On a windy winter’s day recently, a group of people alongside a stream on the outskirts of Prince Albert enthusiastically discussed a lady, a launder and a lantern. The Friends of Albert’s Mill were in fact taking a serious look at restoration work in progress on the last surviving mill in town. The uninitiated soon discovered that the strange terms all referred to parts of a mill. In its heyday, Albert’s Mill was no rarity what with four others in the village. But it was closest to the Swartberg Mountains. The mill once supplied top-grade flour in white cotton bags carrying a picture of the mill and miller. At first, a small mill powered by a stream flowing towards town was built in 1842. But after eight years it could no longer cope. So the much larger Albert’s Mill was built on the same spot by the owner, H J Botes. Just over a century later it was declared a national monument and became one of the most photographed tourist attractions in Prince Albert. In his new millhouse, Botes also installed a larger more efficient 2,4m wooden, overshot clasp-arm wheel. “Overshot means that the stream runs across the top of the wheel, which is turned entirely by the weight of the water in the buckets”, says Derek Thomas, chairman of the Friends of Albert’s Mill Society. “Overshot wheels need only about a quarter the volume of water required by undershot wheels”. The society, established last year, negotiated the restoration of the mill with current owner Johan Serfontein. They also researched the history of water mills in South Africa in collaboration with Chris Jansen, of Hermanus, who was contracted to do the restoration. The mill, previously restored by Union Steel in 1972, fell into disrepair through disuse. Johan Serfontein is keen to see Albert’s Mill once more fully operational and there are plans to train a miller.


Die mense van Bergsig, ‘n woonbuurt op die suidelike kant van Laingsburg, is besig om malvas te plant om hulle omgewing te verfraai. Dié gemeenskapsprojek is met behulp van Ilsa Nel en Francis van Wyk van die biblioteek aangepak. “Almal plant nou so veel malva stiggies van verskillende kleure en geure as wat hulle kan”, sê Francis. “Die buurt is duidelik sigbaar vanaf die N1 en Bergsig se inwoners wil dit in ‘n pragplek omskep. Dit sal wel ‘n jaar of twee neem voor resultate te sien is, maar dit gaan wel die moeite werd wees”.


Laingsburg’s new brochure is a winner. Those who’ve seen it are full of praise for the succinct information it carries. “I enjoyed reading it”, says Professor Morris Viljoen, Head of the Department of Geology at the University of the Witwatersrand, who was given a preview. “The geological part is put across in an interesting way. On a recent trip through the Karoo I did a number of stops to study the white rock band, certainly a striking and unmistakable feature along the road. I have collected some samples for analysis”.


The difficult years of World War II, added to poor grazing, threatened to turn Stolshoek near Beaufort West into a ghost farm. The then owner, Kowie Pienaar, thought long and hard about linking this drought-stricken farm to the superior veld of his other property on the middle and high plateau. Eventually he decided a pass would be the answer. His friends and family all scoffed. “Leave the mountains to the baboons”, they said. “They are the lords of the peaks”. But Kowie would not be deterred. Despite his wife considering him mad, he and four labourers set off for the mountains one fine day in 1940. By the time the grimy, exhausted team returned that evening they knew they had engaged in a long, hard battle with a mountain. Ten long years later the job was done, and the baboons had been driven off for good by the maddening noise of blasting. The full story of the building of Pienaar’s Pass, now part of the 4×4 route in the Karoo National Park, is told in the first booklet to be published by the park’s Ou Schuur Information Centre. Entitled Stolshoek, a shrine to past lives, it will soon be on sale at the park. Baboons were reported in great numbers on the Nuweveld Mountains from as early as December 1839. Missionary/explorer James Backhouse reported seeing huge numbers all along the range north-west of Beaufort West. Their harsh, distinctive barks followed most early travellers right into the village. It was this bark that led to baboons acquiring the unusual name of Chacma. Professor C J Skead, who studied the incidence of mammals in the early Cape says, “The word is of Hottentot origin. They imitated the sound made by the baboons and called them chöachamma, or cho a kamma”.


Toe Murraysburg in 1855 aangelê is, het die dorpskoppie nie ‘n naam gehad nie. Maar die opvolger van dr Eyssel, dr J J Muskett, het gesorg dat die situasie verander het. Muskett, wie op 3 Augustus, 1859, in die dorp aangekom het, was baie lief vir die natuur. Benewens sy mediese werk het hy heelwat navorsing rondom die veld en plante gedoen. “Dan op ‘n dag het hy ‘n werk aangepak wat vandag nog staan om hom te vereer”, sê Etta Oosthuizen, plaaslike historikus. “Muskett het eiehandig ‘n wandelpad om die koppie uitgelê, seker in die hoop dat ander sy liefde vir die natuur sou deel. Gevolglik het die koppie die naam ‘Dokterskoppie’ gekry. Mettertyd is die pad verleng tot by Boesmangrot waar daar eens‘n pragtige reeks tekeninge was, maar ongelukig is hulle oor die jare onherkenbaar verniel”. Muskett het Murraysburg in 1862 verlaat om sy praktyk op Knysna voort te sit. “Die Murraysburgers het hom baie gemis”, sê Etta. “Daar is dus ‘eene uitnodiging door 60 van die invloedrykste leden deser gemeente geteken aan hom gerig’ om hom te vra om terug te kom. In die brief skryf inwoners dat ‘ondanks enkele exentriciteiten zou mengigen zich zeer verheugen wees om u weder te zien.’ Muskett was nie net as ‘n bekwame doktor beskou nie, maar ook as ‘een hoogst achtenswaardige en door en door wellewende mensch,’ volgens berigte in die Murraysburg Eeufeesboek van 1955”, sê Etta. Die versoek het Muskett se hart geraak en hy het terruggekeer om op die dorp te bly tot 1878. “Die pad om die koppie is later wyer gemaak sodat ‘n motor daar kon ry en in 2 000 is die 60 meter hoë Vodacomtoring daar opgerig”.


