The Eastern Cape Karoo is to get four new nature reserves. The areas were recently approved for declaration by Mcebisi Jonas, MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism He also declared a new protected area. The reserves include Kromme River Hoogte Nature Reserve, a 442-ha area outside Uniondale; Baviaanskloof Hartland Nature Reserve near Willowmore, Royalston, a 17-hectare development being handled by Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and Lambas, a nature reserve in the area of the Mhlontlo Local Municipality. This lies north-east side of the provincial border between Mthatha and Mt Frere alongside the N2 and the R396 between Tsolo and Maclear. It will include the Tsistsa and Tina River Valleys, the Tsitsa Falls and its surrounds, as well as the Mzoboshe Horseshoe. The protected area, known as Noorsveld protected environment is in the Jansenville area. MEC Jonas said the economic empowerment opportunities, offered by these developments, would play a vital role in the development of this region.


The intriguing story of Ann’s Villa (January issue) crept into the hearts of many Round-up readers. “For 150 years this historic stop, from its remote setting on the Zuurberg Pass, on the edge of the Great Karoo, has watched the world go by,” says owner Helen Lunn. “To honour this historic milestone this year our main focus will on an effort be to capture as much of the villa’s visual history as we can. While the world has changed, Ann’s Villa has remained the same virtually since the day it was built. In its early days it was quite a social hub and, we believe, widely photographed. Even today, many stop, take a picture and move on. So, I am appealing to anyone who has a photo – historic or modern – to share it with us. We know many have painted the villa over the years, but so far have managed to trace only one, of which we have a print. So, I am also appealing to artists who have captured this beautiful old building to share the results. And finally, we are encouraging modern-day artists who pass to paint the villa and its environs and to join us in an exhibition later this year. I am going to the villa in May with a group of artists who will spend time doing landscapes and paintings of the buildings. This workshop is fully booked, however, if more artists are interested, I am prepared to organise another workshop later in the year. I feel a visual history would be a wonderful way to honour this historic spot where the dreams of the Websters – to provide a hospital resting place in as beautiful hinterland setting – are still being kept alive.”


Pat Kramer saw corbelled buildings for the first time in 2006 while on the Vernacular Architectural Society weekend in Loxton and Carnarvon. She was so intrigued that she immediately decided to find out more. In the course of her research, she travelled thousands of kilometers, to locate, visit and record over 170 corbelled buildings. This project has resulted in a master’s degree in archaeology from the University of Cape Town. On February 18 Pat will give an illustrated talk on these buildings to the Vernacs in the Athenaeum, in Newlands, Cape Town, at 20h00. She will cover the frequently-asked questions: who, why, when, how and where, and, while she does not claim to have all the answers, she will discuss some probabilities,” said VASSA secretary Kathy Dumbrell. The extensions or additions to corbelled buildings will also be touched on as these interesting features provide clues as to how the builders saw themselves and wished to be perceived by others.


A C White, who wrote Call of the Bushveld, felt South Africa had many inland areas worth visiting. “Up-country people, in too many cases, have a one-track mind which directs them only to the coast for a holiday. Too many South Africans have missed the magic, the beauty, the secrets of the country’s wilder parts.” Many might think that night in the wide-open plains of South Africa would be silent, he said, but they were altogether wrong. The night in vast open spaces like the Great Karoo is neither still nor silent. “Great drama is played out in the darkness of the African plains. Here a never-ending struggle, where life itself is the prize, is played out. This is the story of love, life, and death. If you listen carefully you will hear the shrill, impertinent inquisitive note of the jackal, calling to his mate and members of his family to join him in the hunt for an evening meal. Then, there is the zebra, the noisiest of creatures. If you listen carefully you will hear their dog-like yowl. Zebras chat to each other forgetful that lions are near. Suddenly a shrill whistle tells that the stallion of the herd has been warned of danger. As the night moves along the cowardly, slinking hyena will scream out its cry which sounds like the call of a lost soul laughing at its own discomfort. Then there is the cough of the wildebeest. These animals make this by quickly expelling air from their lungs through their nostrils. This signifies that they sense danger. Then there comes the deep-throated angry grunting sound, the mightiest voice of the staunchest hunter, the lion.”


