The first exotic party to greet the new millennium is now being planned for the Great Karoo. The Blue Train Company intends bringing two train loads of VIPs to the Karoo where they will see 1999 out under the stars and watch the sun rise on the new millennium across the vast, unspoiled plains of the Great Karoo. One of the team members organising this event is Delwin Kriel, of David Barrett and Co. He and his colleagues have spent considerable time reconnoitering possible venues, and are now preparing proposals for each. “The idea has gained nothing but positive response since it was first mooted. The thought of combining the ultra-luxurious, exotic Blue Train with the stark, wide open spaces of the Karoo has delighted everyone. Both are world famous. The Blue Train is rated among the world’s famous luxury trains and the Karoo is considered one of the most interesting arid zones in the world. The clear night skies of the Great Karoo are also world famous. In this theatre of nature we aim to create a magnificent party on the plains, with a cupola of southern night skies as backdrop. From start to finish, the party will be a five-star VIP event. Special dishes will be prepared by world-class chefs, and top musicians and entertainers will provide the entertainment. More than 200 guests will party away the old year until the Karoo dawn of the year 2000 is toasted at a champagne breakfast.”


Prins Albert Toerismeburo is druk besig met beplanning vir die Olyffees. Dit vind vanjaar plaas op 30 April en I Mei. “Aktiwiteite op die feesterrein sal deurentyd op die dorp en sy mense fokus,” se voorsitter Andrew Tudhope. “Stalletjies sal ‘n verskeidenheid plaaslike produkte en handwerk aanbied. Die gewilde ‘boereontbyt’ is te kry, sowel as gesogte produkte soos olywe, kaas, en droevrugte. Gehalte handwerk sal te koop aangebied word en daar sal demonstrasies van huisvlyt wees. lnskryfvorms vir ons fotokompetisie, wat nogal groot pryse op die spel het is by die toerismeburo beskikbaar. En ons beplan donkiekarritte, ‘n veteraanmotor optog, sowel as ‘n prettige program vol storievertellers en musikante. Koppie- en eko-uitstappies sal besoekers ‘n kans gee om die Karoo beter te leer ken, en daar sal ook ‘n historiese dorpsuitstappie wees.”


Dr Mike Fabricius has been appointed chief executive officer of Western Cape Tourism Board. He is scheduled to take up the position on April I. With a doctorate in geography, his strengths lie in tourism planning and development. In 1992, he held the position of director of the Institute for Planning at the University of Port Elizabeth. From there he moved to Satour as director of Tourism Development in 1995, and the following year took over as general manager of Holiday Africa, an incoming tour operator. He later joined the national Department of the Environmental Affairs and Tourism as chief director of tourism, reporting to Minister Pallo Jordan. Dr Fabricius is 40, and has a great affinity for tourism in rural areas. He sees great potential for growth in the Western Cape, and looks forward to the challenges of his new post. His grounding in tourism at all levels, locally, regionally, provincially, nationally and internationally, will be a major asset in the development of tourism in the province. Dr Fabricius is married to Helen and has two children, Marliese, 13, and Pieter, 15.


The first Shongologo Express train trip through the arid zones of Southern Africa has been hailed as “fabulous.” Fifty-two visitors from Holland, Germany. Britain, Canada and the USA booked on the inaugural 20-day excursion, and found the experience “unforgettable.” They boarded the train at Windhoek and set off to Tsumeb, from where the trip officially started. The first 10 days were spent visiting towns and game parks in Namibia. The first stop in SA was Upington. and then on into the Great Karoo. The tourists disembarked at Hutchinson and travelled by combi via Murraysburg to Graaff Reinet and later to Beaufort West, where they went on the historic walk in the afternoon and a night drive in the Karoo National Park. Then it was back on the train and off to Prince Albert Road. from where they set off by combi for Prince Albert and across the Swartberg Pass to the Cango Caves and Oudtshoorn. Then they went along the Smugglers Route through Seweweekspoort and Laingsburg to rejoin the train at Matjiesfontein. The final leg took them through the Winelands to Cape Town. The March trip is already fully booked.


