Beaufort West’s stately Matoppo House, with its rich, romantic history, will now become an exclusive tourism venue. The stately old mansion, built in 1834, as a drosdty for Magistrate J J Meintjies and now a national monument, will remain almost unchanged and offer elegant private suites – one with its own swimming pool. The adjoining cottage, De Villiers House, will be transformed into five elegant en-suite rooms. Early next year building will start on several other graceful cottages, each with its own fireplace for Karoo winters. The complex will have its own dining room for residents only. “This new venue will allow guests to explore the Great Karoo from an elegant and comfortable base,” says new owner, Gert Lubbe, also one of the partners of the internationally known and highly acclaimed d’Ouwe Werf in Stellenbosch.


The Dutch film crew which recently visited Lemoenfotnein to make a TV advertisement for Netherlands TV, are going to donate a camel to the farm. When they saw the lonely camel, the only one remaining from the little herd of four that were left there last year, they decided he needed a mate. They promised to donate a female camel and have already named her Lipstick. The reason for this is that the found the name of the Lipstick Club in Rustdene so unusual. “And, we will come back again to visit Lipstick,” they promised


A Beaufort West padre was on the SS Mendi when she was rammed in the English Channel on February 21, 1917. As the ship began to sink, he called on the 802 black South African servicemen aboard to perform “the dance of death” and to die like brothers. This padre, Isaac Wauchope Dyobha, was one of the 607 who perished beneath the waves that day. He was a Xhosa and educated at Lovedale Mission. He became a teacher and was the first black man in the country to write a poem in English. In 1876 he was one of five evangelists sent to Nyasaland, but returned due to recurrent bouts of fever. He again took up teaching in the Eastern Cape and worked as an interpreter until he could enter the ministry. On qualifying, he moved to Beaufort West, where he served the Congregational Church and was greatly loved by his community.


Arrangements are now in full swing for the Karoo Marathon in Laingsburg and, as usual. The whole town is involved in the planning of this popular event which will take place on September 23. It is an 80km ultra marathon and the route passes through some breath-taking scenery as it moves along both tar and gravel roads.


The Hell, Prince Albert and Matjiesfontein are all mentioned in articles in the September issue of Getaway. Writer Anne Duncan opted to visit the historic village of Matjiesfontein in the traditional way. She arrived by train. Waiting rather formally on the platform to greet her was general manager Mervin Tunmer and porter John Theunissen, a second d generation Matjiesfonteiner. His mother worked at Tweedside Lodge for many years. Anne arrived during one of the coldest weeks of the winter – it was even too cold for any of the famous Matjiesfontein ghosts to roam. She enjoyed the experience, had a few constructive criticisms to offer, but in the final analysis decided she would “readily return to this peaceful Karoo oasis. I certainly understand why so many visitors return again and again,” she said.


Henk Goethe, a freelance TV cameraman from Pretoria recently visited the Karoo to make a video programme about Eric Louw. He was one of South Africa’s ministers of Foreign Affairs, a former MP for Beaufort West and one time resident of the town. Henk and his team of researchers visited the museum where they found several full and detailed displays of Louw’s life displayed in two rooms. They also filmed some footage in Ruimte, Louws former home in Die Lande.


Also, recently on a whistle-stop tour of the Karoo was Carol Coney, editor of the Fish Eagle. She paused at most small towns in the region “just enjoying the atmosphere”. Her visit to Beaufort West was sponsored by one of the town’s tiniest venues – Little Green World. “It was a superb experience staying in this secluded little cottage in its own enclosed green garden world. This was the nearest to a magic garden I have ever seen. You can almost feel the fairies and elves peeking out from under the leaves as you sit quietly watching the harlequin ducks inspecting the lawns.” Carol was also hosted to a special lunch at Matjiesfontein, “Another special privilege and thoroughly enjoyable,” she said.


The Karoo and its stories must be retained, said Kobus van Rensburg from Pretoria. His is currently researching stories of the Karoo and its people. His idea is to eventually publish this in book form under the title of Stories uit die Volksmond. He said “These stories are of the greatest importance to the region, Afrikaans and the Afrikaner. Once I have completed the background research I will personally visit the Karoo and do some personal interviews.


The BBC World Service recently took a closer look at the Karoo as a holiday destination. In an interview with Keith Somerville, tourism co-ordinator, Rose Willis discussed the attractions of this arid zone which once was a swamp. Keith was combining business with pleasure, as he had long had a desire to visit the Karoo. His wife, Liz and their son, Tom, accompanied him to Elandsfontein, near Beaufort West to “enjoy a real farm holiday. He also took an in-depth look at the ecology and facilities at the Karoo National Park.


The new 1996 guide to all accommodation facilities in the Central Karoo region is now available from the Regional Services Council’s Tourism Office in Beaufort West. It lists facilities in each town in alphabetical order and has been planned so that pages an easily be faxed.


Judith Strutt and her husband, John, a bit part British actor, who also works at Oxford University in England, recently decided to treat themselves to a Karoo visit. “After a short spell in Cape Town, we had an urge to explore the hinterland,” said Judith. “We were captivated. This must be one of the most healthy and invigorating areas in South Africa Despite warnings of cold and quiet, we found plenty to do. The Karoo has everything a tourist seeking rest, relaxation and pleasant scenery could want. The people are friendly and most have time to sit and chat for a while. We could hardly tear ourselves away from Beaufort West, where we sat in the garden of the Oasis Hotel and felt the warm winter sun baking health into our bones! You simply must promote this friendly little town on an international scale. We’re leaving a great chunk of our hearts in the Kroo. We will definitely be back.”


