The Riverine Rabbit Conservation Project was recently introduced to the media at Kirstenbosch. At this function members of each conservancy received a certificate of registration. “The aim of the launch was to raise awareness of the plight of this nocturnal animal and gain publicity for farmers committed to the survival of the species. The riverine rabbit is Africa’s only indigenous burrowing rabbit and one of 12 globally endangered rabbit species”, said Tony Marshall, regional manager Cape Nature Conservation. “Saving the species from extinction is extremely difficult because the rabbit’s natural habitat does not fall within formally protected areas. It extends along rivers crossing a series of farms in the Victoria West, Beaufort West and Sutherland areas. This is the only area in the world where the riverine rabbit is found. We encouraged owners of farms such as Hillandale and its neighbours to form conservancies. This is the only way for the species to survive and for its remaining habitat to be protected”.


Ministers van die Wes-Kaap Kabinet vergader op 6 September in Prins Albert. Tydens hierdie besoek sal hulle ‘n reeks gesprekke hou met verskeie organisasies op die dorp. Een van die hoogtepunte van hulle besoek gaan ‘n boomplantingseremonie in Voorstraat by die ingang van Noord Einde wees. Premier Gerald Morkel, en Prins Albert burgermeester, Dawid Rossouw, sal die eerste boom plant. Daarna sal elke kabinetsminister saam met ‘n dorpsraadslid ‘n boom plant. “Voorstraat sal as ‘laan van die ministers’ vereer word en die bome sal deur die gemeenskap van Noord Einde versorg word. Die bome sal die gebied verfraai en mettertyd skadu verskaf aan toeriste wat die area besoek. Ons probeer ook om ‘n ope vergadering met die Minister van Toerisme, Leon Markowitz, te reel”, sê Dawid.


The establishment of a tourist route through Beaufort West’s Kwa-Mandlenkosi township has created excitement throughout the community. Ten people have been nominated to serve on a forum which will finalise its planning. They will be responsible for the clean-up and maintenance of the route and will also create a database of crafters, story-tellers, shebeens, taverns, historic sites and other places of interest. The forum will also help guide those interested in opening bed and breakfast operations. Forum members Vos Bokwe, Keith Kekani, Mrs Mkam, Mrs Banda, B Dayeli, Jeremiah Melani, Miss Stuurman, Mrs R Poto and Mrs Sylvia Dyum will handle their tasks under the guidance of regional tourism organisation chairman Siphiwe Piti and forum secretary Mrs Lungi Ngondo. A final meeting with the Moses Sibaya and Cathy Riley, of Open Africa, is scheduled for September 26. The route will be opened in October.


The story entitled AA place in history for two Beaufort Westers@ in the July issue of Round-up sent roads researcher Graham Ross scurrying for his files. ”Your readers may not know that it was thanks to two Beaufort Westers that the road through Meiringspoort became a reality”, he writes. “In the1850s the only way through the poort was a bridle path constructed by two farmers, Petrus Meiring and Gerome Marincowitz. In 1854, petitions pleading for this path to be turned into a road were sent to the Government and it was decided to survey the route to establish whether this was possible. Sir John Charles Molteno, then MP for Beaufort West and the man destined to become the Cape’s first Prime Minister, Charles Pritchard, a Beaufort West lawyer, road engineers Andrew Geddes Bain and his son Thomas, were nominated to do this. They set off from Beaufort West on horseback to examine the entire route. The journey, which today takes just over an hour, then took a few days. Their report resulted in the appointment of a select committee and the allocation of funds in 1856. The road, which crossed the river 21 times, was completed and officially opened on March 3, 1858. Without the Beaufort West delegation this much-needed link to the coast may not have been built for years”, says Graham.


