A Cape Town Club for elderly, single senior citizens, visited the mountain farm, Wilgeboschkloof, in the Merweville district last month. Farm owners Hennie and Elsabe Victor thought that they would have a very restful weekend with this group, but that was not the case. “Of the 11 who visited, the youngest must have been 65 and there were two in their 80s – one was 80 and the other 84. Shortly after arrival all the visitors energetically set off on the mountain trail. We have a series of walks and they enjoyed most of these. In the evening we thoroughly enjoyed a braai with this group. It was an absolute treat to experience a weekend with such “young” people. We hope that they will quickly return.”


Gerald Minnaar, manager of Highlands, one of the premier game farms in the Nuweveld Mountains, outside Beaufort west, recently attended the International Safari Club Convention in Munich Germany. His main objective was the promotion of the farm as a hunting and game viewing venue for international tourists. The convention was attended by almost all top hunting and safari clubs in the world. Gerald travelled to Germany via London, where he held talks with Gordon Verhoef, owner of Highlands. This farm has been specifically developed for the international market. Its guest chalets resemble turn-of-the-century shanties and they are all comfortably furnished with antiques to further enhance their olde worlde image. The farm, which is becoming increasingly popular amount tourists from Europe and America is easily recognizable by its quaint gatehouse and impressive entrance gates, visible to those who travel the road to Loxton across Molteno Pass.


One of the best known icons in Beaufort West, the Masonic Hotel, has now been changed into a steakhouse, “pub” and guest house, known as the Karoo Lodge. There are 20 comfortable rooms, each set up and furnished by owners Leon and Ronell Bezuidenhout, who also take care of the menus. For safety conscious travelers, there is a lock-up parking area with security guard at the back of the hotel.


The airport outside Richmond has been upgraded and granted approval by the Civil Aviation Authorities. “We are proud of this achievement,” said town clerk Johan van Wyk, “as we worked hard to get onto the CA Maps. We did not doubt that we would be given approval as we have received many letters congratulating us on our service and facilities

Note: The airports at Prince Albert and Victoria West also have Civil Aviation approval and regularly receive good reports from CA inspectors. Several farms in the Central Karoo also have top class landing facilities which are regularly used throughout the hunting season.


Katie Klue of the Klaarstroom farm, Middelwater, is offering tourists an opportunity of becoming better acquainted with the Karoo. She is prepared to arrange tours of the area, conduct them, if need be, and provide lunches and teas to tour groups. She also has two guest suites, one of which even boasts a four-poster bed Overnight accommodation costs are R65 per person per day. Dinner and breakfast will be provided on request. Once guests have unpacked Katie arranges a tour of the farm. She tries to encourage people to spend a day or two exploring Meiringspoort, De Rust, Prince Albert, the fossil museum on Roy Oosthuizen’s farm, or visiting the abandoned gold mine and village at Spreeufontein. “And,” says Katie, “there’s nothing to beat sunrise on the Swartberg Mountains. For tourists wishing to explore she provides a picnic basket.


Prince Albert is planning a second gold rush during the Swartberg Olive Festival from May 14 to 15. The first gold nugget in this area was dug up by an aardvark on Spreeufontein farm in 1871. Twenty years later a shepherd found another nugget on Klein Waterval, a neighbouring farm. This resulted in a gold rush, but sadly little gold was found. Through the years other nuggets have been found and when it rains alluvial gold can be seen in the rivers. During the festival small groups will be allowed to “delve” on a special terrain for gold coins donated by the Standard Bank, as well as search for other prizes.


A BBC film crew recently visited the Great Karoo to film the private, luxury Rovos Rail train crossing the vast plains between the Nuweveld and Swartberg Mountains. This is scheduled to be used as part of a series on Great Train Trips of the World. Local script writer Riaan Malan hopes to incorporate some details of the dramatic story of the laying of the track from the Cape through the Karoo in the 1870s and tales of how the English, Irish and Welsh labourers terrorized the farmers.


Well known Johannesburg artist, Charles van Niekerk, enjoyed a delightful time in Prince Albert in February. During this holiday he completed a series of sketches of historic buildings, townscapes and of interesting places in the district. He is now compiling a portfolio of his Karoo pieces – most of which are finished – and plans to return in October to stage an exhibition of his work in the town.


