The popular website is being relaunched in Beta format. “The site, which is dedicated to the promotion, celebration and protection of the Karoo, has been upgraded and greatly improved,” says photojournalist, Chris Marais. “It is now designed bring a huge collection of pictures and stories of the region, it’s people, their cultural and heritage, to the widest possible audience in the most user-friendly way.” The Great Karoo, once a swamp, now a semi-desert and the largest plateau of its kind outside of Asia, is a constant source of fascination to many. Generally, about 4 000 ft above sea level, the Karoo covers two thirds of South African. Globally, this ancient land, where history stretches back across 350-million years to a time when the earth was young, is an envied rarity. The region is home to the world’s oldest Stone Age sites and richest fossil beds. It has the largest variety of succulents on earth and over 9 000 plant species. The Beaufort West area alone, is home to more species than the whole of Great Britain. About 60% of the world’s mohair, comes from the Karoo and mutton from this region is world famous. But Karoo Space covers much, much more than history.


The Karoo Space webpages tell a vast story. The attractive, user-friendly, site is designed to appeal to anyone wanting to know more of the Karoo. It brings the latest news on a variety of Karoo-related subjects to farmers and researchers. It advises visitors where to go, what to see and do. Keen photographers will find best views and most picturesque spots by following this site, gourmets will discover delicious food and Karoo residents will be guided towards wider markets for their products, guest houses and crafts. Karoo Space will provide academics and students with a forum, a platform to air their views, a way to gain input for their ideas and a place to present papers. There is something for everyone in Karoo Space, even armchair travelers will enjoy meeting some unusual characters on these pages and enjoy the awesome beauty of the area.


Photojournalists Chris and Julie Marias have done it again. They are launching Karoo Keepsakes II in mid-August. Like its predecessor, this beautifully illustrated, well-written little book promises to be a winner. A “chubby” companion to the first book in the series – which truly was a keepsake – this book is jam-packed with interesting stories, information and awesome pictures. Many new intriguing characters step from its pages. There’s more information about where to find the action, where to go to rest, unwind and simply relax. More next month regarding costs and ordering, but it you can’t wait contact


Graham Ross has just finalised the fifth edition of Mountain Passes, Roads and Transportation in the Cape – a Guide to Research. As with the fourth edition, it is available only in electronic format. These 760 pages works are intended as a reference guide book, not like Graham’s The Romance of Cape Mountain Passes, – now also in its fifth impression and an excellent read. Graham is prepared to e-mail electronic copies of his guide free of charge to serious researchers needing information on the early roads and development of the mountain passes.


The Karoo’s Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Team received an award at the 15th 2012\13 National Science and Technology-BHP Billiton Gala Dinner in June. When presenting these Professor Brenda Wingfield, said: “Science, technology and engineering are the keys to Africa’s future. Those who excel in these areas should be acknowledged and these fields should be promoted as potential careers for school leavers. We must now look forward and plan for the next 50 years and beyond.” On the winning team were Tracy Cheetham, general manager: Infrastructure and SKA Site Operations; Kim De Boer, general manager, people support and development, communications and Project Secretariat; Willem Esterhuyse, MeerKAT project manager; Dr Bernard (Bernie) Fanaroff, SKA project director and Dr Adrian Tiplady, SKA Site bid manager, Johannesburg.


The art courses, which started at Doornkuil Guest farm in May this year, have proved extremely popular. All who have so far attended have claimed them to be “an exceptional experience”. Organiser, Cecile Blevi, says: “Art is an excellent way of expressing enjoyment of the Karoo environment. For this reason we have tried to cover all aspects of art in our classes which are ideal for beginners, competent amateurs and reasonably skilled artists.” The courses continue from August. Theo Paul Vorster teaches linocut techniques from August 5 to 9; Derric van Rensburg teaches acrylics from August 26 to 30, mixed media is presented by Izak Volgraaff from September 23 to 27 and a pastel course will be presented by Coral Fourie from October 21 to 25. Costs, per person excluding accommodation, are: R1800 and with accommodation from R3200 to 3500. “Staying on the farm is a truly inspirational experience as it is located in a beautiful, picturesque area. Delegates are allowed sufficient time to breakaway and enjoy tennis, cycling, swimming or walking.


