The Central Karoo launched two websites on June 8. Their creation, made possible by the Central Karoo District Municipality, has already gained a wider visibility for Beaufort West and the region. Both sites, hosted by Imaginet, have been submitted to Ananzi, Aardvark and S A Web, locally and to Alta Vista, Google and Lycos international search engines. Web addresses for these two new sites are www.centralkaroo.co.za and www.beaufortwestsa.co.za. They are uncomplicated, easy to use and quick loading. The pages offer visitors a wealth of historic detail on Beaufort West, as well as on other towns, villages and settlements in the Central Karoo. “The sites include details on accommodation venues, so the owners should log on as quickly as possible, check their details and let us have pictures to include if they wish. We can also link, their websites to these pages,” said Webmaster, Ailsa Tudhope of Prince Albert, who has also produced that town’s website and business pages. Both the Central Karoo and Beaufort West sites will grow over the next few months, many more pictures will be added, and pages will be adapted to meet demands.


Beaufort West Hydroponics Company, wat op 10 Junie amptelik bekend gestel is, gaan nou vars kruie vir markte deur Suid-Afrika vanaf dié Karoo dorp verskaf. Die maatskappy se groeitonnel het ‘n nuwe baken geword op die besige N1 hoofroete, suid van die dorp. Beaufort West Hydroponics het sy ontstaan te danke aan ywerige pogings van ‘n reeks borge wat hard gewerk het om hierdie projek te verwesenlik. Onder hulle is die Departement van Ekonomiese Ontwikkeling en Toerisme, Maatskapplike Dienste, die Armoede Verligtingsprojek, die WNNR en sub-kontrakteur, AIPP. Die Sentrale Karoo Distriksmunisipaliteit, Beaufort-Wes Munisipaliteit, Die Dienskorps, Vegtech en Sweet-Orr was ook betrokke. Lybro Kashan Communications het ‘n vernuftige logo vir die maatskappy ontwerp.


Beaufort West Hydroponics Company, officially launched on June 10, will soon be able to supply fresh herbs to markets throughout South Africa. The company’s growing tunnel, erected on the south side of the town about a year ago, has already become a landmark on the N1 highway. Beaufort West Hydroponics owes its existence to the co-operation and hard work of many sponsors. These include: The Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Social Services, the Poverty Relief Project, the CSIR and sub-contractor AIPP. The Central Karoo District Municipality, Beaufort West Municipality, The Service Corps, Vegtech and Sweet-Orr were also involved. Lybro Kashan Communications developed a nifty logo for the company.


The Nelspoort rock art has revealed more of its secrets. Reseachers recently found several exciting San rock engravings and the place where the Bushman lived. “This ancient open-air art gallery, the largest rock art site in the Western Cape, is much bigger than we initially expected,” says curator Lawrence Rathenham. “Our latest finds include some strange, mysterious drawings. The figures resemble the old Portuguese navigators. The drawings are in such a secluded, isolated, difficult to reach spot, it is a wonder we found them at all. They are tucked away in the depths of a dark mountain kloof. Our most exciting find has been the actual ‘home’ of the Bushmen. They lived in a beautiful, ancient, weathered ravine. It is made up of a series of dongas, which are almost like tunnels. The spot is sheltered and warm. Even today, it exudes an air of comfort and tranquility. The ground is littered with rock shards and ostrich shell chips. It is easy to imagine the women sitting in the sun, drilling holes in bits of shell and threading them into necklaces. There also appears to be a burial ground nearby. We have not disturbed the area. It is a heritage site and we are waiting for some expert help. We have issued an appeal to the community to treat this delicate site with the respect it deserves and not to remove any artifacts.”


Travellers peacefully dozing, serenely watching the Karoo pass by through the windows of a luxury train narrowly escaped death near Beaufort West, early in May 1903. As the train cheerfully chugged along, billowing smoke and periodically shattering the peace with its shrill whistle, passengers, could never have imagined a brush with death waited at the bottom of a nearby hill. A report in The Diamond Fields Advertiser stated: “Only luck, good fortune and quick action averted a serious catastrophe. As the deluxe train began descending towards a culvert, the driver suddenly saw a runaway engine and trucks hurtling towards him. He slammed on brakes. The runaway engine plunged across the culvert, dragging its trucks up the incline. It smashed into the luxury train, still roaring downwards, with brakes screaming, instantly turning that engine turned into a heap of twisted metal. Eye witnesses described the noise of the impact as terrifying. A mail coach, bound for Johannesburg, was smashed beyond repair. Newspapers, letters and other postal items were strewn widely across the veld. Fortunately, the impact did not occur at the culvert. If it had, the luxury train’s carriages would have hurtled down a high embankment. Many would have been injured. As it was flying debris hit the roofs and windows of the luxury carriages alarming the passengers, but miraculously, not injuring a soul. The driver and fireman of the luxury train emerged shaken, but without a scratch. This amazed all who saw the accident site,” wrote the DFA reporter


