The Central Karoo Regional Services Council’s Tourism and Information Office has gained Satour Accreditation. This means that it is now registered and acknowledged as a Regional Tourism Information Centre (TIC) and forms part of the Satour network It will be listed in Satour’s TIC Guide soon to be distributed locally and internationally. The accredited office sign with the Satour logo dotting the tourism “I” will be displayed at the Regional Services Council Offices. “In addition to general tourism information, this office provides a unique information service covering the history, geology, architecture and ecology. This is a great advantage to tourists needing specialist information,” said Pieter Rossouw, regional representative of Satour


Laingsburg’s Dutch Reformed Church, that survived the 1981 flood, has been declared a national monument by the National Monuments Council. The plaque announcing this status was unveiled during a ceremony at the church on May 21. The town’s original church, which was built in 1881, and which now serves the community as a church hall, is also included in this declaration. The church itself, one of the Karoo’s best known stone churches, was built and consecrated in 1905. It was designed by W H Ford, an architect with Kallenbach and Reynolds in Johannesburg. He was responsible for the design of Dutch Reformed churches in Burgersdorp, and Jamestown and was also granted a contract in Barkly East on the strength on his work in Laingsburg.


United Nations observers stationed in Beaufort West for the election thoroughly enjoyed Christie’s Guest House. “It had everything we could have wished for,” said Clemente Machuca, a man with 21 years’ service at the UN. “It’s in a nice quiet street and, as we had the house to ourselves, we were able to create an office, install a telephone, hold meetings and yet relax in a homely atmosphere in the evenings. Of course, as we each had our own room, we were assured of privacy when we needed it. This Karoo cottage meant a lot to us and went a long way to helping us build our team spirit. Each time we did a field trip we looked forward to returning to this place. We’ll miss it when we leave – but then, we’ll miss the Karoo, the region and its people became very special to us, during this visit.”


The Karoo has been greatly praised by the United Nations observers who spent time in the central region during the recent elections. “The people of this region were so spontaneous, open hearted, hospitable and friendly that we will never forget them said Elodie Cantier, Rose Mondeh, Andre Petrenko and Clemente Machuca. The four spent almost two months in the region driving down gravel roads in all sorts of wind and weather and visiting towns and farm people. They all thoroughly enjoyed this experience. “Many people went out of their way to make us feel at home. These were people like Mervin Tunmer, manager of the Lord Milner Hotel at Matjiesfontein, Keith van der Schyff and Reginald Essau, the chairman and vice chairman of Laingsburg Publicity Association Ronel van der Spuy, information officer in Prince Albert and Elsabe Victor, who promotes tourism in the Merweville area. The hinterland manual exchange telephone service was a new experience, but it all honesty it worked exceptionally well, at times better than the system in Moscow, they agreed,


The Cabinet post on tourism seemed to have bounced abut rather like a tennis ball between Mr Trevor Manuel and Dr Dawie de Villiers, but now at last Dr de Villiers now has the portfolio as the new minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The new provincial minister for Tourism in the Western Cape is Mr Lerumo Khulako. Both ministers see tourism as not being about politics and look forward to exciting developments in the future. We wish them every success and will support their efforts.


Prince Albert is offering another gold rush to honour the historic one of yesteryear. This new gold rush will take place during the Olive Festival on May 28. Tickets will cost R10 each and three gold coins will be offered as prizes.


Fossils Guest House in Loxton extends a warm welcome, personal service, comfort and hospitality to tourists. However, says owner Steve Smith-Symms, this was not the building’s original role. It was once Loxton’s police station and jail. The old cells, with their stout doors, still grace the backyard behind the huge vegetable patch which keeps the guest house supplied with fresh, succulent fare. Now, its past forgotten, Fossils has been renovated and tastefully furnished in cottage style. In addition to several bedrooms, some with en-suite bathrooms, it offers a comfortable lounge and dining room, under the personal supervision of the owner, and a huge studio is envisaged for artists. Fossils, based on a holistic health approach has become a popular venue with hunters. While enjoying evening braais under the pear trees they vie with each other to catch sight of the resident ghost said to roam the old cell block on certain moonlight nights.


