Gamkaskloof or The Hell, a secluded valley in the heart of the Swartberg Mountains near Prince Albert, has been restored. Almost all of the tiny cottages, once home to those who could only reach the outside world along footpaths over the mountain, now proudly dot the valley as they did in their heyday. So, a gala opening is now planned to launch facilities and restorations, carried out after the completion of a comprehensive research project, to the tourism market. Cape Nature Conservation have invited two Western Cape Provincial Government ministers, directors from cultural history and tourism departments, museum officials, top tourism role-players and the Press to an opening function scheduled for May 13, 14 and 15. “Visitors will be met at The Elandspad, and shown to accommodation in one of the historic cottages,” said Zannie van der Walt, CNC’s information officer and a permanent resident of the Hell. “A series of guided tours and walks will then introduce them to the rich, colourful history of the valley. We later also plan to invite old Gamkasklowers to come and share our proud achievement.” said Zannie.


‘n Program oor die lief en leed van ‘n groep vrouens by Nelspoort, ‘n klein nedersetting in die Groot Karoo, is onlangs met die ATKV-prys vir die beste TV-insetsel bekroon. Groot lof is die program toegeswaai. Dit is vir Kyknet se Kwela progam gemaak deur kameraman André Calitz as gevolg van die bekendstelling van ‘n boek, Nelspoort, Ons Lief en Leed. In die boek vertel 16 Nelspoort vrouens, op ‘n ryk, kleurvolle manier, van hulle lewenservaringe in hierdie geweste. “Elke storie is op so ‘n oop en eerlike manier vertel dat dit ideale TV-materiaal gemaak het,” sê Andre. “Die stories, hartseer, teer of snaaks, het elk iets vertel van platteland lewe in die algemeen en van die samelewing op Nelspoort. Om hulle te verfilm was ‘n heerlike ondervinding. Die program het ons kykers ook ‘n beter idea van plattelandlewe gegee. Ons maatskappy, Kyknet en Kwela is baie trots op hierdie toekenning,” sê Andre Die stories is geboekstaaf as deel van ‘n projek wat in samewerking met die Southern Cape Land Committee in April verlede jaar gedoen is.


A programme, which captured the happiness and hardships of a group of women at Nelspoort, a small settlement in the Great Karoo, has been awarded a top ATKV TV prize. The item was greatly praised by all who saw it. It was made for the Kyknet TV programme, Kwela, by cameraman André Calitz, after the launch of a book entitled “Nelspoort, Ons Lief en Leed.” In the book 16 women of Nelspoort tell their stories in a rich and colourful way. “Each story is told in such an open and honest way that the book made ideal TV material,” said André. “The stories, poignant, passionate, heartfelt and sometimes amusing, all told of life in the hinterland in general and the Nelspoort community in particular. Filming this project was a delightful experience. The programme also gave our viewers a better perspective of hinterland life. Our company, Kyknet and Kwela are all very proud of this award,” said André. The stories for this book were gathered and published as part of a project completed in co-operation with the Southern Cape Land Committee. The book was launched in April last year.


Sisonke, a black-empowerment company, has taken over the Beaufort West Caravan park. Work has started to upgrade the park to meet market demands. “Research has shown that Beaufort West is a popular stop among caravanners, ” said Luvuyo Kebeni, a director of Sisonke.” Good weather can be relied on in this part of the Karoo and that also encourages campers to overnight here.” The company has acquired the park on a 30-year lease, with an option to purchase within five years. It aims to install an electric fence to ensure 24-hour security, full-time access control, new lighting, improved ablution and picnic facilities. The park will be landscaped, lawns will be extended lawns and several new, secluded camping spots will be created. The guesthouse will also be renovated. “Our company name means ‘together’,” said Luvuyo. “My partner, Cameron Ndlumbini, and I aim to work together with Beaufort West to improve tourism to the town.”


