There is so much happening in the Karoo that I can’t hold on to the news until I create a September issue in the middle of the month, so here’s a special issue of Round-up.


Most authors seek a quiet, peaceful place in which to write. Cradock has the answer. Litnet, together with Die Tuishuise and Victoria Manor, has just announced the launch of a Resident Authorship Project which offers authors the opportunity to write in a comfortable, undisturbed, tranquil surroundings. To officially kick off the project Litnet and Die Tuishuise invited poet, Bibi Slippers, to become their 2022 entry writer. From 2023, Litnet will annually invite writers to apply for resident authorship. Bibi is now working in one of the cottages named after Litnet’s editor and author, Etienne van Heerden,. His association with Cradock and the Karoo dates back to his youth and is central to his books. Cradock is also home to the Etienne van Heerden Veld Soiree and Schreiner Karoo Writers’ Festival and he is a regular guest at both of these. During their stay resident writers are expected to pay at least one visit to a Cradock school to talk to learners and educators about authorship, books and reading. More from Lisa Antrobus at lisa@tuishuise.co.za


The establishment of the Rose Willis History Centre in Loxton on The Forgotten Highway is a step closer. It took two helpers, Mannini Johanna Jobo and her nephew, Mpho Peter Jobo, organized by Angela Allison, a full day to pack all the books in the two-room library on Chez Nous. They estimated 50 good-sized boxes would do the trick, but halfway through Angela had to rush out to but more boxes. In the end two trailers brought 85 boxes of books into Bloemfontein from where Christo Volschenk and Ingrid Schöffmann from Loxton collected them. Christo, also a journalist, recently returned to South Africa and bought a house almost next door to the house which once belonged to his grandfather and where he once spent many happy hours while growing up. These books represent over 30 years of research into the Karoo, its history, pre-history, people, plants and animals. That’s why, even though it was a fearful wrench to part with them, I wanted to keep them together. I can no longer live on the farm and have no other place of residence except for this facility where I am learning to walk again. I am convinced my library has gone to a good home in the beautiful little town of Loxton, which itself has a fascinating history. The history centre is inviting any other historians looking for a good home for their collections, part of their collection or even just a few books to contact Christo on 083566 0359 or at christo.volschenk@gmail.com. Round-up will keep you informed on the progress of this project.


The Karoo Development Foundation (KDF) has launched another exciting project – The Forgotten Highway Route. The purpose of this 1000 km route is to encourage modern day tourists to take a step back in time and explore. Once only a rough, rugged track from Tulbagh and Ceres to Kuruman, it crossed the dry Northern Cape interior – the thirstland. It was used by the !Xam, KhoeKhoe, Tswana, Xhosa, missionaries and explorers; by men on foot, men riding oxen, on horses, in wagons and carts. It led to Reverend Robert Moffat’s humble home and little mission station and from there rambled on into Central Africa. This is one of the most exciting projects the KDF has launched since it achieved the registration of Karoo lamb as a Geographic Indicator in 2015. (For details of the latter see www.karoomeatoforigin.com and www.karoofoundation.co.za).


To celebrate the opening of The Forgotten Highway. The Great Highway Expedition will set off from Sutherland on October 20, and travel northwards to Griquatown. This expedition will be led by well-known equestrian Piet Coetzer. He will travel in a picturesque, old-fashioned wagon drawn by six magnificent Vlaamperd horses The Vlaamperd is a South African breed of light draught or harness horse; it is also suitable for riding. It was bred in the Western Cape in the early 20th century, and is the result of cross-breeding local mares with imported European stallions, particularly Friesians. Piet has already caused quite a stir driving this team through villages like Sutherland and Fraserberg. Anyone who would like to join this three-week long expedition, follow in the footsteps of ancient travellers, stretch their horizons and learn more about early users of the route should contact Piet at pietcoetzer1@gmail.com, or whatsapp 073 852 7420.


