WHO WAS MERVEWILLE’S ENGLISHMAN
Just south of Merweville there is a signpost pointing to “The Englishman’s Grave”. And, about 500 m from the road, under some thorn trees in the veld is a neatly kept grave with a simple white marble cross. But, just who was this Englishman? His name was Walter Oliphant Arnot, and he came to South Africa with a British regiment during the Anglo-Boer War. He had been led to believe that the British were fighting “savages” in Africa, however, he developed a great respect for the Boer people and regretted his part in the war. His role as a soldier affected him so badly that he felt he could not return to England. He committed suicide on April 16, 1902, just outside this tiny Karoo village where he had befriended many local people. He was 42 years old. As a gesture of respect to him and his widow Eleanor, the people of Merweville promised to forever tend to his grave. They kept this promise, and they still do.
CENTRAL KAROO ROADS PRAISED
The roads of the Central Karoo are in a particularly good condition. They allow travellers to safely drive through the region, cross and crisscross it at will. During a recent visit Mr Frik van Deventer, MEC for Roads in the Western Cape, praised the Central Karoo Roads Department for optimal use of their budget and the outstanding work which they are doing to keep the roads in peak condition “Road maintenance is much more expensive than most road users would believe and there is simply not sufficient funds to extend the roads network. Nevertheless, considering the drought and general road conditions in this area the Central Karoo Road Services has done an outstanding job. The Central Karoo is one of the country’s top eco-tourist areas with many more attractions than most would imagine. The development of tourism in this area is very important. The local authorities, in conjunctuion with the private sector, must concentrate on the development of hiking and walking routes. The building of chalets in far flung places and a wider marketing of the area,” he added.
SATOUR TO OPEN AN OFFICE IN GEORGE
Satour is to open an office in George and has appointed Pieter Rossouw as manager. One of his first visits was to the Central Karoo. He and Rose Willis met at the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert to discuss the tourism potential of the Central Karoo and the positioning of towns, such as Laingsburg and Beaufort West, as gateways to the Little Karoo and Garden Route. Mr Rossouw also took advantage of this meeting to get to know some of the members of the local publicity association and to meet Pierre Kotze, the town’s newly-appointed information officer.
OLD VICTORIA WEST DECLARED A CONSERVATION AREA
The old sector of Victoria West is unique because it has largely missed being upgraded and gentrified. For these reasons this sector of the town has been declared a conservation area by the National Monuments Council and a Conservation Trust has been created. According to town clerk, Kobus Rust, the town is delighted by this decision. New restaurants and developments are being planned to maintain the historic character of the town and special arrangements will be made to promote this area to tourists.
NOTE: New brochures covering this town have just been printed as part of a marketing strategy for tourism development. They are obtainable from the tourist information office
GEOLOGICAL WALK PROPOSED
The Karoo, once a swamp, now a semi-desert, has an enormously rich geological heritage stretching over 200 million years. The area provides a diversity of material which has much to interest local and international geologists and at times there are several geological research teams at work in the region. Laingsburg is situated in one of the most interesting geological outcrops, and because of this attracts geologists, students and lay people interested in geology and ecology. For these reasons, Oscar van Antwerpen, an M SC student, who has been working in the district for quite some time, has proposed that the town establish South Africa’s first geological walk as a tourist attraction. “But it must be professionally laid out,” he stressed. “Walkers and hikers are environmentally couscous. They enjoy scenic beauty, but do not like sharing their routes with mountain bikes, 4 x 4 vehicles or horses. Those are different market sectors. Hikers do not require luxury, but they insist on comfort and cleanliness.”
SUPERB HIKING ROUTES
there are some superb trails within an hour’s drive of Laingsburg. These include the reasonably difficult 24km Klipkraal Route along the crest of the Swartberg, the 16 km Verlorenhoek Trail, which is ideal for families as it includes a 4 km drive, the six hour Buffelsriverpoort and Swartberg Trails, and the beautiful scenic walk through Seweweekspoort. There are also superb trails with overnight and educational facilities at Besemfontein Nature Reserve
TOURISM PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE IN THE KAROO
Spain makes more out of tourism than South Africa makes from gold, This was said by Colin van Zyl, Satour’s Western Cape Regional director, who recently addressed a meeting of the Laingsburg Publicity Association. Tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world, however, it demands service and careful planning, he added. Both local, as well as international tourism are important for the economic infrastructure and development of the Karoo. These helped an area to develop its facilities and to create jobs. Good service, reasonable prices and easily obtainable information on sightseeing attractions and other tourist facilities are of utmost importance. People must learn to think laterally, to team up, to research their markers and to make sure that they are marketing things that are interesting to tourists.