The Karoo Development Foundation is holding a “Karoo Parliament” at Philipstown in the Northern Cape on the 11th of October. All role players interested in the development of this area should attend


Infantry Private J H C Waddington, wrote a rather touching letter to his family back in England during the Anglo-Boer War. He said: ‘We have been busy marching up and down the line chasing the enemy for over 200 miles out of Cape Colony and into the Free State. We have had some big fights with the enemy and God knows we are all sick of it now. I as it has been rough and hard work for all of us. I can tell you we have had some suffering in one way or another, what with hard marching and getting little or no rest. Our clothes are all worn out and ragged, and most of our boots have no soles. They pinch our feet dreadfully when we walk. I tell you no wonder we are sick of it. The fighting is the best part, but, of course, it is dangerous.” He concluded on a heart-rending note: “I feel rather lonely and lost now. All my chums are either killed or wounded.”


Way back in February 1924, an 107-year old Karoo citizen amazed Johannesburgers by arriving in that city in the side car of a motorbike. The Star reported that this “survivor of the Voortrekkers,” announced that he had “keenly enjoyed the trip”. Mr A A Zietsman, who had celebrated his 107th birthday on December 7 the previous year, was in excellent health. He came from Kromdraai, where has had been living with his 80-year-old son. Zietsman, who was born in Uitenhage in 1810, married at the age of 25 and had six children, all of whom were still alive. At the age of 50 he married for a second time, had twelve daughters, nine of whom were still living. He told the newspaper reporter that he had initially left the Colony with the Great Trek, fought at Blood River, but returned to his Karoo farm. His legs were giving him trouble now, he said, so his was looking forward to getting as pair of crutches, to assist him in getting church more easily.


Isaac Wiggill was a miller, wheelwright and wagon maker. An entrepreneurial man, he brought his wife and four children to South Africa with Bradshaw’s party of 1820. The family was keenly looking forward to a new life in a new land when they settled in the Eastern Cape. Like most of his compatriots Isaac tried his hand at farming, but found the area harsh, inhospitable and prone to fires, fanned by capricious winds. Still, this did not daunt him, he chose another path. He decided to move to Grahamstown and build a mill, writes Eric Turpin in Grahamstown – Hub of the Eastern Cape. Researching the story Ivor Markman found that Isaac built a lovely round timber tower, surrounded by light boarding on the south side of a little hiss and included his residence and workshop were included in the design. In a story in The Herald of July 25, 2005, he states that one day while Isaac and his son, Eli, were in the woods, some kilometres away, collecting timber Mrs Wiggill went to town to shop. Unfortunately she had left a fire going in a multipurpose fireplace close to the building. A sudden gust of wind sent embers flying onto the mill and set both it and the home area ablaze. By the time Isaac and Eli saw smoke and raced home there was little more than smouldering embers left. However, the pillar holding the sails of the mill stood firm and, fanned by the wind they continued to turn “with frantic velocity” said an eye witness, “It looked for all the world like some giant, fighting an unseen enemy, till they too came down with a crash,” said Mr C Webb, who had witnessed the event. Isaac lost everything, but his spirit.


After a few days Isaac appealed to the local magistrate to give him some land near the river so that he could build a water mill. Felling sorry for the family, the magistrate acceded to this request and before long Isaac had constructed a little watermill close to the water. He also built a millpond and millrace to the mill. The system worked well until one of the Karoo droughts set in drying the river to a trickle. There was not enough water to fill the millpond without depriving the local inhabitants of their needs the water fiscal was sent to break down the millpond wall. Undaunted, Isaac built another windmill, and when the drought ended, he rebuilt the millpond and was said to have made a good living both mills.


At last it seemed that life was smiling on the diligent Isaac. He decided to convert the watermill into a residence and to hire out the windmill to a newly-arrived Berkshire man. All went well, but only for a short while. One day a young man arrived and asked for his load of corn to be ground. The Berkshire miller had business in town, but agreed to allow the visitor grinding his own corn. The young man was in a hurry. He dumped his grain in the hoppers and set the sails to spin as fast as the wind would drive them. “Slow down, slow down,” cried the Berkshire miller before he departed. “Don’t put on so much power. You’ll set the mill afire.” The young man seemed to take heed, but as soon as the Berkshire miller departed, he sped up the mill again. By midnight the corn was ground. The young man hopped onto his cart and drove off. An evil little breeze way playing about and it fanned flames from the overheated millstones. An hour later the mill was ablaze, with flames fanned by a much stronger west wind that blowing the fire across to Isaac’s homely thatched cottage. Soon it too was a raging inferno.


