MINISTER CALLS FOR MORE RESEARCH

Tourism was a powerful partnership, but only the surface had been scratched in efforts to create a closer working relationship between all sectors of the industry, the Western Cape Minister of Finance, Business Promotion and Tourism, Mr Leon Marcowitz, said when he addressed tourism roleplayers at an Oudtshoorn road show recently. “The image of tourism is still too fragmented. We also have far too many logos and structures”, he said. “Image is important, and so is marketing. We must focus and streamline our marketing approaches, spend more wisely and research the value of niche markets to build tourism infrastructures. We must also take a more careful look at where our domestic tourists come from and we must pay full attention to this sector of the market”. Mr M1arcowitz said the Tourism Bill had been delayed for a few more months as he had commissioned ODA’s Dirk Joubert to research the needs and problems in each region. “Once he tables a report, I will study it in detail before any changes will be made to the Act”, the minister said.

DIENSLEWERING DIE SLEUTEL TOT SUKSES, SÊ PREMIER

Toerisme is die lewensbloed van Suid-Afrika en veral die platteland. Dit was die boodskap van die Premier van die Wes-Kaap Provinsie, mnr Gerald Morkel, toe hy ‘n toerisme byeenkoms in Oudtshoorn tydens die Klein Karoo Kunstefees toegespreek het. Tydens die geleentheid het mnr Morkel aangekondig dat die eerste sooie vir ‘n R500-miljoen konferensie sentrum in Kaapstad gespit is. “Dis nie net die Moederstad wat gaan baat vind van hierdie ontwikkeling nie. Dit gaan ook van groot belang wees vir die platteland. Die meeste konferensiegangers sal ‘n dag of twee in die platteland deurbring voor hulle huistoe gaan. As vriendelikheid, hoflikheid, en dienslewering daar van top gehalte is sal hulle beslis terugkeer vir ‘n tweede besoek met hulle families. Mense sal altyd gaan waar die prys en die diens reg is. Goeie dienslewering is die hart van die toerismebedryf. In hierdie bedryf kan ‘n mens geld maak, plesier daaruit kry en ook die land se ekonomie ondersteun”. Die Wes-Kaap Kabinet het in Oudtshoorn vergader tydens die fees. “Ons beleid is om die Kabinet na die mense te bring en op plaaslike vlak na probleme te luister. Ons is ingestel op dienslewering”.

OPEN AFRICA’S ROUTE TO REALITY

Founder and chairman of Open Africa, Noel de Villiers, recently visited Murraysburg to discuss the promotional power of creating and linking tourist routes. The meeting was arranged by Alida Vermeulen, chairman of the local tourist bureau, as farmers in the district are keen to establish a fossil route. “The formation of routes is an extraordinarily effective way to develop and promote tourism”, Noel said. “We have proved this through the establishment of many successful routes in the Western Cape. Open Africa assists all stakeholders turn dreams into realities by helping them plan, map and market a route, no matter how big or small. But total commitment is essential. We ask stakeholders to identify their own ‘Big Five,’ the main reasons why tourists should visit their area. From beginning to end such a process takes 90 days”.

TECHNIKON RECORDS A SLICE OF KAROO HISTORY

A team of students from the Technicon Pretoria’s Department of Architecture recently completed a comprehensive historic survey for the Karoo National Park. Under the guidance of departmental director Johan Jooste and senior lecturers Harry Benadé and Daan Steynberg, 19 South African and two overseas students documented all buildings on land the park acquired last year. Work on the project began in June 2000, when a team working with Daan Steynberg pinpointed all structures with a global positioning system (GPS). Floor plans, sections and elevations were prepared under the direction of Harry Benadé. All buildings were then measured and photographed. Data was collected for evaluation in Pretoria. The students spent seven months translating field notes into electronic formats for a preliminary report. During the first phase, work was completed at nine sites. A further six sites were studied in April, this year. Niels Benecke, of the Vrye Universiteit van Amsterdam, and Katrina Klandermans, of the Technical University of Delft, both completing degrees on South African indigenous architecture, were again part of the team. In total, 64 structures, dating from 1790 to about 1950, were recorded, as well as sheds, dry-stone kraal walls and ‘long-drops’ (outhouses).