Kuiergaste op Kareedoringkraal, 60 km van Laingsburg, glo dat dit daar spook. Eienaardige grys gedaantes verskyn en verdwyn dikwels in die veld. Maar wat gaste snaaks vind is dat die vaalspoke van die Moordenaarskaroo ook bedags hul verskyning kan maak. “Die gedaantes wat besoekers bekommer is net ribbokke,” sê Marias Brink, eienaar van Kareedoringkraal. “Ons het heelwat op die plaas, maar omdat dit in die Moordenaarskaroo lê wil besoekers graag die spookstorie glo.” Omdat die gebied so ‘n groot aantrekkingskrag vir toeriste het, het Marais en sy vrou, Johanna, besluit om ‘n staproete op hulle plaas te ontwikkel. “Die roete lei stappers deur klowe met ‘n verskeidenheid van plantegroei en verby eienaardige rotsformasies. Dis juis op hierdie die roete waar die ‘spoke’ hul verskying maak.” Die plaas het oornagfasiliteite in twee ruim, vier-slaapkamer plaashuise. Gaste moet beddegoed en kos saambring.


Many visitors to Kareedoringkraal, 60km from Laingsburg, believe the area is haunted. Strange grey shapes and shadows constantly appear and disappear in parts of the veld in this area of the Moordenaarskaroo. And, weirdest of all, they appear even in broad daylight. “The phantoms of the veld, that scare the tourists, are just rheebucks,” says Marais Brink, owner of Kareedoringkraal. “We have many on the farm, however, since it lies in a place with such an emotive name as Moordenaarskaroo (Murder’s Karoo), guests prefer to believe the ghost stories.” This is a beautiful part of the Karoo and popular among tourists. Marais and his wife, Johanna, have thus developed a hiking route. “It passes through an area also preferred by the ‘ghosts,’” says Marais. “That is why these specters are seen so often.” This farm also has overnight facilities in two spacious, four bed roomed, farmhouses. Guests, should, however, bring along their own bedding and food.


In the 1900s everyone who was anyone “took in a show,” when travelling theatre groups came to town. Then, suddenly this social tradition was threatened by a spate of poor performers. One of the worst groups, according to The Courier, was Will Morgan’s Australian Juveniles, a troupe of variety artistes. In Beaufort West a printer’s devil led to their show being billed as “Vaudeville Vile,” instead of “Vaudeville Live.” However, after seeing the show, The Courier reported: “The inaccuracy is pardonable. This group has neither talent nor stage deportment. The first night was a flop, the second cancelled due to lack of an audience. So, the troupe could neither pay its bills, nor hall hire costs.” Heated arguments erupted. According to The Courier: “Some actors were arrested for theft. Others tried to leave on a Worcester-bound train without tickets. They too were arrested and did a stint in jail.” Just as the furore died down, the troupe reappeared in Beaufort West under a new name. One angry theatre-goer wrote to the The Courier on February 18, 1904, protesting about “the frauds we are suddenly seeing masquerading as ‘refined Vaudeville troupes’. Their shows are third rate, undesirable and questionable, both as regards elegance and competence. I was shocked to see sham actors trying the honour of the stage a second time in Beaufort West. This will ruin things for good groups. The theatre-going public will have a surfeit of spurious histrionics and soon will not buy tickets, fearing to be duped. The Actors’ Association must save the public from these frauds, and its own good name from becoming permanently besmirched.”


The message was clear. It is time to become part of the modern world. WCTB’s e.business manager Bronwen D’Oliviera recently explained the benefits of the proposed new e.business system to Central Karoo roleplayers. She also discussed skills training to ensure a smooth launch. “The scheme designed to increase professionalism and efficiency, will soon be phased in. Each bureau must select a rate and pay 10% of this fee to WCTB in the 2004/2005 financial year. All we need now is commitment,” she said.