Isaac decided to move on, but he did not give up. Dates and details are scanty, but it seems by 1843 he was in business again. This time in the Kaal Hoek Valley, where he built both a windmill and watermill on the This windmill had a most peculiar design – its rotors were on top of the building. They turned like a helicopter’s blades and could be used way, no matter which way the wind was blowing. At last, it seemed that Isaac had conquered the wind, but sadly not said Brian Miles, owner of the farm. By the end of the Eighth Frontier War this mill too was a ruin, but I am not sure what happened.”Isaac died at Uitenhage on February 21, 1863, at the age of 73.


Way back in the 1800s a stranger knocked on the door of a Victoria West farmhouse. Mrs. Cowan opened the door to a rather suave, good looking man looking for accommodation for the night. She was rather reluctant to invite him in as her husband, David, was away on business. She told the stranger this but, with, a disarming smile he said: “I am Scotty Smith, and I have never harmed a woman.” Still rather dubious about letting him sleep over in the house, Mrs. Cowan showed him to an outside room and she later took him some supper. Early next morning she sent her servant across to the room with some coffee for him, but the girl brought it right back. The man she said had already gone, but he had left a letter on the bed. Mrs. Cowan opened it. “Thank you for the room and food,” it said. “I am sorry I have had to borrow two of your horses. When your husband returns, tell him to go to the Beaufort West Hotel in ten days time and he will find them there.” The rather cynical David Cowan did exactly that and to his amazement found his horses waiting for him.

Scotty Smith, it seems was always as good as his word. He never reneged on a payment and always returned horses that he “borrowed”.


Construction of the Amakhala Emoyeni Wind Farm, between Cookhouse and Bedford in the Eastern Cape, is underway. This wind farm, which will consist of 66 Suzlon 2.1 MW turbines with a combined installed capacity of 138.6 MW, will be the biggest of its kind in Africa. The first 16 turbines, massive towers and 44-m-long blades arrived in Port Elizabeth in May. Since then eight huge 34-metre long trucks, travelling at about 60km an hour, have trundled along the N10 from Coega to the Patryshoogte road south of Bedford carrying material and equipment to the wind farm site. They will continue to ply this route every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning until the end of January 2014, says an item on Karoo Space. The Olifantskop Pass will be closed for 45 minutes from about 10h00 on these days so that the trucks can negotiate the curves without endangering traffic. The 138 megawatts of power generated at this wind farm will be fed into the existing Eskom grid at the substation on the Patryshoogte road.


The Farmer’s Chronicle of Thursday, September 4, 1890, reported that a Karoo farmer had sued for divorce on the grounds that his wife had hit one spot on his head with a rolling pin for 19 years. His physician, he said, had told him that he would certainly have softening of the brain unless she selected another spot. His wife, however, declared she was too old to change her ways.


One of the greatest problems facing the earliest travelers into the hinterland was finding drinking water. In an article on Meerhoff’s Castle, an outspan, on the route to Namibia, in The Cape Odysssey, No 98, July/August, 2012, Roger Stewart states that the first visitors to reach this place in the 1660s were desperately thirsty having crossed the hot, dry Knersvlakte in the middle of summer. The found the water undrinkable. It was brackish and stinking, and it tasted of salt and saltpeter. Twenty years later, on reaching this spot, Olof Bergh stated: “Our cattle were dead beat and could go no more. By digging we found naught but salty water.” Neither man, nor beast, got their fill of water that night. Each had only a little of the brack, muddy water. The missionary John Campbell stopped there in 1813. He was totally unimpressed. He wrote: “The dirtiest puddle that ever lay on one of London’s Streets would be a treat compared to it. Indeed, I thought so at the time and would have given a (rix) dollar for a tumbler full of it, we left this fountain without any regret.”

The real trick is to stay alive as long as you live – Ann Landers

Her real name was Esther “Eppie” Lederer. She took over The Chicago Sun-Times Ann Landers column in 1955 By the time she died on June 22, 2002, at the age of 83, she was hailed as the most successful advice columnist in history. Her column appeared in over 1,200 newspapers worldwide and was read by about 90 million people. Esther’s twin sister, Pauline, was “Dear Abby”.