Besides being welcome in the Karoo to rejuvenate life, good rains during the festive season brought Merweville a strange fame. The steady downpours encouraged herpetologist Atherton de Villiers to visit and search for frogs. His research into reptiles and amphibians has led to him becoming the regional co-ordinator for the South African Frog Atlas project in the Western Cape. He was accompanied by wife Rikki, a chief nature conservator at Jonkershoek, in Stellenbosch. ‘We chose the Koup as no previous records existed for the area,’ said Atherton. “As we drove into the tiny town at dusk, we were delighted to hear an almost deafening frog chorus echoing from a nearby stream. We grabbed our torches and rushed off, staying in the veld and searching for pools until late at night. The locals found this rather odd, and we got many a curious stare during our three-day stay. In general, the locals found it most unusual to see two city-dwellers searching the muddy veld pools by torchlight until the wee hours of the morning. Explaining that we were searching for frogs only caused eyebrows to rise even further. But our efforts were most successful.” Atherton and Rikki found Cape sand frogs, Cape river frogs, common platannas, common cacos and Karoo toads. “The last two have delightful Afrikaans names,’ said Atherton. “The caco is the ‘gewone blikslaanertjie’ and the Karoo toad the ‘skurwe of pispadda’. None of the species are rare, nor unusual, but we were excited because they helped Merweville hop into the Frog Atlas. They also enabled us to appoint some new ‘paddasoekers’ in the Great Karoo.”


‘n Karoo-besoek oor die feesgety het tot groot opwinding gelei vir ‘n man van Mpumalanga. Op pad Kaap-toe het Gerrie Theron, van Blyderivierspoort Nasionale Park, besluit om ‘n draai te maak by neef André op sy pragplaas Nova Vita in die Merweville distrik, en daar, tydens ‘n uitstappie in die veld, het hy op heelwat eienaardige waterdiertjies afgekom. Onder hulle was ‘n goudgeel vissie, ‘n paddavissie, ‘n skilpadagtige diertjie Awat soos ‘n oerdier lyk’ en ‘n snaakse klein mossel. “Gerrie was so beïndruk dat hy verdere ondersoek gaan instel om uit te vind of hulle nuwe of rare spesies is,” sê Andre se vrou Suzaan. Sy vertel dat heelwat toeriste en joernaliste nadere kennis kom maak het met hulle nuwe asemrowende 4 x 4 roete. “Almal was dit eens. Die uitsigte is ongelooflik.”


The latest book on the birds of the Karoo has just been published. Birds of the Swartberg and Gamkaspoort Nature Reserves, written by Dave Osborne and Rob Little, costs only R40. “This well-researched, affordable guide will be invaluable to those who enjoy birdwatching in this area,” said Japie Claassen, secretary of the William Quinton Wild Bird Society. Copies can be ordered directly from Dave Osborne at 18 Uitsig Street, Still Bay, 7599. “The Total CWAC Report, which includes details of annual water bird counts over the past five years, is now available from Sue Kieswetter at ADU University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701. It costs R120 and is a wonderful acquisition for any birder’s library,” said Japie.


A nine-year-old Texas schoolboy chose a man on the other side of the world for a year-end project, The person you most admire. Kyle Butler, of Bendwood School in Houston, Texas, chose heart transplant pioneer Professor Chris Barnard because he has long been my inspiration. “He has filled me with desire to one day become a veterinary surgeon.” The only problem facing young Kyle was how to gather sufficient information on this famous man in so short a time. “With my mom’s help, we browsed the Internet and found a site for Beaufort West. We phoned the museum and they put us in touch with Rose Willis at the Central Karoo Tourism Office. She and museum curator Sandra Smit couldn’t have been more helpful.’ Information and photographs were faxed to him and he was easily able to meet his tight deadline and prepare a winning project. ‘I gave a great presentation on Professor Barnard with your help,’ he wrote. “Now my friends at Bendwood, part of Spring Branch Independent School District, know all about this famous man, the little Karoo town where he was born and the region in which he lived and where he today has a farm. I consider Professor Barnard to have been a very brave man to have had the courage to do what no man had ever done before. He set an example for many other doctors to follow, and through him many lives have been saved. He is my inspiration. I only hope that I can follow his example and make an equal success of my ambition to become a veterinary surgeon.”


