Ostriches, elephants, a snake and a boer soldier are among the latest Karoo rock art finds to make archaeologist Davi Morris, of Kimberley’s McGregor Museum, a happy man. He recently visited Nelspoort to insepct a series of rock drawings just discovered at Bleakhouse. While in the area, Mr Morris also discovered four rock gongs at Tierkloof. There was previously thought to be only one. The new Bleakhouse engravings were found by Johan Lund on a koppie which may have been used as alookout during the Anglo-Boer War. One engraving is thought to be of a Boer soldier, and may have been done by J J Swart, who signed his name on a rock nearby. Above the soldier is an animal which may be a jackal, and nearby is an elephant, some stylised ostriches and a few snakes. David said snakes were a symbol for water. At a waterhole in a nearby kloof are petroglyths depictung ten elephants. At Bleakhouse a Bushman pot has also been found, virtually intact and embeded in the ground. Johan Lund, a keen observer of the veld, also told of a stone with strange engravings found on a friend’s farm, near Aberdeen. An expert identified these as Eastern and proclaimed them to an ancient road marker, he said.


At the top of one of the koppies in Nelspoort is a rock engraving of a man on the gallows. Next to the drawing is the name I B Wiese, and the date 1930, as well as another date, which appears to be 1874. Then there is a portion of a word which seems to be “moordenaar” (murderer). This rock was recently inspected by archeaologist and rock art specialist David Morris of the Kimberley Mcgregor Museum. After doing some research he found that there was indeed a family named Wiese that lived in the Beaufort West area during the 1800s. and that Benjmin was a family name among them. During the Anglo-Boer Wre there were more Wieses in the area, one even appears in a photograph in the book Hooyblakte. David is trying to find out more abot I B Wiese on the gallows. Do the dates mean anything. Was there a Wiese that murdered some one at that time? Was Benjamin (perhaps the B in I B’s name) “this,” he said, “is one of the tantalising tales of the Karoo.”


A search is on the go for a piece of music known as the Symphony of the kroo. It was written by Gideon Fagan, but now appears to have vanished. Paul Green, working with Francois Odendal and Dr Richard Chambers on a TV documentary on the Karoo, is searching for the symphony in the hopes of using it as backgroud music, but he has had little success. He has contracted virtually all music organisations, libraries and outlets. He has discovered it was availabled until 1994 and that it was even recorded on compact disc but can no longer be found. Filming is complete and the sound track has to be finalised soon. If one one has a recording of this work, please let us know.


The Western Cape Cabinet has approved initial new tourism structures for the province. Legislation is being prepared for approval by the Legislature for implementation on April l, 1996. Communication is the key and local authorities have a vital role to play. Each must form an Accredited Tourism Bureau with representatives who will serve on the Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) which will have a voice on the Provincial Tourism Board. The strength of the structure lies in its encouraging full participation by all role players. Copies have been mailed to each accommodation establishment in the Karoo. Detailed guidelines on implementation were mailed to all town clerks by the Minister of Tourism, who also held a strategic planning session at his office on February 1, 1996, to discuss policy and a smooth launch


Better use of sheep and game skins and horns was recently discussed in Beaufort West with the aim of creating jobs. Louis Reynolds, of Kamferskraal, had researched the availability of skins and presented his findings to the meeting. Colin de Villiers, of Badshoek, addressed the meeting on what is currently being done with these products. Tourism co-ordinator, Rose Willis, discussed the possibilities of marketing processed products in the tourists. Johan Wilken, of the Klein Karoo, talked on the commercial tanning of leather and Beaufort West town engineer, Lou Smit discussed the availability of water and the creation of an infrastructure to support a tanning industry in the town. A committee was established to conduct further research.


Andy Forret of Alberton has two loves – motorbikes and the Karoo. In a letter to the Editor of Getaway Magazine, he wrote that once he had realised his dream to see the Karoo from the saddle of his bike he was smitten. He and a friend crossed the Swartberg Pass on motorbikes in July 1993. Last year he repeated this trip with the same buddy and on the same machines. He smilingly admits “the bikes are getting rather long in the tooth, unlike their riders, who will be forever young!” On this trip another dream was realised. They braved the rugged Smugglers Route through Seweweekspoort. “Sadly we didn’t see the tollkeeper’s ghost, who is said to roam the poort with his lantern.” They should have picked a stormy night. The ghost is said only to appear during bad storms to warm travellers of danger


Following a very good tourist season in the Karoo farm accommodation vendors have pleaded for better roadsigns. “Tourists simply drive past the turnoffs because the signage is so bad and they cannot find the routes from the main road,” said Martie Lund, chairman of the Karoo Farm Holiday Association. Many farms have much more than just overnight facilities. There are hikes, walking routes, and rambles, as well as caravan parks, mountain huts and 4 x 4 routes. We would like to share our world with tourists and feel that proper signage is the only way to do this.”


Beaufort West’s Matoppo Country Inn has been approved as the Karoo’s first three star venue. Eastblished in one of the town’s oldest buildings, the first magistate’s residence, which was built in 1835, it has the ambience of yesteryear and an elegance all of its own. The venue was officially oened at a gala occasion of February 10, 1996. It has, however, been a popular stop since it opned its doors in time to cater for festive season traffic in December, last year. The venue’s gardens and aviaries have reen recipients of great praise.


