NEW GUIDE TO TREASURES OF THE ARID ZONE
The latest “Getaway Guide,” launched by Sunbird Publishers, has been compiled by well known Karoo photo-journalists Brent Naude-Moseley and Steve Moseley, long time residents of Loxton. The Getaway Guide to Karoo, Kalahari and Namaqualand, sub-titled Out and About in the Northern Cape, takes readers into one of the most remote, rugged and rustic areas of the sub-continent, covering all major game parks, nature reserves, major tourist attractions, stop-overs, B&Bs, campsites, farm stays and 4 x 4 trails. Packed with information, it superbly captures the stark beauty and hidden treasures of this vast arid zone. Its small (A5) format, soft cover design and alphabetical accounts of all towns and villages, make it easy to use. Now on the shelves of most popular bookshops and priced at R145 plus postage and packing. During the eight years that Steve and Brent have lived in the Karoo they written travel articles for many local and international popular and travel magazines. They have also built up a superb collection of photographs.
DISCOVER “KAROO SPACE”
Adventure into the world of vast plains, “spitzkoppies,” blue mountains and space. Take a new look at ostrich eye-lashes, ground squirrels and find out about a “gumboot” ghost. This is all part of a new website launched by photo-journalists Chris and Julienne Marais, who recently moved to the lovely little Karoo village of Cradock. For years the Karoo has always held a large part of their hearts, but now that they have moved into the area it has a firm hold. Their photo-gallery and Juliennes general blog makes this quite apparent. Their website covers the wonders of the Klein Karoo, the vast, limitless Great Karoo from Bushmanland to the Swartberg Mountains and from the old, turbulent Xhosa frontier to the exciting diamond ports of Namaqualand. It covers cultural history yet is as modern as tomorrow. Pictures of spring flowers, in all their finery, yet with curious names like donkey ears, fat fingers, chicken feet, baby’s bum and lizard tail, make readers long to see the “real thing.”. So do scenes of mountain fynbos, the red Kalahari sand dunes and grasslands of the “False Karoo” in the southern Free State. Visit this website to discover the magic that is the Karoo.
LAUGH, DANCE AND BE MERRY
The popular Prince Albert Town and Olive Festival takes place from April 25. to 28. Bodo Toelstede, the man responsible for the town’s highly successful Oktoberfest, is organising another special music evening in aid of the Zwartberg High School. This time it’s Afrikaans music, Makietie en Kaskenades, and it will take place on April 26 from 19h00. Tickets cost R20 each. Beer, Bergwater wine and other liquid refreshments, will be available, as well as Fanie’s Unbeatable Spitbraai. Music will be provided by Prince Albert Kieliebeentjies and guests.
NEW ROUTE STEPS INTO FOOTPRINTS LEFT BY THE SAN
A new Open Africa tourism route, Footprints of the San, has just been launched. It connects the San of the Kalahari with their counterparts at Platfontein, on the outskirts of Kimberley. The many interesting attractions along the way will ensure that tourism is used to help address the serious issues of poverty and unemployment in this area. Ownership of the route has been placed in the hands of the !Xun, Khwe and Khomani San communities. The South African San Institute will assist them with management and marketing. The route captures the turbulent history of San communities forced to flee by constant tribal conflict and the influx of western-cultures. They scattered leaving footprints across Southern Africa and traces of their rich cultural heritage etched on rocks. The route will aid the preservation of their culture, stamp out stigmas, and eliminate ideas that this is an ancient and dying culture. The route, which moves from the red sand dunes of the Kalahari, along the lush banks of the Orange River and into Kimberley’s rich “diamond” history, is designed to give tourists an authentic cultural experience while bringing much needed benefits to these marginalized communities. Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre is included in the route.