There will be a special exhibition of the work of Gawie Beukes at the Fransie Pienaar Museum during the Swartberg Olive Festival from May 14 to 15. “The museum, which owns some of his work, has been fortunate enough to borrow many more,” reports Lydia Barella. “We hope to have between 20 and 26 pieces on show.” There is a great deal of interest in this exhibition as Gawie Beukes was a well-known and loved local artist. He was born in de Beer Street, in Prince Albert over a century ago. He built the double-storey house, Seven Arches, in the main street and had a photographic studio there as well as an art gallery He is ranked with the pioneers of South African landscape painting. He is also the man who brought the first “bioscope “ to Prince Albert, as part of his interest in photography and he held regular film shows at Seven Arches.

NOTE: During the Swartberg Olive Festival there will also be a general art exhibition of the work of other local artists at Seven Arches, opposite the museum. Both exhibitions will be open on May 14 and 15.


The Landbou (Agricultural) Distillers Guild are holding their Cape competition in Prince Albert this year and it will form part of the Swartberg Olive Festival. Between 40 and 50 entries from witblitz makers across the region have been received and already there is an atmosphere of excitement. Among the competitors will be some who tested have their own “special” recipes at the National Championships in the Transvaal earlier this month. Judges come from Stellenbosch and from the Klein Plasie Museum in Worcester. The prize giving will take place during a lunch on Saturday. On Saturday afternoon the exhibition will be open to the public, interested tasters and connoisseurs. They will all be able to discuss the various products with the producers.


Pieter Sneekluth, a man who has devoted his life to nature conservation and predator control, has established a small, but viable tannery in Prince Albert. He still runs predator control courses for farmers, prepares baits and traps, but now can make use of the skins. Pieter began researching the possibilities of tanning skins of the black-backed jackal, lynx or caracal, bat-eared fox and other wild animals some time ago. Since then he has developed his own equipment and processes and has included other skins, such as Angora goat, springbok and rabbit pelts, in his product range. “It is an interesting job, but quite a labour intensive occupation,” he explained. “Before it is able to be used leather has to be worked, washed and reworked many times. In fact it takes 40 different processes to turn a raw skin into useable, quality leather. Only then do you begin to plan your final product,” Pieter makers a range of very popular hats, including a “Davey Crocket” version, as well as jackets, waist coats and key rings.


Greef Heydenrych, a former South West African resident, who has settled in Victoria West is gaining recognition across the Karoo for his tasty venison dishes. His willingness to attend game festivals and undertake demonstrations of some venison dishes has resulted in him making a name for himself at agricultural shows and a range of other exhibitions across the region. “Venison is an extremely healthy meat to eat,” says Greeff “it has very little fat and cholesterol and is ideal for the health conscious.” For those who wish to make tasty venison dishes at home he has published a book entitled Tasty Venison Dishes. It covers hunting, the preparation of the meat, the various cuts and, of course, a wide range of delicious recipes.


The first large group of hunters arrived at Kafferskraal, the farm of George van Wyk, 90-km away from Beaufort West, last weekend. This group of Cape Town doctors travelled by light aircraft and landed at the Modderpoort Dam airstrip on Rietfontein, the adjacent farm. They found it a truly relaxing, successful and worthwhile break from their busy and routine lives in the Cape. Most look forward to a return trip before the hunting season ends. George reports that he has had sufficient rain on Kafferskraal to make this hunting season a good one. He has 1 000 springbok available and they are all in top condition, he states. And, he reports, bookings are already fairly heavy for the rest of the season. George has offered hunting on Kafferskraal for over ten years and is now also fully geared to cater for international tourists. Hunters may hire a 4x 4, horses, and rifles from him. “This is important to many international tourists who do not like to bring rifles with them,” he said. Skinning, butchering and hanging facilities are available at the farm and so are trophy skinning facilities


The hunting lodge on Kafferskraal is a popular venue. It is called Duck and Dive and it can house up to 12 hunters at a time at the cost of R50 per person per day. This lodge is located in picturesque, rocky surroundings, next to a little river and huge dam. This is the ideal spot for an after-hunt braai.


