A Canadian researcher has come to the Karoo to study the common but poorly known tent tortoise. Dr Thomas Leuteritz, a post-doctoral associate of Professor Retha Hofmeyr, of the University of the Western Cape, has set up base at Prince Albert to study the behaviour and breeding biology of Psammobates tentorius, better known as the tent tortoise or “knoppiesdop.” The project will run for three months east of Prince Albert at the Tierberg Karoo Research Centre, which is managed by Dr Richard Dean, of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of the University of Cape Town. To establish how far tortoises, move, where they nest and what they eat, Dr Leuteritz has fixed transmitters to 12 female and eight male tortoises. A radio receiver now tracks their daily movements. Keen youngsters recently helped Dr Leuteritz. During a two-day veld school, arranged by science teacher Jacobus Minnaar and Dr Sue Dean, seventh grade learners from Prince Albert Primary School helped Dr Leuteritz collect data. “At this veld school these children not only learned about tortoises,” said Sue, “but they also studied the effects that shadows cast by Karoo shrubs have on soil temperatures and learned of the importance of vegetation in the conservation of tortoises and other special Karoo animals.”


‘n TV-span van die Kyknet program, Kwela, het onlangs weer in die Karoo besoek afgelê om ‘n spesiale feestyd program te verfilm. “Die hoofdoel is om feestydreisigers te probeer oortuig om meer dikwels in klein dorpies langs die hoofroete na die Kaap te stop vir ‘n blaaskans,” sê kameraman André Calitz. “Min Gautengers besef hoe baie daar te sien en doen is in hierdie afgeleë plekkies.” Die aanbieder van die program, Susan Booyens, was self verbaas met wat sy in die klein dorpies ervaar het en met die vriendelike ontvangs by omtrent elke plek In die Sentrale Karoo het Ludriena Cilliers, ‘n klank engenieur wie in Richmond groot geword het, die span bygestaan. Die program bevat onderhoude by die rotstekeninge van Nelspoort as ook by die Barnard uitstalling in Beaufort-Wes Museum. Die span het ook ingeloer by Ellis se Fietswinkel, die oudste besigheid in Beaufort-Wes, en is ook na die Karoo Nasionale Park. Daarna is die span Laingsburg toe om meer uit te vind oor die Wolfaardt-versameling en om by Matjiesfontein te kuier. Die program word op 4 Desember uitgesaai.


A TV-crew from the “Kyknet” TV programme, Kwela, recently visited the Karoo to film a special series for the Festive Season. “The main aim is to encourage travellers to stop more frequently, stretch their legs and visit small towns along the main route to the Cape,” said cameraman André Calitz. “Few Gautengers realise how much there is to see and do en-route.” Presenter Susan Booyens was pleasantly surprised at the friendly reception at virtually every stop. In the Central Karoo, Ludiena Cilliers, a sound engineer, born and bred in Richmond, assisted the team. The programme includes interviews at the rock art site at Nelspoort, and Beaufort West, where the team visited the Barnard exhibition in the museum, Ellis’s Cycles, the oldest shop in town, and the Karoo National Park. From there it was on to Laingsburg to find out more about the Wolfaardt collection and later to visit Matjiesfontein. The programme will be broadcast at 20h00 on December 4.


The isolated yet bustling Shell outlet at Three Sisters in the Karoo has been voted this year’s Ultra City of the Year. In making this announcement Ian Page, franchise manager of Shell in the Cape, said: “The customers actually make the award. They vote for the place where they have had the best experience and get the best service. I think that this is a wonderful achievement for Three Sisters, particularly when one considers the location of the complex. It is virtually in the middle of nowhere at the fork of the busy N12 and N1 routes. The fact that it is from here that Piet Steenkamp, who only recently acquired the outlet, and his staff, deliver the best service in the country, is certainly worthy of congratulations.”


Bottles are big in the lives of Al and Ethleen Lastovica, of Wynberg. They have not only been collecting bottles for over 20 years but have also written three books on the subject from a South African perspective. Round-up reader Peter Spargo asked them to comment on “Never Mind the Drink,” published in Round-up 106. “Midge Carter must have come across the last marble-stoppered bottles used in South Africa,” says Ethleen. “We thought that manufacturers stopped using these in the 1930s. Marble-stoppered bottles, called ‘Codds’ after the man who patented the design in the 1870s, were used by fizzy drinks manufacturers for almost 60 years. Then the many cases of poisoning related to excessive consumption of carbonated drinks began to worry medical men. They soon discovered the cause of the problem was the antimony rubber washer in the neck of the bottle. Codd bottles were most unhygenic. The glass had so many nooks and crannies that the bottles could not be cleaned properly before re-use. “But, the bottles were strong and mineral water manufacturers were loath to get rid of them. ‘Why buy newfangled, clean-cut, crown-top bottles when the old Codds were still sound?’ they argued,” said Ethleen. In their book on South African pottery ginger beer bottles, the Lastovicas have pictures of bottles used long ago by the Beaufort West Mineral Water Company and mineral water manufacturers in Victoria West, Richmond, Noupoort, Cradock and Oudtshoorn.


