There are moves afoot to declare the whole of Gamkaskloof, The Hell, a National Monument. This news has excited all who are in any way associated with this unique little valley, particularly those who once lived there. The Hell has been inhabited since 1843, but, until 1969, it could only be reached on foot. Then a road was built and as a consequence people slowly left. Just getting into The Hell is exciting. It is reached along as magnificent winding road which passes what possibly is the only cork tree left in the Karoo. This is the last survivor of three once planted there.


Mrs Martha Olckers, MEC, plans to visit Prince Albert on March 25 between 11:30 and 13:00 on the day before her visit she plans to visit Gamkaskloof and overnight there. In Prince Albert she will hold a short meeting to discuss the town’s cultural history and then she will visit some of the town’s most important cultural historic sites and buildings.


Much background research has been done to locate the graves of British soldiers killed in the Laingsburg area during the Anglo-Boer War. Most y were buried in the town’s cemetery, but in an area that was damaged during the 1981 flood Now that the exact position of each grave has been located, the War Graves Division of the National Monuments Council is working in close co-operation with the Laingsburg own Council to have markers placed on each grave.


The Women’s Agricultural Union’s South-Karoo Circle Congress was held on March 8 and 9 in Merweville. The key speaker was Dr Petrus Botes and the title of his talk was Our Family- Our Future. Other speakers included Helena Marinkowitx, whose topic was The Future of Our Culture, and a member of the Police Narcotics Division, who discussed Abuse in the Family. Regional tourism co-ordinator, Rose Willis who spoke on Tourism of the Future.


There was great excitement in Victoria West recently when Bernie, better known as Boetie and Judy Kempen arrived from Alice Springs in Australia to see his old home town. They visited the museum and B J Kempen Hall, which was opened on April 1, 1990 and named after his father, who for a long time was the mayor of the village and who donated the funds and fossils for this hall. They were most impressed by the display. Boetie Kempen also donated a Paul Kruger knife, which belonged to his father , a child’s brass riding stirrup, dating back to the mid-1800s and a brass ring dated 1801, which belonged to one of the early Kempen family members.


Two popular and interesting festivals are scheduled to take place later this year. They are the Prince Albert Olive Festival scheduled for May 27 and 28, and the Victoria West Game Festival (Wildsfees) on June 24 and 25. Come and enjoy these with the people of the Karoo.


Two members of the British War Graves Committee (NMC), Major Anthony Gordon and Dr Arthur Davies recently visited Beaufort West to inspect soldiers’ graves. Sadly all brass roundels with the names of the soldiers have been stolen. However, thanks to earlier notations, made by Steve Watt of Pietermaritzburg, it has been possible to identify all graves and, in time, new memorials will be erected. In the meantime, in co-operation with the NMC, the graves will be cleaned and the metal crosses will be re-painted.


Letjiesbos. 40 km south of Beaufort West was initially a farm, but now is only an abandoned railway station. People often ask how this place got its unusual Research reveals that in years gone by prickly pears found here were called letjiesbos because and that each ‘leaf’ was known as a ‘let” En route to Bloemfontein in 1856 H A L Hamelberg wrote that he had overnighted with a Hollander named Hendrik Gey. He was apparently a direct descendant of the Dutch family of General Gey van Pittius. Hammelburg said that he first stayed at Uitkyk near Leeu Gamka and later overnighted with Gey in a brakdak (reed roofed) house.


In the 1800s Zoutekloof, one of the original fams at Laingsburg was an important stop for the post chaches. The coaches stopped for fress horses and to allow the passengers to refresh themselves. Of course, if necessary, those who could not take the heat and cold of the Karoo, or who became ill along the route were cared for at Zoute Kloof. One of these was Louisa Margaret, the wife of Henry Green, Civil Commissioner of Colesberg. She was only 32 years old when she died here. She is buried in a little graveyard near the farmhouse. There are about 40 graves there, but hers is the only one with a headstone. Sadly it has fallen over and cracked, so her date of death is not legible. We imagine she was Henry Green’s first wife because she married countess Ida Coroline Johanna van Lillienstein in colesberg in Janaury, 1860. Her father was Captain Count Carl Arthur von Lillienstein of the British German Legion.