TRAIN TRAFFIC IN THE ATTIC
A visit to Johan Hamman’s three Sisters Accommodation farm could easily turn into an adventure in the tiny world of miniature, model railways. Laid out in the attic of his house are “miles” of track and a huge variety of international locomotives and railway carriages. As the switches flick so these trains travel through an incredible miniature world, weaving in and out of tunnels, up mountains, through tiny towns and stations. They pass farms, towns and interesting country sides. There is so much happening in this tiny world. In one town there is a wedding, in another a drunken sailor leaves the pub, while in yet another a busy housewife hangs out her weekly wash. There are climbers, hikers, picnickers, holiday makers, cyclists and caravanners. It’s a magic world in miniature, yet it offers much information on international railways.
WONDERFUL WATER GARDEN
Another treat at this Three Sisters Accommodation farm is the well laid out water garden. The sound of water trickling from fountains and over stones in the middle of the harsh dry Karoo is superbly soothing. Johan says he is enchanted by water, so in the centre of their old farm house, which dates back to the latter half of the last century, he and his wife, Ina, have installed a conservatory and koi pond. Johan and Ina offer meals on request and there is a kennel near the accommodation rondavels, where those who like to travel with larger dogs, will be able to house their pets overnight.
LAPPIES – A BEAUTIFUL NOISE
Tourists to Prince Albert can enrich their Karoo experience by visiting the colourful Outa Lappies and seeing him in his attractive patchwork garb. Although he was christened Jan Schoeman, he is widely known across South Africa and even internationally as Lappies (Patches) He is often seen wandering through the town with his old rickshaw which is “followed” by a multitude of small and smaller wire cars (draadkarretjies) and little cars made from empty fish tins. As he moves through town this unusual metal entourage follows him jumping, jangling and rattling along the tar road and creating its own particular symphony of sounds. Way back Lappies was a pedlar between Beaufort West and Prince Albert, then, sadly he lost his car in an accident. That was when he decided to establish his home in Prence Albert and to make a living doing a wide variety of odd jobs. This venture was successful, however, he then saw an opportunity to make a living dressed in a multi-coloured patchwork coat. The tourists were most intrigued and wihin short his image, name and popularity spread across
South Africa and he even became known internationally. Visitors often purchase one or two of his wire or fish tin cars and most of the money he makes, he says, he donates to charity. Many tourists go wild about his attire and some even order similar long coats and jackets. He accepts the orders, creates a unique patchwork garment for each and posts them. Over the years has exported these to countries such as Norway, Holland and Grmany
TAME SPRINGBOK ENCHANTS TOURISTS
Visitors to Juriesfontein, one of the holiday farms in the Nelspoort area, have been enchanted by a tiny tame springbok doe that roams freely through the garden and grounds. When her mother died she was hand raised by Rosemary Pienaar. She has adjusted to the domestic environment and loves human company. She has become quite cheeky and is not above sneaking a snack from the table or taking a biscuit from a guest’s plate. “All visitors to the farm are totally enchanted by this gentle creature,” said Rosemary. “In fact, she has become quite a tourist attraction.
ECO-TOURISM – CAN WE PLAN FOR THIS?
Eco-tourism is vitally important to South Africa, say Satour and Western Cape Tourism manager, Colin van Zyl. Because of this a conferenced which will cover this subject and market sector in depth is being planned for September. A full-day session will be held in the MRC Conference Centre in Tiger Valley in the Cape. The cost of attending is R150 per person and bookings can be done by calling Heidi Keyser at Satour.
LAINGS LODGE – NEW UPMARKET VENUE
It was due to the foresight of Thomas Laing, cape Colonial secretary in the 1890s, that the town of Laingsburg is today so strategically situated. He cecided to change plans for the roads and that enavled the town to be established on Simon Greeg’s farm Buffelsrivier. Thomas felt that this spot was a vital stop on the route to the north. In time the town was names in his honour. Now over a century later a place again associated with travelers on the north/south route is being honoured with his name it is a new accommodation establishment due to be opened mext month and to be known as Laings Lodge. This establishment is designed to cater for the needs of the upper end of the market and in addition to its comfortable, airconditioned environment, it will also include restaurant facilities.