Harriet Ward, who spent five years in the hinterland and wrote a book describing her experiences, said: “Graham’s Town is not worth describing.” Many did not agree, and some found that it “was the hub of commercial activity where everything one’s heart desired could be obtained.” In the late 1800s the city fathers of Aliwal North definitely thought their village exceptional. In Boer se Pub Pat Hopkins states: “It is generally accepted that the earth rotates around the sun. This, though, seems not be true in the Eastern Cape because in 1872 the Dutch Reformed Church decided it was offensive that the earth was not the centre of the universe. They called an urgent meeting at which the church council passed a resolution stating that ‘as from today the Earth around Aliwal North no longer rotates.’ This motion was passed and never revoked,” states Pat.


Eno Fruit Salt has a long history in South Africa. The product, formulated in 1868 by J C Eno, a chemist, first arrived in the Eastern Cape during the Frontier Wars. It was initially made in Newcastle specifically for sailors who arrived at this port suffering poor nutrition from the lack of fresh food on their long voyages. Once ashore they over-indulged and brought on bouts of liverishness. The product was an instant success. Sailors carried it abroad on every voyage. Soon soldiers were also enjoying its benefits. Most were weary of the savage pills and purges of the time. The product found a good market in South Africa. During the Anglo-Boer War the company ran an advertisement featuring a soldier with a packet of Eno in his pocket. Under the heading “Unsolicited testimony” the advert stated: “A British soldier of the S A War wears Eno like a medal.”


Murraysburg-born Bill Burger was proud to get his first job at the age of 12. In 1905 he was appointed as an apprentice coach builder, but when South African Railways officials discovered his age and that he did not have his Standard Six certificate he was “fired” because he was “too young for the job”. He simply refused to leave. He turned up for work every day and the company kept paying him. This went on until he retired. “I just came to work on time every day and picked up my pay every week until I retired 48 years later when I turned 60,” said Bill with a wry smile. He said he enjoyed every day in the service with the SAR. He enlisted during the South West African Rebellion, and WWI, then simply returned to his post. He married, fathered two children. At the time his death Bill was the oldest member of the Moths as well as of the Drostdy Bowling Club.


Life on the ocean wave between England and South Africa was not always a pleasure. In To the Cape for Diamonds, Frederick Boyle states: “Voyages were made by P and O, or Royal Mail, mostly arrived safely, however, with the Union Line, there was uncomfortable doubt. Strange, unexpected, improbable incidents often occurred. Yet, this company, subsidised by Government to the tune of at £20,000 a year, has held the monopoly of the route since 1856, and it is fearless of competition. Its contract time for carrying heavy freights and the mail is a most liberal 38 days. This company looks upon the Cape Colony as prey – too poor, too distant, too apathetic to protect its covenanted rights. British South Africans suffers all things and scarcely complain. The ships are powered by coal which is sometimes off-loaded onto the deck, before being stacked away. This gives the ships a black stain. It gets into the very bones of the passengers. It flavours our soup, marks our linen, burns with the tobacco in our pipes, and works itself into pretty patterns on our bread.”


Overland travel offered even more excitement wrote Boyle. “We raced across the veld with black night wrapped around us and our hearts in our mouths. The darkness was so dense we could not see the road ahead. The music of the reins told of the type of terrain the horses were traversing. They plunged into sluits, (rain-courses); gaily leapt over high stones; dragged us through bushes, and jammed wheels into rut leaving the others on the bank. At times the driver descended to examine the route. Was he alarmed? We prayed all perils would be averted, also for the driver to rein in the horses, but, of course, no Englishman would think of making such a request. There was a bottle swinging within inches of my temple, in a line to cut an artery, but I couldn’t find courage to remove it particularly as the driver seemed so careless of his own neck. We tried to be a credit of our country as we rattled along, banging up and down, right, left, to the front, to the back, holding on with both hands for fear of being tossed out, shaken in every nerve, with tongues nearly bitten through. Any attempt to speak simply ended in a gurgle and a gasp. This drive explained the sobriety of the South African farmers. It was evident that drunkards could not survive without breaking their necks.”


