LONG AGO, WHEN THE RIVERS FLOWED NORTH
Once a swamp and now a semi-desert, the Great Karoo fascinates most who explore it. Many wish H G Wells’s time machine existed to take them back to explore the once vast Gondwana continent. One man who brings this ancient world to life is S A Museum palaeontologist Dr Roger Smith. He recently explained the transition from swamp to dryland to visitors at the Karoo National Park. Way back when the earth was young all the land was on the western side of the globe and the sea on the east. Gondwana was joined to Pangia by land bridges. Then gradually the huge landmass began to break up and the continents drifted apart. The best evidence of continental drift is found in the Karoo which 200-million years ago was in the centre of a large landmass and closer to the south pole than it is today. North-flowing rivers, traces of which can still be seen from the air, fed a huge inland sea. South Africa as we know it today had no coast. This only began to appear 100 million years ago. The crack beneath the ocean, which led to continental drift, began 190 million years ago and continues at a rate of 2cm a year.” The rocks of the Karoo reveal this fascinating story. “Here the earth’s surface is thickest and best preserved. This is the best place to study the ancient mysteries of history. Karoo rocks also reveal that the beautiful Cape folded mountain belt of the Swartberg began to be formed 300 million years ago and ended 190 million years ago when the dolerite intrusions began. Today, this dolerite forms distinctive caps on Karoo mountains.”
MUSEUMDAG ‘n WONDERLIKE ERVARING
Beaufort-Wes se “Kom Vertel” tema vir internasionale museumdag was ‘n reuse sukses. Ou inwoners is genooi om geskiedkundige items te bring en daaroor te gesels. “Omtrent 45 senior burgers het die geleentheid bygewoon om stories en herinneringe te deel oor items soos strykysters, bybels, swepe, ‘n konsertina en tot ‘n papirusrol van Ceylon,” sê museumhoof Sandra Smit. “Die papirusrol, wat in 1922 aan ‘n famielielid van mev Ohna van der Spuy gestuur is, was deur ‘n brief vergesel wat bekommernis uitgespreek het oor afsettings van werkers in Suid-Afrika. Die geleentheid was ‘n wonderlike ervaring, veral vir ons oudste gas, die 93-jarige Ouma Sauls. Heelwat nuwe materiaal is ook vir ons agriewe bekom.”
MUSEUM DAY A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE
Beaufort West’s “Come and Tell” theme for International Museum Day was a great success. Old residents of the town were invited to bring historic items of interest and to chat about them. “About 45 senior citizens attended with a wide range of items to discuss. These included irons, Bibles, whips, a concertina and a piece of papyrus parchment from Ceylon,” said museum curator Sandra Smit “The papyrus, which was given to a family member of Mrs Ohna van der Spuy in 1922, was accompanied by a letter expressing concern about the laying off of workers in South Africa. This occasion was a wonderful experience, especially for our oldest guest, 93-year old Granny Sauls. A great deal of material was donated to the museum archives.”
A LONELY IRISH MEMORIAL WITH KAROO LINKS
In a misty graveyard in Donacloney in County Armagh, Ireland, there is a mysterious and lonely little memorial with links to the Great Karoo. The ancient stone, half hidden by undergrowth, proclaims it was erected in memory of James Alexander, 23, who died in Beaufort West in 1854. For years it has fascinated many Alexander family members. Then recently two managed to make the trip to the Karoo to find out more. But in Beaufort West, Des and Ulla Armstrong were stunned to find that there was no record of James Alexander being buried in the town cemetery. Nevertheless, they searched the graveyard, but without success. They are now appealing to any farmers in the district who may have an Alexander buried on their land to contact them. “The rest of the family would love to know more about James,” says Des. “We wonder what he did and why he was in the Karoo. Perhaps he was an English tutor, or maybe one of the chest sufferers who came to the Karoo in search of a cure. He may even have been a travelling salesman. We’d love to know more and to find his grave.”
WHEN FUNNY PEOPLE MAKE SIGNS
Most times the signs so beloved of tourism-conscious folk are creations of officialdom perfunctorily pointing the way or threatening dire consequences should one, say, expectorate on an inappropriate surface. But away from those who quote the incomprehensible from rule books, things lighten up a bit. In the TV movie Blindside, featuring Harvey Keitel, there is this distinctly sleazy rooming establishment, the Sunburst Motel, that soon becomes a killing field. Outside, all lit up, there is this beguiling little number: “Come in for the rest of your life.”In the window of an upmarket boutique in the United States, no doubt with its prices in mind, is a sign that proclaims: “Don’t stand outside and faint, come in and have a fit.” And, then there is the bold sign at the main entrance of a travel agency which asks: “Why don’t you go away?” A prospective searcher of new horizons was seen giving it the two-finger salute.
