When it comes to Karoo meat, master chef Chris van Wyk says there’s nothing quite like Laingsburg lamb. Chris is so delighted with the Laingsburg product that he is taking a supply to Luxembourg later this year when he captains a team of 12 South African chefs taking part in the International Chefs Olympiad. “It has a uniquely delicious flavour. To my mind it is a cut above all other Karoo meat.” Chris, who has had 12 years’ experience as a hotel chef, now owns Amaqueta Foods in George. Here he prepares ready-made delicacies for hotels and restaurants. “Everyone loves good food, and I love to make it. Most people love Karoo lamb. It’s spiced on the hoof and has a special flavour. There’s something about Laingsburg lamb that gives it the edge. Perhaps the bushes in the Koup area are slightly different. Perhaps it’s the way the farmers finish the animals in free-range environments. I’ve never discovered the secret, but my palate knows the difference. Anyway, no matter what the secret is, I want to use Laingsburg lamb together with Karoo venison in Luxembourg.” The 12 South African chefs on the team come from hotels, restaurants and private businesses across the country. The lamb will come from Hartman and Sons abattoir, established in Laingsburg last year by Andries Hartman, who has years of experience in the production of quality and specialist meat products.


Vir die baie liefhebbers van Karoovleis is daar nou ook ‘n verskaffer in Bellville. Francette Coetzee, dogter van Suid-Afrikaanse rugby held Mannetjies Roux, het ‘n Karoo kafee in 13de Laan gestig onder die naam Karoo Trading Post. Hier verkoop sy Karoo lam, skoon afval, en wildsvleis. “Die vleis is uiters gewild en aanvraag is groot,” sê sy. “Maar ons het gou agtergekom dat Karoo liefhebbers baie meer as net vleis wil hê. Ek voorsien nou ook wildspasteie, Karoo knoffel en droë vrugte, sowel as Karoo water van ons familieplaas Nobelsfontein. Baie handwerk en tierlantyntjies wat reisigers by my ma se Victoria-Wes winkel, Victoria Trading Post, kan koop, is ook hier beskikbaar,” sê Francette.

  • Shop for Karoo Enthusiasts

Karoo mutton lovers will be delighted to know that there is now an outlet in Bellville. Francette Coetzee, daughter of South African rugby hero Mannetjies Roux has opened a Karoo café in 13th Avenue and named it Karoo Trading Post. Here she sells Karoo lamb and venison. “These products are most popular, but we soon discovered that Karoo lovers wanted more than just meat,” she said. “I now also supply venison pasties, Karoo garlic, dried fruits and Karoo water from our family farm Nobelsfontein. There’s also a range of craft items similar to those that tourists buy in my mother’s Victoria West shop, Victoria Trading Post,” said Francette.


Author and restaurateur, Janet Telian, of the Savoy Cabbage and Champagne Bar in Cape Town, is puzzled why the Karoo pays so little attention to providing traditional dishes. At a recent seminar she said: “Food is one of the great delights of travelling. It saddens me that people in the far-flung little towns of the Karoo do not make more use of their traditional cuisine as a base on which to build a delicious tourism product. I have never understood the reason why people in the hinterland opt to serve poor imitations of international cuisine. For years now driving through the Karoo I headed for a specific Beaufort West coffee shop to enjoy koeksisters and coffee. They were excellent and served ice cold, fragile as glass and dripping with delicious syrup. I was recently quite disappointed to find they had been elbowed off the menu by some vaguely Italian delicacy. A great pity.”


Award-winning TV producers Sandra and Neville Herrington, of Tekweni TV, are compiling a series designed to capture the heart of the Great Karoo. Their aim is to portray interesting people against the magnificence of the ecology. To ensure that they succeeded, a special route was worked out by David MacNaughton, of Karoo Connections, the Graaff Reinet-based company that escorted them through the area, and Rose Willis, regional tourism co-ordinator in the Central Karoo. The route, which delighted Neville Harrington, cameraman Bruce Cunningham and sound engineer Tom Pitout, started in Port Elizabeth and wound its way through the Great Karoo, taking in the rich histories of Cradock, Graaff Reinet and Beaufort West as well as the farms and tiny settlements along the way. The ecological splendour was captured at places like the Mountain Zebra National Park, the Valley of Desolation, the Karoo National Park and Baviaanskloof on the return trip. Interviews conducted in and around the towns, provided the spice and colour. “This is a route that truly conveys the spirit of the Karoo to visitors. We hope to convince others to use it,” said David.