The Simon van der Stel Founcation is planning a visit to Gamkaskkoof, The Hell, on May 8. Already this outing has captivated the interest of members and many have expressed a desire to be part of the group. Among them will be Christo Malan, chairman of the foundation’s branch in George and organizer of the trip. The Hell with its interesting and unusual cultural history is a great tourist attraction in the Prince Albert area. Just getting into this valley, along the winding road from the peaks of the Swartberg, is an exciting experience.


At one time Prince Albert had its own newspaper called The Prince Albert Friend. It was last published in the 1930s and recently many efforts have been made to resurrect it. Now Cathy Kotze has decided to take on the job of editing a new version. She will be assisted by Juliana Mulder and Jacolese Botes. The first issue is scheduled to appear on March 25 and they are already hard at work to meet the first deadline.


Tourists intending to visit Beaufort West and indeed other places in the Central Karoo often call ahead with a range of questions about the town and place in which they have chosen to overnight. These are among those most frequently asked. Is there air conditioning?. Is there a telephone? Can cars be parked safely? Is there a pool? Where can late arrivals get a decent meal and what should one be expected to pay for this? All these questions have decided those involved in tourism in the region to create a central working group This group met recently to discuss the facilities in each town and in the region as a whole The idea behind it is to gather as much information on tourism facilities, such as the history to town, hotels, rooms, guest houses , farm accommodation and the Karoo National Park, as possible , so that the correct information can be supplied to tourists.


Soon after the central area of Beaufort West was declared a historic area, local authorities arranged for the National Monuments Council to survey their town. In June, last year, Joanna Marx and Penny Pistorius visited, photographed all the buildings in Bird, Donkin and New Streets in Beaufort West and documented all interesting historical and architectural details Joanna Marx returned in February to report back and present the almost completed survey to town clerk, Jannie van der Merwe. She spent some time checking and photographing other historically important buildings. The first draft of the survey is expected soon, and with recommendations regarding buildings considered to be conservation worthy.


A meeting was recently held in Laingsburg with the aim of declaring the central area a historic core. The meeting, which was arranged by the Town Clerk and held in the Council Chamber, was attended by the Mayor, Councillors, members of the Rapportryers Corp, the publicity association and The Women’s Agricultural Union. A document with a total historic assessment of the town and surrounds and including photographs of historically interesting buildings was tabled for discussion by tourism co-ordinator Rose Willis. Joanna Marx of the National Monuments Council enlightened those present regarding the steps to be taken to set such a declaration in motion.


Prince Albert is also conservation conscious. This beautiful Victorian village at the foot of the Swartberg is unspoiled and thus a major tourist attraction. The townsfolk have also appealed to the National Monuments Council regarding steps to be taken to have the central area declared a historic core. During Joanna Marx’s visit to the Central Karoo, she discussed the feasibility of such a core with relevant authorities and role players in this area.


The first meeting of the regional tourism organization was held recently. Tourism co-ordinator Rose Willis was elected chairman of the marketing committee and Johan Notnagel, manager of Volkskas Bank in Beaufort West as vice chairman of the development committee. The Central Karoo will be represented by the following people. Rose Willis, Kobus van Zyl, Mariette de Villiers and Johan Mulder all on the marketing committee. On the development committee are John van der Merwe, Dries Engelbrecht, Johan Notnagel and Rose Willis. Kobus Theron, Rose Willis Ronel van der Spuy and Albert Odendaal were all elected to the co-ordinating regional body. At the next meeting, which is scheduled to be held in Oudsthoorn on March 17, marketing strategies proposed by Dr Steyn, will be discussed.


