It is claimed that the last hippopotamus in the Great Karoo was shot on the banks of the Zeekoei River, near Hanover, in 1775. Now, after 230 years, three hippos have been given a new home on New Holme Guest Farm, 8km north of Hanover. December 13 was an emotional day for farmer PC Ferreira when a truck pulled onto his farm after a 14-hour journey from Mpumalanga. The doors opened, black snouts appeared, and one sniff of Karoo air was enough. With eyes squinting in the sunlight, a hippopotamus bull, cow and calf, nonchalantly emerged and began ambling towards the Zeekoei River. PC was elated. “Hippos once were quite prolific in this area, hence the name of the river,” he said. PC first started working on a project to re-establish hippos a year ago by creating the Karoo Hippopotamus Re-settlement Forum. Then, with his father, Ian, he declared the 12 000ha Karoo-Gariep Conservancy. Now about six neighbours are interested in getting involved in the project. “The plan is to eventually settle between 40 and 50 hippos along an 80km stretch of the river and build up a significant conservancy over the next 15 years,” said PC. “We, of course, hope the animals will settle well and breed here.” The three new Karoo “inhabitants” were declared a nuisance in the Letsithele area when, because of hunger, they began destroying citrus orchards. “The DCA (Damage Causing Animals) Forum contacted us because these three State-owned animals had to be resettled. They were prepared to donate them to us,” said PC. “We could not believe our luck. The animals are valued at R150 000.” The hippos were then captured by Mpatomasha and kept in a bouma on Piet Minaar’s farm, Lethaba, until transport to the Karoo could be arranged. “As they stepped out of the truck and strolled off to explore, I was overcome with emotion. It was a dream come true. It was a true historic moment. My research revealed that the last hippopotamus in the Northern Cape was shot at Augrabies in 1930.” PC also hopes to settle some Cape buffalo on his farm in January. He hopes these too will be tourist attractions.


New Holme, now the new home to the first hippos to be seen in the Karoo for 230 years, is a guest farm. A working farm it offers real, traditional farm holidays to those wanting to discover the Karoo. The farm lies alongside the N1, 55km south of Colesberg and 8 km north of Hanover. It is run by PC and Marisca Ferreira, who love nothing more than sharing the Karoo with visitors. “Here guests are encouraged to enjoy everything that happens on a Karoo farm,” said Marisca. “In addition to the usual “hans” (hand-reared) lambs, there is also a “hans-eland,” who is extremely tourist friendly. We have three houses, ideal for individual families and in which groups of up to 35 people can be accommodated. We offer donkey cart rides, fishing and participation in a wide variety of farm activities, such as shearing.” The farm lies in a bird rich area and concentrates on bringing birders to the Karoo. It has a special route along which visitors can see black eagles and another where fish eagles can be studied.


A group of Canadians recently made a meaningful donation to a Prince Albert School. When Prof Joseph Manyoni, who lives in Canada, learned from Andre and Linda Jaquet, who visited that country earlier this year, that their school badly needed books, he began a project to help. He sorted out some books that he considered would be relevant to South African children, from his own collection. Then, assisted by “Friends of the National Library of Canada,” he was able to gather quite a collection. Prof Manyoni sent the books to South Africa with the Jaquets. The books now have pride of place in a special room at the school. The `Friends of the National Library of Canada’ have been thanked for their generous donation and Professor Manyoni has been invited to visit the school when he comes to South Africa in 2006.