A cycle race is scheduled to take place during the Swartberg Olive festival at Prince Albert on May 28. There will be two courses with distances of 20 km and 50 km each and many prizes will be up for grabs. The race will start promptly at 14:00 and entrance fee is R10 for adults and R5 for children. All entries must be done at the information office at the Fransie Pienaar Museum. There is great interest and a great many cyclists are expected to visit the town for this event. There will also be a Fun Ride along the Weltevrede road, now a picture of autumn colours.


South Africa is to become a member of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), a United Nations-linked body. Currently more than 109 countries around the world are members of this organization which does much to stimulate tourism and develop business and economic opportunities. The WTO will play a facilitating role in the procurement of funds from UN tourism development programmes. As a member, South Africa will be able to use WTO structures for tourism promotions.


A marathon is being planned for Karoo enthusiasts planning to attend the Swartberg Olive Festival in Prince Albert on May 29. The circle route will follow the Weltevreden road and turn back to towards the town along the Scholtzkloof Road. Organisers say that this is the most beautiful marathon route in the country. Entrance fee is R20. A shorter 10km Fun Run is being organized and it will take place on the Klaarstroom road. Marathon Enthusiasts should also diarise the Beaufort West Marathon and half marathon, scheduled for August, The Kanniedood marathon between Beaufort West and Nelspoort in October – information on both is obtainable from Sarel Serfontein. Town clerk,. Pierre de Villier s, will have more information on the Laingsburg marathon scheduled for September and Jans Rautenbach has all the details of the De Rust Marathon on November 11. Diarise these events and come and take part.


During the Swartberg Olive Festival in Prince Albert, the Department of Nature Conservation is offering three day trips to Gamkalskloof. A 35-seater bus will depart from the Fransie Pienaar Museum daily at 09:00 on May 27, 28 and 30. A Nature Conservation officer will act as a guide, explaining the origins of plant species, birds and game, while presenting a detailed history of the Hell. The tour, which includes lunch in Gamkaskloof, costs R50 per person. Please book at the Fransie Pienaar Museum.


Ever wondered what a das adder is? Children are said to fear them. They believe these creatures will eat them if they are disobedient. And, believe it or not, there are many older people in the Karoo, who still remembers stories of the Dasadder. But what is this creature? Many say it is a creature that appears only in the Karoo. It is said to have the face and shoulders of a dassie and the body of a snake. They are even mentioned in Lawrence Green’s books. But, has anyone ever seen one? Well, no, But then no one has seen “Little Willie Winkie (Klaasvakie) or Santa Claus and everyone knows that they exist!


South Africa’s first democratic election certainly brought a myriad of international observers and press people to the country, and the Karoo certainly hosted its share. From the outset we decided to treat each one as an international visitor and it worked as many departed leaving with good wishes for our future. On the evening of May 10, 1994, Peter Broad, public relations manager of British Telecom in Ireland, called Rose Willis, an old friend of his, saying that TV coverage on the inauguration of the new State President underlined something very special – peace in South Africa. He expressed a sincere hope that it would last and that there soon would be many a package tour from Britain to the heart of the Karoo.


A recent visitor to Taaibosfontein in Loxton, the farm of John Sinclair, had great praise for his host’s knowledge of the veld and veld plants. “It is an absolute honour to be with John in the veld and to hear all the stories of Karoo plants, he said. “John bubbles with enthusiasm and he has absolutely no problem remembering all the botanical names. However, I found the every-day names like hasiebos (rabbit bush), skilpadkos (tortoise food), skaaptongetjies (sheep tongues) and the long straggly grey grass called horlosieketting (watch chain) quite fascinating.


