KAROO PLANS OFF-ROAD RACE
The first off-road race in the Great Karoo is being planned for later this year. “Interest in the proposed event is high, and it could eventually attract about 250 competitors”, says Pete van der Walt, a director of Motor Sport SA. The course will be laid out in the Merweville area and tested later this year. Pete evaluated the proposed 50km route recently when he visited the area with Kallie le Roux of Springbok Lodge. “The course will cross a wide variety of rugged and challenging terrains”, said Pete. “From the village it snakes out across Johan Marais’s nearby game farm, Buffelsvlei. Here the terrain is rugged enough to offer an ideal test for men and machines. We hope to start off with about 80 cars, 60 off-road bikes and 40 quads and build this up to a national event which could attract over 250 competitors”. The Merweville course will need to be completed twice. “Competitors will race along the route, return to the village to refuel and dash off on the second 50km leg. In total, this should take about four hours. At the end of this one-day event there will be a traditional braai and prize-giving.
OUBOET OP DIE SPOOR VAN KAROOKOS
Orkney Snork Nie se Ouboet, Frank Opperman, kom kuier eersdaags in Beaufort-Wes. Hy is op die spoor van Karookos. Hy werk saam met Linda du Plessisproduksies op ‘n TV-reeks wat handel oor lekker eetplekke in die platteland. Hulle het Wendy Antonie by Beaufort-Wes Toerisme Buro vir hulp genader en sy het etlike name van heerlike kuier en kosplekke in en om die dorp voorgestel. Na ‘n bietjie navorsing het hulle De Hoek Gasteplaas gekies. Gasvrou Liesl de Villiers sal binnekort voor die kameras ‘n paar smullekker disse voorberei en Karookos geheime met kykers deel.
WHEN A CUP OF COFFEE BECOMES HIGH ADVENTURE
It was recently illustrated in Beaufort West just how drinking a cup of coffee can stand in line with amazing happenings. The old airport outside town was given a South American flavour as a TV production team from McKenzie Rudolph in Cape Town created a Cuban-style coffee shop alongside the runway. The “Cubans” were all Beaufort Westers. They staffed airport counters, acted as waiters and porters and one even drove a ramshackle bus. The main character in the story line is an American actor whose life is totally changed by a cup of Nescafé, explained location manager Lester Sweetman. “He arrives, meets the pilot of a Dakota and after a cup of coffee they fly off into the wild blue yonder to amazing adventures. Eventually the aircraft crashes, leaving the two heroes stranded on a desert island. All it took to change his life from hum-drum to high adventure was a cup of Nescafe. The two-day shoot went wonderfully well. Producer Roy Rudolph and the crew found the people of Beaufort West extremely helpful. The advertisement will be screened on American television later this year. There’s an outside chance that it will also be shown locally”. Lester paid tribute to Georg Baumgartner, of the Sandcastle Guest House, and the staff at the Oasis Hotel. “Their co-operation made this a truly enjoyable and memorable job”, he said.
Most visitors to the Karoo National Park pause to study the quagga information posters presented by Rheinold Rau when he last visited. Rheinold, from the SA Museum and who did much of the ground work to obtain DNA from the skins of museum specimens for the Quagga Breeding Project, now monitors its progress. One of the most frequently asked questions is: “Why ‘quagga,’ what does the name mean?” “Quagga or ‘kwa-ga’ comes from an old Hottentot word which imitates the sound the animals made”, he said. “It is spelled in a variety of ways, according to the language in which it is used. Pronounced correctly, the double ‘g’ is a guttural ‘ch’, as in the Scottish word ‘loch.’ Emphasis is on the first syllable”. Generally, the extinction of the quagga is attributed to ruthless hunting by colonists and those who came to South Africa specifically to hunt. It is said the flesh was enjoyed by farm labourers and the skins made ideal leather grain bags. Great quantities of quagga hides were exported in the 19th century to meet leather demand in Europe. Many of these skins came from the Beaufort West area. Rheinold has copies of old letters from Mr P Dale, a Beaufort West town councillor of the time, to the head of the museum in Cape Town regarding quagga skins he donated. He appears to have searched out many fine examples for display.