Beaufort-Wes se Veteraanmotorklub het nou saamgespan met die plaaslike toerismeburo om die dorp te bemark. Daar is ‘n groot aanvraag, veral onder internasionale besoekers, vir ritte deur die Karoo Nasionale Park. Die manne van die Veteraanmotorklub het van die probleem te hore gekom en dit met Danie Gouws, kampbestuurder van die park, bespreek. Hulle het toe besluit om ‘n diens vir toeriste aan te bied. Besprekings word deur die toerismeburo gedoen en roetes word deur Jan Wright, een van die klublede, beplan. “Toeriste wat vooruit bespreek het ‘n keuse van interesante ou motors om in te ry. Maar, ons het tyd nodig om hierdie ou dames van die pad gereed te kry. Dis nie net ‘n geval van inspring en ry nie, die oues van dae moet heelwat ‘opgetoff word om die pad te vat. Daarom bied ons ook ‘n reeks ander motors aan.”


The song Sarie Marais is an international evergreen performed in many countries. It was also popular on the Union Castle mail ships. The tune was so catchy that way back junior ship’s engineer Tom Morgan, of London, often found himself humming it. Then. in March. 1949, from the deck of the Cape Town Castle. he had his first glimpse of “Sarie’s country.” “I was awed by Table Mountain. The vision is still with me, nothing has made such a lasting impression. I took four photographs that day and made a panorama which I still treasure. Recently I turned on my radio and heard a brass band playing Sarie Marais. I was filled with nostalgia. Who was she?” This query, faxed to the Cape Town Tourist Office, was referred to the Karoo. We were able to help. Sarie was Susara Margaretha Toerien (nee Mare), daughter of Jacob Mare, after whom one of Pretoria’s streets is named. In 1884, at the age of 16, she met, fell in love with and married Jacobus Petrus Toerien, one of South Africa’s first Afrikaans writers. His nom- de-plume was “Japete”. Sarie bore him 16 children, eight of whom died in infancy. Toerien staunchly identified himself with the Boer fight for freedom. At the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, he joined the Boers and, while on commando, often sang Sarie Marais. He had written it for his wife. It was a translation of Septimus Winner’s Ellie Rhee. a ditty with roots in the American Civil War. Today, the song has been translated into many languages, including English, Dutch, German, French, Russian and Italian. Sarie Marais was officially sung for the Queen in 1995 at the Royal Festival of Remembrance to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the declaration of peace in World War II.


When a Beaufort West motoring enthusiast was about to cross Donkin street recently. he spotted an out-of-town combi stopping in a parking place. It was fitted with beautiful alloy wheel rims, exactly what he had always desired. The enthusiast rushed across to ask where they could be purchased. Approaching from the rear he saw the driver was chatting on his cellphone. Being a well-mannered lad, he waited, all the while casting covetous glances at the handsome wheels. Abruptly the visitor completed his conversation and shouted over his shoulder “Bugger off I can’t stand you bloody beggars lurking around my combi every time I stop!” Then, without a backward glance, he fired up the engine, slammed the combi into gear and churned smoke out of those gorgeous wheels. The speechless local though that perchance the stress of city life did these uncivilsed things to blood pressure. Perhaps a relaxing holiday in the Great Karoo would be ideal therapy.


