The ever-popular Karoo National Park, outside Beaufort West, will be 21 years old in September. Special plans are being made to celebrate the big day. The park, little more than a dream in 1950 when local farmer William Quinton started his campaign for a conservation area in the vicinity of Beaufort West, plays a vital role in the tourism mix of the Central Karoo. Since its official opening on September 7, 1979, it has served the local and international tourism markets, as well as the local community. “Our aim is to encourage visitors to experience the Karoo, feel its magic and hold on to its vitality,” says park manager Leighton Hare. “The park’s popularity for brief visits, day trips, overnight stays and short holidays is proof that we are succeeding in our objectives. The park was established to protect a representative area of the Great Karoo as part of South Africa’s natural heritage, to encourage visitors to enjoy the fauna, flora, scenic diversity and essential wilderness area of the Great Karoo, to protect the soil, vegetation, watershed and catchment areas as well as rare and endangered species and to preserve cultural history. We are currently involved in a major research project involving all communities to capture as much of the cultural diversity of the area as we can.” Children from Nature Conservation groups at local schools are helping collect and document interesting snippets of information on the farms the park recently acquired. “We never lose sight of the fact that children helped to make this park a reality. They ceaselessly sold stamps as part of a fund-raising drive. We constantly encourage their participation in nature conservation.”


Merweville se uitnodiging aan 4 x 4 entoesiaste om hulle wêreld in Maart te kom verken het goeie reaksie gelok. Die uitnodiging word deur Kobus Rossouw se program op Radio Sonder Grense gerig en omdat die roetes op Nova Vita en Banksgate al in die pers met lof bekroon is stel heelwat mense belang. Maar daar is nogtans diegene wat net kans sien vir die Karoo in die winter. Vir hulle reel Merweville ‘n tweede uitstappie in Junie. Volle besonderhede is verkrygbaar van Kallie le Roux, Tel No. 083-255-6931.


Fish eagles have moved into the Great Karoo. There are already seven breeding pairs at dams in the central area. For quite some time these raptors could only be seen at Anysberg Nature Reserve, 75 km from Laingsburg. Then, local farmer Murray de Villiers spotted a pair at Floriskraal dam, and another pair near the farm La-De-Da, in the Beaufort West district. Birders have reported fish eagles at Gamkapoort Dam in the heart of the Swartberg mountains, at Oukloof Dam and on Herman Olivier’s farm Vrischgewaagt, near Prince Albert. Fish eagles have also been seen at Leeu Gamka Dam, at the Karoo National Park, Gamka Dam and near the Sak River in the Beaufort West area. Japie Claassen, secretary of the William Quinton Wild Bird Society, says: “The wild shriek of the fish eagle is a wonderful sound. It’s a treat for tourists now to be able to see and hear the cries of these magnificent raptors at so many places in this arid zone.”


A dual search for information on two old Beaufort West regiments has started. Natie Greeff, curator of the Castle Museum in Cape Town, needs information on the Beaufort West Volunteer Rifles, also known as the Beaufort West Burghers. Samuel van der Berg, of Port Elizabeth, wants to know more about the Beaufort West Tigers. “The Beaufort West Volunteer Rifles were in fact K-Company of the Cape Western Rifles,” says Natie. “The regiment was raised on February 9, 1894, with an authorised strength of 100 men. Among the first to be attested was Surgeon Lieutenant P O’Callaghan. Captain A N Krummeck and Second Lieutenant J H Bell were attested on July 1, 1894. The regiment served in many major campaigns. Two men received Basotuland Bars for their Cape of Good Hope General Service Medals, and 10 were presented with Transkei Bars. We need information and photographs, if possible, so that the men of Beaufort West can be included in a booklet we are compiling on the Western Rifles.” Samuel stumbled on the Beaufort Tigers while indulging his passion for old photographs. Rummaging at a flea market stall he discovered a yellowed picture of 16 mounted men outside a house in Donkin Street. “They look as if they are setting off on an Anglo-Boer War campaign,” he said. “I’d love to be sure.”


Beaufort-Wes het nou ‘n 24-uur selfoon diens. Onder beheer van Marcello Viscardi van Mike’s 24-uur kafee in Donkinstraat, is dit ‘n diens wat al met lof bekroon is. “Toeriste het veel meer as koeldranke en etes nodig deur die dag en nag,” sê Marcello. “Om in kontak te bly met hulle vriende en familie dwarsoor die wêreld het hulle ook selfoon batterye en kaartjies nodig op die mees onmoontlike tye. Ons het besluit om die belangrike mark sektor te dien.”