KAROOSEUN RUS IN WINDHOEK
‘n Man wat in Beaufort-Wes gebore is en na hy diep spore in die geskiedenis getrap het net buite die dorp gesterwe het, is in 1939 met volle militêre eer in Windhoek (Namibië) te ruste gelê. Matthys Johan de Jager, staatsartilleris van die ZAR, lyfwag van President Paul Kruger, held van die Anglo-boereoorlog, polisieman, soldaat en generaal in die destydse Suid-Wes Afrika, het ‘n ryk lewe gelei. Hy is in Januarie 1872 gebore, maar was nooit seker van sy geboortedag nie. Sy geboorte sertifikaat dui 23 Januarie aan, maar omdat hy om en by middernag gebore is, staan daar 22 Januarie in die doopregister van Beaufort-Wes se NG-kerk. Volgens familielede het hy dikwels op sy verjaarsdag spottend gevra: “Verjaar ek nou vandag, of het ek al gister verjaar?” M J de Jager, soos hy bekend gestaan het, het in 1881 met sy ouers vanaf Beaufort-Wes na die diamantvelde getrek. Later het die familie die pad Transvaal toe gekies. In 1894 het Matthys werk aanvaar in die Department van Onderwys in Pretoria. Tydens die Jameson Raid was hy die wagmeester van Pretoria se Vrywilliger Kavallerie Korps en in 1896 is M J De Jager die enigste kandidaat wat die eksamen as tweede luitenant in die Staatsartillerie geslaag het. Hiermee het sy militêre loopbaan momentum gekry. Tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog is hy dikwels vir dapperheid vermeld. In Januarie 1902 is hy as kaptein by Sandlaagte naby Nelspan in die distrik van sy tuis dorp, Ermelo, gevange geneem en na St Helena verban. Daar was hy in Deadwood Camp met Bernardus Schoeman, ‘n ander man met bande in Beaufort-Wes. Met De Jager se terugkoms het Generaal Jan Smuts hom oorreed om by die Transvaalse Polisie aan te sluit. Hy het roem verdien as die eerste invoerder van Dobermann-Pinschers vir polisiewerk in Suid-Afrika. Teen 1913 was hy lid van die Unieregeringsmagte en ‘n nuwe tydvak van sy lewe het begin wat hom in aanraking gebring het met mense soos die rebel Jopie Fourie. In 1915 het Generaals Jan Smuts en Louis Botha hom Suid-Wes Afrika toe gestuur as hoof van die Uniemagte. In die plofbare tye daar is hy tot generaal bevorder. Op 9 Oktober, 1939, op pad Kaap toe vir mediesebehandeling het hy op ‘n trein net buite Beaufort-Wes gesterwe. In Gedenkboek van M J de Jager, skryf sy kleinseun Alwyn P Smit: “Hy het letterlik huistoe gekom”. Die Karooseun, Generaal M J de Jager, DTD DSO (met balkie), het diep spore deur die land se geskiedenis getrap.
SPIDER MAN OF THE GREAT KAROO
It has now come to light that Olive Schreiner’s husband Cron was a keen collector of spiders. Dr Dawn Gould, of Facts Found, discovered this while working on a research project. “Samuel Cron Cronwright-Schreiner, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Beaufort West from 1904 to 1910, collected arachnids, mostly for museums”, she writes. “Because of his opposition to the Anglo-Boer War he was confined under military supervision at Hanover where he collected trapdoor spiders. When Cron married Olive, who was closely associated with Matjiesfontein, he agreed to add Schreiner to his surname, but he was not the first member of this family to do so. Cronwright is a combination of ‘Cron,’ his paternal grandmother’s maiden name, and ‘Wright,’ his grandfather’s surname”.