There’s a Mauser in the War Museum in Bloemfontein with balloting links it to the Karoo and three Boer Commandants. It soon will be part of a revamped Anglo-Boer War display. All the Commandants who used the rifle died in the Karoo, two of them shortly after receiving it. Years later, the man who decided donate it to the museum for display, died of a heart attack. The Mauser originally belonged to Commandant Gideon Scheepers. When he was captured by the British on October 10, 1901. at Koppieskraal, near Prince Albert, he handed the rifle to Karel van Heerden with the request that it be given to Commandant (Judge) Henry Hugo. This was done after the execution of Scheepers. Shortly after receiving it Hugo was critically wounded near Beaufort West. He pleaded with his adjutant to charge off and give the rifle back to Karel van Heerden, by then promoted to Commandant. Van Heerden took it to Rooiberg, a Camdeboo mountain farm about 30 km from Aberdeen, where his sister, Sara, who had married a Momberg, lived and hid it in the farmhouse’s loft. Not long afterwards, on May 18, 1902, Van Heerden was killed near Aberdeen. After the Declaration of Peace, his brother, Johannes Jacobus (Jan), approached the farmer, then on Rooiberg, and offered him £6 for the rifle. He accepted, but had to keep it for two years while Van Heerden tried to obtain a permit to transport it to his farm, Geluk, in the Middelburg (CP) district. For years he used the Mauser as a hunting rifle, but in 1934 decided to donate it to the War Museum. He placed the rifle with its carefully documented history on his desk and, the same day died of a sudden heart attack. His son, Dr Jan Van Heerden (Van Elfen), who now lives in Prince Albert, says his father’s wishes were carried out. The Mauser was sent to the War Museum and an article describing its haunting history appeared in Die Burger the following year on March 14, 1935.


‘n Australianer met groot belangstelling in die Anglo-Boereoorlog het onlangs in Beaufort-Wes gekuier. Sy oupa was ‘n lid van die Lancers. Steve Nott het op Badshoek, die plaas van Colin en Evelyn de Villiers, tuisgegaan en daar ‘n groot liefde vir die Karoo ontwikkel. Sy idee is om ‘n paar perde in Suid-Afrika te bekom en later vanjaar tydens die herdenking van die oorlog met van sy maats uit die Karoo te perd te ry na die slagvelde van die Noord Kaap. Steve, ‘n verpleegster by die Royal Prince Alfred Hospitaal in Sydney, Australia, en sy maats ry gereeld vir ontspanning. Die eerste groep beoog om teen die einde van September aan te kom sodat hulle kan aklimatiseer vir die rit na die noorde. Oor ‘a jaar sal hulle weer terugkom om Smuts se invalsroete te ry, se hy.


The first taste of the Anglo-Boer War for Beaufort West’s newly-formed District Mounted Troop unit was a rough one in February, 1901. As bands of Boer soldiers moved into the area between Beaufort West and Prince Albert, the British Army deployed a Colonial regiment, 2nd Brabants Horse, to cut them off and stop them crossing the Swartberg into the Southern Cape. Aware that the dreaded Commandant Gideon Scheepers was in the area, the British ordered the Beaufort West DMT to ride into the Koup and drive him towards the more experienced unit. But, with raw enthusiasm, the Beaufort DMT set off by a round-about route, hoping to capture the commando from the north. Suddenly, on February 7, 15 miles south of Beaufort West on the farm Kaffersfontein, they found themselves surrounded by Boers. Some managed to escape and it was they who ambushed Boer soldiers visiting young girls on the farm Scheurfontein. Japie Hauptfleisch was killed during this incident. In revenge, a Coloured lad, accused of tipping off the DMT about the presence of Boers, was shot by Hauptfleisch’s friends. The section of the DMT captured by the commando that day had a rough time. Their clothes and shoes were taken. They were forced to walk barefoot ahead of the Boer horsemen across the blazing Karoo veld. Not given any food, they lived on left-overs. Eventually, they were so weakened, tired and hungry and in such pain they simply straggled along with the commando as it moved through the Prince Albert district. At the end of two weeks, they could go no further, collapsed and simply refused to budge. The commando. it seems, was only too happy to be rid of them and rode off without a backward glance. Then a DMT trooper remembered the railway line was not far away. With much encouragement his comrades crawled and staggered to the tracks. They managed to board a passing train and soon, in a sad, filthy and dishevelled state, arrived home.


