Frieda Haak, one of Prince Albert’s best-known history researchers, has written another book on the town and district. The story starts in 1762, when the De Beer family settled at the foot of the Swartberg, and it moves through the town’s rich and colourful past to the present. Aimed at providing information in a cost-effective manner, this 102-page printed booklet is now available in Afrikaans at the Fransie Pienaar Museum Shop at R20 – the English version will soon be available. On the cover is a colour picture of the old Oueekvallei farm. The booklet is one of a series which has brought the history of the town to life in an affordable way through Frieda’s tireless efforts. Several friends helped by gathering background information.


Groot lof word toegeswaai vir die nuutste projek van die Karoo Nasionale Park. Hulle is besig om ‘n inheemse “kwekery” te stig. “Almal erken die noodsaaklikheid om inheems te plant, maar niemand weet waar om plante te kry nie,” sê Zuilega Rossouw, sosio-ekoloog by die Park. “Dis natuurlik onwettig om plante uit die veld te haal. As dit gedoen word sal daar naderand niks in die veld wees nie. Ons het dus besluit om ‘n “kwekery” te begin as deel van ons opleidingsproiekte en kinders wat in natuurbewarings-kursusse deelneem help daarmee. Inkomste sal gebruik word om minder bevoorregte kinders veldskool toe te stuur. Dis ‘n langtermyn projek en dit sal ‘n ruk duur voor ons ‘n groot voorraad plante het. Daar is op die oomblik wel plante beskikbaar.”


The Karoo National Park runs a vitally important wild animal rescue service with a small “hospital” near the home of the park manager. At times it houses an unusual assortment of patients. The latest is a black-shouldered kite injured shortly after it fledged. The park’s socio-ecologist, Zuilega Rossouw, is currently teaching it to hunt live mice and helping it gain sufficient confidence to fly in the wild. “We take great care to ensure that a ‘patient’ retains its identity and does not imprint on humans. There is nothing more satisfying than to see a wild bird fly free, and confidently take its place in the eco-system of the Karoo. We don’t encourage people to visit our ‘patients’ as we do not want to create a zoo,” she said.


Beaufort-Wes Museum nooi gholfers om deel te neem aan hulle gholfdag op 29 Junie, 1996. “Dis ‘n belangrike deel van ‘n fondsinsamelings-veldtog,” sê kurator Sandra Smit, “en ons hoop ons sal goeie ondersteuning kry. Daar is boonop mooi pryse op die spel.”


Intrigued at the similarity between the name Matoppo House and Matopos Mountains, Zimbabwean tourism writer Donette Kruger did some digging, and came up with rocks. From my research I am positive the name means Great Stone House, or perhaps it was meant to have the Biblical connotation ‘build on the rock.’ This is because ‘madondo,’ often corrupted to ‘matopo,’ is a local word for round, dome-shaped rocks.” Val Bell, director of Bulawayo Publicity Association, agrees. She says: “The Matopos are in an area originally known as Matobo National Park. Legend has it that when Mzilikazi saw the dome-shaped rocks, he said they looked like bald old men and called them “Madondo”. The word was corrupted and became “Matopo”. Donette Kruger feels P J Bosman, who named the house, perhaps thought the beautiful, smooth, gleaming, round dolerite boulders of the Great Karoo resembled the Zimbabwean “madondo rocks” and, as he is known to have admired Cecil John Rhodes, he called his home “Matoppo” as a tribute. The double “p” is a mystery.


Daar is ‘n nuwe oornagplek in Prins Albert. Dit staan bekend as Huis Koelhoogte, en is in die hoofstraat net langs die apteek. Die huis behoort aan Ollie en Denise Ohlson van Kontrei Eiendomme, en het ‘n heerlike plaas atmosfeer, se hulle. “Daar is wonderlike uitsigte oor die berge, en sonsondergang hier is iets besonders,” sê Denise.


A three-bedroom house on the farm Scheurfontein, 40km from Beaufort West, is the latest self-catering venue in the Karoo. Visitors stay in an old farmhouse near the R69 Beaufort West/Oudtshoorn road, and are able to enjoy walks and bird-watching on the vast plains of the Karoo. The grave of a young Boer soldier, Japie Hauptfleisch, killed during the Anglo-Boer War, lies near the house.


