The Central Karoo will join forces with the Klein Karoo and Garden Route on the Southern Cape stand at Satour’s regional workshop in Durban from June 20 to 23. This is the first time; that the three regions will combine promotional efforts and expertise to present a collective image to the tourism industry. The theme of the exhibit will be The Secret Garden of the Cape. The magic of the area will be highlighted for visitors by regional tourism co-ordinators Frieda Henning (Garden Route); Daneen de Klerk (Klein Karoo); and Rose Willis (Central Karoo). Over 300 visitors are expected at the exhibition centre where there will be over 200 stands.


The first combined regional promotional copy stressed the magic of The Secret Garden. It reads: “imagine a holiday world with mountains valleys and beautiful pocket paradise of sunny beaches. Lovely lazy waves wash the shores and sufficient sun encourages surfers, shell seekers and those wishing to tan, walk and explore. Some beaches are rugged, others tiny, secluded, romantic. From this place of holiday magic you can watch whales, swim, boat and fish at the coast or inland. There are lakes, lagoons, nature reserves, national parks and wonderful wild life with everything from rhinos to raptors. This place is a bird watcher’s paradise, a nature lover’s mecca. This is the world of eco-tourism. The towns offer culinary delights, the villages homely fare. Here you can hunt, hike, hill climb and holiday to your heart’s content at a variety of venues from top country hotels to restful resorts and budget rooms. You can camp in a cave or stay in a mountain hut, become chummy with cheetahs, drink wine, world famous port and witblitz. Here you can meander through an old mission station, Take a trip back in time to a world famous Victorian village, or simply visit a valley called The Hell. This Secret Garden of the Cape is a must for your next holiday. Where do you find it? Why in the Garden Route, Klein Karoo and Central Karoo, of course.”


Camels in the Karoo? This sounds unlikely and unbelievable, but it is true. There are now camels in the Great Karoo. Colin and Evelyn de Villiers, owners of the Badshoek Mountain Hut Nature Area, just outside Beaufort West recently brought four camels to this area and they are happily roaming about in apparent peace in the veld, just below the Nuweveld Mountains. Apart from these camels there are 18 other species of animals on Badshoek. These include springbok, kudu, gemsbok, blue wildebeest, zebra, rooibok, blesbok, red hartebeest, vaal ribbokke, klipspringer, steenbok, duiker, vlak vark, ostriches and fallow deer. Three new hiking trails have also been laid out of this farm. They vary in length from three to six hours and there is even a short one that only takes one hour to walk. They all pass through beautiful, awe-inspiring scenery on this farm. The Badshoek 4 x 4 route is also very popular and is considered one of the most challenging in the country


Terence Young, owner of the well known Karoo stop-over, Youngs Halfway House, has purchased the Wagon Wheel Motel, just north of Beaufort West in one of the town’s major property deals in recent years. This also makes Youngs one of the largest accommodation vendors in the Central Karoo. Young’s policy is comfort, service and hospitality, based on years of experience,” said Terence “ And for this reason he has plans to upgrade this popular stop on the N1 route. The Wagon Wheel offers a wide variety of accommodation to the tourist, from budget facilities in its annex to better quality and luxury rooms with TV and radios. The Wagon Wheel has a dining room and is licensed. It has a swimming pool and its own caravan park. Renovation will begin almost immediately, and continue over the next few months until the entire complex is upgraded, redecorated and refurbished to bring it in line with the two other Young’s venues in Beaufort West.


Beaufort West was recently in the spotlight on Frikkie Wallis’s Soek ‘n Plek (Search for a Place) programme on Afrikaans Stereo. The fourth person who phoned into the programme knew that Beaufort West was the old Cape Colony’s fifth town and this caller was able to answer some other questions. Among them were: How did the town get its name? Who was it named after? Where was South Africa’s first municipality established? Where will you find a jail in the middle of the N1? Who was known as the “Lion” of this place? How many town clerks has this place had? Who were the famous brothers that were born here? Which town gave ground to the S A Nature Conservation Association for the establishment of a national park? What is the name of this park and its hiking route? It was amazing to hear where people were phoning from and just how many had the correct answers.