At the end of 1903 “a professor of the slack wire” treated Beaufort West audiences to breath-taking feats on the high wire. “Professor Cogan strolled out on the wire as if he were walking down a village street and then delivered a magnificent vocal solo,” reported The Courier’s entertainments editor. “The audience was stunned. Wire walking requires great concentration and most performers of this art do not even speak, let alone burst into song, while in mid-aid.” Cogan followed his solo by an even more daring trick. He played cricket against a team of four, while standing on the wire high above the heads of the audience. “The professor not only batted and bowled from the wire, but he easily beat his opponents,” reported The Courier. “And, if this was not enough Cogan then went on to entertain spectators with a tug-of-war, amazing feats with a sword and the performance of a series of intricate physical exercises. The crowd were glued to their seats and quite awe-struck by this inimitable performance,” reported The Courier.


Die Minister van Landbou, Dobbellary en Toerisme, Johan Gelderblom, is weereens op ‘n hoflikheids besoek aan Prins Albert. Op 8 April gaan hy gesprekke voer met die uitvoerende komitee van die Prince Albert Toerismeburo, met gemeenskap toerisme organiseerders, beplanners van die “township” toerismeroete, sowel as die jeug toerismegroep wat laas jaar ‘n top prys gewen het vir hulle toerismepromosie idees. “Toerisme is van uiterste belang in Prins Albert,” sê burgermeester Dawid Rossouw, “Ons is verheug dat dit op die hoogste vlakke aandag geniet.”


The Minister of Agriculture, Gambling and Tourism, Johan Gelderblom, will again pay a courtesy visit to Prince Albert this month. On April 8 he will hold discussions with the executive committee of the Prince Albert Tourism Bureau, community tourism coordinators, planners of the township tourism route and the youth tourism group that won a prize for their promotional ideas last year. “Tourism is of great importance to Prince Albert,” said mayor Dawid Rossouw. “We are delighted that it is receiving attention at the highest levels.”


Water rights are almost holy in the Karoo. Over the years water has been at the centre of many a serious argument. One occurred in Beaufort West in January 1883 when water overseer S Davids, tried to discuss water cuts with six residents. He had considered all reasonable, likeable men, until they took a firm stand on their water rights. A heated argument erupted, and the men began hurling stones at Davids, writes Wynand Viviers in Hooyvlakte. The overseer beat a hasty, undignified retreat. He was so annoyed and humiliated that he instantly asked Beaufort West Municipality to issue him with a gun. His request was turned down. Water problems were not peculiar to the towns. Farmers also had their share of problems. Closure of a Divisional Council road in 1905 led to the creation of a trekpath across A L le Grange’s farm. Le Grange was enraged. This seriously inconvenienced him, he said, as all who crossed his land used his water. Water is still so scarce in the Western Cape that the Minister of Agriculture, Gambling and Tourism, Johan Gelderblom, recently announced he would host a Provincial Water Summit in May, to find sustainable water usage solutions.


‘n Nuwe toerismeburo lidmaatstelsel en e.besigsheidsplan gaan oor die volgende paar jaar ingefaseer word om toerisme deur die Wes-Kaap Provinsie op ‘n meer professionele basis te plaas. “Die begin datum vir nuwe lidmaatfooie is vanaf l Julie om in te val met finansiële jare van omtrent alle instansies,” sê Wes-Kaap Toerismeraad se e.besigheidsbestuurder Bronwen D’oliviera. “Die nuwe stelsel, wat ons nou deur die hele provinsie bekendgestel het, sal tot meer professionalisme lei en ‘n beter bediening van die mark.”


A new standardised membership scheme and plan is to be phased in throughout the Western Cape Province over the next few months. “We aim to launch it as from July 1 to coincide with the financial years of most tourism organisations in the province,” said Western Cape Tourism Board e.Business Manager, Bronwen D’Oliviera. “We have held meetings with all tourist bureaus throughout the province to discuss the scheme which will enable them to deliver higher levels of professionalism and service.”