ONWETEND EN DOOD GERUS DEUR DIE SPOOKVELDOPPAS!

Die meeste mense wat deur die Karoo na Kaapstad haas is salig onbewus daarvan dat hulle deur die Spookveld reis. Hierdie ryk van die spoke is die 1800s deur Majoor A B Ellis van die West Indian Regiment beskryf toe hy in die Kaap by die Britse garnisoen gestasioneer was. Die Spookveld lê suid van Beaufort-Wes en strek tot by Patatasrivier, naby Karoopoort. Majoor Ellis het verskeie ervarings met spoke in die gebied gehad. Eenkeer was hy in ‘n poskoets op pad na Beaufort-Wes toe ‘n spook-koets verby gevlieg het. Sy koets moes weens wiel probleme stop. Toe die passasiers uitklim het hulle die gedruis van perdehoewe en ‘n vinnig aankomende koets gehoor. “Die geraas was iets vreesliks”, het hy gesê. ADie koets het op ‘n hoë spoed op ons afgesnel. Ons koetsier het geskreeu ‘Waar gaan julle?’‘Hel toe’ was die antwoord van die spook koetsier, ‘n bleek man met ‘n gesig soos die dood en ‘n lag wat almal rillings gegee het. Net so skielik soos dit verskyn het, het die spook-koets in ‘n yskoue wind verdwyn. In die verte het Majoor Ellis ‘n paar manne by ‘n kampvuurtjie sien sit. Hy het oor gestap om te vra of hulle ook die snaakse verskynsel gewaar het. Toe hy by hulle aankom het hulle ook skielik verdwyn. Toe hy die grond voel waar die vuurtjie gebrand het was dit yskoud. Gedurende ‘n ander rit het hy ‘n spookwa op die pad gewaar. Hy kon duidelik die touleier se stem, die gesnork van die osse en die kreun van die wa hoor en sien hoe die boer wat luilekker stap en pyp rook. En toe het hy eenvoudig verdwyn.

SWALLOWS, SORCERERS OF THE RAIN CLOUDS

The San people believed that their shamans could control swallows and their movements. And therein lay a link with the rain. “They associated swallows with water, particularly rain”, explains Jeremy Hollman of the Rock Art Research Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand. Towards the end of the 1800s, William Bleek conducted immensely valuable research into Bushman folklore. Among the tales he recorded was one about the swallow: “Our mothers tell us we should not throw stones at the swallow because it is a rain thing”, one told him. “They ask us whether we do not see that when the rain clouds are in the sky, the swallow flies about, but when there are no rain clouds, we do not see it”. Another story in the Bleek and Lloyd manuscripts tells of a boy who threw stones at a swallow and nearly died. “As he threw them, he fell insensible. It seemed he would die … a sorcerer came out of the swallow and into him. He didn’t die. He would die another day”, said Bleek’s storyteller.

OP SOEK NA KAROO WINDPOMP TONELE

‘n Bekende Suid-Afrikaanse fotograaf wil graag in die Karoo besoek aflê om windpompe af te neem. En, dis as gevolg van ‘n spesiale almanak. Toe J F ‘Tiny’ Wannenberg van die Landbouweekblad afgetree het, het hy ‘n versameling windpomp fotos gehad wat hy oor die jare vergader het. Hy het twaalf van die bestes in ‘n almanak omskep. Dit was ‘n reuse sukses, veral in die VSA. Nou het hy ‘n aanvraag vir meer foto’s van windpompe in die Karoo. Dus soek Tiny nou inligting oor plekke waar daar oues, besonderes of sommer net mooi windpompe is. En hy doen ‘n vriendelike beroep op boere om te help.