The rail made an enormous difference, not only to travel in South Africa, but also to trade and politics. James Bryce discussed this in Impressions of South Africa, first published in 1897. The preferred vehicle for long journeys was the ox wagon, he said. “These vehicles travel from 12 to 16 miles a day, and only slightly more if pushed. The oxen walk very slowly, resting and feeding as they go. They feed more hours than they travel. Coaches drawn by mules and horses run from some points. These are always uncomfortable and not always safe, but they do manage six to eight miles an hour on good ground. This drops considerably in sandy or rugged conditions. These coaches each have two drivers. On the horse coaches, one holds the reigns while the other weilds a long whip constantly cracking it in the air above the horses’s heads. One of the mule coach drivers also holds the reigns, but the second runs alongside, beating the animals with a short whip and shouting expletives at them. The landscape of the Karoo is so arid one is surprised to learn that the land here is worth ten shillings an acre. It is almost inconceivable that the small shrubs provide sufficient feed for sheep. The British who live in this region cluster mostly in the towns and keep stores, while the Dutch generally lead silent, rather melancholy lives on far flung farms. They are serious, grave, polite and hospitable people, but not overly social. There is a hotel and number of small villas at Matjiesfontein, which was built to serve as a health resort. Well surrounded by Australian gums, planted for shade, this village is a true oasis in the desert. Further on, Beaufort West is the only place along the line that aspires to be called a town. It boasts a church with spire and one or two streets. Its houses are stuck down irregularly over a surface covered with broken bottles, empty sardine and preserved meat tins. This town also has a large dam. People with weak lungs come to Beaufort West to breathe the keen, dry, invigorating air. Of its efficacy there is no doubt, but one would think the want of society and variety would be depressing, despite the stimulating air. Yet, there is a certain beauty to the place. At sunrise and sunset the mountains take on delightful tints adding a serenity to the strange solemnity of the village and lending tranquility to those who have no occupation but to get well.”


Bill MacRobert, who owns the fascinating farm, Wagenaarskraal, was amused to read of a relation in Round-up 110. Filling in some background details, he writes: “The original John MacRobert, (1830 – 1908) a Scot, arrived at Wagenaarskraal to manage the shop, a busy stop along the post coach route. In September 1870, he bought the farm from the then owner, Mr Stanbridge. John later married Ann Baker Finlay, the daughter of George Finlay, a ship’s captain and the first man to sail up East London’s Buffalo River, carrying supplies to troops fighting the Frontier Wars. The John MacRobert (1865-1897) mentioned in Round-up was their son. He was also one of Cecil John Rhodes’s 12 Apostles. This John was a very handsome man, but his partner, always referred to him as “The ugliest man in Mashonaland.” The partner was a skinny fellow, thin as a rake, and known as “The Fatman.” When John mysteriously vanished in 1897, never to be heard of again, it was widely believed that his partner, who owed him a great deal of money, had shot him in the bush. This never could be proved. Strangely enough I still have John junior’s pipe in my safe. It is engraved “To the ugliest man in Mashonaland, from the Fatman.” Obviously it dates back to happier days between the two,” says Bill, who included a fascinating price list of goods kept in stock in 1880. “These items were brought from Cape Town by coach or by mule wagon from Port Elizabeth. Sixteen mules drew each wagon which loaded wool in the Karoo for the return trip.”


When it was announced that U3A was to visit Prince Albert, many imagined it was a way out religious group. They were astonished to see senior citizens, all students of the University of the Third Age. This is an international organisation, which harnesses the energies and skills of retired people and which had opened a branch in Knysna. The group attended a four-day programme in Prince Albert, taking a closer look at the Karoo and searching for fossils. Lectures were given by retired exploration geologist Tony Cain. He was assisted by palaeontologist, expert in San Culture, rock art and early man, Dr Judy Maguire. “It was an action-packed four-days,” says Judy. “Everyone was amazed to see stiff-kneed pensioners clambering over rocky outcrops, scaling koppies and descending into kloofs and gullies, all in the name of science. The participants absolutely loved this journey of discovery into the ancient Karoo.”