An Afrikaans commercial pioneer, born in Beaufort West in 1868, was one of the men of vision who worked tirelessly to reclaim the foreshore area of Cape Town and so double the city’s central business district. Anthony Frederick Jacobus Benning moved from the Karoo to the Mother City in the early 1900s, there to establish a successful business as a master builder. In time, according to Eric Rosenthal’s South African Dictionary of National Biography, Benning was elected to the Cape Town City Council. His aim was to increase the size of the business district to so improve the infrastructure and economy of the city. Benning was also avidly interested in politics and the promotion of Afrikaner affairs. He was a founder member of the National Party and a sponsor of the Afrikaanse Handelshuis, one of the first Afrikaner-owned retail businesses in South Africa. Benning also helped establish Nasionale Pers in 1915, Santam in 1917 and Sanlam in 1918.


A geology student of the Free State University is researching the lower Beaufort rock layer as part of his MSc thesis. Nick Scholtz, who grew up in Graaff Reinet, loves the Karoo. “The natural beauty of the area made researching the geology of the Karoo’ an almost obvious choice for my master’s degree thesis. His current research is being conducted under the guidance of Johan Loock, senior lecturer at the university’s Department of Geology. He and Nick recently spent two weeks researching the stratigraphy of the lower Beaufort rock layer around Zeekoegat, in the Prince Albert area, and eastwards towards Lombardskraal, near Beaufort West. “We want to discover when these deposits were made and more about the sub-stratas,” says Johan. “While we will not be actively searching for fossils on this field trip, we will mark any we find for future research.”


A peek into the long-ago world of the Karoo’s San and Khoi peoples enthralled Beaufort Westers recently. Sven Ouzman, head of the National Museum’s Rock Art Department, concluded a three-day field trip to the Nelspoort/Beaufort West area by giving an illustrated lecture on South African rock art at the museum. “It kept visitors glued to their seats,” said organiser and museum assistant Caroline Bedeker. “Sven discussed South Africa’s rich and incomparable rock art heritage in such an easy-to-understand way that we were all quite disappointed when the talk ended.” “I explained the differences between rock engraving and rock painting traditions,” said Sven. “I was also able to discuss the distribution of the art, explain how it is dated and how the Karoo became home to rock art legacies from San, Khoi, Black and White communities. The audience was astonished to learn that some researchers consider the graffiti on roadside rocks and boulders a form of rock art.” Sven paid particular attention to the rich and extensive Nelspoort site, its many rock engravings of bird-human figures, extinct fauna and rock gongs. He said his programme to train former Beaufort West street children as heritage custodians of this site under the aegis of Restvale Primary School, was doing well. “I would like to encourage people to visit the site and test the skills of these youngsters,” he said.


Far from the Karoo, a chance meeting on the coast of Scotland in the 1890s led to a romance that brought a talented musician to Beaufort West. On a misty day, a lovely Scots lass, petite Isabella Page, accidentally bumped into a Beaufort West lad, Whitcombe Rose. Both were on a casual stroll through Crail, a small fishing village on the coast of Fife. Friends later agreed that it was love at first sight. After a brief romance Whitcombe returned home to fight in the Anglo-Boer War. For five long years Whitcombe corresponded with Belle, as the fair Miss Page was known. The momemt came, and he proposed by cable. Whitcombe dashed to Scotland to marry her in Edinburgh. Belle, whose ancestry went back to Isabella of Dunachtin, who married the chief of the MacIntosh clan in 1427, was an incurable romantic. Aware of this, Whitcombe arranged for his friend Gerald de Wet to meet them at the Beaufort West station attired in silk top hat and tails. Gerald drove the newly-weds through the village in an open landau drawn by a pair of black horses with white ostrich plumes to a reception at Jubilee House. Belle was an instant hit in Beaufort West. Before marrying Whitcombe, she had played in a mandolin orchestra under the baton of an Italian conductor in Scotland. She was also an accomplished pianist, singer and trained whistler. Belle was one of the few women in the world who fully mastered the techniques of professional whistling. She held many musical soirees on the Nuweveld Mountain farms where she and Whitcombe lived for almost 49 years. They had three sons, Page, Donald and Ivan, and daughter Edith, who later married David Bowen. Belle so captivated her father-in-law, Peter Rose, that he changed the name of his farm from Van Blerckskloof to Bellevue in her honour. At the end of her life, Belle was crippled by arthritis. She was eventually confined to a wheelchair, and the hands that had brought so much musical pleasure to the people lay twisted and useless in her lap. She died in May 1951, and her beloved Whitcombe survived her by only three days. They are buried side by side in the town’s Anglican cemetery


