Experts forecast a good year for tourism. SA Tourism chief executive Moeketsi Mosola, has called for excellence and sustainability at all levels in an interview in Tourism Update. “Role players should concentrate on transformation, service, quality assurance, training and information sharing,” he said. Tourism Update features items on growing market sectors. Among these are the sectors serving disabled tourists and wine tourism, which is growing rapidly internationally. For instance, it contributes R25bn annually to the Australian economy. In South Africa the contribution is R4,2bn according to an article in South African Wine. Experts feel there is plenty of room for growth as South Africa’s natural beauty and cultural heritage are major draw cards and valuable in the wine marketing mix. The wine industry has come a long way since 1659 when Van Riebeeck gave thanks to God because the first wine was pressed. Years later, according to local legend, a Cape Town dominee paused in mid-sermon one Sunday when he heard the clank of wine cart wheels on the road outside his church. Far from being offended, he leaned over the edge of the pulpit and asked a parishioner in the back row to dash out and see whose cart was passing. The man returned and said: “Dominee, it is your own cart!” to which the dominee replied: “Praise the Lord, it’s got off to an early start with deliveries!” He then calmly continued his sermon. No one in the congregation was surprised; the dominee was one of the town’s top wine merchants.


From a Chicago, with snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures, Round-up reader, Daph Marshall enjoyed a taste of the Karoo. She writes: “The Press here is filled with sad and bad news, the Tsunamis, the war in Iraq, the falling dollar, general gloom and doom for the American economy, so was quite hilarious to read the tale of the kommetjie-byt-my-gat muishond in issue No 15. We just rolled about with mirth. We were so grateful for a real story, and indeed, one in which we learned something brand new!”


Steve Herbert of Kalk Bay would like to contact recipe researchers. He and a relative are compiling a book on food and cooking methods used in the Karoo of the 1870s. “We are also looking for original recipes from that era and hope that Round-up readers may be prepared to share some with us. We will, of course, acknowledge all contributions. We would also value information on what people ate, how they cooked it and any interesting anecdotes on food and early travel which readers may like to share.” he said.


Things happened very fast once gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand. Virtually everything was in short supply in the fledgling mining camp that was to become Johannesburg. Realising this, a Mr Van Rensburg from Colesberg set up a transport business, bringing much needed produce to the miners. On one trip he was stunned at the prices oxen were fetching in Johannesburg, so he sold his whole team. He left his wagon behind Auctioneer Morkel’s office for safe keeping and hurried back to his Karoo farm to fetch another team of oxen. “Morkel was not in his office when Van Rensburg parked his wagon there, and the clerk with whom he left instructions forgot about it” writes Robert Crisp in The Outlanders. “Six weeks later, when Van Rensburg returned, he found that the open space behind the auctioneer’s office had been completely built over to make an auction room.” Oddly enough his wagon had not been moved. He had to dismantle his wagon on the spot and carry it out piece by piece through the front door of Morkel’s office. Van Rensburg then had to reassemble the wagon in the street, while the restless team of oxen milled about, and Johannesburgers with nothing better to do, looked on in great amusement.


In 1883 a steamer, shipped from Cape Town, arrived at Beaufort West station. Locals watched incredulously as bits and pieces of this 11m long steel-hulled ship, its 4kW engine and two propellers, were off-loaded, then packed and lashed onto two ox wagons, under the supervision of English adventurer, John Thorburn. As the wagons trundled off across the dry Karoo veld Beaufort Westers wondered what on earth he was going to do with a ship in the middle of the South African hinterland. Thorburn had left England for America at an early age. There he tried his hand at many things. He was a planter, a slave trader and a soldier during the Civil War. The discovery of diamonds drew him to South Africa, but he did not succeed as a miner, reports Eric Rosenthal in Shovel and Sieve. So, at the cost of £4 000, he built a steam-powered boat, that could hold 300 tons. His aim was to ship goods down the Vaal to Kimberley, but his plan failed because the Thembe, with its 2,5m beam and 55cm draught, drew too much water. Undaunted Thorburn set off on an incredible, 2 000km journey, fraught with immense challenges. He set a course for the Mocambique coast, building roads where none existed. Ever onwards he dragged the Thembe, the largest parcel ever conveyed across the South African veld. En route he painted and re-painted the vessel several times. It was tough going. One place was so rough it took four days to cover two kilometers. At another point on the epic journey a wagon overturned smashing the Thembe’s cabin to smithereens. Still Thorburn kept going. In 1886, with the end in sight, Thorburn walked to the coast, returned, built his final road, and within days launched the Thembe from the mouth of the Rio Spirito Santo. Three years had passed since his wagons pulled out of Beaufort West’s station.