Three Beaufort West men were once part of a crack frontier police force. Now, Mr J M J Leach, who is compiling the history of the Bechuanaland Border Police is searching for more information on Colin Albert Fraser, who served in 1893, Meintjies Frazer and William Charles Daniel, who were members of the force from its inception in August 1893, until 1896. “This British Imperial military unit, considered one of the best frontier forces, served the Bechuanaland Crown Colony and Bechuanaland Protectorate, now the Northern Cape and Botswana, respectively,” says Mr Leach. “In the Matabele War of 1893 Daniel, known as ‘a wild lad from Beaufort West’ and a Trooper Wilson, from England, earned notoriety by stealing the monetary token of surrender of Lobengula, chief of the Matabele.”


(Tel No. 0201-52063)

Beaufort-Wes het ‘n nuwe koffie-kuierplek en kuns gallery in Donkinstraat. Eienaars Henry en Charlene van Schalkwyk bied smullekker kos, soos wafels, skons, muffins en wortelkoek aan met geurryke koffee en ‘n keuse van tees. Daar is ook ‘n spesiale spyskaart vir verslankers. Op permanente uitstalling is werke van Christiaan Nice, een van die top vyf kunstenaars in die land. “Ons het hom gekies omdat hy hom vereenselwig met die Karoo en mense is gaande oor sy donkie-karre, karretjie-mense en landskappe.” Christiaan Nice is ‘n self-geleerde kunstenaar wat al vir 40 jaar skilder. Sy werke is net by sy Hartebeespoortgallery en in Beaufort-Wes verkrygbaar.


(Tel No. 021 797 8202)

A traditional Karoo dish tantalises the taste buds at a Cape Town restaurant. Visitors to Parks Restaurant, in Constantia, are amazed to see Karoo ‘muise’ on the menu. Head chef Christian Hale included this traditional liver, kidney and caulfat faggot on the menu so that gourmets “can savour the flavour of the hinterland.”Christian says: “It’s mentioned in a review in Food and Home Entertaining’s January issue among other platteland pleasantries designed to encourage the epicurean elite to be adventurous.” Among the other delights of inland eating are a guinea fowl main course followed by sousklontjies for desert. These are dainty dumplings that float in a rich butter and cinnamon sauce. Certainly not for dieters, but well worth the damage to the waistline, say those who’ve sampled this Karoo cuisine.


The flags of the old Republics will once again be carried through the Great Karoo to Pretoria by horsemen. This historic ride, intended as part of the Anglo-Boer War commemorative centenary, will salute the horses and riders of the Boer War. Scheduled to start on June 3 in Stellenbosch, it will end with a mock battle at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 17, the day the South Africa rugby team plays England. In his book To Horse and Away, Jose Berman writes: “Horses were the true losers of the Anglo-Boer War. Of the 520 000 horses the British Army used in South Africa, 326 073 died of exhaustion and disease. No veterinary corps yet existed to supervise and destroy sick or maimed animals. This only came into being in 1903. Without the horse the Boers could not have fought the war, nor the British won it. Both sides took their horses for granted and used them ruthlessly, often driving them to the limits of endurance and beyond. By the end of the war the Cape Horse, once a prized cavalry mount, had virtually vanished. This horse bore the brunt of the war on the Boer side. Basutoland had been drained of her ponies and it took years for the breed to regain its status. All stock on Karoo farms had been commandeered and many once famous studs never bred horses again.” Hennie Ahlers and Willem Heine, of Nooitgedacht Stud, who are organising the commemorative ride, agree with Robert Smit Surtees, who, in an 1883 issue of Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour, wrote: “There is no bond so close as that between a rider and his horse.” Their cavalcade, carrying a variety of historic South African flags, as well as those from many countries that took part in the war, will travel from Stellenbosch, through Worcester, Beaufort West, Graaff Reinet, Colesberg, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Kroonstad, Potchefstroom and Rustenburg en route to Pretoria. A programme honouring the horse will be presented at each town. Messages of goodwill will be gathered along the route for presentation to the State President at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. There will be a commando ride and gymkhana events in Beaufort West on June 6, 2000.


Al die De Beers in Suid-Afrika word weereens uitgenooi na ‘n groot familie reünie in Prins Albert. Die eerste saamtrek wat laasjaar in die historiese dorpie gehou is, was ‘n reuse sukses. Die reünie sal vanaf 30 Junie tot l Julie gehou word en die program sluit in nostalgiese besoeke aan geskiedkundige plekke wat van belang sal wees vir familielede. Verdere inligting van Trudie Nel by 023-541-1366.


St Mathews School in Beaufort-Wes is part of the worldwide Flags and Friends project. Under the guidance of English teacher Eugene Grant, they exchange information with schools in Argentina, Canada, the USA, the UK, Israel, Taiwan, Australia, Nigeria, Germany, Japan, Cyprus and Brazil by snail and e.mail. “The idea is to learn more about each other’s world in general,” says Eugene “It’s an exciting and practical-awareness project. Each child has to contribute to the programme by researching and writing about his town, a great deal of which is based on tourism. We recently received a package from Taiwan containing tourist information, a Coke, quite odd with its foreign lettering, a newspaper, pictures, postcards and a variety of unusual snack packages. We’re compiling information too. We’ve included Western Cape tourism guides, Karoo brochures and as much interesting information on Beaufort West and South Africa as possible.”