‘n Onlangse konserwatiewe beraming het bepaal dat toeriste jaarliks meer as R450 miljoen in Beaufort-Wes spandeer. Die N1 hoofroete deur die dorp verskaf tans werk aan 17 000 mense. Maandeliks koop omtrent 220 000 reisigers kos in die dorp. Die Toeristeburo doen aanhoudend navorsing oor die beter benutting van deurgaande verkeer. Van toeka se dae af is die roete deur Beaufort-Wes ‘n besige en lonende een. Die pad was eers deel van die ou Kaapse wapad en reeds vanaf daardie jare moes veilige parkering, verblyf, kos en weiding verskaf word. Beaufort-Wes se eerste padraad is in Februarie 1845 aangestel om die roete skoon en rybaar te hou. Die gruispad moes amper daagliks natgespuit word om die stof in toom te hou. Ten tye van waterskaarste was olie gebruik. Dit het amper ‘n eeu geduur voor die pad in 1942 geteer is. Beaufort-Wes Toerismeburo voorsitter Kobus Albrecht en sy span is tans besig met ‘n reeks projekte wat meer sal aanbied vir reisigers deur Beaufort-Wes.


A Karoo farm boy who once travelled in an ox-wagon and drove a Model T Ford through Meiringspoort, went on to qualify as a veterinary surgeon in England and then returned to work near his boyhood home. S W J ‘Schalk’ van Rensburg knew the Karoo before cars, radios and telephones. In his memoirs From the Horse’s Mouth, published in 1983 by J L Schaik, he relates many a poignant tale. Schalk recalls being pushed into the pantry each time a shot was heard during the Anglo-Boer War. “I imagined every shot killed a soldier, so each time the firing stopped I was sure all the soldiers were dead”, he says. “When the British commandeered all our horses, we had no alternative but to travel by ox-wagon. The memory of these trips fills me with nostalgia. There is a certain romance to this mode of transport. Produce for market, such as wood, hides, skins, grain, butter eggs and vegetables were loaded at the front. Adults sat on stretchers, which doubled as beds, in the shade of the canopy at the rear. Children skipped along outside as the oxen travelled only three or four kilometers an hour. We slept on the floor or under the stars”. Oxen were inspanned and the wagon departed late in the afternoon and trundled on until midnight, he says. Then fires were lit to cook porridge and braai meat. “Everyone told ghost stories until bedtime. We slept for two hours before inspanning again and setting off at about three o’clock so as to reach town in time for the early morning market”. Schalk says that when cars became popular there was an unwritten agreement that animal drawn transport had right of way. Anyone ignoring this was likely to have a team of confused oxen trampling around his vehicle or horses, which had never seen a car, madly rearing and thrashing about. “In 1935 I offered to drive a friend and his new bride through Meiringspoort in a Model T Ford, a wedding gift from his father. I inched cautiously along from Klaarstroom. I was overawed by the narrowness of the road and the deep, dark gorge. In some places there was no room for a road alongside the river. This meant I had to drive down the river bed in water about 30 centimeters deep. The riverbed was stoney, bumpy and uneven. Steering the car along demanded careful concentration and my full attention. It was an unforgettable, breathtaking experience, but I was relieved when De Rust came into view. We were so exhausted we called a halt there”.


A place called “Die Tronk” caught the eye of a tour guide scouting a route through the Karoo recently. “It’s on the farm Portugalsrivier on the left as one climbs to the escarpment from Merweville to the plateau. It sounds so intriguing, I must know more”, he wrote. Danie Blom, of the holiday farm Banksgate, hires this ground. “The name is a great crowd stopper”, he says. “Everyone expects it to have a grim, dark, evil history, but it’s not so. It is simply a very deep and narrow ravine. It’s only accessible on foot. Perhaps early settlers felt if you landed there it would be equivalent to being in jail. The ravine is nevertheless very beautiful, and holidaymakers love to walk and explore in ‘Die Tronk’. There once was a little fort-like structure at the entrance. This added to the mystery, but over the years it decayed and fell down”. Danie also has several scenic 4 x 4 routes on his farm for those who prefer this type of sightseeing.