Post cart travel had little to recommend it according to John Widdicombe, a mid-nineteenth century traveler. He described the carts as looking like a square water tank with rails on two wheels. “The mailman stored mailbags inside the tank and, when it was full, tied extra bags on top. The carts, which were not covered, were designed to carry three passengers. One sat next to the driver and two sat back to back with them their feet on the tailboard. The roads were poor, horses untrained and many drivers unskilled. Except for a short stop now and then for a hasty meal at a farm or wayside inn, the coaches drove on relentlessly. Passengers got no rest. They constantly had to be on their guard against dozing off and falling from the cart. It was dangerous to tie oneself to the rail as there was a very good chance of being crushed to death if the vehicle overturned, which they frequently did,” said Widdicombe.


“If you find a good horse, keep him,” was the advice given to British soldiers in South Africa in the 1850s. They were instructed to look for “a horse that could be pulled up in his stride and one that would not mind a gun going off between his ears.” They were also warned against “bolters” and “rearers.” One officer maintained the best way to deal with a ‘rearer’ was to “slip your feet out of the stirrups, as the horse rises up, drop off his back, pull his head hard down and then remount.” However, some soldiers were “totally horrified at chargers who reared up and fell over backwards.” One reported seeing a horse rear right over with an ‘inebriated’ settler on his back. “The settler never quitted the saddle, and when the horse struggled to his feet again, actually came up, still in the saddle, smiling affably and without a scratch.” A “bolter” once charged a wall, with an officer on his back. He “gave me a tremendous purl and grazed off half of my moustache which was in a most promising state,” laments T J Lucas in Camp Life and Sport in S A. “A major problem was finding a horse that could be trusted to remain where you’d left him for any length of time. I know of nothing more aggravating than a tricky brute, who waits quietly until you come up to him. Then, just as you reach out to catch hold of the reins to remount, sends both heels flying at your head, and trots off gently, repeating the manoeuvre every time you approach. Such an animal could lead you well into this desert land, leaving you miles away from anyone who could help.”


Reinwald Dedekind’s efforts at revamping Prince Albert’s Museum Gardens have earned much praise. When he took over the care of these gardens in 2004, his main objective was the restoration and relabelling of the indigenous plant exhibit near the Tourist Bureau. He then planted a range of aloes, all with names and places of origin. Tourists found the Afrikaans names most amusing with ‘krismis’ and ‘kanniedood’ raising most smiles, particularly after they discovered the ‘kanniedood’ (can’t die) aloe grows prolifically throughout the town’s cemeteries,” writes Ailsa Tudhope in The OIive Branch. “Reinwald received many a pat on the back for a garden that ‘delights the eye while it informs the mind.”