The Forgotten Highway Route traverses several Karoo regions. Among these are the Ceres Karoo, Roggeveld, Nuweveld, Bo-Karoo, Griqualand West, the Ghaap, and into the Kalahari. From 1823, the Moffat Mission at Kuruman was a pivotal stop for people wishing to travel deeper into Africa as well as for people from Central Africa travelling to the Cape. Research reveals that before moving in either direction travellers were hospitably received in the humble home of Reverend Robert Moffat and his wife, Mary. They lived at a mission station which was actually started by missionaries William Edwards and Robert Hamilton, but after Robert Moffat joined them in 1820, his name became synonymous with the Kuruman Mission. He with his wife Mary remained at this station until 1870. Robert was a Scottish lad born to poor parents in Ormiston, East Lothian, on December 12, 1795. His mother, was a devoted Christian woman, who taught her son to love the Bible and to read it daily. Robert loved gardening and worked as a gardener before moving into the missionary field. Just knowing how to create a garden served him well in his missionary work. It is said that one day his old pastor was pacing back and forth in the churchyard wondering if his efforts had brought any soul to Christ. He heard a sob coming from the shrubbery and there is said to have the young Robert in tears at the prospect of this man’s retirement. In his grief he opened his heart and told the old minister of his desire to go to far lands and preach the Gospel, writes Jessie Brown Pounds in Pioneer Missionaries: Short Sketches of the Lives of the Pioneers in Missionary Work in Many Lands. Within a few years Robert’s desire was fulfilled.


Robert Moffat came to Africa in 1816. He was 21 years old. “It is said that a wise marriage more than doubles a man’s power,” writes Jessie. Certainly Moffat’s marriage was a wise one. Mary Smith was a young, naturally religious English girl who was educated in a Moravian school, where missionary enthusiasm ran high. Her was totally devoted to her life’s work; her wit and good sense were unfailing. “There was scarcely a more charming character in all missionary history,” adds Jessie. Mary and Robert were married in Cape Town in 1819. After a while they settled in Kuruman, where they stayed for 50 years, despite some serious discouragements. “The people among whom they found themselves were unspeakably degraded. They stole everything they could carry away. The Moffat’s carried their cooking utensils to church, lest they be stolen. Robert’s garden was often raided and the sheep, of which he was so proud, seemed only to invite thieving. But, this brave couple never faltered. Their salary was meagre, their comforts small, but they made a real home out of rude materials and trusted in God. Theirs is one of the beautiful love stories of The Forgotten Highway.


People trickled into this area from the 1700s and before Among them were white and “baster” frontiersmen, hunters, fugitives, traders, explorers and missionaries. A steady stream of trekboers (migrant farmers) followed. There were !Xam Korana and Xhosa at Prieska and Canarvon, Griquas at Griquatown, and Thlaping near Kuruman. The groups met through widely differing encounters, such as trade, state craft, conflict, and religion, thus, the theme of the route is to be “encounters”. Well-trodden footpaths became a wagon route. This in time led to farms and small settlements. Today the towns along the route include Tulbagh, Ceres, Sutherland, Fraserburg, Williston, Loxton, Carnarvon, Vanwyksvlei, Prieska, Niekerkshoop, Griquatown, Danielskuil, Postmasburg, Campbell and Kuruman. There are also “cultural off-shoots”, into the southern Free State at places such as Philippolis – also a Griqua state – Witsand Nature Reserve in the Langeberg; and Olifantshoek, Kathu and Deben in the Kalahari. The Route has already awakened widespread interest. For more contact Prof Doreen Atkinson, at doreen@karoofoundation.co.za, or whatsapp 071 401 2583.