Travelling across the ageless Great Karoo in a steam train had a magic all of its own, author Lawrence Green wrote long ago. “The rhythm of the wheels is as soothing as the notes of a distant orchestra. Express trains hurtling across these ancient plains give a sense of Dvorak. They transport travellers in a unique symphony of the rail, a harmony of hisses, clanks, sighs, shrieks and whistles. Nothing compares to sitting in the midst of such sounds, watching the blur of an ever-changing landscape hurtle by in a kaleidoscope of colour. Long ribbons of platforms leap from the veld. The stations are indistinguishable, but their names are intriguing. In the Karoo one finds Draai, Skeiding, Ketting, Riem en Juk. Also floral displays, created by devoted railway gardeners, flash past like jewels. Railway aficionados savour the differing sounds of the various steam engines in much the same way as visitors to the concert halls of Europe appreciate the music. They hear Sibelius in the note of a Pacific engine racing across the Karoo plains. They know the distinctive whistle of each locomotive.” Some, wrote Lawrence Green, were mellow, while others sounded like lost souls. Some emulated mezzo-sopranos and others moaned like a Grand Mogul. The trains that thundered across the Karoo added a beautiful melody as they interrupted the silence of the veld. Some burst onto the plains snorting like horses and spitting flames from their fire boxes. Regular travellers thrilled to the drama of this fortissimo. “Give me a half a bottle of red wine and a helping of Karoo lamb in a railway dining car and I am at the summit of human bliss. I feel a deep pleasure that is hard to analyse each time I savour the delights prepared by railway chefs and watch the country stream past outside the windows.”


Beaufort-Wes se skole het Wes-Kaapse sakemanne genooi om te kom jag en gholf speel in die Groot Karoo. Hulle beplan ‘n heerlike naweek uitstappie teen die baie billike prys van RI 300 wat alle kostes, insluitende die treinrit, insluit. Die trein vertrek vanaf Kaapstad stasie om 18h00 op 13 Mei en stop in Bellville, Paarl, Wellington en Worcester. Dit kom om 08h00 in Beaufort-Wes aan waar ‘n tradisionele Karoo ontbyt aangebied word voor die groep in twee verdeel – een klomp gaan jag terwyl die ander gholf speel. Die aand word ‘n reeks smul-lekker potjiekos geregte aangebied. Die volgende dag ruil die gholfers en jagters, en na ‘n heerlike dag in die ope-lug word hulle met ‘n spitbraai getrakteer. Die trein vertrek na middag-ete op Sondag en arriveer om 21h00 in Kaapstad. Een van die organiseerders, Christine Herselman sê alle maaltye, jag- en gholffooie word ingesluit, sowel as die eerste springbok wat geskiet is. Daar is verkoelingsfasiliteite op die trein vir die wat wildsvleis wil terugneem en Karoolam kan bestel word. Die doel van hierdie Middedorp skoolprojek is om befondsing te bekom vir die opgradering van rekenaartoerusting en busse.


It now emerges that there is a vague link between the Great Karoo and Shakespeare’s Scottish play. In Macbeth, the witches use “tongue of dog’ in their brew, but in the old Karoo during the last century a potion containing dog’s blood was thought to cure influenza and pneumonia. “Almost every dog in the Karoo, North West Cape and Bushmanland had pieces clipped out of its ears. This was the favourite way of drawing blood,” an old togryer, simply known as Brink, once told a journalist. “Medicines were easy to sell in a land without doctors,” he said. “Epsom salts, senna, jalop, ipecacuanha and Dover powders were in great demand. So was quinine, opium and chlorodyne. Chest complaints were rare, but you had to be prepared for gunshot wounds, fever, dysentery and fractured bones. Strong ammonia was a treatment for snakebite, prickly pear for sores, grilled Hottentot fig (Carpobrutus) for ear ache and dung in vinegar for measles. Wild garlic had a myriad of uses.” Karoo ecologist and author of a book on Karoo plants, David Shearing, says Carpobrutus is an excellent remedy for sore throats. “These indigenous plants are easy to find all over the Karoo. I have stopped countless times, picked a few leaves and chewed these, allowing the astringent juice to trickle down my throat for instant relief”


Veldwagters van die Karoo Nasionale Park is hoog in hulle skik met hul twee nuwe Swart renosters. Badger, die klein wit-renostertiie. en Stanton. die groter bul, pas albei goed aan in die gebied en van hulle houding kan ‘n mens sommer onmiddelik allei aflei hulle voel heeltemal tuis. sê die veldwagters.