MURRAYSBURG AND RUSSIA HAVE ANCIENT LINK

A rare fossil found by accident on a Murraysburg farm last year has turned out to be a link between the Great Karoo and Russia. The SA Museum’s top vertebrate preparator, Annelise Crean, has just finished working on the skull and lower jaw of a Proburnetia, found by Dr Roger Smith, Head of Palaeontology. “This is was one of the most exciting finds I have ever made”, said Roger. “Only five Proburnetia fossils have been found in the world, and all of these were discovered in Russia”. Proburnetia were about the size of a collie dog. They roamed the ancient Karoo about 253-million years ago scavenging on carcasses of animals such as the large Dicynodon, also discovered by accident in a nearby gulley.@ While members of the Karoo Paleo-Team were excavating the Dicynodon, Roger explored an adjoining gulley. There he discovered the back end of a fossilised skull embedded in shale. Recognising it as rare and unusual, he excavated it. Strolling back, he spotted a similarly shaped rock in a stream-bed about 50 metres away. This turned out to be the front of the same skull, complete with nasal horn and teeth. “The odds of finding such a truly rare fossil are a million to one, but finding two pieces that fit perfectly so close to one another is amazing”, said Roger. According to Dr Michael Shishkin, Russian palaeontologist and a world specialist on ancient amphibians, the fact that common families of fossil reptiles, which could not swim across oceans, are found in Russia and South Africa, confirms that the continents were joined 250-million years ago.

FOSSIL NAME HONOURS MAN WITH A WINNING SMILE

While tracking a buck during a hunt, Willie Pienaar, owner of Walplaas, near Murraysburg, spotted bones jutting out of a rock in an erosion gulley. They intrigued him, so Willie contacted the SA Museum. Dr Roger Smith, Georgina Skinner and Paul October, of the Karoo Paleo-Team, established that it was the fossil of a three-metre-long Dicynodon. A search of the gulley revealed much more material, so they decided to excavate the fossil. “Willie and Bettie-Marie Pienaar and their staff could not have been more helpful and supportive”, said Roger. But the man who stole their hearts was Johannes “Oompies” Swart. His enthusiastic efforts resulted in the fossil being named “Oompies” in his honour. “Preparing the fossil for transport was a painstaking and time-consuming task”, said Roger. “It first had to be encased in plaster of Paris to preserve it. Just digging it free took several days, and Johannes never once lost his winning, gap-toothed smile”. Another important find was made in this area two years ago when the paleo-team discovered “Delila”, a Pareiasaurus, on Doornplaats. “This was an important find as it was the first fossil ever found with full dermal armour”, said Roger.

GLOBAL WARMING THREATENS KAROO FLORA

As much as half the Cape’s floral kingdom and its unique fynbos is under threat from global warming. Many species face extinction, say scientists. A report entitled Impacts of Climate Change on Plant Diversity, compiled by scientists of Kirstenbosch and the University of Cape Town, states that the Karoo, particularly the western sector which has a wealth of succulent flora, could by devastated before 2050. Many Karoo plants live on the edge of survival. They are totally dependent on low but regular rainfall, and the report foresees that as the area becomes warmer, rainfall will drop dramatically. A report in the Sunday Times of April 8 claims that if the Karoo were to become drier the effect would be devastating. Only the hardiest plants would survive, and desert plants would begin to encroach.

KAROO ONCE ENJOYED THE SPORT OF KINGS

Horse-racing was once such a popular sport in the Great Karoo that virtually every town had its own racecourse. Beaufort Westers decided to establish one in May 1902. Enthusiasts held an inaugural meeting and after appointing a president, committee, stewards, a clerk of the course, a clerk of scales, a starter and a judge, decided to hold the first race meeting on May 25. The Courier of May 10 reported that there were six races on the card. A four-furlong race for ponies of 14 hands and under, an open one-mile race for all horses including any which had run for public stakes. Then there was a five- and a six-furlong race, as well as a one-mile race and an open quarter-mile sprint. At the very last moment it was decided to include a hurdle, “always popular with the crowd”. The organisers stipulated that all entries and colours had to be registered five days before the event. The president encouraged locals to attend and support the event generously. He promised “excellent purses well worth competing for”.

