The fascinating Marie Rawdon Museum at Matjiesfontein, one of the best private museums in South Africa, has been moved to superb premises in the old railway station building. This museum invites unhurried browsing as it rambles through several rooms, then down to the old jail cells in the basement. Its exhibits include cut glass, china, crystal, silver an intriguing array of toilet pans, chamber pots, commodes and washbasins, as well as photographic equipment. There is also a vast old-fashioned kitchen filled with copper pots, pans, serving dishes and even mineral water bottle from James D Logan’s factory. The Logan Sausage Manufactory’s cart is parked near a penny farthing cycle and an interesting display of marine lamps and lifebouys. Included is the original Matjiesfontein telephone system, a whip belonging to William James Larkin, who was Lord Alfred Milner’s coachman in 1898, intriguing Victorian games, an old chemist’s dispensary complete with bottles, several uniforms, photographs and even petit point pictures of Lord Roberts and Queen Victoria. A must for the museum buff.


Seventeen honorary rangers from Beaufort West recently completed Phase Two, the last section of their training course at the Karoo National Park. This course begins with orientation and after that there is an ecological interpretation and familiarization section. In the second phase, which includes information from across the entire region, they learn more about various aspects of veld-interpretation, fauna and flora, the ecology in general and about the insect and bird life of the region.


A new conference centre in a Victorian setting is being opened on the railway station at Matjiesfontein. This project, masterminded by Spoornet, features totally modern facilities behind old SAR frosted glass doors. The venue is ideal for small business meeting or a medium-sized seminars. All catering can be done by the Lord Milner Hotel.


The ever-popular Karoo Marathon will take place on October 1 this year at Laingsburg. The committee is currently busy planning the route and ensuring that facilities in the town will cope with the hoped influx of runners.


In 1710, well over a century before Lord Charles Somerset was to name the town of Beaufort in his family’s honour, his grandmother, the Duchess of Beaufort, was growing geraniums from the Swartberg in her garden. The plants originated from material gathered in these mountains in 1689 by Dutch botanist, Hendrik Oldenland. He took cuttings from these beautiful fragrant plants to Europe, where he successfully propagated them. From these, stock plants crossed the Channel to England. In time the plants were successfully hybridised and

became the core of the world’s massive geranium trade.


Fleet fingers flashed across braille boards as visually handicapped visitors gathered information at the opening of the world’s first Fossil Trail for the Blind at the Karoo National Park this month. And, walking along the trail was a delightful experience for both sighted and the visually handicapped visitors. All relevant information is in English and Afrikaans and Braille. The Braille information material is located on the underside of the usual information boards. Dr William Rowland, executive director of the S A National Council for the Blind and Dr G A Robertson, chief executive director of the National Parks Board, officiated at the ceremony.


The Honorary Rangers have donated a bird hide to the Karoo National Park. It is currently being erected at the dam on the main route to the reception area. “This is an exceptionally bird rich area,” says information officer Henriette Engelbrecht. It is also the best place to see many different varieties of water fowl. Another great advantage to placing the hide at this location is that it is close to the accommodation chalets and so will allow visitors to simply walk across the road and enjoy seeing other animals that come down to the water to drink in the evenings without disturbing them.


The historically important cemetery below Monument Koppie 10,7km south of Matjiesfontein, has been declared a National Monument. This is where Major-General Andy Wauchope was buried amid great controversy after he was killed during the Battle of Magersfontein, near Kimberley, on December 11, 1899. Initially Wauchope was buried with his men where he fell, then James Logan, the Laird of Matjiesfontein, appealed to Wauchope’s widow, Jean, for permission to exhume and rebury him. She gave it but many people feel that she did not realise that Matjiesfontein and Magersfontein were so far apart. The legendary James Logan. his beloved wife, Emma, their daughter Gertrude, who was a great friend of Olive Schreiner’s, and the Logan’s son, Daddy Jim, who lived to be 100, are also buried there, as well as Alfred Lohmann, “the greatest cricketer the world has known” and some British soldiers, who died at the hospital. There is an imposing obelisk on the koppie which was sent by the “Britishers” throughout he Empire as a tribute to Wauchope. The smaller obelisk on the hill is in memory of John Maxwell Grant, who was killed in a railway accident at Touws River on April 24, 1894.