Its once again time for the Montagu Book Festival. It will be held in the historic old KWV building from August 26 to 28 and organisers hope to fill the venue with books and booklovers. They have thus put together an impressive programme, which includes well-known and lesser-known writers and other creative artists. Dr Diana Ferrus, celebrated writer, poet, and activist, will start the festivities on August 26 by facilitating a relaxed poetry workshop to encourage new poets to write about “who lives in their heads and hearts”. The official opening that evening will take the form of a panel discussion about the past and present roles of artists in the South African context. Dr Ferrus will be joined on the panel by internationally renowned sculptor and painter Dr Willie Bester, who was born in Montagu, Kirby van der Merwe, a writer and visual artist, and Montagu’s own Jannie Hanepoot, musician extraordinaire.


Saturday sessions will include a talk on the pleasures and pitfalls of translation by celebrated novelist and translator Michiel Heyns. Then, Francine Beaton, self-published romance author with 17 books under her belt and 8 in the pipeline will chat about the ins and outs of writing about everlasting love. A highlight will be the Montagu launch of local rock-climbing guru Tony Lourens’ guide to climbing. Cookbook publisher Annake Müller will discuss the challenges which independent publishers have to overcome and McGregor’s Hester van der Walt will reveal some tips from talk her flour-and-salt-and-water-and-yeast book. Kirby van der Merwe and Audrey Jantjies from Swellendam will reveal how characters in their various books are bound to the past. Two authors of the Penguin Random House will be featured. Erla-Marie Diedericks will talk about her full-blooded psychological thriller, Die Bewonderaar, which has been described as a ‘stripped’, ‘grotesque’ and “nerve-racking!”. Then, debut writer, Ilse Verster, will discuss So Lyk ’n Vrou. This disturbing book offers insights into challenges faced by abused women. who need to break their silences to grow emotionally after being in narcissistic relationships. The final program and ticket booking details are available on the Book Festival’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MontaguBoekefeesBookFestival/


On January 15, 1973, the Sucknow family, crossing Penhoek Pass near Queenstown just after midnight saw a 30m wide disc with large portholes hovering about 7m above the deserted road. An orange light illuminated the bottom of the craft, which was emitted orange-coloured smoke as it moved off. Two years later on the morning of July 31, 1975, a 66-year old farmer, Danie van Graan, spied an oval-shaped craft with rounded windows on his Loxton farm. It was resting on the ground supported by four prong-like legs, which left clear imprints. Looking through a large side window from 4m away he clearly saw four shortish, blond and sharp-chinned beings inside, operating various instruments. As soon as they became aware of his presence, they shone a bright beam of light on his face. He experienced a variety of sensations and his nose began to bleed. With that the craft’s took off at a sharp angle and sped away. On September 29, 1978, a Uitenhage resident reported a disc-shaped object taking off from the Groendal Nature Reserve. Three days later, on October 2, four Despatch school boys aged between 12 and 16, reported seeing three silvery-clad men in the reserve while hiking. Two of the men came from the direction of a shining object, and joined a third to ascend a steep incline on what seemed to be fins. Again everything suddenly disappeared. A set of nine regular imprints were found on the ground a month later. On December 27, 1998, the Laubscher family videotaped a group of roundish triangular craft passing over Graaff Reinet, at about 25,000 ft. These were changing colour – from red to blue and bright white. These lights sometimes circled one another, before being overtaken by a much larger, shiny, gold-coloured craft. At this point all the objects departed to a cloud bank on the horizon.


Over the years a great deal of dressed stone has been used in major, as well as minor buildings in South Africa. This can be seen in many towns, like Sutherland, and cities, like Bloemfontein, across the country. During the period 1858 to 1861, just over 3 800 immigrants were recruited in England, Scotland and Ireland and brought to the Cape Colony under the auspices of the Cape Town Immigration Council. These imported workers were badly needed to alleviate the then major local shortage of skilled workers. Among these immigrants was a number of well-skilled stonemasons who contributed greatly to the architecture of South Africa, against the backdrop of the discovery of diamonds and as the country became more of an attractive destination for opportunity seekers and adventurers, states Tania du Toit in The Origin of Stone Masonry in South Africa.