NEW GRADING SCHEME WELCOMED
The search for somewhere to stay often totally confuses tourists. Many find on arrival that what they have chosen bears little resemblance to the promises of some glossy brochure. This has led to demands for better standards, service and grading, particularly on the platteland where competition for the tourist rand is fierce. News that the South African Bureau of Standards has launched its Crystal Awards Grading Scheme for accommodation establishments was welcomed in the Karoo. The scheme has been widely acclaimed by both the tourist industry and Press. “We were stunned by the excellent reaction,” according to the SABS’s Liza Delaport. “This proved just how important the maintenance of standards and service has become throughout the South African market-place. The scheme is based on vast research which included the Satour Accreditation Programme and 11 similar strategies. Our new proposal covers the entire accommodation spectrum and ensures that guest houses will not have to compete with hotels for accreditation. A variety of sectors will cover every institution from backpacker overnight rooms to luxury five-star establishments.” Farm accommodation will also be included in this new grading scheme. “All too often profits can be eroded by inefficient or incorrect environmental practices along 4 x 4 and hiking routes. We aim to assist in correcting this.” Ms Delaport said the SABS scheme would not be a star, but rather a crystal grading system and would cover everything from bathrooms and bedrooms through to public and reception areas.
KOM OORNAG IN ‘N KERK
Corne Marais is onlangs aangestel as bestuurder van die Kerkhuis B&B in Prins Albert. Sy nooi toeriste na die gebied om ‘n nag in hierdie unieke gastehuis te kom geniet. Dit was oorspronklik ‘n NG Sendingkerk maar vandag beskik dit oor ses luukse dubbel kamers, ‘n binnens-buitenshuis swembad, biljarttafel en pragtige groot tuin met aantreklike braai area.
OVERNIGHT IN A CHURCH
Corne Marais was recently appointed as manager of the Kerkhuis B&B (Church House B&B) in Prince albert. She invites tourists to the area to overnight in this unusual guest house which originally was a Dutch Reformed Mission Church, but which today has six luxury double rooms, an indoor/outdoor pool, billiard table and large. beautiful, garden with attractive braai area.
AN OFFICE FOR THE DREAM-MAKERS
A film office will open in Cape Town in July. It is being established by Western Cape Tourism Board and Wesgro, who will be responsible for its management. The office represents the realisation of a dream for WCTB board member Jans Rautenbach. “Our aim is to market the Western Cape Province to film producers, a fraternity often referred to as ‘dream-makers’. We will help them find sites in new and undiscovered areas, bring local talent to their attention and assist with permits, where necessary. This way we will bring the benefits of the film industry to outlying regions, such as the Karoo, which have much to offer. We hope to attract advertising, documentary, wild life, TV and feature film-makers to all regions.”
GOEIE GEHALTE HANDWERK SÊ WESGRO
Die standaard van handwerk en entoesiastiese benadering tot toerismebevordering in Murraysburg is onlangs groot lof toegeswaai deur mnr Roland Hein van Wesgro. Hy het onlangs opgetree as fasiliteerder van >n toerismewerkswinkel by die skousaal wat deur omtrent 50 dorpsmense bygewoon is. Die voldagse program het op toerisme gefokus, sowel as op maniere om handwerk onder die aandag van toeriste te bring. “Ek was beindruk met die goeie gehalte van die handwerk op uitstalling, sowel as met die groot verskeidenheid materiaal soos hout, tekstiel en glas, wat gebruik is” sê hy. Ander sprekers was Pietie Badenhorst, van MAG-opleidingsentrum in Montagu, Michael Deyssel en Calvyn Gilfellen, van die Universiteit van die Wes-Kaap, en Miguel Misteli, van Free Trade in Tourism. Die huidige toerismesituasie op die dorp is deur Alma Immelman van die plaaslike toerismekomitee ter tafel gelê.