Beaufort-Wes se William Quinton Wilde-voëlvereniging beplan ‘n reeks opwindende uitstappies vir die wintermaande. Op 27 April kuier hulle op Elandsfontein, die plaas van André en Martie Lund, ongeveer 40km oos van Beaufort-Wes. “Hier is heelwat voëls wat nie naby die dorp te sien is nie,” sê uitstappie-organiseerder Annetjie Mocke. Dan, gedurende die naweek van 10 en 12 Mei, gaan klublede woud-voëls kyk naby Grootvadersbosch op die Tuinroete en op 15 Junie, beplan hulle ‘n daguitstappie om die unieke voëls van die Swartbergpas te sien. “Dalk sal ons gelukkig genoeg wees om ook in die sneeu te kan speel,” sê klubsekretaris Japie Claassen, die uitstappie organiseerder. ‘n Jaarlikse winterwatervoëltelling word noord van Beaufort-Wes op die plaas Sakrivierspoort gehou oor die naweek van 19 tot 21 Julie. Daar sal ook ‘n telling wees by die Beaufort-Wes Voëlreservat en ‘n wintergrondvoëltelling op die 27 Julie. “Om hierdie telling effektief te doen werk ons interessante roetes uit en dra dus ons deel by tot toerisme sowel as die bewaring van Karoovoëls,” sê Japie. “Ons beplan om die winter af te rond met ‘n uitstappie na Gamkaskloof, Die Hel.”

  • Winter excursions for bird lovers

Beaufort West’s William Quinton Wild Bird Club is planning a series of exciting excursions for the winter months. These include a visit to Elandsfontein, the farm of André and Martie Lund, 40km east of town, a visit to see the forest birds at Grootvadersbosch on the Garden Route, and a trip to the Swartberg Pass. The annual winter water bird and ground bird counts take place in July. The season will be rounded off with a trip to Gamkaskloof, The Hell.


When Maria Herbst and Jannie Loock decided to tie the knot recently they opted to have the ceremony in an historic church on her father’s farm. Not only is the attractive little church at Zeekoegat a national monument, but it was where Maria’s grandmother Ida married Lucas Jacobus Herbst in 1930. And there was yet another highlight to the day. Maria, like her grandmother so many years ago, walked down the aisle to strains of the wedding march played on a little organ donated to the Prince Albert Dutch Reformed Church Congregation by Cecil John Rhodes. This tiny historic church at Zeekoegat was built as a gift to the community by Stefanus Oosthuizen, a Prince Albert resident who owned the nearby store, once raided during the Anglo-Boer War by Commandant Gideon Scheepers’s commando. Oosthuizen, his wife and their two-year-old son, are buried in the church grounds.


Die versoek om hulp met insameling van spookstories van die Karoo het uitstekende reaksie gelok. Eers het dit in Round-up verskyn, en later in Die Burger. Skrywer Sian Hall is oorval met stories. “Ek is nogal verbaas hoeveel dorp-, stasie-, pad- en plaas-spoke hulle verskyning in die Karoo al gemaak het,” sê sy “En daar is nogal heelwat wat ek nie vantevore van gehoor het nie. Ek is so dankbaar vir die hulp.”

  • ‘Ghost Writer’ Gets Good Response

A request to assist in gathering the ghost stories of the hinterland, first published in Round-up, and followed up by Die Burger, resulted in an excellent response. Author Sian Hall was flooded with stories. “I never realised there were quite so many town, station, farm, highway and byway ghosts in the Karoo,” she said. “And among them many I’d never even heard of. My sincere thanks for the help.”


Legends of the Karoo, the role of lawmen, farmers, preachers and land speculators, the development of villages, postal routes, architectural styles and traditional foods were all among topics discussed at a recent heritage symposium. Organised by the International Committee for Monuments and Sites and the International Scientific Committee for Historic Towns and Villages, this two-day symposium, entitled Understanding and Using the Urban Heritage of the Karoo, was held in the Apollo Theatre complex at Victoria West. A wide range of papers on town and township conservation, the development of the post office, the role of students in conservation programmes, museums and their role as information providers, as well as the use of cultural heritage to promote tourism was discussed in depth. There was also a special public lecture on the blockhouses built by the British to guard railway bridges during the Anglo-Boer War. It was given by Professor Wally Peters, of the Department of Architecture at the University of Natal, who last year measured and photographed these structures in the Karoo.