South Africa’s first telegraph system was set up on the hills outside Makhanda (Grahamstown) in 1843/44. This was done after the Imperial Government approved a line of signal towers, roads and bridges proposed by Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith George Lewis, Officer Commanding the Royal Engineers. He drew up plans for two lines of strongly fortified signal towers to improve communications between the frontier forts and a new barracks was at the old Drostdy in Grahamstown. The idea was good, but the system proved to be a total failure. The northern section of the line ran northwards from Governor’s Kop towards Graskop near Fort Brown, then on to Botha’s Post between the Kat and the Koonap Rivers, to Danshoogte about 11 km from Fort Beaufort and finally to a tower, south of this village. The eastern line went from Governor’s Kop via Fraser’s Camp tower and Piet Appel’s tower on the Fish River, then on to Fort Peddie. It branched off to Bathurst. Lewis, who had made a name for himself designing and erecting fortifications on the eastern frontier after the Sixth Frontier War, chose Governor’s Kop, a site 823 metres above sea level, because it afforded excellent views across the whole terrain right up to the Fish River. The plan was to send signals up and down the line to keep military headquarters in Grahamstown abreast of all events along the border and to allow them to take action when necessary. In their book A Narrative of the Kaffir War of 1850 – 1851, Godlonton and Irving record that these towers, built with great trouble at great expense, never were, nor ever would be of the slightest use.


The man responsible for overseeing the construction of these, the first signal towers in South Africa, was Henry Hall. Between 1843 and 1844 he supervised the construction of these and of barricades along the Fish and Kat Rivers. Some of the towers were built at existing forts. Each cost the equivalent of R1 000 and each was supposed to be equipped with signalling devices or semaphores, such as those of used in France and England. However, when the War of the Axe broke out (1846-47) only the towers of the northern line had been equipped, but this was useless because the semaphores were unsuited to the terrain and climate. In the early mornings when they were most needed, many of the towers were bathed in bright sunlight and this reflected off of the semaphore arms, playing the strangest tricks and rendering the signals undecipherable. In addition to this, the towers were completely isolated, so that the troops who manned them could obtain neither supplies nor water. After the first attack the towers were thus abandoned and consequently set alight by the Xhosa. In 1847 British annexed Kaffraria (the southeast part of the Eastern Cape – from King William’s Town, today known as Qonce, to East London) and in 1866 attached it to the Colony. The towers fell into disuse. Those that survived were handed over to the Colonial Government by the War Ministry.


In 1839 Henry Hall entered government service as a works foreman in the Royal Engineers Department, and three years later was transferred to the Cape Colony to be stationed on the eastern frontier. He had been privately educated until1828 when his father died. He then worked for about nine years for a Dublin firm of builders and government contractors. During that time he acquired a good knowledge of mathematics and other technical subjects. In 1845 he was promoted to clerk of works, fourth class, working at Fort Beaufort and Grahamstown. He was involved in some phases of the Frontier Wars in 1846 and 1851-1852. He returned to England for health reasons and worked for the inspector-general of fortifications for some time, however, in 1853 he was sent back to his earlier post at the Cape at his own request. In October 1857 he became a member of the Literary, Scientific and Medical Society, Grahamstown. The following year he was promoted to clerk of works, first class, in charge of the Royal Engineer Department in Cape Town, but was recalled to England in June 1860 and became a clerk in the office of the Colonial Secretary. Henry made several contributions to the geographical knowledge of the Cape and one of his books was used as a text book for schools. He made a name for himself in the field of cartography. Among his work was the first map of any consequence printed in South Africa. It was based on all information from the Cape surveyor-general and Royal Engineers. .

Mountain biking enthusiasts should diarise The Sneeuberg Crawl scheduled for December www.sneeubergcrawl.co.za phone 079 295 5521. *** Deo Volente farm, Robertson invites farming enthusiasts to enjoy a morning with goats on Saturdays from October 2, 2022 to February 28, 2023. More from DebBlake@satchel.co.za or whatsapp 083 520 7320 for costs.

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. – Groucho Marx