thedassie or rock hyrax is proof of this.To sink his claws into his staple diet the eagle dives from 150m to ground level in 3 seconds, which means he hits about 180kph. The dassie has figured this out, so he limits his feeding to a maximum range of 12m from shelter. When eagles are about a “sentry” shrieks out a warming which allows the dassie to streak back to shelter in 2,7 seconds doing about 16kph. Pretty neat – only 0,3 seconds between eating and being eaten. Things come apart for the dassie when young males are forced out of the shelters and denied a sentry A pair of black eagles catch about 150 dassies a year. The dassie, however, has a defence mechanism against attack by raptors. A small light shield in the retina of the dassie’s eye enables him to look straight up into the sky and clearly see an eagle against the sun – Rambler 3, March, 1995