Over two centuries ago Robert Jacob Gordon stood on a Karoo koppie near the Swartberg mountains and painted the tranquil scene of Qweekvallei farm in the valley below. Almost a century later a town sprang up on the farm. And now, 150 years later, that town, Prince Albert, has honoured this famous artist, naturalist, soldier and explorer by naming the koppie in his honour. A small granite slab, placed at the site where he stood, near the now popular Koppie Trail, was recently unveiled by author Patrick Cullinan, whose book, Robert Jacob Gordon, the Man and his Travels at the Cape, won the Cape Town Historical Society Award in 1993. At a function after the unveiling, Cullinan discussed Gordon=s vital role in recording the history, fauna and flora of the Karoo. A Dutchman of Scots descent, Gordon commanded the garrison at the Cape which surrendered to Britain=s Admiral Elphinstone in 1795. A few months later, Gordon became so depressed that he committed suicide in the grounds of his house, Schoondersigt. Much of his work was lost for 150 years. The material had been sold by his Swiss widow to the Marchioness of Stafford for ,100 soon after his death. These papers and paintings were only rediscovered in 1964. After an auction of the Stafford House library, much of the Gordon material was acquired by the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam where it still is today. The Prince Albert scene is among the paintings.


‘n Groep oorsese joernaliste op spesiale besoek na Suid-Afrika vir Indaba, die groot toerisme skou in Durban, gaan ook in die Karoo kuier. Wes-Kaap Toerismeraad het vir hulle ‘n spesiale rit oor die Swartbergpas gereël. Daarna sal hulle die Prins Albert Toerismeburo besoek en dan middagete by Rietfontein plaas-stalletjie in Leeu Gamka geniet. Daar sal hulle ook die graf van die langste soldaat in die Britse leer tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog te sien kry sowel as die gemeenskaphandwerksentrum. Van daar sal die joernaliste die pad kies na die Karoo Nasionalepark om nadere kennis te maak met die ekologie van die Groot Karoo. In die gebied sal hulle deur Beaufort-Wes Toerismeburo onthaal word. Die volgende dag ry hulle deur Meiringspoort.


A group of overseas journalists, on a special visit to South Africa for Indaba, the huge tourism show in Durban, are going to visit the Karoo. Western Cape Tourism Board has arranged a special trip for them across the Swartberg Pass. Thereafter they will visit Prince Albert Tourism and after that enjoy lunch at Rietfontein farm stall in Leeu Gamka. There they will visit the grave of the tallest soldier in the British army during the Anglo-Boer War and also, the community craft centre. From there the journalists will travel to the Karoo National Park to experience more of the ecology of the Great Karoo. In this area and on this trip they will be hosted by the Beaufort West Tourist Bureau. On the following day the journalists will travel through Meiringspoort.


Several international location scouts are currently scouring the Karoo for sites for proposed movies, documentaries and advertisements. The subjects they intend to film cover everything from Mars landings and dinosaurs to love stories. Inquiries resulted from presentations made by Satour and WCTB board member Anthea Rossouw during an American road show. In some instances, the Great Karoo was not quite the area the scouts were currently after, but they kept phone lines busy for hours to transmit images to their headquarters for possible use later. One who was fascinated by the Karoo was Dow Griffiths, of Burbank, California. He was introduced to the Karoo by Dries and Girlie Swanepoel, of Geelbeksbrug farm, near Laingsburg. Dries showed him sites in the Moordenaars Karoo, the Witteberg and Seweekspoort areas which totally intrigued him. He also had a look at the interesting geological walk on their farm and inspected the Anglo-Boer War blockhouse, now a national monument and 12km north of Laingsburg. National Geographic also recently completed its documentary of the fossils of the Great Karoo which will be aired later in the year, according to Dr Roger Smith of the S A Museum.


Anglo-Boer War researchers delving into the life and times of Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers will soon be able to sleep over in the room in which the British held this controversial leader after his capture. Lukas and Jacolese Botes, owners of Elim, near Antjieskraal Station, 4km from the N1, are restoring the farmhouse in which Scheepers spent a night. The area is steeped in history, which Jacolese is researching. She has also discovered the world of Rudyard Kipling’s poetry and thrilling Boer War tales. A post coach was ambushed by the Boers only a short distance from her home and set on fire. Most of the mail was destroyed and today a few scorched letters are collectors= items. Jacolese also has fascinating photographs of the farm in Scheepers’s day, of troop activity in its vicinity and of the nearby blockhouses at Dwyka and Ketting stations. She knows the exact spot from where Kipling was able to see “the towering Oudtshoorn ranges” mentioned in his poetry and can direct visitors to the other places of interest, such as the farm where Scheepers was arrested. A well-known gospel singer, Jacolese is now setting some of Kipling’s Boer War poetry to music.