Like an eagle in his eyrie, so film maker and tourism promoter, Jans Ruatenbach, is lord of all he surveys from his magic castle on top of a koppie at the foot of the mighty Swartberg. Many visitors to the Meiringspoort area of the Karoo become totally captivated by the magic of this unique stone dwelling perched seemingly in midair. It has the atmosphere of a fairy castle, right from the entrance hall, dominated by an old, superbly carved pulpit. Stairs disappear tantalizingly into the basement. Every window reveals a breathtaking view of the mountains, each room seems more exciting than the last and the garden offers a variety of secluded spots – just the thing to rest the soul and refresh spirits. “So many stress-laden city folk arrive here, highly strung and spaced out,” says Jans, “but by the end of a weekend they leave so refreshed they laughingly call Oulap a rest cure.”


There is once again great interest in the Victoria West Game Festival to be held on June 24 and 25. Greeff Heydenhyh and his team are planning an interesting programme which will include tasty venison dishes, recipes, and talks on hunting, guns and the preparation and butchering of fresh meat. It promises to be a wonderful festival and many hunters have already booked visits to the hunting farms.


The beautifully packed stone walls of the Karoo intrigue many tourists. Whenever they encounter them, they ask about their origins. Who would have gone to so much trouble. These walls were built by the Xhosas. In 1856 a young Xhosa maiden, Nongquase, promised a miracle would happen if the Xhosas killed all their cattle. She gave the exact date on which the miracle would occur – February 18, 1857. She was such a convincing young lady that the tribe believed her and followed her instructions. The day of the miracle came and went. Nothing happened. Soon the nation was starving. The men moved into the Karoo to seek work. The beautiful stone walls bear testimony to their competence.


Piet van Wyk of Tierberg says that the hiking routes being laid out on his farm are almost finished and ready for tourists. These three new routes, which pass through the most historic and beautiful areas of the farm, were developed by Professor Leon Hugo and his team at the University of Pretoria. They will be officially opened in June. There are three one-day routes. There will be an inaugural walk for those hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who visit Prince Albert to enjoy the Olive Festival and who would like to take time to explore the Karoo. This special inaugural walk will be personally led by Piet.


A special promotion is planned on hiking in the Karoo. This is to be undertaken by Chris van der Merwe of the SABC and he wishes to know how many hiking trails we have in the Karoo, where they are, how long and so on. Please let the Regional Services Council’s Tourist Information Office have full details of any walks and hiking trails on your farm as soon as possible. These many also soon be promoted in a special combined regional publication designed to bring more outdoor enthusiasts to the area. Full details, route maps and, if possible, some photographs taken along the route will be appreciated.


Many farmers in the Murrays burg area offer farm holiday packages Among them is Percy and Sarie Reynolds of Groofontein, Flippie and Adri Conradie of Leeufontein, Jannie and Alida Pienaar of Rooipoort, Willem and Carissa Smuts, of Kareebosch, Josef and Elna van den Bosch of Sarelsrivier, Faransie and Marieta van der Merwe of Mordant and Stephan and Dorothea Kirsten of Vantonderskraal. Further information on these facilities will be published at a later date.


“Add a dash of History to Eco-tourism” was the theme of a talk which Rose Willis delivered at the Annual General Meeting of the Heritage Society in Graaff-Reinet. She explained how the towns of the Central Karoo, the farms; conservancies, nature reserves and the Karoo National Park, had all researched their histories for presentation and discussion with tourists. The audience greatly enjoyed the many interesting, amusing and poignant tales of yesteryear that she told and felt that they had learned a great deal more about the Central Karoo area.


Prince Albert is launching a special eco-tourism drive during the Swartberg Olive Festival. The opening address will be given by Brian Stokes, one of South Africa’s top ecological architects. It will be delivered at 17:00 on My 28 at Swartberg High School and admission is free. Dr Sue Dean will conduct two walks on the koppie during which special plants will be pointed out and discussed on Sunday May 29. She will also personally conduct visitors on the inaugural walk along the newly laid out Koppie Trail. “This walk takes three hours and, in Dr Dean’s company, is a totally exhilarating experience,” said Prince Albert information officer Ronel van der Spuy.