Two visitors from the Finnish embassy recently visited Beaufort West to sign an agreement for funding with the Karoo Centre for Human Rights. Jukka Siukosaari, the chargés d’affairs, and Ville Luukanen, project co-ordinator, both thoroughly enjoyed their visit to the Karoo. “The amount of R600 000 represents funding for a two-year period and will cover a variety of courses, workshops, and human rights programmes. Both men look forward to follow-up visits and to bringing their ambassador to enjoy this beautiful area”, says Mrs Lungi Ngondo, a director of the centre.


Delegates at the Arid Zone Ecology Forum at Calitzdorp Spa from September 4 to 7 will be given a glimpse into the prehistory of the Karoo. In a session covering the earliest humans, plants, animals and the ecology, chaired by Tim Hoffman, Professor Hilary Deacon will present a paper on the Boomplaats Cave and later lead an excursion to the cave. M de Jager and F Kersop will present a poster on the ancient footprint of the upper Karoo.


Long ago, a romantic young Karoo man tried to impress his future in-laws, but instead ended up in the company of a ghost. Hansie Odendaal, who lived in Prince Albert in 1949, offered to take his prospective bride and her parents on a drive across the Swartberg Pass. On one of the steep gradients the car stalled. The engine refused to fire up again and darkness was approaching. So, in a rising mist, Hansie packed rocks behind the wheels and started to walk back to the Old Toll House where he thought he had seen someone. As he approached, the figure still stood there, but did not react to his calls. Then, when Hansie arrived at the tollhouse, it was empty. Shrugging off what he had seen as simply an unfriendly hiker, Hansie decided to run down the pass to borrow a car in Prince Albert. Then he felt a shadow following him. Each time Hansie turned he saw nothing, yet he felt the presence. He became nervous and ran faster. When Hansie reached Tweede Water, the shadow vanished, as did his anxiety. Hansie managed to find a car and return for Hettie and her parents, who had also started walking down the pass. They were convinced a young man had accompanied them all the way down until they reached Fonteintjie, where he vanished. They were not concerned as they thought he lived somewhere on the mountain. Later, according to Helena Marincowitz’s book Prince Albert, Local Stories, Hansie discovered that a young police constable, who had accidently shot himself in 1885, was said to haunt the Swartberg Pass.


Daar is vier 4×4 roetes in die omgewing van Laingsburg, en entoesiaste word uitgenooi om hulle te kom geniet tydens die Karoofees op 27 en 28 Oktober. Die nuutste is die 16km Matjiesfontein Roete, wat onlangs voltooi is sodat feesgangers die prag van hierdie historiese dorpie en ‘n naburige 2 700ha plaas kan geniet. Johan Theart by 082-374-9919 het alle inligting oor hierdie roete. Daar is die 14km Vloedroete, met ‘n 3,5 gradering, wat die pad deur die rivier van die 1981 vloed volg. Die Elandskloof Bergroete, ook met ‘n gradering van 3,5 beskik oor asemrowende uitsigte oor die Witteberge. Die 19km roete met steil op- en afdraendes lê op ‘n plaas omtrent 50km suid van Laingsburg. Die 22km Josephskraal roete is 35km vanaf Laingsburg in a prag gebied vol interessante plante en kleinwild. Hierdie roete het ‘n gradering van 4,0 en die wat op die plaas wil oornag kan met Annalie Theron skakel op 023-551-1913. Sy bied akkommodasie in ‘n ou plaashuis met kaggel en oop vure aan, en daar is ook wandelpaaie, bergfiets- en motorfietsroetes op hierdie plaas.


Murraysburg crafters, featured in Country Life at the end of last year, have caught the eye of a reader in Spain. Susan Greta Read-Lobo writes from Cadiz: “Please send me more details of Sannie Cornelissen’s jerseys with ethnic African designs, Miemie van Heerden’s fabric art and Johanna van der Merwe’s colourful jackets. I was fascinated by the beautiful articles made by the people of Murraysburg in the December 2000 issue of Country Life, and by the union of everyone there to do things together. I would love to know if these wonderful people sell their goods overseas, and if so, how do they go about marketing them?” The townsfolk of Murraysburg are proud of the response they have had to the article, said spokesperson Elsie Smuts. “The cold winter has brought us several orders for socks and particularly soft, warm, cuddly mohair jerseys”.