May 20, 1903 was not a good day for the Cape Colonial Railways in the Karoo. First of all, a van broke loose from a train being moved to a sideline in Beaufort West. It lurched off, set a bogie in motion and this almost collided with the 505 Down, about to leave for Cape Town. Little knowing what lay in store, the train passengers heaved a sigh of relief and settled back to enjoy their trip. South of Beaufort West the train sped along, and the veld rushed by. The rhythmic click-clack of the train’s wheels on the track and the heat of the day had a soporific effect on the passengers. The train briefly stopped at Fraserburg Road (Leeu Gamka) and then clickety-clacked off again towards Prince Albert Road. “Suddenly, all hell broke loose,” reported The Courier. “The engine and six trucks leapt into the air as the driver rounded a curve on a deviation at too high a speed. Screams filled the air and thousands of eggs and apples spewed out across the veld. One man was killed and all the passengers badly shocked. Damage was estimated at between £8000 and £10 000.”


In days of yore, it seems, Karoo hospitality was not always up to scratch. Elias Adamstein, founder of the Imperial Yeomanry Hotel at Deelfontein, found this out in 1883. On his way through the Karoo he developed a high fever. Exhausted he stopped at a house to seek shelter. To his horror he was shown to an old shed in which chickens had been kept. Unable to stay there, he left. His fever worsened. He became delirious and lost his way. Sometime later farmer Isaac Theron found him wandering about, raving crazily and incoherently on the veld. Theron took him home and tended to him until his fever dropped. Elias placed a special notice of thanks in the Beaufort West Courier of October 19, 1883 to sincerely thank Isaac Theron, “who found me ill and wandering on the veld, took me home, nursed me for three days and would accept no payment for his efforts.” In the letter Elias also thanked Mr and Mrs P Rossouw and their son Piet, of the farm Turffontein in the Murraysburg district for “the kindness and hospitality shown to me during the 16 months I had to spend recuperating on their farm. They treated me not as a guest, but as a member of the family.” Then Elias added: “The kindness of such people overshadows the ill-treatment I received at the hands of a woman, who against the wishes of her husband, showed me, a sick man, to a chicken run. She did not even have the kindness to give me a blanket. I shall not mention her name, she knows who she is. I can only hope that she will in future treat travellers with more kindness.”


Toerisme in die Karoo beleef nou ‘n bedrywige tyd. Heelwat groepe lê deesdae besoek af om meer uit te vind van die gebied en hoe toerisme hier bevorder word. ‘n Groep belanghebbendes van die Willowmore-Aberdeen area in die Oos Kaap het in Prins Albert gekuier om meer uit te vind van hulle promosie metodes. Dan het Dr John Almond van Naturaviva ‘n opleidingskursus vir toergidse van Landscape maatskappy in die Matjiesfontein, Laingsburg area gehou. “Almal was dit eens. Dit was ‘n heerlike ervaring en van hulle sien uit om nog so ‘n Karookursus by te woon,” sê Dr Almond, wie ook in Februarie en Maart groepe Karooliefhebbers van die Vriende van die S A Museum op opleidingswerkswinkels na die Karoo gebring het. Alle sessies was so vol bespreek dat Dr Almond nou beplan meer te reel. Die Cape Tour Guides Association kom op ‘n opleidingstoer vanaf 17 Junie om meer van die Beaufort-Wes en Prins Albert gewestes te leer. Heelwat reelings is al getref om hulle so veel inligting as moontlik oor die gebied te laat kry.


Tourism in the Karoo is experiencing a busy time. Several groups are visiting the region to find out more about how tourism is organised and promoted. A group of tourism roleplayers from the Willowmore-Aberdeen area of the Eastern Cape recently visited Prince Albert to find out more about this town’s promotional campaigns. Then, Dr John Almond of Naturaviva, ran an educational workshop in the Matjiesfontein-Laingsburg area for guides employed by Landscape Tours. “They all loved it, and many are looking forward to a follow-up course,” said John, who in February and March also ran Karoo workshops for Friends of the S A Museum. These courses were fully booked and more are in the pipeline. Solme members of The Cape Tour Guides Association plan to visit the Karoo for a few days from June 17 to find our more about the Beaufort West and Prince Albert areas. Arrangements are currently being made to ensure that they also gather as much general information on the Karoo as possible while they area here.