Ursula Podlech recently wrote to the Tourist Office from Arnstein in Germany praising the service at “The Blockhouse” near Laingsburg. This venue is on Dries and Girlie Swanepoel’s farm Geelbeksfontein opposite the old Boer War Blockhouse on the N1. Ursula says: “We thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Rooms are simply furnished, the price is fair and the place is very clean. Most of all we enjoyed the wonderful people and warm hospitality – we had a feeling of belonging to the family. Dinner and breakfast were excellent.” Oddly enough some South African tourists also reported seeing the farm’s new accommodation sign, which simply says “Blockhouse”. They liked the area, they said, but did not turn in as they feared they may have to overnight in the real thing.


Dennehof, een van Prins Albert se oorspronklike plaashuise, wat onlangs in ‘n gastehuis omskep is, gaan eerdaags as nasionale gedenkwardigheid verklaar word. ‘n Paar jaar gelede was hierdie ou opstal heeltemal bouvallig en almal het gedink dat dit gesloop sou moes word, maar toe het dit die oog van Elaine Hurford gevang. Haar kundigheid en harde werk het dit in ‘n pragtige oornag plek omskep waar gaste deesdae heerlik langs die Swartberge kan vertoef.


Most travellers fancy just a light midday meal while on a sightseeing tour, and now Prince Albert has come up with an answer. Johan Cornelissen has opened a Pancake Bar in Church Street. Visitors to the Olive Festival agreed that these “hit the spot dead centre.” And there was much praise for the choice of fillings. As part of the Pancake Bar’s decor there hangs intriguing and unusual art. The luminosity of one black and white work veers on manic.


It’s a pity people no longer believe in ghosts,” Major Tony Gordon, a military historian, said recently while discussing vandalism in graveyards. “Perhaps if they did they’d leave grave markers alone. Sadly, no one fears being haunted, and trading in graveyard metal is pretty lucrative.” Walking through vandalised and unkempt graveyards is particularly sad when people arrive in search of the grave of a long-gone relative. Somehow crooked, nameless crosses don’t mean much. So, the British War Graves Committee is once again trying to replace markers on the graves of British soldiers killed during the Anglo-Boer War, and Beaufort West cemetery is to be a test case. The new grave markers are expensive but are said to be vandal-proof with no resale value. While on the subject of graveyards, a visitor popped into the tourist office one wet, windy day wanting to find her grandfather’s grave. A call to the municipality established that for “a small fee” she could be shown to the graveside. She didn’t seem pleased at the service and queried it. “When he was alive I could see him for free, you mean now that he’s dead I have to pay to visit him?”


‘n Beaufort-Wes man is tans besig met sy derde boek oor stoomtreine. Hy is Bernie Zurnamer, van Arcade Video, en hy skryf nie net oor stoom-treine nie, hy maak ook videos. Hy het al klaar ‘n hele reeks verfilm, wat handel oor treine wat oor vlaktes en bergpasse stoom. Deelfontein, De Aar, Drie Susters, Beaufort Wes en Matjiesfontein is almal deel van die stoomtrein saga van die Groot Karoo. En dis nie al nie, hy het ook die treine van die Klein Karoo en Tuinroete, soos die Outeniqua Choo Tjoe, op video vasgelê. Vir entoesiaste is daar ‘n drie-ure lange fees-van treine op band. Videos is tans beskikbaar en die boek sal oor ‘n paar weke verskyn.


Beaufort West trembled with excitement in 1880 when the very first train was due. Most people had never seen a locomotive, so a huge crowd turned out to watch the train’s arrival. The village’s solitary policeman had great difficulty controlling the huge crowd which, according to reports, “was decked out in the most extravagant finery.” Eventually, someone shouted: “Here comes the train!” Cheers filled the air as the locomotive steamed towards the town. Then a series of loud explosions turned cheers to screams. Officials ran in circles, ladies fainted and the lone policeman knew it just wasn’t his day. At the height of the panic there was a deafening roar and boulders from a nearby koppie rocketed into the air “like a volcanic eruption.” Total panic ensued. The crowd stampeded in terror, fearing the “puffing monster was causing an earthquake.” It took some time to restore order and to find that some enthusiasts wishing to signal the arrival of the train in style had placed detonators on the line. These exploded as the locomotive passed, which signalled a man on the koppie to light the fuse and ignite the dynamite buried on the hilltop. The effect was much more devastating than anyone could have imagined. The mayor was still trembling when he mounted the rostrum to deliver the welcome speech. Calm only returned when guests sipped their pre-lunch drinks.