Prince Albert organiseer ‘n spesiale “Karoo Carols by Candlelight” diens op 1 Desember. Alle kore en gemeentes in die dorp sal bymekaarkom om die Kersliedjies en stories onder die stêrre te vertel. “Ons vind hierdie jaarlikse diens is baie gewild onder toeriste in die dorp,” sê Toeristeburo voorsitter Di van der Riet Steyn.


Prince Albert is organising a special Karoo Carols by Candlelight service for December l. All choirs and congregations in the town will congregate to sing carols and tell the Christmas story under the stars. “We have found this annual event to be very popular with tourists,” said Tourist Bureau chairman Di van der Riet Steyn.



The story “A Karoo Link with Kew Gardens” in Round-up No 105 prompted British reader David Upton to respond. “Marianne North’s work is wonderful. I know it well as we live only a few hundred yards from the Marianne North Gallery in Kew Gardens. If her paintings had had been photographs and a few years later, they would have gone into National Geographic. Even though she didn’t focus on the Karoo in particular, perhaps Prince Albert should consider forming a real link with Kew,” writes David.


‘n Britse joernalis, Chris Logan, is deur Suid-Afrikaanse uitgewers Jonathan Ball aangewys om die eerste biografie oor Professor Chris Barnard, die pionier van hartoorplanting, te skryf. Logan het onlangs in Beaufort-Wes besoek afgelê om so veel moontlik nuwe agtergrondinligting in te win oor Chris Barnard se lewe. Hy soek veral stories van Barnard se jeugjare in die dorp en meer oor sy jong dae voor hy onder die soeklig beland het.


A British journalist, Chris Logan, has been contracted by South African publishers Jonathan Ball to write the first biography on world heart transplant pioneer, Professor Chris Barnard. Logan recently visited Beaufort West to begin gathering as much background material as possible. He is particularly interested in learning more about Barnard’s youth in early Beaufort West and his life before he rocketed to fame.


Much is made in modern business of going the extra mile to please a client, but this is really nothing new. Way back in the 1890s, a Beaufort West baker, confectioner and general dealer excelled at customer service. At the start of the 1893 festive season, P Krummeck advised clients that if they placed their orders in good time his carts would deliver fresh bread and other dainties to their doors early on Christmas and New Year’s mornings. “Those who forget to order should not fret. Our shop will be open from seven to eight on both days,” he said in Dutch in an advertisement.


Beaufort West’s airport has been sold and the old buildings remodelled into The Flight Deck, a guest house on the N1. Owners Nick and Philippa Wilson, formerly of Triangle, Zimbabwe, will soon open their doors. Brother-in-law Lionel Perreira, a qualified pilot, will reopen the airport and runways. The Flight Deck features four comfortable en-suite rooms, a guest lounge and a bar in the old control tower. These offer spectacular views of the Great Karoo and Nuweveld Mountains. “In addition to accommodation, we will provide light refreshments for pilots, air crew and tourists arriving at the airport. For a nominal fee there will be a shuttle service to town as well as holiday and hunting farms,” said Philippa. “Our cuisine will soon include fresh herbs and vegetables from our own gardens.” Philippa is no stranger to tourism. For several years she published a magazine on interesting stays along the N1 from Messina to Cape Town.


The rare fossilised remains of a creature once thought to be the “grandfather” of all tortoises and turtles has been found on Ezelfontein, the Merweville farm of Kobus Snyman, who is also principal of Zwartberg High School in Prince Albert. The almost complete, well-preserved Eunotosaurus fossil, found by Kobus’s 16-year-old son, also Kobus, was identified by local palaeontologist Dr Judy Maguire. It is only the tenth specimen of its kind to be found in the world. The first was found near Beaufort West in 1892. World famous palaeontologist Professor H G Seeley was the first to describe this specimen from the partial remains. “The Eunotosaurus is quite a rare type of primitive reptile about the size and shape of a terrapin, but without a shell,” says Dr Roger Smith, head of the Earth Sciences Division at the S A Museum in Cape Town. “However, it does have a very unusual rib cage – each rib is flattened so that they almost touch each other. Early workers thought that they were ancestral to tortoises – until they found one with the skull intact. This confirmed that they were not ‘anapsid’ reptiles like turtles and tortoises of today, therefore Elunotosaurus was not on their ancestral line. Specimens are confined to the lower part of the Beaufort Group of rocks and Late Permian in age. This means that they lived in the Karoo around 255 to 260 million years ago. The Eunotosaurus are part of the Tapinocephalus and Pristerognathus reptile zones that outcrop mostly between Laingsburg and Beaufort West, although recently another specimen was found in the Eastern Cape by Billy Klerk, of the Albany Museum.” Judy has been granted permission to display this rarity in the palaeonlological exhibit in the Fransie Pienaar Museum at Prince Albert. She says: “Here visitors will be able to clearly see the expanded ribs. They are so flat that they almost touch each other. This would have provided protection from predators.”