BROCHURE BRINGS BACK MEMORIES
Writing to offer his compliments on the new Beaufort West brochure, Woody Nel, a former resident, had this to say: “It brought memories flooding back. When I saw the picture of the church I recalled the memorial to General the Reverend Paul H Roux, who surrendered at the Brandwater Basin in 1900. He served the Beaufort West Dutch Reformed Congregation from 1905 to 1911. I also remembered being told that the Tommies used the clock face of the Moederkerk as a target during the Anglo-Boer War. I climbed all the way up to find out if this was true. Sure enough, on closer inspection I was able to see where repairs had been done on the eastern face to bullet holes. For a number of years we lived at No 4 Hattingh Street in Hospital Hill. While I was aware that during the Anglo-Boer War the British had a camp nearby, I was not quite sure where. Imagine my surprise when while gardening one day I dug up a few live .303 rounds. The pick-axe actually cut one in two. Fortunately, there was no explosion”.
DIE STOUTSTE KIND KUIER WEER
Koup Gastehuis in Merweville lok talle ou inwoners terug om herinneringe te kom deel. “Vandat ons ons deure oopgemaak het kry ons gereeld mense wat net weereens hul ou tuisdorpie wil sien. Die aanvraag is hoog en het gelei daartoe dat ons eersdaags ‘n ontbyt en koffie fasiliteit langs ons gastehuis gaan open”, sê gastehuis eienaar Hugo Muller. “Vandag verwag ek juis een van die stoutste predikant seuns wat ooit hier gebly het. Andries Wessels en sy vrou kom om sy pa se ou kerk weereens te besoek. Ds A B Wessels het die gemeente van 1925 tot 1946 bedien. In sy kinderdae het klein Andries die dorp op horings geneem. Sy suster Hester, 80, was laasjaar een van ons gaste en ons het weereens heerlik gelag oor al die stories van haar kinderdae. Sy het die Jode winkeliers onthou en die eienaars van ander besighede, sowel as baie boere in die distrik. Ek en sy het heerlik gesels want ek self het vir meer as 30 jaar transport gery en in die distrik vir water geboor”.
THE ELAND – A SOURCE OF POWER
Animals meant much more to the San people than merely a source of food. Jeremy Hollmann, of the Rock Art Research Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand, says: “The eland, for instance, is drawn in the greatest number of postures and perspectives. The southern San believed the eland to be the favourite animal of /Kaggen, the Mantis, a trickster-deity and spiritual being. They also believed all animals were servants to the eland. This perhaps explains why the eland is so frequently depicted in the rock art of so many regions. The San appear to have had several areas where they felt they could not cope by themselves. Whenever the shamans had to cure the sick, go on out-of-body journeys or control the movements of antelope herds, they reached out for supernatural powers. Animals were a source of this extra power, and chief among them was the eland. The largest antelope in Southern African, it was a much-desired source of meat and fat. The eland is very symbolic in San culture. It is central to four rituals: a boy’s first kill, a girls’ puberty, marriage and the trance dance. San artists seem to have lavished great attention and care on their drawings of this ‘sacred’ animal”.
BISHOP SEES A SEA OF STONES
When Robert Grey, the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town, saw the Karoo for the first time he described it as “a great sea, a huge, barren, stony plain with barely a house upon it”. To reach what he described as “the beautiful village of Prince Albert at the foot of the Swartberg”, he tells of travelling through the night and all through the next day, stopping occasionally for an hour to rest the horses. “At seven in the evening, we reached Prince Albert after travelling over a very stony and hilly road and through the most dreary and monotonous country. The day was intensely hot. On arrival we were greeted by Mr Borcherds, the excellent magistrate. We were hospitably received by Mrs Honeyborne, whose son keeps a store in the village. (This later became Forsyth’s store). Prince Albert is 13 years old, and very beautifully situated at the foot of the mountains”. A report dated 1855, states that a coach trip from Cape Town to Vlakkraal, near Prince Albert Road Station, normally took 48½ hours. The coach stopped every eight hours for fresh horses. Transport riders were given precedence on the roads. A bugle was regularly sounded to warn other road users that they were coming. Vlakkraal was the coach stop on the main route to the north where travellers for Prince Albert disembarked. They were taken to Prince Albert by contractors with horses and carts. They offered visitors a choice of staying at little hotels along the way.