Come and relax in the silence, peace and tranquility of the Karoo, say Bob and Marianne of the farm Welgevonden in the Loxton district. This farm has accommodation for six people in a three-bedroomed house with linen, cooking facilities, crockery and cutlery. The house also has wood, as well as a gas stove, fridge, paraffin lamps and bathroom with hot running water. There are braai facilities and under-cover parking. The farm offers walking routes, swimming facilities, as well as horses or mule cart rides. Fresh farm produce and picnic baskets are available on demand.


A Pretoria man recently drove to the Karoo in search of the “volstruis oog” (ostrich eye). Oddly, this has nothing to do with ostriches. It is a rare plant, Haworthis semi viva, a half-dead – as its name implies –looking succulent. The man, Gerry Prinsloo, was elated when he found this plant in the veld west of Beaufort West, near the farm Middlepos. Like Dr D J Reddy, from East London, who also recently drove to the Karoo seeking this plant, Mr Prinsloo, felt there was nothing to beat seeing it in its natural environment


The people of the Karoo are already planning a series of popular spring sporting events. Two of the most popular are the Botterblom Classic Golf Tournament, which is scheduled to be held in Prince Albert on September 11, and the other is the Karoo Marathon in Laingsburg. This extremely popular marathon, which dates back to before the disastrous flood, attracts about 200 to 250 runners to the town each year, says town clerk, Pierre de Villiers.


Not many tourists have heard of Konstabel, almost the southernmost point of the Central Karoo Regional Service Council’s area. However, opposite this tiny station, next to the N1, some cheerily waving ;national flags announce a farm stall. It is on the farm of Dr E F Coelie and it is managed by a German lass, Kirsten Winzer, who decided to leave Europe to make her home in South Africa, last year. The farm-stall, which sells tea, coffee, and snacks to tourists, also has locally made jams, dried fruit, honey and souvenirs. It is open daily from 08h00 to 18h00. A playground is being developed for children under some trees, in the shady area alongside the shop. “We hope this will make the stop more relaxing for parents and help children to get rid of some of their extra pent-up energy,” said Kirsten

NOTE: The name Konstabel dates back to the 18th century. This pace was named when on old, retired Hottentot policeman came to live at this spot near a fountain at the railway siding. The English for a time called this rail stop Constable, but the name did not stick.


A group of Scots gathered at the grave of Scottish Anglo-Boer leader, Major-General Andrew “Red Mick” Wauchope, 10-km south of Matjiesfontein, to pay tribute to their fallen hero. One wee dram led to another and within short the pipes were out to play a lament, some reels and marches. This continued until the shadows lengthened and the tired piper lay down beside a tree to rest. He closed his eyes for “a wee while and thought of Scotland”. When he opened them again it was dusk and his friends, all filled with “too much merry spirit” had departed leaving him behind – perhaps they didn’t even notice. Unperturbed he decided to walk back to the Lord Milner Hotel and to keep his spirits up, accompany himself with a few airs on the bagpipes. However, unbeknown to him a family had stopped alongside the N1 for a rest and enjoy an evening snack. The tourists’ hair stood on end when, in the evening gloom, they saw a solitary Scot in kilts, with bagpipes skirling, emerge from between the gravestones and march up the hill. All the puzzled piper saw as he skipped across the style was them flinging their things hastily into the car and their vanishing tail light. He was puzzled, but said he continued on using the only guide he could clearly see – the white lines on the road. A few cars approached, paused and on seeing this “ghostly piper”, sped off. Then, a local farmer stopped and offered him a lift. Upon hearing the tale he guffawed. “They thought you were a ghost,” he explained. “This is said to be the most haunted area in the country and, seeing you come out of the graveyard at twilight must have given them all a terrible fright.”


Hartebeeskuil, the popular hunting venue, near Victoria West, now also offers holiday accommodation in an isolated hut. The owner of the farm, Piet Swart, confesses he is surprised at its popularity. “The facilities are pretty basic,” he says, “but city people love it. They enjoy being away from it all in the middle of nowhere, they say. One even stated he could hardly believe there was so much uninhabited space – even in the Karoo. Most people enjoy the rest, the fresh air, walking in the veld, getting to bed early and waking refreshed. Piet also has information on hunting on other farms in the Victoria West district.