The Oasis Hotel in Beaufort West has been upgraded. New carpets and linen have been provided for all rooms. The new owners, Herman De Vries and his wife, Julienne, say the tourist’s comfort is of the greatest importance to them. They now are upgrading the grounds and the area around the pool. Emphasis will also be placed of quality service. “Dining room and bar staff in particular have been specially trained to ensure all the requirements of each guest is taken care of and ensure they enjoy their stay at the oasis,” say he owners.


Travalia, the well-known self-catering venue at Three Sisters, has also upgraded its accommodation to cater for guests in wheel chairs. Easy access ramps have been built next to parking bays at each chalet. These slope gently up to smooth walkways leading to the rooms, as well as to the main building, TV room and lounge. “This will enable disabled guests to fully enjoy all facilities with as much independence as possible,” says owner Callie Herholdt.


As part of a great refurbishment programme the Wagon Wheel Motel, north of Beaufort West, has added new ablution facilities and electrical outlets to its caravan site. ‘There is now room for 20 caravans and our park offers beautiful views across the Nuweveld Mountains,” said owner Terence Young. “Caravanners can of course use the swimming pool, dining room, lounge and bar,” he added The rooms of the Wagon Wheel were also recently upgraded and fitted with new baths and showers.


Linda Russel has created two new cosy overnight venues at Central Flats in Beaufort West. These fully furnished, one bedroomed, self-catering establishments include linen, crockery and television. Safe parking is available under shade netting in a secure area. The gates are kept locked and to ensure that guess and their vehicles are safe each resident is given his own gate key.


Satour is seeking venues to participate in a programme offering special packages to international journalists and other press representatives. To take part in this promotion accommodation avenues in the Central Karoo who are prepared to host these visitor on a promotional basis should contact the tourism office. Visits will only take place in out of season periods and arrangements will be made as far in advance as possible to allow those partaking to present all aspects of their facilities to the visiting journalists. Satour will ensure that any publicity resulting from this promotion is passed on the those hotels, guest houses, rooms and restaurants taking part.


It would appear that the Cape’s great soothsayer of the last century, Hendrik Spoorbek or Skoorbek, as he was also known, did visit the Karoo. After reading about Heinrich Schorbeck, his real name, in the last issue of Round-up, Nico Rautenbach of Manpower in Beaufort West remembered listening to his grandfather in the Willowmore district telling tales of this fantastic man. A favourite was the one of young girls at a party in the district dancing around a fire and snatching at Spoorbek’s beard. “Don’t pull my beard,” he growled.” But they took no notice. So old Hendrik took a piece of string from his pocket and slowly tied knots in it – one for each of the young girls taunting him. Then staring at them, old Hendrik snapped the string taught and every stitch of clothing dropped of each of the dancing girls.


Tourist organist organisations in each town must ensure that they become independent as quickly as possible This was the message from Gert Lubbe, chairman of the Stellenbosch Publicity Association, when he visited Prince Albert Publicity Association recently. “In Stellenbosch the municipality runs the office and pays the staff. We, as an association, then hire venue where this personal can promote the village and where all accommodation establishments can advertise their facilities.. Tourists who come in seeking accommodation read the adverts on the wall and decide which venues they would like to stay in and which they can afford, so it is essential that each venue includes its price in its advertisement. Once we do the booking and the visitor stays over at that venue, we charge them 10% commission on their room rate for our service. This works exceedingly well and we offer an excellent service to our members as well as the tourists.


We must add value to our tourist packages, said Rose Willis Central Karoo Tourism Co-ordinator at the recent Prince Albert Publicity Association Annual General Meeting. Using VAT as a theme – Value-added Tourism – she stressed cooperation and the value of ensuring that complete and correct information was at the finger tips of all information personnel. “Nobody really complains about paying VAT on purchases, so why should we all then not do just that – add a little more for tourists to enjoy. If everyone in every town went out of his or her way to make the tourist stays a little longer, the town’s economy would blossom. We’d soon have a flourishing tourism industry in the Central Karoo. This will spread throughout the province and the rest of the country. We must co-ordinate our efforts and our approaches to ensure a larger slice of the market.”


The demand for farm holidays is increasing as city people begin to enjoy time in the open air of the Great Karoo. Over the years the Beufort West Farm Tourism Organisation has also grown to meet the demand and, because of its success, people from other towns are applying to join the Beaufort West organisation. It has thus been decided to change the organisation’s name to Great Karoo Farm Holidays and to use this to market all venues throughout the region. The organisation now also has a new chairman, Martie Lund from Elandsfontein. She and her committee are now excitedly planning a new promotional programme.


Two Hermanus visitors, who recently stayed over for a tour of the Karoo National Park were privileged to see eagles building an eyrie near the Rooivalle Lookout. “This was a wonderful experience,” said Charles Ward and Marion Shinn, proprietors of Warringon’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Hermanus. “We’re keen bird watchers, but never before have we been able to stand high up at such a special spot and look down on a pair of black eagles. They soared, banked swooped and turned almost as it they were putting a special show for us!”