In early Beaufort West young men needing a bath simply grabbed a towel and soap and set off to the town dam. In 1890 the municipal council received many complaints about these ablutions. They were offending the damsels of town and preventing these young ladies rom enjoying a stroll along Springfontein dam wall. The municipality proclaimed all bathing should cease forthwith. This was ignored. None of the lads were keen to seek a more secluded bathing spot at the far side of the dam. Before long the law took its course. Constable David Fritz arrested Jan Viviers’s two sons just as they were about to enjoying a bath near the wall. To the great amusement of the locals Fritz marched the half-clad lads down the road to the jail. Then Councillor Naude requested the municipality to prohibit the use of soap at the dam. This solved the problem. For good measure, reports The Courier of March 10, 1891, the Council then also decided to make it illegal for people to wash their horses in the dam. Sadly, nowadays when the dam has water it’s only ankle deep.


At twilight one September evening in 1891 a highwayman leapt into the road, stopped a Prince Albert-bound coach and robbed the passengers. Before the shaken travellers could react, he vanished. The incident was reported to Prince Albert’s resident magistrate, Hendrik Justinus de Wet van Breda. He immediately issued a warning to all coachmen, field cornets, policemen, constables and lawmen to be on the lookout for a young European man, aged between 25 and 30, about 5ft 6in tall, with a black beard and moustache. “He wears dark clothes, a dark-blue neckerchief, grey cap and ‘veldschoens’ with worn down heels and holes in their soles.” Despite this concise description, the highwayman was never apprehended. Some modern day travellers, however, say the highwayman not totally passed into history. Some, who drive towards Prince Albert at twilight, think they’ve seen a mounted, masked, figure alongside their car. But a second glance convinces themselves it was just a trick of the light.


In l891 some particularly unpleasant whiffs sullied Beaufort West’s clean, fresh Karoo air. Travellers and residents alike complained to the town clerk. He soon discovered the cause of the problem – leaky sanitary buckets. At the time Beaufort West was a popular destination for chest sufferers escaping the fogs and bad weather of Europe. The Council feared bad publicity would damage this status. So, at a municipal meeting on October 9, it was decided that all buckets, old and new, should be tested. The old were fine, the problem lay with the new. It was found that Jas Robertson and Company had supplied “buckets inferior in quality to the sample shown to Councillor Peter Krummeck.” The town clerk advised this supplier that costs of repairing the leaky and unsound buckets would be deducted from their bill.


Karoo navorser Arnold Hutchinson en ses vriende van Beaufort-Wes gaan besoek aflê in Gamkaskloof, Die Hel, om die voetspore van die verlede te ontdek. “Hierdie afgelee vallei het ‘n besondere geskiedenis en al bly ‘n mens net ‘n kort rukkie daar kry jy ‘n wonderlike terugblik op geskiedenis,” sê Arnold. “Hier word mens sommer gou deel van die natuur. Nadat ek ‘n ruk gelede by Annetjie Joubert se gastehuis oornag het en vir vriende daarvan vertel het wou almal net ‘Hel toe gaan'” Nou neem Arnold vir Christo Geldenhuys, Hilton Marx, Koos Deysel, Sakkie van Vuuren, Jan Barnard en sy seun Wiehan saam om in Die Hel te kamp en ou voetpadjies deur die klowe te verken. “En, die belangrikste van al is dat ons op soek gaan wees na ‘n ou Sangrot. Annetjie, wie in die vallei groot geword het, sê sy onthou hoe sy as dogtertjie daarheen gegaan het, maar die pad het oor die jare verlore geraak. Daar is ook heelwat stories verbinde aan die grot. Daar was glo eens ‘n Britse medalje daarin gevind, maar niemand weet hoe dit ooit daar gekom het nie,” sê Arnold.