When, in 1872, the Imperial Government granted the Cape Colony self-government, two Beaufort Westers began to feature prominently in public affairs – Sir John Charles Molteno, widely known as the Lion of Beaufort West, and J G Luttig, member for the town. René Kraus writes in his book Old Master – The life of Jan Christian Smuts, published in the United States in 1944: “Under the gentle guidance of Molteno, the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, who since he had occupied his seat from the creation of the first House of Assembly, handled power as to the manner born, the budding legislators took their first steps along the stony path of independence. One of their earliest acts was to forbid the extermination of the locust, since the plague was sent by God. Simultaneously, the right to use the Dutch language in the Cape Parliament was conceded. Mr J G Luttig, the newly elected member for Beaufort West, made the first Dutch speech, and all the Boer members of the House felt better”.


Gamkaskloof, better known as The Hell, is in the process of transformation. Last year Cape Nature Conservation acquired funding for the restoration of 11historic buildings and the stabilisation of several others in the valley. Eight of these projects have now been completed. Among them are the restoration of Ouplaas, home of Nature Conservation resident information officers Zannie van der Walt and wife Anita. Both Sankie and F Marais’s house, the Old School and the “Meester’s” house have been completed. Next on the list is Koos Cordier’s house. These restorations have involved much research and co-ordination of information from a wide variety of experts, but the old buildings themselves also yielded several secrets as Theuns Nortje and his team worked on them. “We discovered, for instance, that the wellknown ‘trappiesgewel’ house never originally had a stepped gable”, says Theuns. “Interviews with one of its early residents gave us a whole new perspective on this old building. We managed to acquire some very old photographs of it before the gable was added. Nevertheless, the gable has been part of this house for so long that it will stay”. The team hopes to finish the project by November this year.


Die William Quinton Wildevoëlvereniging beplan ‘n reeks interessante uitstappies vir die res van die jaar. Op 11 Augustus besoek hulle die Gamkapoortdam 30km wes van Prins Albert. “Dis ‘n plek waar daar altyd ‘n groot verskydenheid voëls en roofvoëls, soos die visarend, te sien is”, së sekretaris Japie Claassen. Oor die naweek van 14 tot 16 September besoek die klub die Oukloofdamgebied in die Prins Albert area en oornag op die plaas van Kowie en Addie Swanepoel. Dan is daar weer ‘n naweek uitstappie op 20 en 21 Oktober na die Swartbergpas, en die wat saamgaan sal by die Ou Tolhuis in die berge oorbly. ‘n “Mini birding day” word gereël om saam te val met die jaarvergadering op 10 November. “Dit sal lede ‘n kans bied om te oefen vir die jaarlikse groot voëlkykdag op 24 November”, sê Japie. “Ons het al vyf spanne wat deelneem, maar daar is ruimte vir nog heelwat spanne. Diegene wat belangstel om in hierdie groot geleentheid deel te neem moet nou begin om spanne saam te stel”.


A self-catering venue with seven comfortably furnished, fully equipped two-bedroomed chalets has just opened 20 km from Beaufort West on the N12 to Oudtshoorn. Each chalet at The Olive Grove has a double bed, two single beds, and a lounge with a sleeper couch. Each also has a fully-fitted kitchen, outdoor furniture and braai facilities. There is a large pool and a luxurious honeymoon suite. The venue is managed by Johan and Reinette du Toit. Overnight accommodation costs R320 for two, plus R20 for each additional guest. The Olive Grove, part of Midaz farms, can provide olives, olive oil, Karoo lamb, marinated ribs, braai packs, braai wors, venison, mince, sosaties, biltong and droëwors. “We find most guests order supplies directly from us and several also order meat to be packaged for taking back home at the end of their holiday”, says Reinette. The Olive Grove also offers bird watching, game viewing, night drives, walks and rambles in the veld and along the Lombardskraal River. There are four mountain bikes for those who want to explore further afield and a canoe on the dam for water enthusiasts. “In time we hope to acquire horses for those keen on riding”, says Reinette.


Lede van die Beaufort-Wes Tourismeburo het tydens die onlangse jaarvergadering verskeie talentvolle mense van die dorp ontmoet. Die vergadering is afgerond met tradisionele musiek verskaf deur plaaslike musikant Amos Post en sy groep, New Wave. ‘n Ander plaaslike groep, Heaven Bound, het onder andere liedjies wat hul self gekomponeer het gesing. BWTB se nuwe komittee is: Kobus Albrecht, voorsitter, Peter Long, ondervoorsitter, en Frans Gerber, tesourier. John van der Merwe is verantwoordlik vir ontwikkeling en Dieter van der Merwe vir bemarking. Wendy Simon, van die munisipaliteit se toerismekomitee, Lungi Ngondo en Betty Smit is ook op die komitee. Stefanus Jooste verteenwoordig Beaufort-Wes munisipaliteit en Rose Willis verteenwoordig die streekstoerismekantoor. Die BWTB inligtingsbeampte Wendy Antonie dien as sekretaris van alle komitees.