Beaufort West will feature in the first programme of a new SABC-1 TV travel series called Cape at 6. It starts of February 23, and a four-minute feature on the town will be broadcast between 18h00 and 19h00. The SABC commissioned Dave Moore, recently judged by M-Net as one of the country’s top nine diretors and script writers, to direct the programme which was filmed by Fred Phyfer of Mountain Movies. “We feel we captured the magic of the Karoo,” said Dave, who confessesses to being a Karoo addict. “We were fortunate enough to experience everything from the hottest day in months to a thunder storm, and a downpour with sunset peeping through the rain clouds. We also captured a wonderful sunrise. We compliment Beaufort West on its friendliness and co-operation. We shot some super footage.” The crew was hosted by Matoppa Country Inn. Veld footage was shot at Lemoenfontein Game Lodge and the Karoo National Park. Continuity was provided by Trevor and Jacqueline Young, of MacYoungs, who “acted” as tourists. Their bicycles came from Ellis’s Cycle shop. Stan Prucocks provided “unbelievable wheels” – a convertible Mercedes 230 SL.


The Central Karoo is stll in the spotlight as far as the media I sconcerned. An item in Piet Spaarwaters’s column Van Alle Kante in Die Burger introducted the area to a wide audience. Potential tourists were also given a closer look by Barham van Zyl, also of Die Burger, who visited several farms like Hillandale to discuss eco-tourism and hiking routes. Several local film crews also visited the region. An American Journalist, Martha Hopkins from Tucson, Arizona, who specialises in writing about desert and semi-desert areas enjoyed a wonderful “ten day stay in the Beaufort West area.” Then there was an Australian journalist from Coomera, who also is a specialist on desert areas and he visited to write a series of articles. He was greatly interest in the Red Roman Spiders which are found in the area. This sun spider’s jaw is so strong that it can eat anything from a cricket ot a scorpion. Speaking of insects, two British visitors found a “koring kriek” outside their chalet and rushed to the tourism office to find outmore about this ugly, but unusual creature.


The Italian firm BRW needed a hot, desolate, rugged world for the opening shots of a TV commercial for their Piaggio Vespa motorcycles. They chose a spot on the R354, near Matjiesfontein, about 50km from the N1. The commercial tells the story of a young man pressurised by salesman and feeling crushed by sales messges on hoardings, all allound him. He seeks escape. All things, of course, are possible with a superb motorcycle, on which he roars away down an isolated road, complements of Miros Productions, Cape Town.


Many edible Karoo plants are becoming increaingly confined to the road verges. “This is quite apparent when they flower. The verge is a riot of colour, while the veld on the other side of the fence appears to be barren,” says Dr Sue Dean of Prince Albert. She has begun a research project to investigate plants for road verges. The project is considered of such great ecological value that she is being sponsored . Dr Dean will use several Cape Town University students to help with field work. Dr Dean has also recently been commissioned to write a book on the edible plants of the Karoo. It will cover their recognition and propagation. It is already being hailed as a boon to farmers. To introduce tourists to Karoo flora, she is currently laying out a Karoo garden at the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert.


It was in the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains on the tranquil farm, Damascus, that through the accident of a place of birth there was a connected with a stunning piece of South African history. It was here in the last century that General Piet Joubert, leader of the Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer War, was born. Later, as his family grew there was a nephew named Fritz Joubert Duquesne, a man who, in the 20th century was acknowledged as the prince of the shadowy world of international espionage, and also instrumental in the violent death of a world political figure. By the time Duquesne, with the face of a poet, set in shoulder length hair, joined the Boer forces, he had already studied at Cambridge University and killed a man in a sword fight in Brussels. It was during the British scorched earth policy when his mother died in a concentration camp that Duquesne’s hatred for Lord Kitchener of Khartoum flared. He swore revenge. Years later in 1916, during WWI, Duquesne, in the guise of a Russian nobleman, boarded the British warship, the HMS Hampshire. The ship on a secret course was on its way to Archangel, taking Lord Kitchener, by then Britain’s War secretary on a vital mission to Russia. In the mountainous seas off the Orkneys Duquesne, signalled a waiting u-boat. The Hampshire was torpedo and went down with Kitchener and all hands. Only Duquesne was picked up. It was claimed that this elusive spy was behind the sinking of over 20Allied ships that disappeared without trace during the Great War. Duquesne died in poverty and loneliness in the United States in 1957


An old Beaufort Wester and Boer war researcher, Ray de Villiers, came across some funny stories. After the skirmish on Uitspansfontein in the Nuweveld Mountains, a British soldier complained that a Boer stole his shoes. He insisted on seeing the Boer Commandant. By that time Commandant Malan had already left leaving only a handful of men to transfer the prisoners. Among them was a joker. The British soldier was taken to him. With a serious face he listened to the British soldier’s sad story and in the end, with a sympathetic voice, promised him a new pair of shoes as well as new trousers, however, to accomplish this, he said, the soldier should give him his trousers. Totally unaware that he was being played for a fool, the soldier obliged. “The commandant” instantly leapt onto a horse and galloped off leaving the rest of the men convulsed with laughter. There stood the gullible Englishman, in his underpants watching as his trousers waved like a flag as “the commandant” disappeared across the veld.


Port Elizabeth roofing contractor and Boer war researcher recently spent a holiday in the Karoo darting from one blockhouse to another. And, to ensure that he would miss nothing, he took his ladder on leave which sounds bizarre, but not when you consider what he was doing. Richard Tomlinson was carefully studying these structures inside and out and carefully noting down his findings for a publication on blockhouses. He also discovered several graves along the railway line, as well as many other fortifications in the vicinity of the blockhouses. These were obviously built on nearby koppies to lend support to a blockhouse if it came under attack Richard called on the Central Karoo tourism office where he compared notes and studied photographs of the Blockhouse Route in a booklet which Rose Willis had prepared and called Guardians Of The Rail.


The popular Afrikaans radio programme, Stereo, has a popular broadcast entitled Soek die Plek. Torusim operators are invited to advertise during this half hour programme at a cost of R1 500 per insert.