Modern communications is not all it’s cracked up to be. Over a bad cellphone line the name of the man who made the windows of the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral in Bloemfontein sounded like Leonardus Albertus. ”It is in fact Lambertus Emundus (Leo) Monsma.,” writes his son-in-law, Tony Nell. “Leo was born in Holland on July 5 1909. On October 10. 1934 he married Cornelia Helena Francina Hamers. They had eight children – four sons: Wiebe, Johannes (Han), Innocentius (Inno), and Alfonsus (Fons), and four daughters Annette (Netty), Lydwina (Lydia), Veronica (Ronnie) and Odelia (Diel), the youngest, who was born in South Africa.” Leo, a leather tanner by trade ran his own business in Holland. During World War II he was active in the Dutch Resistance Movement. His tannery was damaged in a bombing raid. In 1948 Leo then decided to move to South Africa to create a new life for his family in a country not ravaged by war. He arrived in February, his family followed in October. In South Africa, Leo did not follow his trade as a tanner, but held various posts in companies such as General Chemicals, where he became acquainted with liquid latex. “This became the core of his stained-glass business. As a hobby, he started making glass mosaic items, such as tabletops, using various colours of broken glass. They were an instant success. He then experimented with different colours and pigments. More artistic pieces such as lampshades and furniture followed. Before long Leo had developed his own colours and pigments, methods of mixing these with the latex and effectively applying the mix to glass sheets. He patented his methods and Glasparents was born.” Before long he was accepting commissions for huge stained-glass projects in Bloemfontein and throughout South Africa. Among these were the windows of the Sacred Heart Cathedral and the Agricultural Faculty at the University of the Free State. “In 1962 Leo and Helena, returned to Amstelveen, in Holland, with their three youngest children. He continued doing stained glass work in Holland until he died on September 25, 1980,” said Tony.


Recent Spring flowers alongside the N1 between Touws River and Beaufort West so captivated Emil Shreve of Somerset West. He paused to photograph them and sent some glorious beautiful pictures to S A Gardening. These appeared in the January issue. “Road verges have been described as South Africa’s largest nature reserve,” says Dr Sue Milton, an expert who lives in Prince Albert. “This vegetation is protected from grazing and watered by rain run off from the roads. The plants thus set more seeds. Often plants that have become rare are found along the edges of national, provincial and divisional roads.”


British soldiers riding across arid Karoo plains in 1851 suddenly found themselves in the centre of a swarm of locusts. “It was like riding through a veritable hailstorm of insects and trying to see gives the impression of looking through lattice work. The insects pelt and well-nigh blind one,” writes T J Lucas in Camp Life and Sport in Soutb Africa. He stated that they hit with such force, the pain was searing. “As the locusts swarmed about us I noticed the Colonel raise his hand to his eye. Obviously, he had been hit in the face. ‘I’ll get you for that, you little beast,’ejaculated the Colonel with a volley of expletives. Turning to his orderly the Colonel asked if he had such a thing as a pin about him. The orderly grinned, searched his pockets, produced one and presented it with a salute. The Colonel stabbed the pin through the insect, which he had captured between thumb and forefinger, and gave it a vicious twirl. ‘Hit me in the eye, would you,’ he snarled, all the time twirling the pin. He then placed the locust in his saddle bag. It was a brief respite, because at every twinge out came the impaled insect to be subjected to fresh torments.”


Michelle Farmer, who lives in England, is looking for information on the Pritchard family who once lived in Beaufort West. Michelle’s great, great grandmother, Frances Randall, (nee Pritchard) was born in Beaufort West between 1875 and 1880. “I believe her grandparents came from St Helena and I am also trying to trace this link,” she says.”


The Otto du Plessis Road, better known as the road to The Hell, is still officially closed. Part of The Eland’s Pass was washed away in a torrential downpour in August. Since then team have been busy with repairs. Preliminary repair work made the route suitable for 4 x 4 vehicles and those with a high axle clearance. More repair work is scheduled for 2005 say CapeNature . They advise tourists wishing to visit The Hell to call 044-802-5310 for up-to-date information before they venture down to Gamkaskloof.