HIGH STANDARD OF HANDWORK SAYS WESGRO
The high standard of hand craft as well as the enthusiastic attitude to the promotion of tourism in Murraysburg was recently given a pat on the back by Roland Hein of Wesgro. He recently acted as facilitator of a tourism workshap in the show hall and this was attended by about 50 towns people. The full day programme focussed on tourism, as well as on ways touse handwork and crafts as marketing tools. “I was impressed with the high standard of hand-work on display as well as with the great variety of material like wood, glass, textiles, textures, that were used,” he said. Other speakers at this workshop were Pietie Badenhorst of MAG Development centre in Montagu, Michael Deyssel and Calvyn Gilfellen of the University of the Western Cape and Miguel Misteli of Free Trade in Tourism. The current situation of tourism in town was covered by Alma Immelman of the local tourism committee.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO WENDY AND BOBBY?
When thoughts dwell on childhood, former Beaufort Westers often turn up to enquire about what happened to school friends who once lived in this Karoo village. Some often meet up again at annual high school reunions. But now there is one who wants to organise a reunion of a 1955 Sub-A class. Peter Greeff, who now lives in George, spent his early childhood in Beaufort West. “I remember it as a happy time and often wonder what happened to my friends from the Preparatory School. There were nine in the English class, three boys and six girls. Our teacher, Miss Moller, married Wynand Vivier, who wrote Hooyvlakte. Looking at the class photo I wonder where friends like Wendy de Villiers and Bobby Benjamin are. Perhaps we could also have a re-union, visit the school and chat about good times we shared.”
JOERNALIS OP DIE SPOOR VAN ‘n ONTSPORING
‘n Kanadese joernalis en spoorweg entoesias wat onlangs die Karoo besoek het was op soek na meer inligting oor ‘n trein ontsporing by Leeu Gamka tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog. Navorsers het die storie in J H Breytenbach se geskiedenis van die oorlog opgespoor. Breytenbach skryf: “Terwyl Britse opperbevelhebber Redvers Buller nog besin het of hy oor genoeg troepe vir ‘n opmars na Bloemfontein beskik het, het berigte hom bereik oor 1 600 Boere wat Kaapland oor brûe by Colesberg en Bethulie instroom. Hy het ook te hore gekom van 10 000 troepe vanaf Johannesburg wat onderweg was na die suide. Die spoorverbinding tussen De Aar en Oranjerivierstasie is kort daarna ontwrig. By Piketberg was daar gevuur op ‘n trein wat kanonne vervoer het en later is dit by Fraserburgweg (Leeu Gamka) ontspoor.. Die vroeë dae van die oorlog in 1899 is vir my interessant,” sê Greg Coates, van Travel Courier, in Toronto. Saam met ander joernaliste het hy die graf van Schultz, die langste soldaat in die Britseleër, besoek. Schultz en Lynn, wie langs hom begrawe is, is tydens die Slag van Belmont gewond en het op ‘n amulanstrein gesterf. Navorser Garth Benneyworth sê sy navorsing bewys dat een van >n buikwond en die ander van ‘n rugmurgbesering beswyk het.
QUEEN’S DEATH STUNS THE GREAT KAROO
During the Anglo-Boer War, the news of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 was greeted with deep emotions in the Karoo. British gun salutes echoed across the veld and rumours of battles spread. Journalist Edgar Wallace received the news at Matjiesfontein and wrote this poignant piece: ‘Queen Victoria had ever been a sacred subject among the rank and file of the army. They are very broad-minded the men who serve and love her; Papist or Buddhist or Jew are one with their Protestant selves. They are governed in their thoughts towards her by a love which cannot be commanded.” At Matjiesfontein, so writes Wallace, “a tired postal clerk, pencil in hand, loops up moving tape and transcribes the dots and dashes into plain English. The night is passing; already the clear white glow of morning is turning the lamplight a sickly yellow. Messages have been coming through all night and I who have been listening to the tape-talk am almost as weary as the clerk. Suddenly the clerk drops the festoon of tape and listens to the instrument. He is reading by ear as the chattering sounder speaks. He raises a tremulous hand to his lips to hide a tell-tale quiver. ‘Her Majesty died last night.’ Outside the wind has dropped, the veld was silent and peaceful, and the eastern sky was gold and crimson. So, I left the clerk with his bowed head on his arm and went and told the men.”