Karoo researcher Arnold Hutchinson and six friends from Beaufort West will visit Gamkaskloof, The Hell, this month, to try and discover more of the history of this area. “This secluded valley has a fascinating history and even if one stays only for a short time you gain a wonderful peek into the past,” said Arnold. “Here people are quickly able to get close to nature. I discovered this when I spent some time at Annetjie Joubert’s guest house in Gamkaskloof a few months ago. After friends heard of my experiences, they all wanted to go to The Hell.” Now Arnold is taking Christo Geldenhuys, Hilton Marx, Koos Deysel, Sakkie van Vuuren, Jan Barnard and his son, Wiehan, on a camping trip to Gamkaskloof. “We will follow historic footpaths into the kloofs and while there also search for an old forgotten San Cave. Annetjie remembers seeing it as a child, but over the years the way to this cave has been forgotten,” said Arnold. ” We hope to find it again. The cave itself has an interesting history. A British medal was once found there. No one has any idea how it got to this isolated spot.”


The reference in Round-up No 110 to the Beaufort West Courier being kept on file in Leadenhall Street Reading Rooms in London, sent British reader David Upton off to investigate. “Dickens’s Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens, Jr (1879) lists Deacon’s Indian and Colonial Rooms at 154 Leadenhall Street at that time, ” writes David. “I wondered whether this was the inter-continental publishing company referred to in the 1891 issue of The Courier. Samuel Deacon and Co established these rooms in 1822 and advertised ‘Terms: open free for the use of the customers of the firm. Strangers pay 30s per annum. The proprietors, act as agents for numerous English, Colonial and foreign papers, copies of which are filed by them. They also receive advertisements for these.’ Number 154 Leadenhall Street no longer exists, if it had survived it would have been directly across the road from the Leadenhall Street Market, where Harry Potter bought his magic wand and other magical items. Today a huge building stretches from No 150 across the smaller plots.”


Laingsburg het al begin met beplanning van die gewilde Karoo Marathon. Die 80-km lang ultra-marathon, sal op 27 September vir die 33ste keer plaasvind. Die wedloop is in 1970 gestig deur mnr G Marais, prinsipaal van Laingsburg Hoërskool en skrywer van “The Day of the Buffalo,” ‘n boek oor die vloed. Die Karoo Marathon is uniek omdat dit teer, sowel as grond paaie insluit. “Dit loop ook deur ‘n asemrowende deel van die groot Karoo,” sê toerisme inligtingsbeampte Trien Makanda. “Groot pryse is jaarliks op die spel. Die atleet wat die meeste moed aandui tydens die wedloop word vereer met ‘n trofee wat die vloed simboliseer, Soos gewoonlik gaan ons ‘n opwindende program in die dorp aanbied oor daardie naweek. Daar sal heelwat stalletjies en kos stalletjies wees. Sommiges sal traditionele disse en braaivleis aanbied. Daar sal ook op die Saterdagaand ‘n dans wees en buitelug entoesiaste kan ons 4 x 4 roetes aandurf.”


Laingsburgers have started planning this year’s popular Karoo Marathon. This 80-km ultra-marathon will be held on September 27, for the 33rd time this year. The race was started in 1970. The man behind the idea was Mr G Marais, then principal of the High School and later author of “The Day of the Buffalo,” a book about the flood. “The Karoo Marathon follows a unique route which includes both tarred and gravel roads. It also passes through some magnificent scenery,” said tourism information officer, Trien Makanda. “Each year there are great prizes to be won. Also, the athlete showing the greatest courage during the race is honoured with a trophy which symoblises the flood. As always, we plan an exciting programme for the weekend. There will be a number of stalls and food stalls selling traditional dishes as well as braaivleis. On Saturday evening there will be a dance. Outdoor enthusiasts can, of course, enjoy some of our breathtaking 4 x 4 routes.”


In the late 1880s the Karoo was beset by such severe droughts that residents of small villages like Beaufort West were forced to leave in search of a better life. The new diamond and gold mines drew them like magnets. So, in 1882 when Beaufort West’s Rev Paulus Teske went to the Free State and Transvaal on a fund-raising mission, he visited former parishioners prospecting in Kimberley. As a result, a congregation was set up in Beaconsfield. Teske visited them again in 1888 and also in 1889, when he was on his way to see former Beaufort Westers mining gold on the Witwatersrand.