A BOOK OF HAPPY DAYS
Percival and Lillian Mallett’s daughter, Stella, was a remarkable person. Born in Kimberley in 1902, she was a cheerful girl who always managed to bring happiness into the lives of others. In 1927 she married the love of her life, Charles John Rubidge, and with him went to live on Zoetvlei, a farm in the Richmond area of the Karoo. This farm was 55 kms from town and, as it could only be reached down a rugged dirt road, most visitors stayed for a day or two. Stella’s daughter, Audrey, once said: “Our home constantly overflowed with people of diverse backgrounds from around the world.” On Zoetvlei Stella she proved herself a talented writer and gifted artist – many of her water colours are treasured by her extended family to this day. To the delight of her children, she was also a brilliant story teller “After all, grandpa’s law firm wrote the Charter for De Beers, the world’s best-known diamond company, so her tales were rich with saga’s of Cecil John Rhodes,” said Audrey who died in the United States, shortly before her mother’s book was published. Stella began working on Happy Days at Zoetvlei, just after the outbreak of World War II. She worked diligently using an old Underwood typewriter and “onion skin” paper. But, after three years, she put this project aside and went on to fulfil other interests, serving on several committees and chairing vitally important organisations, such as The National Council of Women’s Soil Conservation Committee. Apart from being a champion of conservation, Stella was a keen women’s rights activist and wrote many articles for newspapers, magazines and overseas periodicals. Years later, Audrey, discovered Stella’s little manuscript, brittle, yellowed and fading. “It is the story of children growing up in rural South Africa in the 1940s and I thought it deserved to be shared, so I transferred it to computer, changing only typographical errors and explaining some of the specific farming terms that my mother used.” Then, with the help of friends and family Audrey arranged for it to be published. This book is a delightful read. Copies are now available at R80 each (including postage and packing) and the proceeds are going to the Nama Karoo Foundation, which is run by Stella’s granddaughter, Marina Beal.
HOME TO REST AT THE SUNSET OF HER LIFE
Pam Collett was born on the Karoo farm, De Keur, near Middelburg, about 85 years ago. As a small girl she was allowed to roam wherever she wished as long as she was “home by sunset.” Pam enjoyed this freedom. She started discovering the Karoo at the age of four on long walks with her father, Gervase Collett, and as she skipped along, delighting in his company, she learned a great deal about the veld and veld plants. World War II brought another man into her life and she delighted in his company as well. He was RAF pilot, James Avis. They fell in love, married and in 1944 Pam went to England with James. There they built a life filled with love. They raised a family and travelled to many more places that Pam could she ever have envisaged enjoying many adventures along the way. But she never lost her love of the Karoo and her sons remember the soft secret smile that appeared on her face when she spoke of exploring all the nooks and crannies on De Keur, yet still getting “home by sunset.” Pam was a wonderful story teller says her son, Alan, who grew up in Surrey. “She painted such vividly excitingly word pictures of a continent we had not seen, and she taught us a love of the Karoo, a world we did not know.” Pam’s husband James died about 12 years ago; she missed him and added romantic tales of their life together into her stories. Then, last year, after a short illness Pam died. Her sons decided to scatter her ashes in the little river on De Keur where, as a child, she had been so happy, to honour a life well spent, and to ensure that she was “home” at the final sunset of her life. Arrangements were made with the Jordaans current owners of the farm. Pam’s son, James, his wife, two sons, and a daughter-in-law travelled from England with her ashes. Sinclair and Mary, with their family from Salt Pans Drift, represented the Collett side of her family. Alan, his family, and Pam’s sisters, Barbie Ffynney, of Graaff Reinet, Roslyn (Rossie) from Grahamstown and Hope Heggie, who lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, were with them in spirit.
GET AWAY – EXPERIENCE LUXURY IN A TENT
Tierkloof Bushcamp, at Gamkaberg, one of CapeNature’s most popular nature reserves has been revamped. It now has all the mod cons to enhance a stay in the Great Outdoors. “This exclusive camp, just 35km outside of Oudtshoorn, now has three luxury stand-alone tents offering maximum privacy. There are facilities to sleep up to eight people. Bookings, however, are only taken for one party at a time and there has to be a minimum of four people per party,” says reserve manager, Tom Barry. The camp also boasts a concrete swimming dam for cooling off during the Klein Karoo’s hot summer days and guests can use the lapa facilities to braai under the stars. In winter, they can snuggle up near the new Jetmaster in the kitchen/lounge area. “Tierkloof Bushcamp’s upgraded camping facilities offers a new way of getting in touch with nature. It has been hailed as the ideal breakaway spot for families,” said CapeNature’s Tourism Manager, Sheraaz Ismail. “The upgrading of the campsite was done by a local contractor, and the work provided job opportunities for several formerly under-privileged community members.”
ON THE TRAIL OF A DAM BUILDER
Des Plint is on the trail of his great-great-grandfather Edwin who, it seems, may have helped build Beaufort West’s Springfontein Dam. “In my efforts to trace the movement and history of the Plint family in South Africa I came across a letter written by Edwin Plint from the gaol at Beaufort West where he seems to have been in charge of prisoners working on the dam, in 1876. There is also a letter about Plint written by Magistrate Garcia. I would love to know more about my great-great-grandfather and his time in Beaufort West and wondered whether any local historians have come across him in the course of their research.”