Deelfontein is an isolated, tiny rail stop between Hutchinson and De Aar in the Karoo. During the Anglo-Boer War the British set up a huge tent hospital there; it was the largest military surgical and convalescent hospital of its kind. Today it’s a rather spooky, haunted spot. The tents are long gone. Ruins of a small hotel, opposite the station, two graveyards, just down the road and a face brick skeleton of what once was a post office, mark the spot. Why, you ask, would there be a post office in the middle of nowhere? Well, locals say that one day building material arrived, followed by work crews who quickly erected a modern post office complete with shiny wooden counters and brass rails. Local farmers were amazed. Yet, no one questioned officialdom. In fact they were grateful that their little corner of the world warranted such a structure. They called to make arrangements for the “official opening,” only to be told: “There is no post office at Deelfontein!” It appears the material should have been sent to Dealesville. Somewhere someone had bungled! This is not the only story of its kind in South African history. The people of Adelaide had a similar experience. During the Anglo-Boer War, to the disgust of the locals, the British commandeered the Dutch Reformed Church in this sleepy hamlet with scant regard for property and possessions, writes Roger Webster in At the Fireside. After the war villagers banded together to restore the church. But money was short and supplies expensive. Then, almost like the answer to a prayer, two wagons trundled into town laden with everything needed to fix the church. There was even a carved pulpit and matching chair. The Adelaiders were touched. The material had come from England. It seemed the Brits were not so bad after all! With unmatched enthusiasm the church was repaired and reconsecrated. Then, a letter arrived. “It is with some trepidation that we enquire whether a consignment of oak and supplies ordered for our church two years ago has not perhaps mistakenly been delivered to your town in South Africa instead of ours?” enquired the Honorable Mayor of Adelaide in Australia! All the locals could do was send him some pictures.


The fact that the Karoo is in its third consecutive year of drought and open waters are very scarce, did not deter teams of local birders taking part in the annual Big Bird Day competition. The two teams, that participated in the Prince Albert area, The Karoo Korhaans and Die Huismossies, had to contend with a strong southerly wind in the vicinity of the Swartberg Pass. “This certainly made bird spotting much more challenging,” reports Japie Claassen, “Yet, they did well, achieving totals of 136 and 130 respectively.” The Karoo Korhaans logged good views of Black Eagle, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Lesser Honeyguide, Cape Batis, Victorin’s Warbler and Black-throated Canary. They missed out on Karoo Eremomela, Dusky Sunbird, Pied Crow, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and the coursers. Die Huismossies recorded seeing Black Harrier, Cardinal Woodpecker, Southern Grey Tit, Cape Penduline Tit, Maccoa Duck, but missed the Malachite Sunbird, Layard’s Titbabbler, Ant-eating Chat, Black Eagle and Hamerkop. “I was part of Die Bokvellers team that searched the Tanqua/ Bokkeveld area and managed to spot 129 species,” says Japie. “Among these were all three Grebes, Maccoa Duck, Black Sparrowhawk, Southern Black Korhaan, Whiskered Tern, Blue Crane, Cape Clapper Lark, Karoo Eremomela and Protea Canary. We missed out on seeing the Karoo Korhaan, Spike-heeled Lark, Spotted Eagle Owl, Ludwig’s Bustard and the Pied Barbet, even though we stopped next to its previous nesting hole. A Laingsburg team also took part in the area around the town and recorded 72 species. All teams enjoyed the day and the birding immensely.”


In his efforts to piece together the world around Beaufort West in the 1890s genealogical researcher Alwyn Smit is now on the trail of Cecil Alport and Louis Hugo. “From a diary written by Clarence de Jager of Kuilspoort it seems these two lads were school mates of his,” writes Alwyn. “Cecil, it appears was the son of businessman, P J Alport, who also owned Coronation Hall, where years later the town’s first bioscope was to be established. Clarence writes: ‘We also had Louis Hugo in our class. He was a sharp-witted, bright and brainy lad, but much younger than the rest of us. I think he eventually became a professor at the University of Bombay. His brother Stephan was in a higher standard. In time he became a lawyer in Middelburg. He was killed in France during World War I.’ I would love to know whether anyone in Beaufort West knows anything about the Hugos and where they lived,” says Alwyn.


“Reality is not an inspiration for literature. At its best, literature is an inspiration for reality.”

Aviator Romain Gary, who became one of France’s most popular post war writers.