A short while ago Round-up reported that the cork tree on the Swartberg Pass, on the road to Gamkaskloof, The Hell, was the only tree of its sort in the Karoo” . Apparently this is not so. Mr John Sinclair of Taaiboschfontein, near Loxton, also has a cork tree on his farm. There are also two more on Pieter Meintjiesfontein, the farm of Tom Freysen, on whose ground the Matjiesfontein Monument Cemetery was laid out.


The George Museum is having a Boer War Week from October 24 to 28. The organizer, Peter Greeff, has invited Taffy Shearing of Beaufort West, to deliver one or two lectures on her special field of expertise, The Second Invasion of the Cape Colony in 1901. Taffy, who wrote her master’s thesis on this topic in 1989, is currently working on a book on the Boer War.


The launch of David Shearing’s new book on Karoo plants in Beaufort West, in September, is expected to create a great deal of interest across the whole country. This book, researched and written by David, a Beaufort West farmer, was illustrated by Katryn van Heerden, also a Beaufort Wester.


As a result of the recent article by Amy Waldman in the New York Times Travel Supplement, Prince Albert has recently had several visitors from the United States. Mr and Mrs C Rothman from Toronto, Canada, arrived carrying a copy of the supplement and booked to stay at Dennehof. Until then the little village was unaware of this wonderful publicity.


The intriguing ruins and the Anglo-Boer War cemeteries at Deelfontein have a curious link with Beaufort West. Jacob Julius Adamstein, the man who created the Yeomanry Hotel, an early oasis and played such a vital role as a general dealer in this part of the Karoo, is buried in that town. He was affectionately known in the Deelfontein area as Oom Jacob, or simply JJ. He is buried next to his mother in the Jewish Cemetery in Beaufort West. Jacob was one of the three sons of the flambouyant Theodore Elias Adamstein, a friend of James Logan. He could easily have become known as “The Laird of the Plains”, but the road and rail links split at Three Sisters. Jacob is credited with building the once beautifully elegant Yeomanry Hotel from bricks which he personally made. His family think he was taught this skill by the British, who ran a hospital at this spot during the Anglo-Boer War. Jacob was a friend and confidant of the hospitals commanding officer Colonel (later Sir) Arthur Sloggatt. Jacob faithfully tended the British soldier’s graves throughout his lifetime. A man of great honour he left a small trust fund to ensure that this work would continue after his death. The Central Karoo Regional Service Council also recently spent R2 000 weeding, whitewashing and generally tidying up the two graveyards.


The riverene rabbit, an endangered species, which is endemic to the central Karoo, was discovered at Deelfontein in 1902 by a British soldier and botanist, Trooper C B Grant. After seeing this unusual rabbit on the veld he sent descriptions to the British Museum. A great deal of follow up research was done and it took until 1929 before it was declared as a genuine rabbit and a treatise was written about the little creature’s appearance, habits and habitat. This little rabbit species is unique to the Baufort west and Victoria West areas and endangered by loss of habitat. The Karoo National Park is currently busy with a re-establishment project in the hopes of saving the species.


The Karoo recently so captivated a Danish visitor, Bea Lauritzer, that she decided to walk from Laingsburg to The Hell. She said it was a superb experience, and to be recommended to anyone who enjoys the ecology and hiking. She did not hurry, but simply strolled along enjoying the veld and flowers, watching the birds and animals and resting when she felt she needed it. Bea loved Prince Albert and spent four days in the village before setting off again for Gamkaskloof. Halfway to the Hell she met a nature conservation official who insisted on giving her a lift to the camp site where she spent a few days. In her considered opinion, The Hell “is a wonderful place!”