THE SNAKE THAT SET A FARM ON FIRE
A boomslang in search of a tasty snack one day spied a bird nest on an Eskom power line transformer near a farm shed. Neatly packed inside the shed were 630 bales of newly harvested oats, the entire season’s crop, belonging to Dr Judy Maguire and her husband Dr John Begg. The snake couldn’t have cared less, oats was for horses, baby birds and delicious eggs were the delicacies he was after. He quietly slithered up a Karoo acacia (doringboom) perfectly placed for striking at the nest. He swayed along the tallest, thinnest branch and lunged, but he’d failed to notice the power lines. When he hit them, he caused a momentary short, and a spark set fire to the nest. Both the incinerated snake and flaming nest plummeted into the dry undergrowth below causing instant conflagration. Back at the homestead Judy noticed a power glitch. She feared an outage, but when all settled down again, she simply muttered a few dark words at Eskom, completed supper preparations and got ready for a relaxing bath. It had been a trying day. A farm worker’s mother had died early in the week, and grave diggers had found strength in a bottle to tackle the rock-hard ground of the Karoo. Getting the job done took three days, so by Saturday they and some sympathetic friends were prematurely inebriated. As Judy was about to step into her bath the breeze carried the mournful sounds of funeral hymns to her. Was it her imagination, or had their chants taken on a frantic note? She dismissed the thought till frenzied knocking shattered her reverie and hysterical shouts of “Missus, missus, the farm is on fire,” galvanised her into action. She jumped back into her clothes, grabbed a worker’s bicycle and shot off to take as look. Horrified at the sight of a steady blaze threatening to engulf their shed, she power-pedalled back home only to find the telephone number of the Prince Albert Fire Department was not in the phone book! Fortunately, the police had the number, the fire engine arrived and within three hours all was under control. At that stage of the afternoon Judy no longer needed a calming bath, she would have preferred a stiff shot of whatever it was that gave the grave-diggers strength.
A MACHINE GOOD ENOUGH TO PUT WIVES OUT OF WORK
Way back in the 1820s missionaries had to be tough to survive. One enthusiastic “bible puncher” of the Eastern Cape part of the Karoo was Reverend William Shaw. Neither mountains, streams, nor Xhosas on the war path, deterred him as he travelled the frontier in his rickety old wagon, determined to save souls. He never carried a gun. He was a man of God and he had faith that the Lord would not allow him to be attacked. Even the elephants did not bother him. In his diaries he wrote that a good crack of his whip seemed to be enough to give these huge beasts advance warning of his “appearance.” In 1824 he decided to establish himself at a place he called Wesleyville. So, he obtained a huge plough and set about readying his fields for a crop. Some local Xhosa men gathered and looked on in amazement. In his diaries William Shaw records that one scratched his head and remarked on the excellence of such a machine that could save “lobola” and do the work of ten wives.
ROAD EVENTUALLY TOOK ITS TOLL (KEEPER)
Travelling into the hinterland in late 1700s and even early 1800s was not easy. Just getting across the mountains put an immense strain on both man and beast. Then, passes were built, and toll keepers’ jobs went to the highest bidders. Successful entrepreneurs were given the right to collect toll fees for their own benefit subject to the Government’s requirements of keeping the roads or passes in a state if good repair. Of course, doing this reduced the toll keeper’s profits, so very little meaningful repair work was ever undertaken. A man called Scholtz once won the toll concession for a little pass which led from the Koue Bokkeveld to Tulbagh. He was enormously fat, very unpopular, disliked and feared by all who met him. In his powerful position as toll keeper he was able to ask exorbitant fees for the use of the road and he did. He also stole cattle, which he managed to have driven across the pass and secreted in pens in the mountains wrote Don Briscoe in Tall Tales, in Update, a tour guide’s magazine. Eventually one of Scholtz’s accomplices “blew the whistle because he was short-changed.” He reported Scholtz and the authorities were enraged. Scholtz was arrested and told he would be taken to Cape Town for trial. Oddly his badly repaired road cheated the authorities of vengeance. Because of his vast weight he did not survive the rough ride down the mountain pass. The bumping and jolting caused him to have a heart attack and by the time the “jail-wagon” reached the bottom of the pass he was dead.
