Rose’s Round-Up February 1995 No 23


The original route from Beaufort West to the plateau of the Nuweveld Mountains has been rediscovered. Originally built in the mid-1830s by farmers, such as Pieter Jacobs of Slangefontein, it linked isolated farms, like Bokkekraal, to the town. The route, which once was a footpath, and which in time was used by horses and wagons, is in the Karoo National Park. According to manager Dries Engelbrecht, it is ideally situated to become part of a new section of the park’s 4 x 4 route. This route at the park is said to be one of the most exciting in the country. It has been highly praised because it has caused no ecological damage. The old pass was found by historic researcher, Arnold Hutchinson. In his efforts to trace work done by road-builder, Thomas Bain, he also found the old Roseberg Pass, the original route of today’s De Jager’s Pass. It initially passed east of the farm De Hoop. A special resting point, Die Rus, was built just before the road moved into the mountains, to ease the task of draft animals. Arnold has a copy of the original calico map drawn by Thomas Bain.


Hollanders attending the recent Utrecht Vakantiebeurs showed a great interest in the Karoo. Many said that they were looking forward to visiting this “faraway desert world” and were amazed to learn that it actually is not a desert. Various travel journalists in the Netherlands have written articles about the Karoo and the area is thus quite widely known. The majority of people visiting the show stand said that they would love to visit the Karoo National Park, stay on a farm and wander through the veld to see sheep, fossils, rocks and the variety of plants that they have read about. One group of people enquired about the possibility of spending New Year’s Eve – as the world moves from 1999 to 2000 – in the Park. “This must be the one place in the world where the start are brightest,” they said.


There is a new information “I” in Donkin street in Beaufort West and this has led to a vast increase in the number of tourists calling in at the Regional Tourism Information office. Many more foreign tourists have popped to discuss routes through the area and to acquire detailed information on what to see and do and where to stay. Several people who once lived in Beaufort West have come in to discuss the town as it was in their time. Some, whose relatives one owned businesses here in the last century have popped in enquiring about the town’s history. Some who claim ancestors left them town maps revealing the location of buried gold in the mountains have also stopped to check whether there’s any truth in these tales. The tales of elusive gold abound and some farmers claim they know of people who have filled tobacco bags with alluvial gold from the streams and rivers of the Nuweveld Mountains and sold this to tide them over difficult times.


By a strange co-incidence one of the surgeons who taught Professor Chris Barnard, when he decided to specalise in surgery, is also a son of Beaufort West. Victor Dubowitz, now an eminent professor of medicine in London, recently visited while on a tour of the Cape Province to show his wife and sons his old home town. Special arrangements were made for them to visit the Barnard House and Museum. Victor Dubowitz’s grandfather started a business in the town during the last century. His father, uncle and aunt, Annie Finkelstein, all lived in the town. The visit to the museum, a drive through town and a walk through the Jewish cemetery all brought back a flood of memories.


The Wagon Wheel Motel, just outside Beaufort West, has been completely upgraded. The new owners, Ria and Terence Young, didn’t spare time, effort or money with the refurbishment of this popular overnight an accommodation venue. Wall to wall carpets have been installed throughout the complex, old furniture has been replaced and new linen acquired for all rooms. The buildings have all been repainted both inside and out. The result? Satour has granted the complex two stars.


Wounds suffered by a British officer in an engagement in the Karoo during the Anglo-Boer War is thought to have led directly to the death of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and all members of the polar party that accompanies him on his search for the south pole. This dramatic story will be told by Mrs Taffy Shearing when she addresses the Military History Society in Cape Town on March 9. Her talk will deal with Lieutenant Titus Oates and the part he played in the attack on Aberdeen during the Boer War. He was badly wounded, and several injuries did not heal. They still caused him pain when, in 1910, he joined Captain Scott’s expedition to the South Pole on the Terra Nova. Crossing the ice increased his pain. Like the rest of the party he was desperately disappointed at the success of Amundsen. His pain turned to depression. Sickness, too little food and bad weather made the return journey a nightmare. Oates became too ill to travel. He left the shelter one stormy night announcing: “I’ll be some time.” He did not return Scott, Wilson and Bowers waited for him and this caused their deaths.


The Tourism and Information Office of the Central Regional Services Council is to co-operate with the War Museum in Bloemfontein to disseminate information about the Boer War to interested parties. This museum is responsible for the planning and co-ordination of the Boer War Centenary in 1999. The RSC Tourism Office has already collected all the necessary background details of both Boer and British soldiers who were killed or who died in the Karoo and where they are buried as well as on the condition of their graves. A Central Karoo committee is being formed to co-ordinate all information in the region and set us a programme for the answering of questions.


The Boer War interest group that organised the special Boer War Week at George Museum last year is arranging a follow up for October. Peter Greeff will present a similar programme with talks and slide show by experts. The highlight will be a field trip which will follow the route which General Jan Smuts and his raiders took through Meiringsport, De Rust, along the foothills of the Swartberg and into the Hell. The Smuts raids through the Karoo were considered to be among the most daring of the war. They are now covered in a new book entitled Jan Smuts’s Memoirs of the Boer War. This has been compiled from his own campaign notes.


A French family that recently stayed at Mordant, in the Three Sisters area, were most impressed with the farm, its hospitality and the menu. Marieta van der Merwe’s table, they said was loaded with excellent food and to them looked “just like a French restaurant”.


Many researchers are working on the history of the Boer War in the Karoo. Some are researching graveyards; others specific battles and one is busy preparing a thesis on blockhouses. Obviously, the structures in the Karoo and their condition are of great importance to him. A copy of the Regional Services Council’s Tourist Office’s publication The Blockhouse Route from The Cape to the Orange River has been sent to him. Johan Loock, of the Department of Geology at the University of the Free State, has discovered evidence of an unkind block house outside Beaufort West. He sent a photocopy from a book giving details of the war in the Karoo and showing that the old Beaufort West Powder Store had been turned into a most unusual blockhouse.