“The Karoo, lay stretched before us, said Boyle. “It is not a wasteland of sand, many parts bear tolerable vegetation, yet there is perhaps no tract of land upon the whole earth’s surface – certainly none that I have seen in my many wanderings – that is more desolate and forbidding. It has no waves or hollows, it is one unbroken sheet of barrenness. No object – plant or stone – over six inches high, breaks the dead level, till in dim haze it fades against the low and dusty hills. A distant chip of crystal twinkles like a star to light, dazzle and expire. The sun pours down in pitiless supremacy. No shadow falls except the gloom of a passing cloud. Even the stones that clothe the land are small and shadeless. A dusky knot of prickles here, there a sprig of heath, a tuft of chamomile or sage, a thin grey arm of nameless root, a bulb like a football broken, pealing in the heat – such is the vegetation. The dry sand cannot bear a load, so its hot yellowness is only dotted with feeble greys and olives.”


“Though never a breeze blows, faint, pale whirls of dust arise, and circle languidly,” wrote Boyle. “Far-off hills bound the colourless horizon and, on the vast plains mirages – deceptions, great lakes of water – shine. This is the landscape that stretches before you, but you may dwell on the scene for only a moment – just while your wagon rolls out and into the open. After an instant all fades from sight as the lurid sun bakes the earth. Dust leaps up like a foe from ambush, wraps itself around you in palpable clouds, filling your nose, ears, mouth, hair, penetrating your clothes until it reaches your flesh. Horses become invisible; driver and passengers loom fantastic as through a mist. Then the coughing and swearing starts and the cries for water. Within seconds it seems a three-gallon keg is drained. Such is the Karoo, and such are the pleasures of travelling through it.”


In May 1884, Cape Government Railway, Western System traffic manager, Alex Difford was concerned because no one seemed to be interested in the refreshment room at De Aar station. He placed an advertisement in The Argus, on Wednesday, May 6 which read: “No satisfactory tenders have yet been received, so notice is once again given regarding a one-year lease for the refreshment room on Brounger Junction platform. The rooms consist of two bars – one for 1st and 2nd class passengers and the other for 3rd class travellers, plus a dining room and kitchen. The rooms open only for half an hour before the arrival and closed within half an hour of the departure of all passenger trains,” states an old newspaper cutting sent in by historian Wendy van Schalkwyk.


Young Jan Daniel Momberg of Aberdeen could not have imagined the torrid time that lay ahead when he joined a Boer Commando, in September 1900. He was captured, tried for treason, joining enemy forces and marauding, writes Alan McIver. Jan was sentenced to death because it was people of the Colony were expressly forbidden to join the commandos as the Cape was under British rule. Jan’s sentence was, however, commuted by Lord Kitchener when he agreed to give evidence in the prosecution of other “rebels” to avoid execution. He found himself “free to go”, but far from free. His commandant was obliged to keep him in the guard tent of the garrison at Graaff-Reinet to protect him from the wrath of the locals. The British then tried “to get rid of him by persuading him to enlist in the navy”. He didn’t fancy that. They tried to convince him to become an apprentice. But that did not appeal to him. De Beers was approached “to take him on”, but they had “no vacancy”. Kitchener eventually disowned him and ordered that he be released. It was stressed that anyone who molested him would be punished. “That was cold comfort for Momberg,” writes Alan. “He survived by moving to Pretoria, where he qualified as a printer.”


Olive Schreiner’s work greatly influenced Howard Thurman, an influential African American author, educator, philosopher, pastoral theologian and a spiritual father of the American Civil Rights Movement. Ordained as a Baptist minister, he made significant contributions to the religious, moral and ethical life of 20th century America. Thurman was profoundly affected by Olive’s Dreams and The Dream of the Hunter. He wrote: “It was only after I read these works that I was able to make the kind of experience that I had been describing an object of thought.” He stated that Olive influenced his life, work, theo-philosophical thinking and helped him gain a better understanding of himself, his academic gifts, and his religious calling. Olive was a “fresh source of inspiration”, he said, and he felt that throughout his life he was “being readied for this encounter.” He claimed her works helped him “understand peace, mysticism, the spiritual idiom of life, the universality of truth and showed him how to protect, cultivate and nurture his talents. He named his first daughter Olive Katherine, in Olive Schreiner’s honour. He claimed her as one of the primary women in his life along with his wives, his mother, grandmother and two daughters. He called Olive his “literary sister”. Thurman, who was Dean of Chapel at Howard University and Boston University for more than two decades, spent the late 1920s and much of the 1930s collecting and studying Olive’s writings before he eventually compiled and edited a Schreiner reader, Track to the Water’s Edge. It was published in 1973. He wrote 21 other books and helped found a multicultural church in 1944.

The final test of a gentleman is his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him.William Lyon Phelps