KAROO PERDE GAAN WEEREENS OP KOMMANDO
Beaufort-Wes ruiters is tans besig met die beplanning van ‘n “kommandoroete” deur die dorp. Hulle beoog om dit “in uniform” te ry ter herdenking van die uitbreek van die Anglo-Boereoorlog. Agter die idee is Piet Ellis, van Rapportryers, wie die “Boere-ruiters” gaan lei, en David Pickard-Cambridge, van die Gymkhana-vereniging, wie die “Britse-span” sal lei. Die roete sal vanaf die skougronde tot by die blokhuis loop. Die idee is om hierdie optog op 9 Oktober vanjaar te hou, die herstelde blokhuis offisieël te open en die geleentheid met ‘n braai by die gholfbaan te vier. “Perde het ‘n belangrike rol gespeel, nie net in die oorlog nie, maar dwarsdeur die geskiedenis van ons land,” sê Piet. “Ons voel dat ‘n groot eer aan hulle betoon moet word tydens die oorlogsherdenkingsverrigtinge.” Hy verwys na Opsaal, W H Ackermann se boek waarin hy vertel dat kommandolewe die gewone plaasperd nie net in ‘n kommandoperd verander het nie, maar hom algaande uitgebrei tot ‘n uitstekende oorlogsperd. “Elke man wat op kommando gegaan het, het sy beste ryperd opgesaal. Somige van die ouer burgers het goeie skietperde gehad wat gewoond was aan die geknetter van geweervuur en hulle kon in die ja uit die saal uit skiet. Sulke perde was goud werd. Generaal Manie Maritz het eenmaal gesê: “Ek het altyd gesorg vir die beste perd en nie soos Mohammed vir die mooiste vrou nie. ‘n Mooi perd is a goeie en troue vriend; ‘n mooi vrou is dit nie altoos nie.”
KAROO HORSES OFF ON COMMANDO AGAIN
Beaufort West horsemen are currently busy planning a “commando” route through the town. They aim to ride in uniform to commemorate the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. Piet Ellis of the Rapportryers, who will lead the “Boers” is the man behind the idea; David Pickard Cambridge, of the Gymkhana Association will lead the “British” team. The “commando” will follow a route from the showgrounds to the blockhouse. The idea is to have this ride on October 9 this year, open the restored blockhouse and end the day off with a braai at the golf course. “horses have played a very important role in the history of South Africa, not only during times of war,” said Piet. He referred to Opsaal, W H Ackerman’s book in which he states that commando life not only changes a normal farm horse into a commando horse, but also makes it an outstanding war horse.”every man that went off on commando saddled up his best horse. Some of the older burgers had horses that were used to the sound of gun fire and this meant that they could shoot from the saddle. Such horses were worth gold. General Mannie Maritz once said: “I always ensured that I had the best horse, and not like Mohammed, the best woman. A beautiful horse makes a good and loyal friend, while with a beautiful woman, this is not always the case.”
SPOTLIGHT ON THE BOER WAR
Several Karoo towns are now beginning to spotlight happenings in their areas during the Anglo-Boer War. Murraysburg enthusiasts have invited expert Johan Loock to address them on events in the Karoo during the turbulent times from 1899 to 1902, with special emphasis on their town. The driving force in this area is Mr C F Conradie, of the farm Loskop. He has arranged for the talk to be given in October. Mr Loock has also been invited to speak in Beaufort West while he is in the Karoo. Prince Albert and Laingsburg enthusiasts are researching happenings in their areas so that tourist pamphlets can be prepared.
LONG AGO, WHEN THE RIVERS FLOWED NORTH
Once a swamp and now a semi-desert, the Great Karoo fascinates most who explore it. Many wish H G Wells’s time machine existed to take them back to explore the once vast Gondwana continent. One man who brings this ancient world to life is S A Museum palaeontologist Dr Roger Smith. He recently explained the transition from swamp to dryland to visitors at the Karoo National Park. “Way back when the earth was young all the land was on the western side of the globe and the sea on the east. Gondwana was joined to Pangia by land bridges. Then gradually the huge landmass began to break up and the continents drifted apart. The best evidence of continental drift is found in the Karoo which 200-million years ago was in the centre of a large landmass and closer to the south pole than it is today. North-flowing rivers, traces of which can still be seen from the air, fed a huge inland sea. South Africa as we know it today had no coast. This only began to appear 100 million years ago. The crack beneath the ocean, which led to continental drift, began 190 million years ago and continues at a rate of 2cm a year.” The rocks of the Karoo reveal this fascinating story. “Here the earth’s surface is thickest and best preserved. This is the best place to study the ancient mysteries of history. Karoo rocks also reveal that the beautiful Cape folded mountain belt of the Swartberg began to be formed 300 million years ago and ended 190 million years ago when the dolerite intrusions began. Today, this dolerite forms distinctive caps on Karoo mountains.”