Honeymooners Jan and Minnie van Zyl accepted a 100-year-old mountain tortoise as an omen of happiness. They arrived at the Karoo National Park.as Central Karoo District Council health inspector Danie van Rensburg was handing the ancient creature to the park’s tourism officer Sidney Witbooi. “We celebrated Minnie’s birthday, then Valentine’s day and the next day we got married,” said Jan. “Now, on the first day of our honeymoon, we see a magnificent tortoise. We love these creatures as they appear to symbolise peace, tranquillity and long life.” They insisted on being photographed with it. The huge tortoise, in fine condition, was rescued on a busy road by Central Karoo District Council executives John van der Merwe and Nikla Nortje.


When trains first steamed into the hinterland, they ran on coal imported from Wales. South Africa was considered deficient in coal. Small amounts were being mined at Cyphergat, Molteno and Indwe. The country’s major fields, the largest in the southern hemisphere, were still in the future. Dr Gustav Fritsch, a German traveller, in 1886 wrote: “There is probably no country where adequate deposits of coal would prove a greater blessing than in South Africa. If cheap coal could be found the railways, so sparse at present, would boldly steam ahead.” Imported coal was too expensive for the man in the street, so he used wood. This prompted the Cape Colonial Railways to plant ‘fuel forests’. In 1884, an eight-acre blue gum plantation was started on Stolshoek farm outside Beaufort West. Walker’s Dam was built to irrigate the trees. The intention was to harvest 11 tons of dry wood an acre and extend the forest if it did well. “At first the trees flourished, but droughts, scarcity of water and ‘brak’ (saline) soil forced the abandonment of the project within four years,” says Almero de Villiers, a former Beaufort West resident who researched these forests in 1952. “The railways announced the failure of the project in the Karoo with great regret. Successful forests and nurseries were established at Tokai, Ceres, Constantia, and Worcester, where an 80-acre forest met fuel requirements.” Today, scattered blue gums still dot the Great Karoo as a reminder the days when trains ran on wood.


Buffels en kindertjies stry oor ‘n wandelpad in die Karoo Nasionale Park. Sewe nuwe buffels wat onlangs in die park gevestig is en sommer gou by vier ander aangesluit het, het besluit dat die Potlekkertjie wandelpad net die lekkerste plek in die hele park is. “Maar die heerlike, skaduryke, bebosde gebied is ook die area wat die jongspan verkies en waar ons gereelde lesings vir hulle aanbied,” sê toerisme beampte Sidney Witbooi.. “Dis vol van interessante diertjies, goggatjies en plantjies, maar ons moes die stryd gewonne gee en die Potlekkertjie tydelik sluit. Park personeel is nou besig om ‘n alternatiewe area uit te soek waar hulle die natuur met kindertjies kan bespreek en wat miskien nie so ‘n groot aantrekkingskrag vir buffels sal hê nie.”


The halcyon December days so affected a young rhino cow that she promptly left the Karoo National Park to explore the wider world. On an idyllic Karoo morning Kurni decided the park was a titch too confining, so she pitted her powerful weight against the electrified fence and squeezed down into a dry riverbed. From there it was a short trot to the Fraserburg Road. The day was superb. The scorch of the Karoo sun was dampened by a cool breeze. It carried with it all manner of tantalising smells. Kurni increased her pace in excitement and expectation. The same morning, Mrs Mavis Botma, of Losberg farm, was quite at peace with the world as she drove along the meandering road to Beaufort West. The day was divine. Then playful fate stepped in and brought the two face to face at a sharp, blind bend. Tranquility for both vanished in a puff. Kurni snorted in disbelief at the dust the acrid-smelling creature churned up as it braked and skidded to avoid her. She blinked shortsightedly in confusion as Mavis edged past and sped off to report her close encounter to the Karoo Park management. Alone in the settling dust, Kurni was happy that the metal creature had fled in terror, but she decided perhaps the great wide world was not all it was cracked up to be. So, she retraced her steps and squeezed back to safety and security at the same spot where she had escaped. Rangers who arrived in more clouds of dust found her grazing serenely. Suurkop, one of the park’s black rhino bulls, was killed by lightening during a recent heavy thunderstorm. He has been replaced by R1.


Beaufort West birders have been happily surprised by unusual visitors. Japie Claassen, secretary of the Wild Bird Club, says a pair of crowned cranes have been spotted on a farm just outside town, and marabou storks have been seen on the Oudtshoorn road and near the golf course. “These are unusual visitors to this area,” Japie says. Farmer Murray de Villiers reports first spotting a marabou on his farm La-De-Da in 1976. He saw them regularly for a few years, and then they just vanished.