Toeriste wat die asemrowende wêreld van die Swartberge wil ontdek het nou ‘n wyer reeks keuses. Klaarstroom gasteplase het saamgespan om toeriste die unieke prag van die gebied deeglik te laat verken. ‘n Reeks stap- en fietsryroetes wat besoekers nader aan die natuur sal bring is ontwikkel. Daar is ook wandelpaaie wat na verskuilde piekniekplekke lei. En vir 4 x 4 entoesiaste is daar uitdagende roetes. Dag en nag wildbesigtingsritte is beskikbaar asook voëltjiekykroetes. Gaste kan besoek aflê by plaaslike tuisnywerheids-plekke waar naald-, breiwerk en plaasprodukte te koop is. Op naburige plase kan toeriste al die vervaardigings-stappe van kaas besigtig en by die witblitsketel-stokery langs ‘n Karoo doringhoutvuur kuier terwyl hulle die voggies geniet. Die stokery is ‘n nasionale gedenkwaardigheid. Donkiekarritte vir oud en jonk word ook aangebied. Die blommeprag van dié gebied sluit proteas en fynbos in. Die lug is skoon, vars en opbeurend. In die somer kan gaste in verfrissende bergwater poele swem en in die winter wanneer berge met sneeu bedek is kuier gaste heerlik om vure. Die Kango-grotte, Klein Karoo wynplase, historiese dorpe van Oudtshoorn, De Rust en Prins Albert op die drumpel van die Swartbergpas is naby. Gaste kan in ’n typiese ou plaashuis of luukse kothuise bly.


Tourists who wish to experience the breath-taking world of the Swartberg now have a wide range of choices. Klaarstroom guest farms have joined hands to show tourists the unique beauty of the area. A range of hiking, walking and cycle routes have been developed to bring visitors closer to nature. There are also rambles that lead to beautiful picnic spots and there is a challenging 4×4 route Day and night game drives, are available, as well as some excellent birding routes. Visitors can also visit some home industry and craft centres as well as outlets for farm produce. On some of the farms in the area visitors will be able to see cheese and witblitz production and enjoy a chat round a thorn tree, braaivleis fire while they enjoy these treats. On one of the farms, there is a witblits still that has been declared a national monument. Donkey cart trips for old and young are also a feature of this area. Wild flowers of this area include proteas and fynbos. The air is clean, fresh and exhilarating. In summer visitors may swim in refreshing mountain water pools and, in winter, when snow covers the mountains, they will enjoy chatting around fires. The Cango Caves, Klein Karoo wine farms, historic towns of Oudtshoorn, De Rust and Prince Albert, as well as the Swartberg Pass are all on the threshold of Klaarstroom. Visitors may choose to stay in typical old farm houses or luxury farm cottages.


On a guest farm near Murraysburg there towers a magical mountain, the third highest in the Western Cape Province. Popular with tourists, Toorberg peaks at 2 400m (7874ft) above sea level. Quaggasdrift guest farm also offers hunting, hiking and a challenging 4 x 4 route. Early indigenous people thought the mountain was magical because of its rich water sources. Streams, waterfalls and fountains, fed by the winter snows, are found all over the mountain. It forms part of the Sneeuberg which divides the Central Karoo from the Eastern Cape. According to Antonie Troskie, owner of Quaggasdrift, many people climb Toorberg to enjoy the exceptional views of the Camdeboo and 18 surrounding districts. On a clear day one can see Richmond in the north, Patensie in the south, Somerset East in the east and in the west the Nuweveld Mountains beyond Beaufort West. There are breath-taking views of famous peaks such as Compassberg, Middelburg, Noordkop, and Cockscomb. A visitor’s book, safely stored in a tin among boulders at the peak, makes fascinating reading. It is amazing how many overseas visitors have made entries in this book. Many are stunned by the sound of underground streams gurgling many meters below the surface. Some lie flat on their stomachs to peer into rock crevices, trying to catch a glimpse of these. There are several places from where this water can be seen. “We monitored one of the fountains for a year to record its unfailing delivery of 180 000 litres an hour.,” said Antonie. Graaff Reinet once considered harnessing Toorberg’s water, but a quote of R1m for construction dampened their enthusiasm. Toorberg is central to Ettiene van Heerden’s novel of the same name.