Forty Cape tour guides arranged a June Caper through the Karoo and found it unforgettable. From Cape Town they travelled in a luxury coach through Laingsburg to Beaufort West. First stop was the Karoo National Park, where socio-ecologist, Wendy Johnson, introduced them to fauna, flora and fossils. They then booked in to the Oasis Hotel, whistled through Ko-ka Tsara Private Game Reserve and on to a progressive dinner, hosted by several accommodation vendors. Pre-dinner drinks were at The Flight Deck. Here guests watched the sun set from the observation tower of the old airport. Fresh, homemade bread and soup was on offer at Lemoenfontein Game Lodge, where the group enjoyed a wonderful night view of Beaufort West from the vast veranda. The Wagon Wheel provided a sumptuous fish table, Matoppo Country Inn, traditional bobotie with all the trimmings, and Beaufort Manor took care of the vegetarians, but had Karoo lamb and chicken on offer as well. Sweets, at The Royal Lodge, included warm tipsy tart and ice cream with chocolate sauce. The evening was rounded off with coffee and liqueurs at Clyde House, where the group enjoyed browsing around the art gallery and craft shop. Next day included a guided tour of Beaufort West with regional tourism co-ordinator Rose Willis, a visit to the Spinwiel private museum and the Chris Barnard exhibition. Mid-morning tea was served at Olive Grove Guest Farm and lunch at De Rust. At Prince Albert information officer, Charlotte Oliver, introduced them to the town, Dr Judy Maguire gave a talk on the San, Clive van Hasselt on mohair and Helena Marincowitz on architecture. The group also visited Swartrivier Olive Farm, Gays Dairy, the Ou Kelder, the Blue Fig, Onse Rus, Sampies and Cannibals Restaurants, before leaving for Matjiesfontein. Here local guide, John Theunissen, treated them to a trip around the village on an old London bus before lunch at The Lairds Arms. Then it was back to Cape Town to mull over all they’d experienced.


‘n Spesiale toergids opleiding kursus, die eerste van sy soort, gaan eersdaags in die Karoo aangebied word. Lesings deur geakkrediteerde opleidingsbeamptes Julian Kotze en sy vrou, Christie, sal in die konferensie kamer van die Swartberg Hotel in Prins Albert aangebied word, vanaf 25 Julie tot 3 Augustus, 2003. Die koste van die kursus is R2 500 per persoon. Prins Albert is vir die opleiding gekies omdat heelwat inwoners in toergidsopleiding belangstel en om twee gidse van Lainsburg te akkommodeer. Verdere inligting van Prins Albert inligtingskantoor


A special tour guide-training course, the first of its kind, will soon be held in the Karoo. Lectures, given by accredited trainers Julian Kotze and his wife, Christie, will be held in the conference room at Prince Albert’s Swartberg Hotel, from July 25 to August 3, 2003. Cost of the course is R2 500 per person. Prince Albert was chosen as a venue because so many residents are interested in guiding and to accommodate two Laingsburg information officers who wish to train as guides. Full details are available from Prince Albert information office


The role of religion in tourism is often forgotten. Not so in early Beaufort West. In 1902 the rector of Christchurch Anglican church he invited residents and visitors to the town, to a fancy bazaar in the Lyric Hall on December 5, by advertising in The Courier. He encouraged visitors to join the Sunday morning service. He said: “We hope through the bazaar and special service to raise sufficient to pay the outstanding balance on the new organ, and to have funds left for other church purposes. I hope visitors in particular will purchase one of the large number of dolls tastefully decorated by women of the congregation. In addition to being a memento of Beaufort West, these will make ideal Christmas gifts.”


Twee Belgiese toeriste het Barbara Ellison van Sampies in Prins Albert verras toe hulle skielik opgedaag het en aangedring het op bobotie en “chips.” Hulle wou niks verder van die spyskaart weet nie. “Ek het gevra hoe hulle van die bobotie te hore gekom het,” sê sy. “’Deur ons bure,’ was die antwoord. ‘Hulle was in Prins Albert en het julle bobotie heerlik gevind. Toe hulle van ons reis na Suid-Afrika verneem het hulle aangedring dat ons nie dié bobotie moes misloop nie.’” Was dit die moeite werd? “Beslis,” sê hulle.


Two Belgian tourists surprised Barbara Ellison at Sampies farm stall in Prince Albert by rushing and insisting on bobotie and chips. They were not even interested in seeing the menu. Intrigue, she asked them where they had heard of the bobotie. “From our neighbours,” they answered. “They visited Prince Albert, tried the bobotie and found it delicious. When they heard we were to visit the town they insisted we should not miss this delicious treat.” Was it worthwhile? “Yes, indeed,” they said.


In the 1900s a Victoria West solicitor was so captivated by the vastness and tranquillity of the Karoo that he wove his feelings into two novels. When Lambert Hendrik Brinkman’s books, The Breath of the Karoo and The Glory of the Backveld, were published, both were highly acclaimed. Brinkman, who was born in Clanwilliam in 1870, moved to the Karoo after qualifying as a solicitor. He died in 1933.