A cold night, log fire and red wine make an ideal setting for ghost stories. And, it was in this atmosphere that Press people gathered at the Swartberg Hotel, during the recent Olive Festival. As an icy wind whispered through the streets from the snow clad mountains, hotel owner, Albert Odendaal, entertained his guests with superb wine and better stories “Often on just such a night,” he said, “the poker player of the Swartberg is seen. Many have reported seeing him dashing down the passages to his game, while others have seen a game in progress in one of the rooms.” Albert could not be pressed to say which room. He would only admit that in days of yore – particularly when gold fever was rife in this district – many gamblers stopped over at this popular venue just to try their luck on the turn of a card.


Pieter, the son of Neil van der Westhuizen, a former owner of the Leeu Gamka Hotel, recently visited this spot when he was on a trip through the Karoo to introduce his children to the world of his childhood. His teenage daughter was so impressed with the blockhouse that she took photographs and researched it for a school project entitled “What I did on my holiday,”


The first gold nugget discovered in the Great Karoo, was found by a shepherd on Spreeuwfontein in the Prince Albert district in 1871. This led to Dr Guybourne Atherstone, Thomas Bain and Dr Dunn, the government geologist, investigating the area. Despite reasonably negative reports more gold was found on the neighbouring farm Kleinwaterval and this led to the gold rush of 1891. These were not the only farms where there was prospecting. One which saw a great deal of excitement was Heuningkop at Leeu Gamka, but like the others the feverish activity was short lived and soon life returned to normal. However, to this day, the educated eye can see scars of the gold hunt on the veld in this area of the Karoo.


A great deal of excitement greeted the announcement that Mr Manne Debeko, Premier of the Northern Cape would officially open the Victoria West Game Festival on Friday, June 24, at the showgrounds at 10:00, Immediately after his speech there will be a spectacular aerobatic display by the South African Air Force Aerobatics Team. After that Mr Dibeko and his party will enjoy their first springbok hunt in the Cental Karoo and the SAAF team will enjoy a reunion with the legendary rugby captain, Springbok Mannetjies Roux, who also trained and qualified as a member of this prestigious squadron.


A cycling competition will be held on June 25, during the Game Festival in Victoria West. The route follows the Hutchinson road. There are three distances – 5 km, 25 km and 60 km. Top prizes, donated by the Lions Club of Victoria West, will be up for grabs. Starting time is at 09:00 from the show grounds area and entry fee is R10 for adults and R5 for children.


The hunting season has opened the Karoo. It is an exciting time as hunters flock to the farms to enjoy the sport.. Many hunters have a star symbol engraved or inlaid on their rifles. The origin of this “sterloop” – star barrel – decoration are not clear, but research shows that many of the earliest hunters in the Karoo favoured an eight-pointed star on their rifles. It was considered a talisman, based on the Star of Bethlehem, and said to guide the hunter along a safe path through the wilderness and through life. The design was popular among Boer frontiersmen and favoured by those who joined The Great Trek Many historic hunting rifles, passed on from father to son down through the years bear this design. It was used on early smooth bore flintlock rifles, locally called “bobejaanboud” because of their heavy butts, which doubled as a club, resembled a baboon’s thigh. It is interesting to note that the frontiersmen of North America also favoured this design on their hunting rifles


Where does the name Matoppa House come from? Many visitors to Beaufort West ask this question and recently the riddle was eventually solved by Sandra Smit, curator of the Chris Barnard Museum. She came across notes made by Wynand Vivier, author of Hooyvklakte, for a speech which he delivered at the Railway Recreational Club on March 25, 1977. He said that the house was named by Piet Bosman one of the early owners. Bosman was a great admirer of Cecil John Rhodes, who is buried in the Matoppo Hills, in the erstwhile Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and because of his admiration for the man, Bosman decided toname his house Matoppa in honour of Rhodes’s final resting place. This house, one of Beaufort West’s national monuments, was built in 1834 by J J Meintjies, the town’s second magistrate. For many years it was also the home of “Ryk” Daantjie de Villiers. The house has a rich and interesting history. At one stage is was a sanatorium and later a block of flats. When it started to become derelict, Kobus Rossouw, owner of Spinwiel Antiques, and a Pretoria architect restored it to its former glory.