Laingsburg beplan ses nuwe toerismeroetes. Drie eko-roetes buite die dorp sal klem lê op die natuurskoon, terwyl drie in die dorpsgebied op geskiedenis en kulturele erfenis sal konsentreer. ‘n Kort vloedroete, kultuur-historiese- en begraafplaasroetes sal ook uitgelê word met behulp van plaaslike ontwikkelingsbefondsing. “Ons vermoed dat die klein begraafplaas langs die slagpale die oudste in die dorp is,” sê burgermeester Mike Gouws. “Dit was heel waarskynlik deur die Lutherse sendingkerk gebruik, en hier was glo meestal net kinders begrawe. Ons kan nêrens rekords opspoor nie.” Hierdie begrafplaas is onlangs deur Andries Hartman en Ben Smith van die slagpale en vier van hul personeellede, Piet Pietersen, Hans Balie, Danie Willemse en Jan Storm skoongemaak as ‘n gebaar van samewerking met dié dorpsprojek.

  • Tourism Gaining Ground in Laingsburg

Laingsburg is planning six new tourist routes. Three eco-tourism routes in the district will concentrate on the natural beauty of the area, while three in town will cover the town’s culture and history. In-town there will be flood, cultural/history and graveyard routes which will be laid out using local labour and recently acquired development funding. “We believe that the little graveyard near the old Lutheran Mission Church is the oldest in town,” says mayor Mike Gouws. “We have not been able to find any records, but we have been told that these are mostly the graves of children who died during an epidemic.” In a gesture of co-operation with this town project this little graveyard was recently cleaned by Andries Hartman and Ben Smith of the local abattoir and four of their staff members, Piet Pietersen, Hand Balie, Danie Willemse and Jan Storm.


Post coach routes through the Karoo are favourites among history buffs. As these routes snaked through the old Cape Colony and into the hinterland, they gave a new importance to many towns, villages and farms. This history has been captured in an 800-page book, The Cape Colonial Post Office, by historian Dr Franco Frescura, who in 1994 was director of philately at the South African Post Office. Scheduled for publication in July 2002, the work covers the country’s postal history from 1792 through to the merging of the four colonial services under the Union Government in 1910. The territorial expansion of the postal service led to the mushrooming of many hinterland settlements. Much social history is detailed in the book which has many postal route maps. The book can be ordered from The Archetype Press at a cost of 135 US dollars, plus postage.


In 1947 het die tien-jarige Katie Swartz van Nelspoort gehoor dat die koning van Engeland daar besoek kom aflê Sy het amper uit haar nate gebars van opgewondenheid en die vlaggie wat sy gegee is om te waai as hy verbygaan het sy met trots bewaar. Die dag van die koning se besoek het Katie douvoordag opgestaan om haar plek langs pad in te neem. Sy het haar oë amper droog gekyk om ‘n man in goue klere met ‘n kroon op sy kop te bespeur. “Party van ons het gemeen dat die koning in goud geklee sou wees en dat goud van sy klere sou aftap,” sê sy. “Maar dit was nie so nie. Hy was ‘n gewone mens in normale klere. Ek was baie teleurgesteld. Ek het nie meer my vlaggie hoog gehou nie. Alles was so anders as wat ek verwag het.” Dit is van die stories wat 16 Nelspoort vrouens, onder leiding van die Southern Cape Land Committee, geboekstaaf het onder die tietel Nelspoort Ons Lief en Leed. Die boekies is beskikbaar teen R35 elk by Restvale Primêre Skool (Tel No. 023-416-1648) of die Advieskantoor (Tel No. 023-416-1878).

  • A Peek into the Past at Nelspoort

In 1947 ten-year-old Katie Swartz of Nelspoort heard that the King of England was to visit the settlement. She felt she would burst with delight. With great care and pride she placed the little flag given to school children to wave when he passed, in a very safe place. Eventually the big day dawned. Katie was one of the first to take up her place along the route, flag at the ready. She stared down the road searching for a man dressed in gold with a sparkling crown on his head. “We children believed all kings wore crowns and precious robes which shed bits of gold as they walked,” she said. “Suddenly he arrived, but he nothing like the kings in our picture books. He was an ordinary man, dressed in normal clothes. He was not at all like I expected him to be. I was so disappointed, I could not even wave my flag!” This is the type of story told in “Nelspoort Ons Lief en Leed” a little Afrikaans booklet written by 16 Nelspoort women in an effort to capture the history of the tiny settlement. It is available at a cost of R35 from Restvale Primary School (Tel No 023-416-1648) or the Advice Office (Tel No 023-416-1878).


“It’s never too late for breakfast” proclaims a sign at the Laingsburg Country Hotel. Guests at the Coffee Shop just smile when first seeing it. Soon, however, they find that the hotel’s famous, hearty Karoo breakfast of bacon, eggs and all the trimmings, actually is available from 06h30 to closing time at 22h00. “It’s among our most popular meals,” says owner Brenda Poole.