The Kannakland Kontrei Tourism Organisation , a network of little towns in the Klein Karoo is trying to promote co-operation between the two Karoo regions. They have approached Klaarstroom, Prince Albert and Vleiland, villages on the great Karoo side of the Swartberg Passes to work with them. Great emphasis was placed on the need to develop tourism an provide cost effective information, at a recent work shop session held in the old Amaleinstein mission station. The creation of this organisation has led to a new level co-operation and tour groups are now being taken through Meiringspoort and Seweweekspoort and also across the Swartberg Pass for visits to Klaarstroom, Prince Albert, Vleiland and Laingsburg.


Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert has reported an increase in the number of overseas visitors over the last few months. Mostly they are from Canada and Europe and have thoroughly enjoyed winter in the Karoo. Many enjoyed the museum shop, which recently introduced a new range of waistcoats made of “rooikat” skins, as well as sleeveless jackets in black and grey karakul. The new sling bags are also winners. Made from 80% wool on a carpet warp, they are ideal for students as they are strong enough to carry books. Also their bright, almost ethnic colours make them an ideal choice for overseas visitors seeking something different, as well as local tourists who need an extra bag. The shop also stocks preserves, teeshirts and literature.


The Laingsburg cemeteries were damaged in the 1981 flood and headstones from British soldiers’ graves were among those swept down river. Now, after recent rains, Trooper Burton’s headstone has emerged from the mud at the golf course. It will be replaced on his grave when new markers for the other soldiers’ graves arrive.


Many people who first visited Prince Albert during the Olive Festival are now returning for follow-up visits. A group of 20 people from Still Bay have booked a visit to the village for September 10 and 11. They will be followed by 32 visitors from De Doorns. A group of farmers wishing to explore the Karoo, meet local people and find more about the cultural history of the Karoo is also on its way. The golf course is fully booked for this visit


The media people who visited the Karoo National Park for the opening of the Braille Trail thoroughly enjoyed their stay. Leslie McKenzie – always top of the pops in the Karoo – was even able to once again visit his favourite Fraserburg Road (Leeu Gamka). He allegedly once had radio listeners drooling when he described a breakfast there mentioning “the smell of bacon and the sound of trains…” Brian Pearston of Agence France has just completed a photo feature on eco tourism in the region, the Getaway feature by Cathy Lanz and David Rogers resulted in many calls and letters of enquiry and so did the cultural history feature in Custos.


The Old Mutual/Meiringspoort half-marathon this year will be different. It is to be South Africa’s first masked marathon as runners have all been asked to run in decorative pantomime type masks. This event is scheduled to take place on November 12 on a recognised route through Meiringspoort. “Generally it is only the first few athletes who concentrate on times,” say the organisers. “So, our aim is to make the event far more fun and that is why we decided to introduce decorative masks. We hope that this will give the event a carnival type of atmosphere.” The race starts just outside Klaarstroom and the whole community there are going to be asked to become involved. A small local plant, named in honour of De Rust, the Syringodes derustenis, has been chosen as the emblem for this race. This part of the Swartberg region is popular among outdoor enthusiasts and athletes and so the organisers are also hoping to arrange a cycle race between the Klein and Great Karoo, soon. For this event they aim to take the route further. They hope to start at De Rust, ride of the mountains, ride through Meiringspoort, and then Klaarstroom, then through Die Gang and end at Prince Albert. More details soon.


The popular South African Navy orchestra, which performs regularly at venues such as the State Theatre, in Pretoria, and the Nico Malan, in Cape Town, will visit Beaufort West on November 19. It will give a free concert in the Gamka East Church Hall for about 600 people. Refreshments will be on sale during the interval. A special rehearsal has been arranged for residents of the town’s old age homes.


The Dutch Reformed Church at Leeu Gamka is celebrating its 40th anniversary from November 25 – 27. A great effort is being made to ensure that this will be a special occasion. Letters and invitations have already been sent out to former members and residents. The congregation has high hopes that several will attend the celebrations.


The Standard 7 and 8 pupils at Swartberg High School are working on an interesting project which has excited many people in Prince Albert. They are researching the history of old houses, the people who built them and those who have lived in them Each pupil chooses a house – either in town or on a farm – and throughtly researches its role and that of the owners in the community. At the end of the year this project will be collated into book form and donated to the museum.