Rose’s Round-Up March 1995 No 24


A painting of the Nuweveld Mountains at Beaufort West has pride of place in a Scheveningen flat on the north coast of Holland. It shows the sunbaked southern slopes and thorn tree doted Karoo plains. Is owner, Dr B Wollgiehn, calls himself a keen “Karoophile”. The area’s transformation from swamp to arid zone, it’s fossils, geology, fauna, and flora fascinate him. “I agree with scientists who call the Karoo a wonder of the world. To me it is the epitome of timelessness and tranquility. Its air of ancient mystery tantalses me and on stormy winter days, when the grey north sea waves crash onto the beaches here, I gaze at the painting and know the sun is shining in the Great Karoo,” he said


Several World Cup rugby enthusiasts have already booked accommodation in Laingsburg. Laings Lodge owner, Joe Serfontein, was totally surprised when the first guests called to make bookings. “Do you know where Laingsburg is and how far it is from Cape Town?” he asked. “Of course,” was the reply, “but we are looking forward to seeing the Karoo. We do not feel like the hustle and bustle that will be Cape Town during the festival. We want to have a quiet, tranquil visit to South Africa, but also to enjoy the excitement of the game, so we intend to travel.” The same question was asked of all callers and each time the answer was the same.


A farm hospitality route has been established in the Karoo. Its aim is to meet the needs of tourists wishing to know more about Karoo farm life. The route begins 16km from Beaufort West at Boskuil, home of Mike van Rooyen. From there it crosses the plains to Eric Wagenaar’s farm, Vetkuil, and on to Jannie van der Merwe at Klerin Kransvoelkuil and finally on to Louis Nel at Verekuil. Tourists will be introduced to merino, dorper, goat and game farming and to the general ecology. Day excursions may be booked, and overnight stays can also be arranged. Cars are left at the first farm and the trip continues on a farm bakkie. Donkey cart rides are also available. Tourists will enjoy traditional fam fare for tea, lunch or dinner and braais can be arranged on request. “The whole idea is to tailor each trip to suit the visitor,” say these farmers. “Booking is thus essential,” explained organizer Eric Wagenaar.


A successful plan, based on teamwork, has been devised to host a special group of visitors to the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert and this involves changing the main room into a “banquet” hall. The visitors from Malcomess Company in the United States wish to become more closely acquainted with the village and the Karoo. So, while Lydia Barella takes them on a walking tour through the town, a table will be set for lunch at the museum and the room suitable decorated. Many people have been called in to make this visit a success and several are preparing special dishes, such a s Olive bread. “We hope it will be a festival of Karoo tastes,” said information officer Howard Darby.


Visitors to Beaufort West can now overnight in old world elegance at Little Green World where Amanda Vermeulen has created a delightful venue in an historic garden cottage.


Readers enjoyed the little pamphlet, Timeless Klaarstroom, which was sent out with the last issue of Round-up. Several wrote to express delight at finding that this tiny hamlet had such an interesting history. Calls were received asking for detail of accommodation facilities for Gideonshoop and Middlewater, as well as the Tierberg hikes, Remhoooge and other walks and cycle routes. Klaarstroom capitalized on the interest and has arranged an outing for visitors on April 27. They will take interested parties on a back route through Meiringspoort.


Klaarstroiom Kontrei, a local publicity group, has invited all outdoor enthusiasts to visit their world and to explore. They are arranging a tractor and trailer tour through Meiringspoort on April 27. During this trip visitors will be taken to little known sightseeing spots and historic areas. They will also be shown some interesting rock formations. Interesting plants will also be pointed out and discussed. Those who enjoy walking can stroll along for two kilometers from Herrie’s Stone to the Waterfall in the center of the “Poort”, while the others continue along on the tractor dive. To round off the day a braai has been organized. Those interested in this trip should contact Annie Schoeman to book.


Long ago a resident of Klaarstroom became one of the best known and respected “doctors” of the Karoo, yet he had no medical training and never qualified. “Despite his rather poor and humble beginnings, he was a remarkable character who nature obviously intended to be a physician,” wrote Sir Henry Juta, KC, in Reminiscences of the Circuit Court. The man’s name was Rankin and his own energy, diligence, thrift and drive enabled him to acquire a farm. He built furrows, planted crops and established a hostelry for travelers, but the 1885 a flood destroyed most of his efforts. “His natural bent and genius for medicine made him a skillful physician. He was well read and greatly interested in the healing herbs of the Karoo. Scientific works filled his library and his stock of drugs was the most up to date containing many results of modern research. His fame as a “doctor” was widespread, and he attended to patients in far-flung areas. Although such practice was illegal, because he was not qualified, no one dreamt of prosecuting him. He and the registered men were on the best of terms, for no one could better judge the seriousness of an illness, nor more readily inspan a cart to fetch a doctor when necessity arose,” wrote sir Henry.