Natuurliefhebbers geniet al lank verblyf op Waterval, ‘n pragtige bergplaas op die Murraysburg/Graaff Reinet grens. Dié plaas behoort ook aan Antonie Troskie (sien bo) en is 40km van Quaggasdrift op die R63, omtrent 25km van Graaff-Reinet. “Die area is voëlryk en daar is volop wild,” sê Antonie. “Staproetes lei na interessante uitsigte. Gaste oornag in ‘n ruim self-versorgende plaashuis met slaap geriewe vir ses. Dit is ideaal vir groepe en gesinne en daar is ‘n heerlike lapa braai area. Daar is ook toesluit motorhuise.


Nature lovers have for quite some time enjoyed visits to Waterval, a magnificent mountain farm on the Murraysburg/Graaff-Reinet border. This farm belongs to Antonie Troskie (see above) of Quasggasdrift on the R63 about 25km from Graaff-Reinet. “The area has a rich bird life and game is abundant,” says Antonie. “Walking routes to places of interest and with exceptional views, have been developed. Visitors may overnight in a spacious, self-catering farm house with sleeping accommodation for six. This venue is ideal for groups and families. There is a lovely lapa for braais and a lock-up garage.


Bird watchers in the Karoo have been amazed to see malachite sunbirds foraging at ground level. In the William Quinton Wild Bird Society newsletter, ecologists Richard Dean and Sue Milton explain that it is not an unusual phenomenon. ‘Bird-pollinated plants in this arid zone are so low growing that birds often have to perch on the ground to feed,’ says Sue. ‘The Aloe claviflora, for instance, has to attract sunbirds, essential to its pollination, yet be inconspicuous to buck and baboons, who love its large, bright flowers. Baboons eat the flowers and pull out the stalks to munch the soft end. Weavils are also a delicacy for them and their searches for these little creatures often destroy the plants. To prevent such damage, the aloe flowers grow on horizontal spikes about 30cm long and so close to the ground as to be virtually invisible to animals walking by. But they are highly conspicuous from the air, so they attract malachite and lesser double-collared sunbirds. These are often seen flying low over what appears to be barren Karoo veld or sitting on the ground feeding.” Birding is a popular pastime in the Karoo and the market constantly expands as new ecological sites are developed. Peter Ryan and Jane Turpie, of the Fitzpatrick Institute, recently compiled a 46-page report on the spending habits of birders. They estimate that there are between 11 500 and 21 200 active birders in South Africa who spend R80-R170 million annually. Casual birders spend about R3 000 a year, while enthusiasts lay out R18 000. They conservatively estimate that foreign visitors who enjoy birding spend R10-R25 million a year.


Leeu Gamka se geemeenskap is druk besig met die ontwerp van ‘n handwerksentrum langs die Shell Ultra City-kompleks. Hulle beoog om dit binne die volgende maand te open. In die werks- en verkoopslokaal sal ‘n wye reeks hand- en breiwerk sowel as tuisgemaakte produkte uitgestal word. In seisoen sal daar ook stalletjies op die sypaadjie wees om toeriste te trek. Wes-Kaap Toerismeraad ontwikkelingskomitee help met die projek.


The Leeu Gamka community is currently busy developing a craft centre adjacent to the Shell Uktra City Complex. They aim to open it within the next month. In the work and sales area there will be a wide range of hand made and knitted items as well as homemade products. In season there will also be stalls on the sidewalk to attract tourists. Western Cape Tourism Board’s development committee is helping to make this project a reality.


Several Karoo experts will join forces this year to present a series of winter seminars for arid zone enthusiasts. Known as San Tracker Seminars, they will be held from May to July and will cover rock art, archaeology, birding, botany and history. The three-day lectures will be presented in the Cedarberg’s Bushmanskloof Wilderness Reserve, a declared natural heritage site. Lectures include Rock Art Through the Eyes of the Artist by conservationist Stephen Townley Bassett, Stone, Bone and Paint over the Last 100 000 Years by archaeologist Royden Yates, Karoo Contrasts – a Look at Birds by ornithologist Dr Penn Lloyd, Mountains That Never Age by historian Paul Murray and Fynbos and Karoo Plants by botanist Jan Vlok.