TOP SPEAKER AT ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Theo Behrens, a man with many years’ experience in the tourism industry and who has served on countless tourism organisations is going to address the Prince Albert Publicity Association on August 26. Mr Behrens is the chairman of the Regional Development and Advice Committee and president of Fedhasa.
NEED GUIDELINES FOR A GUSTHOUSE?
Guidelins For Oprating A Guesthouse is the title of a new booklet just published by Tourism Guideline Series, 32 Creuse Street, Stellenbosch. It costs R22. The booklet has been written by Colin van Zyl, Satour’s regional director of tourism and a man with 25 years’ experience in the industry. It has chapters covering location, finances, official approval, the building, as well as furniture and fitting requirements. The needs of guests, catering, marketing and profitability are also discussed.
KAROO NATIONAL PARK DEVELOPES ROUTES FOR THE BLIND
The Karoo National Park outside Beaufort West, is busy upgrading its Fossil Walk into a route suitable for blind tourists. Work on this \important project is underway and is being handled in co-operation with the Worcester School for the Blind.
DRIE RIVIERE OPTS TO BECOME A CRAFT VENUE
Johanna Luttig, is striving to make the beautiful Swartberg farm, Drie Riviere, near Prince Albert into a handicraft venue. She and Ronel van der Spuy, owner of the local spinning and weaving operation, recently joined forces to present three frame weaving courses at this farm, each of one week’s duration. The first was held in July, the second this month and the third is planned for September. “I feel a beautiful environment is conducive to creativity and so hope to offer further courses, such as painting and floral art in the near future,” said Johanna.
RADIO KONTREI VISITS THE KAROO AGAIN
A Radio Kontrei tour group is once again scheduled to visit the Karoo. This time 45 people will call in at the Karoo National Park en route to Sun City. The tour was once again organized by broadcaster, Eben Niemand, who says the Karoo National Park is a very popular stopping place for dinner and overnight accommodation. The last group, which he introduced to the Karoo ,also enjoyed an evening under the stars and a braaiing at the park.
ROTARY ‘WILDSFEES’ TO BE HELD IN SEPTEMBER
The ever popular annual “wildsfees” (game festival), organized by the Beaufort West Rotary Club, will be held in the Showgrounds Hall on September 10. Tickets cost R60 a couple and only a limited number are available. This festival is becoming an increasingly popular social event in the Karoo because of the wide variety of tasty venison dishes which are offer.
HUGE GOLF COMPETITION
The Prince Albert Classic Golf Tournament is scheduled to be held on the town’s golf course on September 11. Local authorities say the course is in excellent condition Entries for this competition which is a four-ball, better ball stableford, close at 12 noon on September 9. The entry fee is R60 per person and the ticket includes three meals. Tee off time of 07:30 According to golf club president, Das Olivier, there is great interest in this tournament and many exciting prizes are on offer.
GREAT INTEREST IN KAROO MARATHON
There is again a great deal of interest in the 80 km Karoo Marathon which is to be held in Laingsburg on September 25. The run, which celebrates its 23rd anniversary this year, is a popular annual event and, in addition to athletes, it brings thousands of supporters and other tourists to town. The marathon committee and the Publicity Association are already hard to work to ensure that all arrangements are professionally handled and that there is no shortage of accommodation. They will also ensure that all arrangement s for the evening’s braai and dance run smoothly.
REMEMBER TWO TOWNS TURN 150 THIS YEAR
Two of the towns in the Central Karoo area are to celebrate their 150th anniversaries this year. They are Richmond and Victoria West and both are planning to hold their celebrations over the weekend of October 8,9 and 10. Those who would like to join these festivities are advised to book early, particularly as far as accommodation is concerned. Festival programmes are available at the Town Clerk’s offices in each village..
LET’S MAKE A DATE
Many events take place in the Central Karoo that severa; people would have liked to attend had they only known about them in time. In order to keep people up to date with forthcoming events a regional diary has been started. Please keep the tourist information office informed of any event you are planning, so that we can assist by marketing it as widely as possible.