Beaufort-Wes se oudste huis by 111 Birdstraat is nou onder die sorg van die Rapportryersvereniging. Hulle het die huis van die munisipaliteit oorgeneem en gerestoureer. Die gebou is 1822 deur ‘n boer, Pieter Daniel Jacobs, as tuishuis opgerig. Sy plaas was Slangefontein op die Nuweveldberge en net ses myl vanaf Hooyvlakte. Kort na die stigting van Beaufort-Wes het Jacobs, een van ds John Taylor, die dorp se eerste prediker, se getrouste, bekwaamste en waardevolste diakens geword. Later het hy ‘n groot aandeel in die bou van die Moederkerk gehad. Hy het twee erwe in Birdstraat in Junie 1822 gekoop en volgens die koopreg moes hy binne twee jaar ‘n huis van minstens 30 x 15 voet op elk bou. Dit is gedoen en hy het sy intrek geneem. Jacobs kon nooit oor die weg kom met Magistraat Meintjies nie en het in 1838 besluit om noordwaards te trek. Sy trek met ‘n kommando van 60 man was die vyfde groot laer wat die Kolonie verlaat het. As kommandant onder Andries Pretorius, het Jacobs aan die Slag van Bloedrivier deelgeneem. Die huis is in 1838 deur die NG-kerk as ‘n pastorie vir ds. Colin Fraser gehuur tot 1846. Henry Rose, ‘n vooraanstande inwoner, het dit toe bekom. Later het dit ‘n hotel en terminus vir die Graaff Reinet poskoets geword en is Die Poskoetshuis genoem. Die oorspronklike huis het ‘n strooidak gehad wat in 1934 met ‘n sinkdak vervang is. Die trap na die solder is terseldertyd verwyder. “Hierdie gebou is ‘n pragtige voorbeeld van ‘n vroeë Karoo woning”, sê Rapportryer Frikkie Bekker. “Ons sal die gebou verder opknap en vir vergaderings gebruik”.


Youngsters in Prince Albert have taken up a challenge from The Department of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Tourism. During the town’s Local Economic Development Week in June, DEAT development director Itumeleng Pooe launched a competition challenging young people to come up with an innovative tourism project that would benefit the youth and ensure development in the town before the end of August. Both she and NomaXhosa Johgilanga of the National Department of Environmental Affairs have been impressed with the input. “The winner will be announced at a function in the town on September 22”, said Itumeleng. “The winning team will receive skills development training and their project will be considered for funding from DEAT Poverty Relief Projects Funds. They will also be sponsored to attend Indaba 2002 in Durban, so you can well imagine just how exciting this project has been”.


Springfontein Dam Koppie has always attracted tourists. Most love to sit up there and watch Karoo sunsets. So, earlier this year, Beaufort West Tourist Bureau started revamping this scenic walk. The project has been taken over by the buro’s newly-appointed development chairman, John van der Merwe. He has discovered that far from being a new idea, such a walk was developed 82 years ago in honour of the town’s centenary. The ramble along the koppie was initially laid out by M J Lyne, Beaufort West’s magistrate from 1919 to 1923. He was an outdoor enthusiast and interested in the ecology of the Karoo. The walk was an instant success and was named Lyne’s Walk in his honour. But, for some reason many locals mistakenly referred to it as Lion’s Walk probably thinking it was named after the prides of lion that once roamed the area. In his day, Abraham le Clerq, who lived on Hooyvlakte farmstead nearby, claimed to have shot 31 near his house. Before Lyne’s term of office expired the koppie walk was extended eastwards to Katjieskop, so named because it abounded with meerkats. There was also a huge population of these interesting little creatures on the next little hill, so it was named Meerkatsheuvel.