Die NG Kerk in Leeu Gamka het ‘n kwekery begin om inwoners aan te moedig om bome te plant. “Die idee daar agter is om ‘n better lewenskwaliteit vir ons mense te skep deur tuinmaak, asook om die gebied vir toerisme op te kikker,” sê Ds Willem Burger. “Deur hierdie program, wat al bome vir ons bure, Prins Albertweg, geskenk het, beoog ons om ons kontrei die prag van die Groot Karoo te maak.”


The Dutch Reformed Church at Leeu Gamka has started a nursery which it hopes will encourage residents to plant trees. “The idea behind the nursery is to enhance the quality of life of our community, help them to make gardens and beautify the area for tourism,” says Reverend Willem Burger. “Through the introduction of this programme we also hope to donate trees to Prince Albert Road and help them beautify their area of the Great Karoo.”


The story on the origins of the tune Sarie Marais (Round-up No 65) drew excellent response from readers locally and abroad. Historian Dr Arthur Davey said “Sarie Marais is the official regimental march of the British Royal Marines. This regiment celebrated its 300th anniversary with a huge parade through Whitehall in 1964. As a spectator in the crowd I felt a rush of nostalgia when the massed bands passed playing Sarie Marais.”


In ‘n afgeleë begraafplaas wat op Robben-Eiland geskep is vir melaatses en swaksinniges, sowel as dié wat diens onder hulle verig het, lê die graf van Ds Louis Hugo. Historiese navorser Pierre Massyn het op hierdie interessante graf afgekom tydens ‘n besoek aan die eiland. Voor hy sy sendingwerk op die eiland begin het was Ds Hugo ‘n leraar van die NG-kerk in Beaufort-Wes. Ds Hugo is op 22 November 1840, gebore en het op 21 Augustus, 1907, op Robben-Eiland gesterf na jare van getroue diens. “Die eiland se begrafplaas is uiters interessant, maar baie van die grafstene is erg verweer en baie is ongeidentifiseer,” sê Pierre


In an isolated cemetery on Robben Island lies the grave of Reverend Louis Hugo. Originally a home for lepers and the feeble-minded was created on this island and this graveyard was started for those who died there as well as for those who travelled there to serve them. Historic researcher, Pierre Massyn, came across this historic grave during a visit to the island. Before moving to serve the community on Robben Island, Reverend Hugo was the minister of the Dutch Reformed church in Beaufort West, he was born on November 22, 1840 and died on the Island on August 21, after years of loyal service. “The island’s cemetery is an extremely interesting place, despite the fact that are so badly weathered and that some can no longer be identified,” said Pierre.


Anglo-Boer War enthusiasts have been invited to join an outing in the Meiringspoort area on June 5. The trip is being arranged by Southern Cape Group chairman Peter Greeff and researcher Taffy Shearing. It is the culmination of a combined meeting of Boer War Commemoration planning groups in the Garden Route, Karoo and Klein Karoo. Peter and Taffy are planning a route to include visits to skirmish sites at Buffelsklip, between De Rust and Uniondale, and the area around Klaarstroom. Visitors will also see “Khaki Draai” in Meiringspoort and visit interesting graves in the area. The group will meet at the De Rust Hotel at 09h30 on June 5. “They should bring food, refreshments, water and hats. Speakers will explain events that took place at each site. Background notes will be available at a nominal fee to cover photostat costs,” said Peter. “The programme allows sufficient time for people to walk about and reconnoitre the sites on their own.”


Die Murraysburgtak van Standard Bank is onder dié wat die meeste deur kommandos aangeval is tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog. Die eerste aanval was in Januarie, 1901, en die bank moes vir ‘n paar dae sluit. Op 2 Maart is die bestuurder, F C Lilford, deur die Boere gevange geneem terwyl hy amptelike briewe by Biesiespoort gepos het. Hy is vir agt ure lank aangehou. Later die maand het hy in sy dagboek aangeteken dat die dorpie drie keer in 20 dae aangeval is. Onder die dekking van donker, op 13 Junie, 1901, het 60 van Kommandant Gideon Scheepers se kommandolede by Lilford se huis opgedaag en sy brandkluis sleutels geeis. Hy het geweier maar moes toegee nadat hy “beledig, aangerand en gedreig” is. Die Boere het £120\7\9 gevat en ‘n kwitansie gegee. Kort na hierdie geval het Scheepers se onderbevelvoerder, Luitenant Pijper, by Lilford aangedoen om verskoning vir sy manne se swak gedrag te vra. Scheepers self het sy spyt oor die voorval uitgespreek toe hy die dorp binne gekom het. Volgens die boek ‘n Baanbrekerbank is Murraysburg se bates daarna na Beaufort-Wes geneem en die tak vir die res van die oorlog gesluit.