Few people know that there is a Karoo rose. The idea started in 1986 when Zenita Smuts of Murraysburg suggested that a special Karoo rose be bred. She discussed her idea with well-known rose breeders Ludwig Taschner and Don Austin, mainly because she felt there was nothing more beautiful than a rose to express the beauty of the Karoo. “Those people who complain of the vast distances and the heat of the Karoo do not really appreciate the area,” she said. “When you get to know it, it truly is a beautiful world. The rose breeders loved her idea and instantly began working on developing a special bloom that could say what words could not. Their results were tested in Zenita’s garden. It proved to be ideal. “The rose was quite beautiful,” said Zenita. “It exudes freshness and it lasts magnificently as a cut flower. The colour reminds me of sunset mixed with fresh watermelon.” The rose was named Karoo at a ceremony in Murraysburg on March 18, 1987.


For years a single mysterious rosebud at times appeared on the grave of a British officer in a Beaufort West cemetery. No one knew who put it there, nor why. Romantic tales grew around the rose. Recently the riddle was solved when Geesie Crawford, who once cared for the British soldiers’ graves in this Karoo town, revealed that she sometimes placed a rose on the grave of Captain George Parker Bull. “Just for those who loved him,” she said. “He as probably a handsome young man in the prime of his life when he died during the Boer War. I couldn’t help feeling that someone, somewhere must have loved him.” Captain Bull was not killed –he was the commanding officer of Beaufort West during the war and he died of a respiratory ailment. Hi sister, Mary Beatrice, who had come out o nurse him, arranged for his helmet and sword to be bronzed and fixed on his grave where they stayed for almost 100 years until vandals struck in 1989.


Olive Schreiner is always associated with Matjiesfontein, but few realise she had close links with Beaufort West. It was here that she met her lifelong friend, Emily Hobhouse. Also, her husband, Samuel Cron Cronwright (he later changed his name to Cronwright-Shcreiner) was the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Beaufort West from 1904 to 1910. In his writing he reports seeing massive springbok migration through the town. Dr Dawn Gould, of Facts Found Historical Research Service, also reports that in 1903 Samuel was the MLA for Colesberg and before that, because of his opposition to the Boer War, he was confined under military supervision at Hanover. During this time, he collected trapdoor spiders and other arachnids for various South African museums.


Those who are searching for somewjere different as a holiday destination, might enjoy sleeping in a cave on the farm Grootdriefontein, in the Murraysburg district. It is the home of Sarie and Percy Reynolds. “The cave is quite a popular destination, particularly among young children,” said Sarie. Grootdriefontein is the ideal place for a family holiday “We have six children of various ages of our own and city children mix in very well with them. When families visit, we often arrange for children to sleep outside under the stars with our own children. Generally, with so many children on the farm, parents feel very relaxed and can rest because they know our children are looking after theirs. There are lovely rambles and walking routes, as well as interesting hikes through plant and fossil rich areas in a bushy kloof. This area is ideal for picnics. We can also arrange some pony rides for the youngsters and, for the energetic adults, there is as challenging mountain bike route.”


J G van der HorsT, who eventually became chairman of the board of the Old Mutual was once imprisoned in Beaufort West for 12 hours. At the time he was an attorney and bondsman. Dr Dawn Gould of Facts Found, says perhaps his arrest was connected to his activities as a bondsman because the Boer War was in progress. His imprisonment was mentioned by John X Merriman in a letter written to his mother on January 3, 1901. In 1910 Van der Horst became editor of The Cape, a Cape Town weekly newspaper and in 1920 he was appointed managing director of Fletcher and Cartwright’s department store.


It’s camping time in the Karoo. The weather is wonderful, and most tourists want to be outside, particularly in the evenings. The Central Karoo Regional Tourism Office receives daily enquiries from people seeking information about camping places. Mostly they want to visit the Hell, Gamkaskloof and overnight somewhere in the Swartberg . Several also wish to hike along the Nuweveld Mountains. Enquiries have also come in about hiking and walking routes in the Vleiland, Rouxpos and in the Elandsberg areas.


The Cripple Care Workshop in Beaufort West has developed a unique sheepskin bicycle seat cover. “So many cyclists pass through town that we thought such a Karoo product might be of interest to them,” said Mrs Ruby de Villiers, a committee member. “This idea was an instant success, not only did cyclists stop at the workshop to purchase saddle covers, but a huge stock was taken to Cape Town to sell during the Argus and Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Races.”


The people of Prince Albert are currently organizing one of the town’s most important events – the Olive festival. And as an added excitement, the town is celebrating its 150th anniversary during the festival. But, still, that’s not all. It is also the 100th anniversary of the Prince Albert Anglican Church and the tenth anniversary of the finding of the Bradysaurus footprints of the farm Klein Waterval. Everything is to be celebrated at the same time, say organisers, so demands for stalls and accommodation is high. “We are convinced there will be something for everyone at this year’s event,” say the organisers.