A new tourist venue has just opened in the tiny, friendly Karoo village of Loxton, 80km from Victoria West, on the tarred R63 route. In an effort to share the beauties of this part of the Great Karoo photo-journalists Steve and Brent Moseley, have opened Karoo Cottage, a comfortably furnished, self-catering, single-roomed venue in the shade of a huge pine tree. It has a double and a single bed, separate bathroom (shower) and fully fitted kitchen with microwave, fridge, and two-plate gas stove. A variety of breakfast options are offered, dinner is on request only and braai packs are available. The rate is R130 per person, per day, bed only. Truly “off-the-beaten-track,” Loxton offers delightful scenic drives to Victoria West, Carnarvon and a variety of interesting farms on the Nuweveld Mountains, one of which has a replica of a German castle and Dutch windmill. Several others have corbelled houses, the unique beehive-shaped stone structures built by the earliest trekboers (migrating farmers) in about 1811. They used only stone because no other building materials existed. These structures exist only around Loxton, Williston, Fraserburg and Carnarvon. The stones of the corbel houses cleverly slot together and there are no supporting roof beams


Three Karoo primary schools were awarded Green Flags for outstanding environmental efforts at the end of 2005. Patrysfontein (Carnarvon), J J Booysen (Loxton), and Klawervlei (Beaufort West) will all proudly fly these flags in 2006. Their achievement brought the number of schools registered for the WESSA / WWF-SA Eco-Schools Programme in the Karoo region to five. “The Green Flag is a prestigious award presented for outstanding efforts in the improvement of school grounds and integration of environmental issues into lesson plans and school curricula,” explained Dr Vicky Ahlmann, chairman of the Riverine Rabbit Working Group. “Many urban and rural schools in the Karoo face serious environmental problems. Many are also affected by the high unemployment rates and poverty of hinterland communities. There is a strong link between poverty, environmental damage, and the loss of biodiversity. Serious environmental damage is evident in the Karoo in the form of desertification, silting of rivers, decreased land productivity, soil erosion, reduced underground water and flow in springs and rivers. Problems are also caused by animals, alien invasive plants and the loss of indigenous species.” The Eco-Schools Programme links environment and education by providing learners with the capacity and skills to make informed decisions about their lifestyles, livelihoods and relationships with their environment. This includes relationships with nature as well as people and other living elements within life-support systems and processes. Environmental education is one of many projects implemented by the Riverine Rabbit Working Group of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, to conserve one of Southern Africa’s most endangered terrestrial mammal species, the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis). The programme was introduced to South Africa in 2003 and it exceeded expectations when 56 schools took part that year. By 2005 participation had rocketed to over 700 schools.


“Thank you for another wonderful read. I love Round-up’s descriptive stories about Graaff Reinet and Beaufort West and other Karoo towns,” writes Midge Carter from Australia. “In the latest issue you reminded me that Leeu Gamka had been called Fraserburg Road and I remembered passing through there when I was a child in about 1940. I also enjoyed your reminder that Sir Percy FitzPatrick was the person responsible for the two-minutes silence observed at 11h00 every year on November 11. Sir Percy’s eldest son Nugent, who served with the South African Heavy Artillery in World War I, was killed by a stray shell at Beaumetz, in France on December 14, 1917. Then ten years later Sir Percy lost both his other sons within ten days of each other. Oliver died of typhoid fever in Mexico on December 24, 1927, and Alan was killed by an accidental gunshot on January 2, 1928. Sir Percy, himself, died a couple of years later, but his only daughter Cecily, who married Jack McKie-Niven, lived to a ripe old age. She was full of go to the end of her life. I met her quite by accident, when she was already in her 80s. It happened when a friend told me of an “old lady” and her companions who wanted to do a tour of the Anglo-Boer War battlefields in Natal. It turned out to be Cecily Niven and a group of friends. I agreed to take them – it was a most enjoyable and memorable trip – and Cecily ended up being a wonderful friend to me. Incidentally the two-minute silence is still observed in Perth. In fact, many people still observe it throughout Australia because this country lost over 60,000 men in WW 1 – a huge number, considering the total population at that time. It had a profound effect on the nation’s productivity for many years.”