The Murraysburg branch of the Standard Bank is among those that were attacked by Boer Commandoes during the Anglo-Boer War. The first attack was in January 1901, and after that the bank had to be closed for a few days. On March 2, manager F C Lilford was captured by the Boers while he was posting official letters at Biesiespoort. He was held for eight hours. Later in the month he recorded in his diary that the town was attacke three times in 20 days. Under the cover of darkness on June 13, 1901, sixty of Commandant Gideon Scheepers’s commando members arrived at Lilford’s house and demanded the keys to the bank’s safe. Lilford refused to part with them, but eventually had to hand them over after he was “insulted, assaulted and threatened”. The Boers took £120\7\9 but left a receipt. Shortly after this attack Scheerper’s second in command, Lieutenant Pijper went to Lilford to apologise for the poor behaviour of his men. Scheepers, himself, expressed displeasure regarding this incident, when he arrived in the town a short time later. According to the book ‘n Baanbrekerbank in ‘n Baanbrekerland, the Murraysburg bank assets were sent to Beaufort-West after this incident and the bank was closed for the rest of the war.


A Cornishman who could trace his lineage back to the time of the Spanish Armada lies buried in the Great Karoo. Richard Hastings Tremearne, the British officer who supervised the building of the blockhouse lines in the Karoo, was a descendant of John Tremearne, vicar of Paul, in Cornwall, during the Spanish Armada. Soon after the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, he volunteered as a driver and in July 1900, was attached to a battery of the CIV. He also served in columns under generals Paget and Plumer. Tremearne returned to England in November 1900, and the following year was presented with a medal and three clasps by the King. Then, in November 1901, he received a commission in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and joined it in the Karoo. As 2nd Lieutenant of the 5th Battalion he served in Sutherland and Beaufort West. He later moved to Carnarvon where he died of enteric fever on April 14,1902. Tremearne was born in India in 1879.


Beaufort-Wes verhoogkunenaar Antoinette Pienaar se toneelstuk oor die Anglo-Boereoorlog was een van die hoogtepunte van die Klein Karoo-kunstefees. “Om materiaal vir die stuk te versamel het deeglike navorsing gekos, sowel as ure van stories luister en boeke lees,” sê Antoinette. Die stuk is die verhaal van Johanna, ‘n vrou wat alles in die twee vryheidsoorloë verloor het. Haar seun en geliefkoosde perd is albei in die Eerste Vryheidsoorlog dood en sy het haar man, troue bediende en beste vriend in die Anglo-Boereoorlog verloor. Die stuk, wat deur Antoinette self geskryf is, vertel ook van Kitchener se verwoesting van plase en hoe Johanna uiteindelik haar eie haat moes konfronteer. Derek Fordyce het die musiek geskryf. Die liedere is hoofsaaklik toonsettings van C Louis Leipold met insette van stukke van William Hamilton, A S Cripps en Thomas Hardy.


Beaufort West’s actress, Antoinette Pienaar’s play about the Anglo-Boer War was one of the highlights at the recent Klein Karoo Kunstefees. “Collecting material for this piece required a great deal of diligent research, as well as hours of reading and listening to stories,” said Antoinette. The show covers the story of Johanna, a woman who lost everything during the Anglo-Boer War. Her son and her favourite horse were moth killed in the First Boer War and then she lost her husband, trusted servant and best friend in the Anglo-Boer War. Antoinette, personally, wrote the play, which tells of Kitchener’ s scorched earth policy and how in time Johanna was force to confront her own hate. Derek Fordyce wrote the music and the songs were mostly poems of C Louis Leipold, set to music with insets of works by William Hamilton, A S Cripps and Thomas Hardy.


A recent and special full-day exhibition of Blue Book and other Anglo-Boer War material has been hailed a winner. It was organised by Johan Loock, a well-known Boer War researcher and chairman of the National Monuments Council=s Burger Graves committee. The display of 107 publications in the NMC=s library was highly acclaimed by those who visited. Material covered the Jameson Raid, start of the war, events throughout its duration, items on martial law and postal regulations. There was a variety of material on the aftermath