Die eerste inheemse hoof uitvoerende direkteur van nasionale museums in post-apartheid Suid-Afrika het ‘n diep verbintenis met die Karoo. Professor Henry C “Jatti” Bredekamp, wie onlangs aangestel is as hoof van ISIKO museums, se professionele verbintenis met die “asvaal ou Karoo” strek terug tot 1965 toe hy op 19-jarige ouderdom aangestel is as “Kleinmeester” van die destydse NG Sendingkerk plaasskooltjie op Bennie Frank se plaas, Kruidfontein, naby Leeu Gamka. “Indertyd was Kleinmeester ondermeer verantwoordelik vir die Sub B tot St 3 klasse en later, op versoek van die Inspekteur van Skole, moes ek ook ingryp om die arme Sub A-tjies reg somme te leer,” sê hy. Saam met die plaasmense en spoorwegwerkers van die kontrei moes Jatti ook in sy “aanmekaar getimmerde klaskamertjie” katkisasieklas loop. “Die klasse het onder die strenge toesig van die analfabetiese katkisasiemeester en evangelis, oom Awie de Klerk, geskied,” sê Jatti. Daarna het die Kleinmeester diaken vir die Kruidfonteinstasiewyk van die NG-Sendinggemeente Prins Albert geword en dit alles terwyl hy aanvanklik in ‘n ou bouvallige klein kamertjie van 4 x 2 meter op die skooltjie se perseel gewoon en geslaap het. Later moes hy sy intrek neem in die enigste leefbare kamer van ‘n bouvallige pomphuis op die plaas. Met die verplasing van die Xhosa-sprekende spoorwegwerkers uit die Karoo na die Transkei en Ciskei tuislande in die laat sestigerjare het Kruidfontein se leerlingtal so gedaal dat Jattie sy goedjies moes pak en ‘n onderwys pos op die Kaapse vlaktes gaan soek. Jattie sê die oeroue geestelike krag wat indertyd van die eensame Karoovlaktes uitgegaan het, het hom geinspireer tot verdere studie na-uurs by die Universiteit van Wes-Kaapland.


The first indigenous Chief Executive Director of National Museums in South Africa has a long association with the Karoo. Professor Henry C ‘Jatti’ Bredekamp, recently appointed head of the ISIKO museums, has a professional association with the “barren old Karoo” that stretches back to 1965, when, as a 19-year old youth, he was appointed teacher at the then Dutch Reformed Mission School on Bennie Frank’s farm, Kruidfontein, near Leeu Gamka. “In addition to being responsible for Sub B to Std 3 classes, the Inspector of Schools requested me to even teach the little Sub-A’s their sums,” he said. Jatti joined the farm labourers and railway workers at catechism classes in a tiny thrown-together classroom under the stern eye of the illiterate evangelist, Uncle Awie de Klerk. Shortly afterwards, the young schoolmaster was appointed deacon for the Kruidfontein Station Church Ward of the Prince Albert Mission congregation. All this happened while he lived in a tiny 4 x 2 metre room at the school. He later moved into the only habitable room in a derelict old pump house on the farm. When the Xhosa-speaking railway workers were transferred from the Karoo to the Transkei and Ciskei homelands in the late 1960s, attendance figures at Kruidfontein School dropped dramatically. Jatti had to take his few things and find another teaching job on the Cape Flats. “The spiritual strength the vast plains of the Great Karoo imbued me with, inspired me to further my studies after hours at the University of the Western Cape, and in time led me to the post I hold today,” said Jatti.



The road to Gamkaskloof, or The Hell, features on the cover of a new book on the famous passes of the Western Cape. Written by Graham Ross, a retired civil engineer and “padmaker” of note, the book captures the romance of building roads over some of the Cape’s most inhospitable mountain ranges. “The Cape has over 490 mountain passes. Many are over a century old and almost all are steeped in history, and as such are great tourist attractions,” says Graham. The Romance of Cape Mountain Passes, published by New Africa Books, retails at R200.



Beaufort-Wes se gewilde Safari Kamers is onlangs deur die Toerisme Graderingraad van Suid-Afrika (TGSA) in kennis gestel dat hulle met een stêr bekroon is. TGSA uitvoerende direkteur Dr Salifou Siddo het Safari Kamers geluk gewens en bevestig dat ‘n offisiële muurplaat en sertifikaat op pad is en dat hulle gebruik kan maak van die TGSA logo op enige bemarkingsmateriaal.