Towards the end of the 1940s a young journalist became popular in the Karoo. Commissioned by the S A Jewish Times, Arthur Markowitz travelled across South Africa searching for stories to use in a nation-wide survey entitled They Helped to Build South Africa – The Story of South African Jewry. In two years Arthur travelled 16 000km visiting homes, shops and Shuls, in 117 towns and villages. He interviewed hundreds of people, discovered long-forgotten details on old gravestones, examined books, journals, diaries, relics and photographs. He also drank innumerable cups of coffee on countless “voorstoeps” between 1947 and 1949, yet when he arrived in South Africa from Europe, 20 years earlier none of the languages he knew were of any use to him. Nor was his “inheritance.” Arthur, who had been born in the Baltic, was in his late teens when he arrived in South Africa with his mother, in 1928. They had “suitcases full of useless roubles,” but no English. During World War I they changed their citizenship seven times, simply in an effort to survive. While completing his schooling in Durban Arthur used his chess-playing skills to help him learn English. To get money he worked as a lorry driver, a police-dog trainer (a skill he had acquired at the age of 8) and a wool and skin sorter. Within two years he had a job as a journalist. The aim of the Jewish Times assignment was to discover how the Jewish Community lived and worked, its economic, political and social roles, as well as the concerns, achievements and ambitions of individuals “from the Cape to the Congo.” “In a land of bright sunshine, the shadows are bound to be deep,” wrote Arthur. “I shall try to avoid being blinded by one or frightened by the other.”


The first Jew to be laid to rest in Beaufort West was Sundel Senier. Not much is known about him, except that he was buried in the then small village in 1881. At that time there were several Jewish families in town. They came from England, Holland, Germany and Eastern Europe. The cemetery gives an indication of the cosmopolitan character of the community. This was the last resting place of Siegmund Harpner, “a private official and Lieutenant in the Austrian Landwehr, who was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1865.” Siegmund came to the Karoo with the Cape Colonial Railways and, according to an item in the South African Jewish Times of June 6, 1947, was killed in a railway accident at Grootfontein in 1896.


Benjamin Glatt was a pious man. He was also a highly respected and popular general dealer in early Beaufort West. Benjamin’s religion prevented him from trading on Saturdays, the Sabbath to members of the Jewish faith. All his customers respected this because they were aware of his deep religious convictions. Farmers and towns people alike made every effort to shop before closing time on Friday, but now and then an emergency would arise. In 1947 Benjamin’s grandson, E L Norrie, told Arthur Markowitz, that in the 1940s some customers were so loyal to his grandfather that they could not consider shopping elsewhere, even in an emergency. “So, they would come around to my grandfather’s house, tell him their problem and he would simply point to the keys of his shop. They would take these, go to the shop, help themselves and then pop back some time in the following week to pay. It speaks well of their integrity that his trust was never abused.” At one time Benjamin Glatt lived in Murraysburg, yet he never missed a High Holy Day service. According to an article in the Jewish Times of June 6, 1947, as these days approached, Benjamin would inspan a team of oxen and undertake the 150 km trip to Beaufort West by wagon. At the pace of the wagon each trip took several days, but Benjamin enjoyed everyone. “Just sitting on a wagon, slowly trundling across the veld, you have a great deal of time to ponder your problems and to work out amicable solutions,” he often sagely told his family.


Ostrich feathers fascinated an early Jewish pioneer and eventually led to him becoming an East Griqualand cattle king. However, before N Meyersowitz came to South Africa in 1901, he had not even seen an ostrich feather. Shortly after he arrived in Cape Town, he heard that feathers were doing well in Oudtshoorn. He developed a keen interest in the feather industry, got out before the 1914 crash and started farming with cattle. “On his East Griqualand farm, he had over 6 000 head of cattle, among them Afrikaners, Herefords and Aberdeen Angus herds,” states an article in the South African Jewish Times of March 14, 1947. Meyerowitz also had milk cows and this led to him starting several cheese factories in East Griqualand. He retired to Durban where he died in March, l947.