The Prince Albert Olive festival is scheduled to be held again on May 25 and 26 this year. The organizing committee is hard at work in an effort to ensure that this year’s festival will be the best yet. Planning is now at an advanced stage and the committee is already busy selling stall space in front of the museum in the main street. The cost of a stand on the festival terrain is R110. This includes a “Gold Rush” ticket.


Two journalists are currently researching the culinary delights of the Karoo. Dene van Zyl, of De Kat, is compiling a special recipe book on the people and the stories behind the foods of the Karoo. In it she will discuss the diets of the Bushmen who lived on roots, leaves, wild plants, grass seeds, locusts, honey, gum, fish, reptiles and ant larvae, which the colonists called Bushman rice. Many believe that hey used honey medicinally and for making beer. The Hottentots ate a variety of plants, fish and meat. One of their arts that has been lost is making earthenware pots capable of withstanding great heat. Dene is also researching special dishes of the Black tribes and the way in which local fare developed from traditional European recipes. Elaine Hurford, of Prince Albert, is also busy compiling a recipe book. With the Olive Festival in mind, it will be a collection of olive recipes. These will be published in booklet form and sold to raise funds for the SPCA


Henkie le Roux, from Prince Albert, was recently travelling through Die Gang on his way to Klaarstroom, when something unusual caught his eye. It was a lovely warm summer’s day and he was relishing the beauty of the Swartberg and that part of the Karoo. Deep in thought he approached Kareedouw Pass and, suddenly as he rounded one of the bends, he saw a huge leopard just lying in the middle of the road. “It was almost as if he was enjoying the sun and the heat of the tar,” said Henkie. “When he heard the hum of the car’s engine approaching, he got up, loped alongside the car for a while until he got his bearings, and then just vanished into the undergrowth and into the veld. I never saw him again.”


The tales of the Karoo include a great many love stories. One romantic tale intrigues the guests at the Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein. Here two magnificent portraits grace the foyer. One is of a man, who seems to be a British soldier, and the other is of a beautiful woman. Legend has it that he was indeed a British officer, who was wounded nearby, and that she was the nurse that cared for him till his health was restored. The two, it is said, fell in love. Nearby, at the Monument Cemetery, there is a marble cross on the grave of famous cricketer, George Alfred Lohmann. It was sent to be placed on his grave by a lady friend in England, who cared greatly for him. When war correspondent Jack Spooner died at Deelfontein, an unknown woman sent St Joseph’s lilies for 50 years, on the anniversary of his death, to be placed on his grave. And, at Stellenboschvlei, near Murraysburg, Captain Boyd King’s fiancé’s tied her scarf to his headstone in a moment of sorrow, when she visited his grave after the war. It fluttered here for almost a century, then simply disintegrated and blew away.


The Regional Tourism Organisation has made funds available for the training of labourers on hunting farms. This five-day course, which is being presented with the help of the hunting industry and the Agricultural Foundation will teach labourers how to cut up carcasses and how to carve with various cuts of meats. They will also be trained in the making of biltong and tanning of hides There will be an exam at the end of the course and successful delegates will be given certificates This course forms part of the Central Karoo Regional Services Council’s training agenda for under-privileged people.


A new venue for farm holidays has opened on the slopes of the Nuweveld Mounains n the outskirts of Beaufort West. In a superb setting close to town and offering magnificent views of the town and its surrounds, the huge old house Lemoenfontein is being converted to accommodate farm holidaymakers. The house was built in the last century as a sanatorium when the farm Kuilsport was divided. It has huge rooms, high ceilings, and possibly the largest verandah in the Karoo. The house has an interesting and chequered history. It has been a hospital, a home, a hunting lodge and a gambling den. Many are the ales told of snooker games in its huge reception rooms. Currently being refurbished, Lemoenfontein, now the home of Howard and Jennifer Gird, offers a variety of accommodation with many more options of the drawing board.


There now is a new guest house in Prince Albert and it offers accommodation at most affordable prices. Known as Die Olyfhuis, this little cottage, which is ideal for a family holiday, is fully equipped and offers accommodation for six people. The cottage has its own vineyard and dam and offers outstanding views of the mountains. It is manager by Elaine Hurford, owner of Dennehof.


Laings Lodge, the popular bed and breakfast overnight stop in Laingsburg has now been graded and accredited as a guest and country house by Satour. This homely, affordable guest house offers luxury accommodation with TV and telephones in all rooms, as well as tea, coffee, kettles and cups. There is a splash pool in a pleasant garden for hot summer days. Several World Rugby Cup enthusiasts have already made bookings at Laings Lodge to avoid the crush of Cape Town.


There is now a tea garden at the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert. It is open from 08h00 to 17h00 each day and is managed by Regina Billiet and Lynette Darby. This garden offers a delicious breakfasts and light lunches and is most popular among tour groups. School children are always welcome and these two ladies also offer a special discount for pensioners,


The highly endangered and extremely rare Riverine Rabbit was once hunted for the pot. Research reveals that the old-timers in the Karoo served this as a delicacy – a type of rabbit hotpot – which was one of the culinary delights of yesteryear. This rabbit was called a doekvoet (cloth foot), because of its large feet. It was also called a pondhaas (pound rabbit) because when the mature animal was skinned and ready for the pot it usually weighted exactly one pound.


There is a new festival in the Karoo. It is the Murraysburg Mensfees (people festival) and it is scheduled to take place from March 31 to April 2. The programme; includes a 4 x 4 competition, half marathon and many other sporting events. There will be a wide range of little stalls and family entertainment. Accommodation is available in the village.