THE GENERAL CAME TO DINNER …
Fifty people sat down to a sumptuous dinner with General Hertzog at the Prince Albert (later Swartberg) Hotel on October 29, 1913. Townsfolk agreed that proprietor, M L Israelsohn, outdid himself, particularly as far as the floral decorations were concerned. “A long horse-shoe table was laid with the finest crockery and cutlery and very prettily decorated with a profusion of roses and masses of other flowers. The menu was excellent and the waiting at the tables left nothing to be desired,” wrote the reporter of The Oudtshoorn Courant. At the conclusion of the ceremony a toast was offered by the Mayor, Mr Theunissen, also a local attorney. In few, but very well-chosen words, he proposed the health of the General and Mr Isrealsohn, to whom, he said, everyone in the Karoo knew they could turn when they needed a function of class.
… AND THE PREMIER CAME TO LUNCH
September 8, 1915 was an exciting day in Prince Albert and, in particular, at the Swartberg Hotel. A very special guest was expected to lunch. He was the Premier, General Louis Botha, and he arrived “a little after 13h00” accompanied by some members of the S A Party and a number of other guests reported The Oudtshoorn Courant. “They stepped into a dining room that did credit to the proprietor and to Mrs King, who supervised all the arrangements and prepared the lunch. The room was an absolute picture. One felt one had stepped into a flower garden adorned with flags of different nations. The side-board behind the Premier’s seat was just a mass of May flowers. Then, lying on the snow-white cloth on the horse-shoe table were strips of red, white and blue. Huge vases of May flowers stood at regular intervals throughout the dining room. And, as a finishing touch, numerous small tumblers stood on every table holding miniature flags of every nation.” The reporter was so enchanted with the dining room, he never got around to mentioning what was on the menu.
SMART SPINS ACROSS THE KAROO BY CAR
Prince Albert’s L Levenson did a “breathtaking run” down to Laingsburg on August 4, 1915. Travelling a route via Prince Albert road, he covered the distance of 80 miles in 4 hours and considered “it had been a particularly smart run” because he had taken “several members” of the local tennis team with him just “for the sake of adventure.” On May 13 the previous year a Myer Israelsohn had travelled by car from Oudtshoorn to Prince Albert via Meiringspoort in what he considered excellent time. Interviewed by a reporter from The Prince Albert Friend he said he had done particularly well to cover the 72 miles in 3 ½ hours, considering it was a Saturday and more people than normal were out and about. Also, he said, the roads were not in a bad state of repair.
PECKING ALONG ALMOST KILLED A LITTLE BROWN HEN
Way back in 1913 a little brown hen pecked along searching and scratching about for titbits to eat. She inadvertently wandered through an open door of a store at the then Prince Albert Hotel. The man collecting items from this infrequently used store did not see her, so when he had the things, he needed he went out closing and locking the door behind him. There was no food, nor any water in this little store and it was totally dark. A full month passed before anyone else went to the store and there to their horror they discovered the little hen, very weak, almost dead and totally blind. She was rushed to the hotel owner’s wife who used an eye dropper to delicately feed her tiny morsels for weeks on end. Miraculously she gradually got better and, in the end, totally recovered her eyesight, reported the Oudtshoorn Courant of October 22, 1913.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Take a break. Discover the Karoo and arid zone with The Journey. This company is arranging a long weekend outing in the magnificent Roggeveld and Tankwa Karoo districts for 2 X 4 and 4 X 4 enthusiasts. The tour departs from Cape Town on from April 26 and in addition to some breathtaking sightseeing includes a visit to the observatory in Sutherland. It returns to the city on April 28. Too soon to contemplate that one? Well consider an adventure into the Living Desert from May 25 to 30. This is a new, specially developed route through the Namib. It follows the old wagon route through the Naukluft Park to Kuiseb Canyon. “This is more or less the old route which Henno Martin followed during World War II and where he was able to hide away for two years, without being discovered,” says organizer, Jurgens Schoeman. The route passes some of the highest sand dunes on earth and soaks up the atmosphere of old diamond mining towns. “After the launch of this route an adventure tourism writer described it as one of the Top Ten outdoor experiences available to tourists anywhere in the world today,” says Jurgens. “He hailed it an unbelievable experience, an absolute must for anyone interested in ‘raw’ nature.” And for those who fancy something totally different The Journey also offers regular trips to Angola, Etosha, Botswana and the Kaokoland.
One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul, but if no one ever comes to sit by it, passers-by will see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way – Vincent van Gogh