COUNTRY LIFE HELPS SPREAD THE WARMTH
A mohair jersey knitted in Murraysburg in the Karoo is now on its way to Czechoslovakia. After sending last November’s issue of Country Life to her daughter in Prague, Mrs A Leibrandt, of Somerset West, heard by reply that her daughter would love to have one of Elsie Smuts’s mohair jerseys, as was featured in the magazine. Mrs Leibrandt ordered a black one. “This jersey was one of the best I have ever knitted”, says Elsie, who proudly displayed it to friends before posting it. “I also recently received an order from Germany. I am tickled to think that my handwork will keep people of such cold countries warm through the winter”. Alex Cremer, the Country Life photo-journalist who put Murraysburg on the map, has now visited Merweville. “I loved the warm-hearted friendliness of the people. And I was greatly impressed by the cleanliness of the streets and surrounding environment. Obviously, no litter-bugs live in this community”, said Alex.
MERWEVILLE KINDERS DEEL HULLE OMGEWING
Die 55 leerlinge van Merweville se primêre skool het onlangs die prag van hulle omgewing met twee buitelandse skole gedeel. Dié Kinderkrans jeug groep het muurbehangsels met Afrika en Karoo temas geverf om na skole in Japan en Malawi te stuur. Gina Mans, organiseerder van die groep, sê: “Die kinders ruil graag inligting en sodoende leer hulle meer oor mekaar se lande en omgewings. Om inligting te deel verg navorsing en dit maak hulle meer bewus van hul eie kontrei. Die Graad 1 tot 3 leerlinge samel ook fondse in om te help met die bou van ‘n kleuterskool in Malawi”. Merweville se skool bied vanjaar ‘n jagnaweek aan as deel van hulle fondsinsameling projek. “Groot pryse is op die spel”, sê Gina. “‘n Gemsbok, blesbokke en springbokke kan gewen word”.
YOUTH PUT TOURISM, ECOLOGY HIGH ON AGENDA
Fifty children from ten Beaufort West schools recently spent a weekend at the Karoo National Park’s Mountain View camp to discuss important issues. Each school selected five top pupils from Grades 7 and 8. “These children were chosen for their strength of character and leadership qualities”, said Bernie Gordon, of Beaufort West Safe Schools and Aids Action Group, one of the sponsors of the outing. “During the two days these young people discussed life skills, youth defensibility, sexuality, Aids and moral values. Television language and programmes came in for quite some criticism. Tourism and the ecology were a high priority. Most of the youngsters felt the Karoo was a special place worthy of being shared only with responsible tourists. The general consensus was that the environment was sacred and must not be destroyed. Participants emphasised that dumping and littering had to be stopped. They felt we had to show that we respected our fauna and flora before we could expect tourists to visit and enjoy the Karoo”, said Bernie.
GROOT BELANGSTELLING IN SWARTBERGPAS
Hoe ouer die Swartbergpas word, hoe belangrikker word dit vir toerisme in die Karoo en veral in Prins Albert. “Heelwat buitelandse besoekers kom spesifiek na ons dorp net om oor hierdie wêreldbekende bergpas te ry en die asemrowende ervaring met plaaslike inwoners te bespreek”, sê Derek Thomas van Prins Albert. Hy en ander belangstellendes het onlangs Die Vriende van Die Swartbergpas-organisasie gestig. By die stigtingsvergadering het Mick Radford van Sedgefield ‘n toespraak en skyfievertoning getitel “Thomas Bain, die Man en sy laaste Meesterstuk” aangebied. Belangstellendes wat by “Die Vriende” will aansluit, kan Derek kontak by Tel No 023-541-1492. “Ledegeld sal ‘n nominale bedrag wees”, sê hy.
STARLING ON THE BREAKFAST MENU
Making their early way to Gay’s Dairy in Prince Albert recently, researchers Richard Dean and Sue Milton spotted a red-breasted sparrowhawk. “It was an adult male carrying prey, a Eurasian starling, to a female in a nest at the top of a pine tree in Church Street. While she contentedly fed her chicks on the offering, the male bird flew off and soon reappeared with another serving of starling”, said Sue. “We have recorded six sightings of rufous-breasted sparrowhawks and one juvenile black sparrowhawk in this area over a 15-year period, all in the woodland fringing town. We’ve never had such visitors nesting in the main street. It is remarkable how unobtrusive these sparrowhawks can be”.