Standard 1 onderwysers van A H Barnardskool gaan ‘n toerismewerkswinkel by Junior Primêr in Oudtshoorn bywoon. Dit is deel van ‘n projek wat deur die Wes-Kaap Toerismeraad se Ontwikkelingskomitee aangebied word om toerisme kursusse vir skole te evalueer. Die leerkragte, Maylene Daniels en Marinda Jacobs, gaan opgelei word om ‘n loodsprogram by A H Barnard aan te bied met die oog op die inskakeling van toerisme in die curriculum van skole in Wes-Kaap Provinsie. Die onderwysers sal getaak word om die lesmateriaal te evalueer.


Central Karoo Tourism Buros were among the first to be accredited by the Western Cape Ministry of Agriculture, Planning and Tourism. John Robert, special assistant to the minister, announced at a recent Western Cape Tourism Board meeting that while some applications had not yet been received, the ministry had accredited 63 buros to date, and plans for tabling new legislation were ahead of schedule. Certificates have been mailed to each Tourism Buro with a congratulatory letter from the minister. In it Mr Lampie Fick points out that accreditation is valid for one year, and that from next June the new Western Cape Tourism Board will be responsible for the accreditation of all Tourism Buros. He also explains the correct procedure for displaying certificates, the information “I” and the internationally-recognised Tourism Buro signs.


Belangstelling in toerisme in die Karoo groei daagliks. Elke dorp het nou ‘n Toerisme Buro en afgevaardigdes is aangewys om op ‘n streeks-toerisme komitee te dien. Hulle is Charl van der Merwe, Trevor Young en Rob Pollitt (Beaufort-Wes); Johan Mulder, Elaine Hurford en Yasmyn Delport (Prins Albert); Tony Kruger, Dries Swanepoel en Riaan van der Westhuizen (Laingsburg); en P J Conradie, Elma Immelman en Sarie Reynolds (Murraysburg). Klelner plekkies het ook skakelpersone benoem om na hul belange om te sien op die Streekstoerisme- en Provinsiale Ontwikkelingskomitees. Hulle is P Jonkers (Leeu Gamka); Anne Schoeman (Klaarstroom); R Bezuidenhout (Nelspoort); en G Mans (Merweville). Verteenwoordiges van die SDR is Herman de Witt en Rose Willis. Op aanvraag van die minister sal ‘n vergadering voor 31 Mei gehou word.


The rocks of the Karoo endlessly intrigue visitors. Recently a party of Germans climbed a Nelspoort koppie to view an ancient rock engraving. It was discovered in 1972 by Dr Gerhard Fock and his wife, Dora, while annotating petroglyths in the Nelspoort area. They found the strange, long-horned, ox-like creature on the rock baffling. Both assumed it to be a drawing of an extinct bovine, and took rubbings from the “very old and weathered” rock for analysis. Some experts said the animal was a Pelorovis, but others discarded this theory because of the strange horns. Eventually it was agreed that it was an Alcelaphine, a Megalotragus, or giant hartebeest which had been extinct for 10 000 years. The mystery remains. Who drew it and when?


Braham Van Zyl, toergids en skrywer, het onlangs saam met Neel Venter, Satoer se bestuurder in Amsterdam, en ‘n groep oorsese joernaliste besoek afgelê in die Groot Karoo. “Hulle was wenners van Reis Revue-tydskrif se kompetisie en ons het gedink die grondpaaie van die Groot Karoo sou ‘n besondere ervaring vir hulle wees want als is mos teer in Europa. Dit was toe ook so. Alma’ het dit geniet,” sêNeel Venter.


Quiet and restful though it may appear, the little North and South Hotel at Prince Albert Road has had its moments. An old-timer used to love telling how long ago a bus with foreign tourists pulled up at the service station next door. The tourists got out to stretch their legs and take pictures for conversation pieces back home. Anyway, it was already a while past opening time with all lenses focussed on the pub entrance when this dishevelled gent stumbled down the stairs, steadied himself, and yelled: “Hey man, the bloody pub is on fire!” The tourists stood in silence. Flames and smoke belched from windows. A distressed pump attendant muttered: “Dear God, not this as well.” “Damned strange types,” was heard from among the tourists retreating to the bus.