On May 29, 1652, only a few weeks after the arrival of the first white settlers, Van Riebeeck reported that hippo meat was quite palatable. “It tastes like calf, so we allow the men to eat it,” he wrote. In 1659 Albrecht Herport also wrote that “sea-cows were very good to eat.” And, in 1675 another visitor, Christophoris Schweitzer said: “the flesh of sea-cows tastes better than that of swine.” Captain Daniel Beeckman considered young hippos “excellent for the making of bacon.” In time, it seems, hinterland settlers agreed because hippos were hunted almost to extinction for their flesh, hides and tusks. Naturalist Francois le Vaillant considered hippo tusks to be preferable to “ivory” (elephant tusks) and their hides excellent for whips and shambucks. “These,” wrote A C Partridge, “were essential accoutrements to early farmers to stir the rump of a lazy ox, or horse, or inflict punishment on a recalcitrant slave.” Hippo fat was in great demand for cooking, as a lubricant and as a medicine. Le Vaillant wrote that while “the hippopotamus is extremely fat, its grease is not disgusting. It has none of the bad effects of the fat of other animals. (which cause diarrhoea). My people melted it and drank it from basins as if it were broth. They also rubbed it on their bodies and shone as if they had been varnished.” He also reported potions of fat could be used to cure “disorders of the breast,” a knife-point of “powdered hippo” could cure convulsions in children and dried dung, mixed with water was good for measles. When it was “preserved in bottles it had the consistency of olive oil,” he said. “Hippo fat was given a novel twist by Kolbe,” writes C J Skead in Historical Mammal Incidence in the Cape Province. “After discussing hippo meat in the diet, he wrote: ‘The fat is very sweet and wholesome. It is used as batter with rice puddings and in dressings of most victuals. Some eat it with bread only, spreading it like butter. It is also reckoned as an excellent thing against surfeit and a redundancy of humours of the body.’”


Well-known food writer, Gwynne Conlyn, has just produced a recipe book with a difference. In her latest publication, a 320-page book Food Gurus Uncovered, she pays tribute to 19 top chefs in South Africa. This beautifully illustrated book, which contains interviews with the chefs, as well as their recipes for three course meals, has been hailed as a winner by food writers and industry leaders. It also marks the launch of Gwynn’s own publishing company. “There are more interesting books in the pipeline,” she says. She plans to publish four books by other authors in 2006. All will be food and wine-focused. She is also planning to publish a food and travel book, sponsored and endorsed by one of her corporate clients. Gwynn’s first book, Delicious Travel, is one of the top five best sellers in its category. Food Gurus Uncovered costs R350 per copy (VAT inclusive) but excluding packaging and postage. Ten Rand of the cover price of each book will be donated to the Centre for Culinary Excellence.


A variety of excellent, top quality taste treats are available form Loxton, a major garlic growing area. Here Annetjie van Wyk has established Karoo Garlic Products, which produces a variety of relishes, pickled garlic, olive and pickled-garlic-chilli mixes. Another ‘local’ who is well-known for the produce of her kitchen, as well as her handwork, is Helen Naudé. She makes draught excluders, a variety of specially-designed garden aprons, and fabric-painted potholders as well as delicious pickled olives, catawba and crab apple jellies, a variety of garlic products, jams, marmalades and harissa paste.


The note about Victoria West being a stop for London flights brought back happy memories to a Cape Town reader. “When I read that Imperial Airways used to land at Victoria West on its Cape Town to London route (Round-up No 27) I wondered how many of your readers would remember that SAA’s flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg also used to land at Victoria West. These flights, which left shortly before 07h00, landed for breakfast at Victoria West, for lunch in Kimberley, afternoon tea in Bloemfontein, and arrived in time for supper at Johannesburg. They were quite wonderful. The trip was almost a holiday on its own. We took this flight three times and believe it or not struck turbulence over the Karoo each time. Every passenger, except my two children and I, was bilious. The bad weather even affected the cabin crew but, made of sterner stuff, we thoroughly enjoyed our flights.”

You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them.
When you rob a man of everything he’s no longer in your power—he’s free again.

From Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1968 novel, “The First Circle.”