READING THE ROCKS WILL ENRICH TOURISM

Interpretation of the geological features of an area such as the Karoo could greatly enhance tourism. After a recent visit to the area, Morris J Viljoen, Professor of Mining Geology of the Department of Geology at the University of the Witwatersrand, said: “Most people drive for hours on end constantly exposed to picturesque scenery and fascinating rock formations. Learning more about the flat, dolerite-topped koppies, their strange conical counterparts and the fascinating, swirled rock formations in areas such as Meiringspoort would enrich their holiday experience. “Easily accessible explanations in layman’s language should be readily available at places such as tourist bureaus and the Karoo National Park”. Professor Viljoen has just produced a book entitled An Introduction to South Africa’s Geological and Mining Heritage. It was co-authored by Wolf Uwe Reimold, Associate Professor of Mineralogy and Head of the Impact Cratering Research Group of the Wits Department of Geology, and Antony Cowel, Mintek’s technical editor. The 193-page, well-illustrated, full-colour book, with maps on each area and with major chapters written by acknowledged experts, costs R115, plus postage. Copies can be ordered from Professor Viljoen at the Department of Geology, University of the Witwtersrand.

KOM KUIER IN DIE OU KELDER >n Vrou wat al lank bekend staan as Prins Albert se kombuis-towenaar het nou ‘n restourant op Drie Riviere, die Luttig familie plaas, geopen. Johanna Luttig wat dikwels ‘n spog geleentheid in die kelder vir families of troues gereël het, het na heelwat druk die gewilde kelder in ‘n heerlike eetplek omskep. Ou plaas implemente en historiese artefakte wat sy op die plaas en in die omgewing gevind het, is gebruik om atmosfeer te skep. Een van die mees interessante items is ‘n 100-jaar-oue boog-saag wat die Luttig voorouers gebruik het om ‘n populierhout tafel, wat nou as buffet gebruik word, te skep. Die Ou Kelder huisves 60 gaste en Johanna se smullekker kos sorg dat dit normaalweg vol is. Die spyskaart bevat “muise”, sop en twee of drie vleisdisse waarvan een Karoo-lam bevat. Daar is ook groente, slaai.en Johanna se eie ingelegde lekkernye en plaaslike kaas en olywe. Onder die heerlike nageregte is daar Rammetjie Uitnek, wat Johanna se tuisgemaakte likeur bevat, grenadilla-“pitteblits” en ”Hop Johanna”, ‘n onvergeetlike arbei-gereg.

FOSSIL HUNTERS BOUND FOR THE KAROO

Thirty Friends of the SA Museum in Cape Town will spend a week in the Beaufort West searching for fossils at the end of May. Under the guidance of Dr Roger Smith, Head of the Karoo Paleo-Team and other experts from the museum, they will dig at sites on La-de-da, south of the town, and Putfontein on the Nuweveld Mountains. “Such digs have to be handled with the utmost care to ensure that valuable material does not get damaged”, said Roger. ”From time to time, laymen have made some exciting finds. All fossils in South Africa are subject to the country’s conservation policies and protected by the National Heritage Act of 1966. Fossil hunters must always bear in mind that these once were living creatures that roamed the Karoo. Their fossilised remains reveal a great deal of what the earth was like in their time. No unqualified person may excavate fossils or any other archaeological material without the guidance of a qualified person or team which has a permit to collect material for research purposes. All material found has to be taken back to Cape Town where highly-skilled preparators remove the fossilised remains from the surrounding rock. This takes time and has to be done with great care. It is a delicate job. The museum regularly arranges outreach programmes, such as this popular annual five-day excursion to Beaufort West, to increase awareness of the country’s natural heritage and to raise funds for projects”, said Roger.

‘N FEES OM TE ONTHOU EN ‘N UITDAGER WEDLOOP

Prins Albert se Olyffees was weereens ‘n groot sukses. Van die oomblik dat die hoofstraat offisieël gesluit is, was dit ‘n naweek van pret vir feesgangers. Soos gewoonlik was daar iets vir almal, van sportmanne tot dié wat net in die son wou sit en iets letter eet. Die olyfpitspoegkompetisie, miskoekgooi en toutrek kompetisies het gaste lekker laat lag. Alle kuiergaste was dit eens dat dié fees nie een is om mis te loop nie. Die volgende groot geleentheid in die Sentrale Karoo is die 80km ultra-marathon by Laingsburg. Hierdie uitdagende wedloop, wat talle deelnemers met die Comrades vergelyk, volg ‘n prag roete wat beide teer- en grondpad insluit. Dit vind plaas op 29 September.