During the Swartberg Olive Festival in Prince Albert the Department of Nature Conservation offered several trips to Gamkaskloof, the Hell. These were extremely popular and there was great disappointment when the first trip on Saturday morning had to be cancelled due to bad weather and snow on the mountains. Many have requested a regular service and the Fransie Pienaar Musuem would appreciate hearing from those who are interested. Trips would, of course, be professionally organized and a Nature Conservation officer would act as a guide.


Dennehof, one of Prince Albert’s oldest and most beautiful farm houses, which stood derelict for 15 years, has been rescued, restored and is now open to guests. The owner, Elaine Hurford, a Cape Town public relations consultant and writer, intended buying a small cottage and “dropping out for a year or two”, but once she saw Dennehof it was love at first sight. “I could not resist the house’s beauty, nor the challenge of restoring and sharing it,” she said. Dennehof, has accommodation for four or six people in a converted barn and dairy. The barn, Die Skuur, has a bedroom, bathroom, fully equipped kitchen and working Dover stove, while the dairy has a shower, toilet and small kitchenette. An unusual feature of the property is the 22-metre long verandah which overlooks the peaceful foothills of the Swartberg Mountains.


After Round-up shared the Letjiesbos prickly pear story another tale has come to light. One of the old people who has lived in the area for years has told Escom’s Arnold Hutchinson, (a local historian) that he remembers as a child he was often sent to Aunty Letjie’s house to collect fire wood. Near her house was a lovely thorn tree grove where very good fire wood could be gathered, so the children were always told to go to Letjies bos (Lettie’s bush) to fetch the wood. After a while this name stuck and eventually became the name of the little railway siding establisher there to serve the area, he said.


Recent visitors who thoroughly enjoyed a trip to the Karoo were Professor and Dr (Mrs) Dietz They were on route home to Berlin in Germany, but they were no strangers to South Africa. Dr Diets, at one time worked at Onderstepoort t and the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria – which she thinks is the “best veterinary faculty in the world.” During their visit to South Africa they called on Professor C F B Hofmeyer in George. He drove them over the Swartberg Pass – “an exhilarating experience” – to visit Prince Albert where his great grandfather once was the magistrate and then on to Klaarstroom and through Meiringspoort, back to the Garden route. They loved the Karoo and hope to return.


Members of the newly established Young Professions recently visited the Tourism Office at the Centro Karoo Regional Services Council in Beaufort West. This was one of their first visits as a group and the idea behind it was to find out more about the region and what it offers tourists. The group’s mission is to find out more about their environment, the fauna, flora, history and modern day to day developments in the Karoo. As Melvin de Klerk, leader of the grou,p said with a smile. “There’s nothing to be sheepish about in the Karoo.” Also in the group was Julene Daniels, Gwendoline Kopetech, Anthea Prince, Lynette Juries and Edwin Tobias


A descendant of R D Blackmore, writer of the famous historic novel, Lorna Doone, came to South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. He was Henry James Blackmore of the 2nd Gloucestershire Regiment. As fate would have it he was sent to the Karoo and seconded to a column under the command of Lieutenant General Ian Hamilton, DSO. In January, 1901,they were chasing a group of Boers and passed through Fraserburg and across the farm Uitspansfontein, which later was to become the scene of a battle when a donkey convoy was ambushed and attacked. Almost a century later James Balckmore’s granddaughter came to South Africa to marry a Karoo farmer and her first home was Uitspansfontein. She is Jackie Koster who now lives on Klawervlei. “We’re of course not entirely sure of the route the column took,” she admits, “nevertheless the fact that my grandfather crossed the farm where I was destined to live so happily is a strange link with history. I often imagined my grandfather as a soldier crossing this veld on a hot Karoo summer’s day.