Beaufort West’s popular Safari Rooms has been granted one star by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGSA). In a letter of congratulations Dr Salifou Siddo, TGSA executive director advised Safari that their official plaque and certificate are on the way and that they may now use the TGSA logo on any marketing material.


British soldiers who spent their first Christmas of the Anglo-Boer War at Beaufort West in 1899 were surprised by a sumptuous traditional dinner. In an official letter of thanks in The Courier of January 9, 1901, J H Bowes Wilson, commanding officer of the West Riding Regiment, wrote: “The officers, non-commissioned officers and men have commissioned me to thank you all most heartily for the magnificent Christmas dinner you so kindly gave the troops stationed at the camp, bridges and kopjes. I assure you it was most thoroughly appreciated. The men did full justice to the good fare so thoughtfully provided. They are most grateful to their Beaufort friends. Please convey our heartfelt thanks to all ladies and gentlemen who by cash or other kindly assistance helped cheer all of us so very far from home.”


While some soldiers enjoyed the dinner, others were just plain homesick. Bt-Major, the Hon A V F V Russell, of the Grenadier Guards, spent two Christmases near Beaufort West. In his diary he wrote of being miserable so far from home. “This heat is very unlike Christmas. Dinner was so dreary that I left early. Even the church did not make me feel at home. The service was too commonplace.” On the evening of December 31, 1901, he had severe toothache. His face was swollen, and he felt lonely. He wrote; “Again, I do not feel cheery. And, tonight we are expected to march right out of one year and into the next. This will be my second festive season which has gone unmarked!”


Twee Zimbabwiërs met noue verbintenisse aan ou Beaufort-Wes en Prins Albert het onlangs in die Karoo gekuier. Pierre en Dawn Brummer het familiebande met Nico en Engela Brummer van Beaufort West, die Nels na wie Oudtshoorn se C P Nel museum vernoem is, en George C Rainier, eens magistraat van Prins Albert. “Ons gebruik nog twee silwer wynverkoelers en twee groot skinkborde wat die mense van Beaufort-Wes aan magistraat Rainier geskenk het in hoogagting vir dienste wat hy gelewer het,” sê Dawn. Die paar het ook Rainer se dagboek waarin hy vertel hoe gelukkig hy in die Karoo was. “Nou besef ons hoekom,” sê Dawn.


Two Zimbabweans with close ties to Beaufort West and Prince Albert recently visited the Karoo. Pierre and Dawn Brummer have family ties with Nico and Engela Brummer who once lived in Beaufort West, the Nels after whom Oudtshoorn’s C P Nel Museum was named and George C Rainier, an early magistrate of Prince Albert. “We still use two silver wine coolers and two huge silver trays which the people of Beaufort West once presented to Magistrate Rainer in appreciation of his services,” said Dawn. The couple also have Rainer’s dairy in which he tells of how happy he was in the Karoo. “We now know why,” said Dawn.


In September 1883, an electric lamp became a tourist attraction in Beaufort West. The local newspaper, The Courier, reported on September 28, that Mr Boye, a local shopkeeper, had “imported” the first electric light into Beaufort West and installed it at the entrance to his shop. “It is small, but it does shines brightly,” reported the newspaper. “For quite some time visitors will be ‘stepping out’ at night to see the light. We hope that more shopkeepers would follow this lead.” Only a week earlier Boye took Beaufort West by storm when he married the beautiful Miss Maddison by special licence at the home of her parents in Donkin Street. It was said he swept her off her feet so suddenly that the family had no time to send out invitations. “Yet a goodly number of friends were there to toast the handsome couple before they departed in a shower of rice and orange blossoms for a short honeymoon on Peter Rose’s Nuweveld mountain farm,” The Courier reported. “Friends partied well into the night and enjoyed an excellent wedding cake provided by a friend of the groom.”


A stranger appeared in Beaufort West one bleak winters’ day in the 1880s and asked a young horse cart driver to take him to Murraysburg. The stranger was never seen again and Van Niekerk, the cart driver, was found murdered alongside the road. The Murraysburg magistrate and doctor were called to the scene. They said Van Niekerk appeared to be asleep in his seat, but as they approached, they saw his head had been stoved in. It seemed he had also been robbed. The Pienaars of Waaifontein reported that Van Niekerk had passed the previous day and purchased a firearm and ammunition from them. Perhaps he had then already been nervous of his passenger, but he said nothing. Neither the firearm nor ammunition were ever found. However, farmers in that vicinity say that over the years they’ve seen lights near where Van Niekerk was murdered. Many are convinced he still roams the road in search of vengeance.