Die eerste slawe het in 1658 in Suid-Afrika aangekom. Van hulle het gevlug en in die wildernisgebied van die Groot Karoo skuiling gesoek. Met die noordwaartse migrasie van die trekboere het slawe saam gekom. Michael Jonas, van WesKaap Provinsiale Museumdienste, is nou besig om stories van slawe en slaaf roetes in te win en het Round-up se hulp gevra. Daar word melding gemaak van slawe in die gedenkboek van Beaufort-Wes se Moedergemeente. In 1825 het ds Colin Fraser 25 slawe in die kerk gedoop, aangeneem en hulle name in die kerkregisters aangeteken. Dr Heinrich Lichtenstein, ‘n Duitser wat in 1803 deur die Karoo gereis het, het geskryf van slawe op Hooyvlakte wat vrugte versigtig op riet matte uitgepak het om in die son te droog. Talle ander reisigers maak melding van slawe en Robert Gordon, die eerste witman wat die Oranjerivier gesien het, vertel van ‘n slaaf, Goliat, wat ‘n leeu in die Camdeboo met ‘n assegaai dood gesteek het nadat die dier sy vriend doodgebyt het. Op Klipplaatsfontein, nou deel van die Karoo Nasionale Park, is daar glo ou slawegrafte. Die volle storie hieragter word nog ondersoek. Na die vrylating van slawe het Rev Guy Gething, van die Christchurch Anglikaanse Kerk in Beaufort-Wes, tot in Noord-Afrika gestap saam met ‘n slaaf om die man weer veilig in die boesem van sy familie te besorg. Michael soek dié soort stories om die geskiedenis van die Karoo te verryk.


The Karoo town of Beaufort West relies heavily on underground water. Initially, water came from fountains and wells. Then, on June 17, 1892, the town council decided that a more modern and effective drinking water system was needed. The system they built stood the test of time so well that it is still in use and was recently featured in a modern municipal engineering magazine. This ‘tunnel water system,’ which operates on seepage, came on stream in 1895 at the cost of £1 890, the fee for a consultant. The system consists of an underground shaft linked to a pipeline by a 358-metre tunnel. Water, gathered by seepage, is moved to town by gravity. The system’s initial rate of delivery is not known, but today its maximum is 16/sec. Town engineer Louw Smit says: “Today Beaufort West’s water comes from the Gamka Dam and 19 boreholes. However, because the town is still dependent on underground water, this ancient pipeline, which has had its pipes replaced many times in its long history, will always play an integral part in the water supply system.’


‘n Uitdagende naweek wag op 4 x 4 entoesiaste in Merweville vanaf Maart 30 tot April 1. Francois Rossouw, van Radio Sonder Grense, reël ‘n naweek van pret op twee plase, Nova Vita en Banksgate. Hulle roetes is reeds met lof bekroon in die Desember uitgawe van Leisure Wheels. Verblyf word by Springbok Lodge gereël, waar daar ‘n volgrote snoekertafel en pragtige lapa braai is.


Heavy rains in the Karoo can conjure up some strange sights. In the severe flood in Beaufort West in 1940, coffins floating about in New Street delayed a Beaufort man long enough for him to help save a young mother and her baby. The story of the flood in the info sheet Town Astride an Ancient World, brought memories of the incident flooding back to Almero de Villiers. He recalled the pouring rain and rapidly rising waters of the Gamka River. “I was hurrying along New Street in search of shelter. As I passed the premises of Mr Deas, the local undertaker, near the the corner of New and Union streets, I was confronted by the wierdest sight. His entire stock of coffins was bobbing and drifting about in his yard like some macabre flotilla. It was a riveting. I just stood staring. Then, as I turned to continue my dash to a dryer place, I saw a two-and-a-half-foot wall of water rushing straight at me. It was sweeping a tangle of cardboard boxes, old tin cans, newspapers and assorted debris before it. Out of nowhere a young woman carrying a baby in her arms stepped on to the stoep of a New Street house. She stared in horror, frozen and panic-stricken Then she began to scream. Above the roar of the storm and water I yelled: ‘Run, run to the Kingsley Hotel.’ The urgency of my voice penetrated her panic and she set off at record-breaking pace. Both she and the baby escaped the roaring waters totally unscathed. Shaking, we stood at the hotel watching New Street turn into a raging river.”


Richard Chambers van BBC TV se Natuurlike Geskiedeniseenheid het ‘n groot voorliefde vir die Karoo. ‘n Paar jaar gelede het hy ‘n reeks in die gebied as deel van Aspects of Life verfilm. Nou is hy op soek na inligting vir ‘n reeks oor droogland gebiede en woestyne wat tydens 2000 en 2001 geskiet gaan word. Hy soek boesmantekeninge, sowel as inligting oor die sprinkaanswerms en springbok-migrasies. Richard wil ook meer weet oor sneeu in ariede zones, so wel as van die verhouding tussen dassies en arende in die voedsel ketting. Hy soek inligting oor die kwagga-projek sowel as enige eienaardige stories op Karoo plase. Richard wil ook meer leer van hans diertjies, struike en blomme. ‘Dis hoog tyd dat die res van die wêreld die prag van die Karoo ontdek,’ sê hy.


Of late, Prince Albert in the Karoo has been attracting some quite exotic examples of the car makers’ art. The main attraction seems to be the awesome Swartberg Pass, a motoring enthusiast’s delight. First there were the magnificent Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts and just recently those quintessentially British sports cars, MG TD’s. The MG trip to the town and over the pass was organised by Joan Parker, of Cape Town, who has tracked down 151 of these cars throughout South Africa. “Only about half are roadworthy, the remainder being in various stages of restoration. Not surprising, since the first of these vehicles rolled off the production line on November 10, 1949. The tour of the Cape, Karoo, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal was so successful that I hope to make it an annual event.”


Tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog is Beaufort -Wes in die Karoo verdeel tussen die pro-Boer en pro-Brit faksies op die dorp. Round-up leser John Sinclair, van Loxton, stuur die volgende brokkie uit Jan H Meyer se boek Kommandojare. So skryf Meyer: “Na die vrede was ek in die Kaap en het saam met Generaal van Deventer na Matjiesfonteinstasie gery. Hier haal ons die trein na Beaufort-Wes waar ‘n rebelle kolom onder ‘n sekere Kommandant Golding die wapens sou neerlê. Beaufort-Wesstasie staan geskaar met mense. Toe Generaal van Deventer en sy gevolg die trein uitklim word ons beet gegryp en hoog op die skouers gedra tot buite in die straat.’ Daar het die skare die Boere kommandante so toegejuig dat Meyer skoon ‘n knop in sy keel gekry het.


Two students from the University of Innsbruck in Austria have just completed a research project in Prince Albert. Andreas Schwarzenberger and Peder Sader spent three months in the village studying bird habitat resources and shade succulents under the supervision of Drs Sue and Richard Dean. ‘The bird project covered 16 sites in domestic gardens, fields and the veld. The shade succulent project broke new ground as so little has been recorded on these plants,’ said Sue.


A great supporter, contributor and friend of Round-up, historian Dr Arthur Davey, died at the end of last year at the age of 78. News of his death came as a shock to the world of South African historical researchers. He seemed to be on the road to recovery after a fierce south-easter had flung him from his feet in Cape Town and landed him in hospital with severe concussion. Dr Davey was among the first callers at the Central Karoo Tourism Office shortly after it opened. He was searching for a British soldier’s grave. From that day on this quiet, unassuming man with the twinkling eyes and keen sense of humour stayed in touch by sending snippets of Karoo information, found in the course of his many research programmes, for use in Round-up. Each was written in his own curious, spidery handwriting, but all were treasures well worth deciphering. Many were amusing cameos that reflected his love for a story with a twist. Arthur Davey was that rarity that made a pleasure trip of a journey into history. His support over the years will be missed and not forgotten.


Die navorsingsprojek om inligting in te win oor ou plase nou, binne die gebied van die Karoo Nationale Park, vorder goed. Tot nou toe het die soektog stories van bannelinge, spoke, slawe en sendelinge opgelewer, almal klein deeltjies van ‘n kleurvolle verhaal. Die ou sendingstasie, op die plaas Kookfontein buite Beaufort-Wes het ‘n ryk geskiedenis. Dit was in 1818 gestig en twee uiters suksesvolle veeveilings is daar gehou. Na die eerste een het die Griekwas van Griekwastad met 25 swaar gelaaide waens by die drostdy verby gery op pad huistoe. Die volgende jaar se mark was nog meer suksesvolle en bygewoon deur leiers soos Adam Tas. Erasmus Smit, later bekend as sendeling onder die Voortrekkers, het by die stasie opgetree, maar die moeilikhede wat hy daar ondervind het het amper sy moed en sy hart gebreek. Na twee jaar is die sendingstasie ontbind en die grond verkoop. Daar is interessante ou grafte op die plaas en ‘n grillerige area bekend as Spookbos.


One man’s act of bravery during the Anglo-Boer War has resulted in the affiliation of a British and a South African regiment a century later. When Major A E A Butcher, commanding officer of the 4th Field Battery, placed two 15-pound field guns on Cole’s Kop to shell Boer positions on the outskirts of Colesberg, he little realised he was stepping into the pages of history. The Boers eventually won the day, but the honour of the action fell to Butcher’s regiment, which eventually became the 14th Cole’s Kop Air Defence Battery. The remains of the last field gun in action that day can be seen at the Kemper Museum in Colesberg. With this field piece the Boers were pinned down for a considerable time. Then the gunners pushed the gun over the edge of the koppie to prevent its capture. Members of this British regiment, now based at Woolwich, near London, England, recently visited to commemorate the battle and become affiliated to the SANDF 6th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment.


In 1912, Cape Town real estate agent Thomas William Brown was faced with a major decision. The market was ‘in serious decline,’ so he had to either extend his real estate and land speculation business into the hinterland and Karoo or return to America. Finally, he felt his family would have a better future in Seattle. So, early in 1912, he left for the United Kingdom with his wife, Elizabeth, and their 15-year old daughter, Edith, and then sail to the United States in style on the Titanic on its maiden voyage. Brown was an affluent man, but he had to be content with second class berths. By the time he booked, all first-class accommodation had been taken. The Brown family perished when the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic went down after striking an iceberg. One of the crewmen who survived, Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, had a curious link with South Africa. The White Star Line’s management had transferred him to this new ship and ‘bumped him down to second officer’ shortly afte he ‘contrived to fire a salute to the Boers and hoist a Boer flag on a company vessel in Sydney Harbour.’ It never became clear what Lightoller’s motive was. He later played a vital role at the inquiry into the Titanic disaster, shedding much light on what happened on that fateful night of April 14, 1912.