There are many little graveyards dotted all over the Central Karoo. Most have neat lines of graves covered with round Karoo rocks and some are reasonably tidy. But, sadly, not all. Many are simply forlorn and forgotten cemeteries littered with broken bottles, rubbish and papers. Most have no records. There is such a little cemetery in Laingsburg, another at Kruidfontein, where the only stones which can be deciphered commemorate Cornelia F Hendriks, who died on December 10, 1895, and Katerina Steyn, born in 1900. With the help of many farmers, The Regional Service Council’s information office is helping historic researchers who are tracing the tracks of early setters through the location of such isolated graves.


Laingsburg library has arranged a book discussion for adults. It will be held on May 6 and during Library Week (May 16 to 20) stories will be read to toddlers and a story telling competition will be held On June 20 school children will be invited to take part in a cake decorating competition. They will be divided into groups of two and the theme will be “The Book Gang”.


Prince Albert in the great Karoo recently had visitors from Prince Albert in Saskatchwan in Canada. They were Mr and Mrs M Hayward and they both loved the little KAROO ‘twin’ of their home town, as well as its setting at the foot of the magnificent Swartberg mountains. They said their town also had beautiful surroundings and just outside it, is the popular Prince Albert national park. It too is situated in a scenic and mountainous area around a huge lake.


The costumes for the television series, the Mannheim Saga, now being screened on TV 1 on Thursday nights were designed and made in Richmond by James Parker, a well known personality of theatre circles. He has a great deal of experience in this type of work He also made the costumes for the widely known British television series, The Forsyth Saga. He specializes in costumes of the 19th century. The Mannheim Saga outfits cover a period from 1880 to 1914 and he said it was “an absolutely fabulous project to work on.”


There was been a steady flow of overseas visitors through the Karoo and a discernible build-up over the last few months. Almost all farm accommodation vendors report having foreign visitors, particularly from Holland, Germany and Russia. And, the Fransie Pienaar Museum was recently enchanted by a visit by Mr and Mrs A Naumann from Rosenau, near Saxe Coburg., the birthplace of Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria. The Naumann’s were delighted at being able to visit this little South African village which was named after their Prince Albert. Other visitors came from the USA, Australia, South America, England, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy and even New Zealand.


Dries Swanepoel, owner of Geelbeksfontein farm, near Laingburg, right next to the old Anglo-Boer War blockhouse, has refurbished his grandfather, A J Albert’s home to make a beautiful guest house for tourists This typical Karoo farm house, which was built at the turn of the century, has an ess, gas lamps, and a “donkey’ which can provide 35 litres of boiling water in a matter of minutes. The furniture is of a period style and so is very comfortable. This house is an ideal stopover for townsfolk wishing to experience the joys’ of yesteryear and explore the Karoo. And, if they are lucky they can also enjoy some of Dries and Girlie’s Karoo stories in the evenings.


The Laingsburg area is world famous among geologists. And, it is also one of the superb places for hiking in the Karoo. For this reason Dries Swanepoel and Oscar van Antwerpen, an MSc geology student, are now planning to lay out The Blockhouse Hiking Trail. It will cross several farms and end at the edge of the lovely Floriskraal Dam. En roue hikers will pass an interesting old water mill, fossilized mudstone layers of the Geelbek River and see traces of early glaciers. Hikers will also be able to overnight in interesting old buildings, such as the old Barn, a lovely dressed stone cottage built by a canny old Scot, John Slier and his servant towards the turn of the century.


The Karoo is just the place to hunt in winter or to enjoy a hiking holiday. Many farmers are thus busy developing new walking routes. They are also busy getting their springbok herds ready for the hunting season. More information about these venues is obtainable from the tourist information office.


An international television crew filmed the Boerperd and Hackney S A championships at the Beaufort West show, recently. They loved their first taste of a platteland show and hinterland hospitality. They were full of praise for the organizers, owners and animals. Also, the wide range of little marketing stands intrigued them.