A stroll along Beaufort West’s Springfontein Dam wall recently led freelance TV cameraman and journalist Foeta Krige to an unusual story. The excited cries of children splashing about in shallow, muddy water attracted his attention. Closer inspection revealed they were catching fish with their bare hands. “I was amazed at their success”, says Foeta. “Most thread their day’s catch onto stout little sticks to easily carry them home. One little lad had about 15 fish on a stick. He told me they were delicious when cooked over coals, not at all muddy and as tasty as sea fish. Also, he said, they were very saleable. I got beautiful shots in the late afternoon light of wet, glistening children proudly displaying wriggling, shimmering fish to the camera”. Next day Foeta called on town engineer Louw Smit, who told him the dam would be totally dry within three weeks. “The water tortoises have already burrowed deep down under the mud and so have most of the barbel. Most will survive until the rains come and the dam fills. The carp that are not caught will die. No one has ever been able to save them when the dam dries up. Rescue efforts date as far back as 1908. During a dreadful drought of that year, Mr Haarhof, the town’s health inspector, tried to save thousands of fish without success. Springfontein Dam, just north of the town, was built in 1869 by Avon Bruce Brand, an engineer who also once served Queen Victoria as a bodyguard. In its heyday it was the social hub of town. The 70 ft island in its centre was a paradise for birds. Flamingos, storks, ibises and many smaller species nested in reeds and willows. Swimmers loved the dam. A municipal decree, however, prohibited men from bathing within 400 paces of the wall on the town side as their Ascanty attire offended respectable ladies taking the air. In 1877, local baker Peter Krummeck ran a pleasure boat The Pride of Beaufort to the island. This was so successful that he planned to acquire four or five more boats. Another resident applied for a permit for a paddle steamer. Neither schemes materialised because the dam had fatal flaws. The major problem was continuous silting and cleaning was too costly. Also, the dam’s wall could not contain flood water. Eventually the dam silted up and became little more than a large pond.


Drome van ‘n fortuin is tydens ‘n vloed in die dorre Karoo weggesleur in 1869. Net na Springfontein Dam, noord van Beaufort-Wes, klaar gebou is het ‘n wolkbreuk en stort reëns in die berge ‘n hewige vloed veroorsaak. Teen twaalfuur op 23 Oktober, 1869, was daar al 25 voet water in die dam. Bekommerde dorpenaars het vanaf die aangrensende koppie die stygende watervlak dopgehou. Drie gate het in die wal verskyn. Twee is onmiddellik gestop. Die 38-jarige Roelof J J Eybers het met ‘n sak sand afgesak om die derde te probeer stop. Met sak en al is hy deur die gat gesleur. Hy was gelukkig om te oorleef want meteens het die wal ingekalwe en het 600-miljoen gellings water deur die dorp gestorm. Die gedruis was skrikwekkend. Huise onder die wal is of weggesleur of erg beskadig. Heelwat inwoners het kwaai skade gelei, maar een man het ‘n fortuin verloor. Hy was John David Baird, oudste seun van John Baird, die dorp se eerste landdros. Kort voor die vloed is John David skriftelik in kennis gestel dat hy die enigste erfgenaam van ‘n ontsagtelike fortuin in Skotland is. Prokureurs het sy vader se oorsponklike geboortesertifikaat en ‘n bewys van hul familie se herkoms benodig. John en sy vrou Sophia Christina Weeber was verheug. Hulle het sewe kinders gehad en sy onderwyssalaris kon nie al hulle benodighede dek nie. Alle bewystukke is bymekaar gemaak en sorgvuldig gebêre. Toe kom die vloed. John David se huis en al sy besittings is weggesleur. Hy en sy gesin het ternouernood aan die dood ontkom. Vir dae na die vloed het hy tervergeefs die veld gefynkam maar nooit die bewysstukke gekry nie. Oor die jare het talle Bairds in Suid-Afrika probeer om die Skotse fortuin te bekom, maar nie een kon ooit die nodige bewyse lewer nie.


For many years an Aero Motor windmill did its job of pumping water near Three Sisters, but now it also features on S A’s first “Blades in the Sky” calendar. A limited number of this A3 calendar have been produced by former Landbouweekblad photographer Tiny Wannenberg. Many have already been ordered by windmill enthusiasts in the USA. Tiny photographed the windmill, on Tiny Middleton’s farm Content when he visited the Karoo recently. “It was so picturesque I decided to use it on the calender”, he says.

Dates to diarise for September 2001: 5 – Official opening of new Beaufort West Tourism Bureau; 6 – Western Cape Cabinet ministers visit Prince Albert; 16 – Dali Tambo interviews Professor Chris Barnard on People of the South on TV 2; 22 – Awards presentation Prince Albert Youth Tourism Competition; 29 – Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon.