When Ca’ Serenissima opened its doors in Prince Albert a while ago, the Karoo welcomed a mega star. Now the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa has awarded the venue five stars. “The council makes this award only to venues of exceptional quality which offer luxurious accommodation that matches the best international standards with high quality furnishing, flawless service and meticulous guest care,” says assessor Mark Goveia Ca’ Serenissima, which means serene place, is the brain child of Bernd Borschel and Daniella Graziane. Bernd spent 17 years with the Sheraton Hotel Group before opting for the tranquillity of the Karoo. His search for the right venue led him to Prince Albert where he found a suitable historic house. It took a year to renovate the house and acquiring furnishings to complement the five individually designed spacious private suites. On offer are hearty breakfasts and French or Italian-style cuisine for dinner if ordered before 15h00. “In the creation of Ca’ Serenissima we aimed at achieving an air of tranquil harmony. The reaction of our international guests, who mostly hail from bustling cities, is proof of our success,” Bernd said.


Heelwat ontwikkeling vind tans in die immer gewilde Karoo Nasionale Park net buite Beaufort-Wes plaas. Bouwerk het pas begin op 10 nuwe chalets wat effens kleiner is as die bestaande eenhede en wat dit nou moontlik sal maak om enkel akkommodasie aan te bied. “Ons vind dat daar ‘n toenemende aanvraag vir sulke eenhede is,” sê waarnemende bestuurder Derick Strydom. Dit word verwag dat die chalets teen Julie voltooi sal wees. ” Werk vorder ook op ons Ou Skuur Inligtingsentrumprojek,” sê hy.


The ever-popular Karoo National Park, just outside of Beaufort West, is expanding. Building operations have started on ten new chalets. They will be slightly smaller than the present units and will enable the park to offer single accommodation. “We are finding an increased demand for such facilities,” says acting manager Derick Strydom. The chalets will be finished by July. “Work is also progressing on our Old Schuur Information centre project,” says Derick.


As the number at the top of this page suggests, the time has come to pop a cork and let the bubbly flow – Rose’s ROUND-UP has reached its 100th issue. This strange little monthly publication, strange by today’s glossy and glitzy standards, first saw the light of day in December 1992, bashed out on an aged manual typewriter. The intention was simply to inform six town clerks of promotional plans being brewed by the then new Central Karoo Regional Tourism Office. Only 10 copies of the first issue were printed, but requests steadily increased. Within 12 months, ROUND-UP was being mailed on request to Karoo enthusiasts in England, Scotland, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. Within four years, ROUND-UP circulation had grown to such an extent that mailing costs threatened to kill it. A nominal postage was requested and despite smirks, the publication went on to build a huge base of paid subscribers. These days ROUND-UP takes stories about the Karoo to readers by post and email in 24 countries, which include England, the United States, Russia, Scotland, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, India, North Korea, Japan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Current readership is all but impossible to calculate as many readers pass it on, copy, fax or email it to friends, relations and business associates. Over the years ROUND-UP has grown into a powerful, respected marketing tool under the banner of a little knight in a tin suit who brandishes his pen and spurs his cynical horse ever onward


Now is a popular time to visit the Karoo, enjoy a delicious meal, good weather and the shifting autumn shades. Tourists visiting and those planning to come are keeping tourism officials on their toes. Merweville’s Dutch Reformed Church’s “Dankfees” at the end of April tempted many city slickers into the hinterland to enjoy 4 x 4 routes, hikes and farm holidays. So did Prince Albert’s ever-popular Olive Festival. It tempted the whole Business Promotion and Tourism team of the Western Cape Department of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Tourism out of Cape Town for a day-long strategy meeting. Work was followed by a relaxing weekend enjoying the festival and exploring the Swartberg. The Minister of Agriculture, Tourism and Gambling, Mr Johan Gelderblom, was also there to officially open and close the Olive Festival. He plans a follow-up visit to the Karoo to discuss tourism in Laingsburg, Beaufort West and Murraysburg on June 3. The ministerial visit will be followed on June 8 by the opening of Beaufort West’s new Arts and Crafts Market, which lies at the entrance to the Kwa-Mandlenkosi Township Tourist Route. A 148-member Welsh male choir en-route to Newlands to lend vocal support to their team in a match against the Springboks in June, will also overnight in Beaufort West. During the stopover they plan to give a special free concert in collaboration with local choirs representing all communities. Laingsburgers have started planning their annual 80km Karoo Marathon and their Karoo Festival is scheduled for November 1 to 3, 2002. Beaufort Westers plan to hold a festival at the end of March, next year.


A Pretoria man is tracing the Abbott clan in the Karoo. “I am particularly interested in Abbotts who lived in Beaufort West, Victoria West or Hopetown, but would welcome details of others as well,” says Henry Abbott, who is helping Hopetown update records for its centenary later this year. “I am interested in all stories, anecdotes, photographs or documents relating to this village,” he said For others interested in Hopetown’s history, Henry has the 1929 and 1954 Dutch Reformed Church books in CD format at a cost of R90.


“Beaufort-Wes Toe en Nou” is die tema van vanjaar se Museumdagprogram op dié dorp. “Ons verwag heelwat besoekers op 16 en 17 Mei en sien uit na hulle insette,” sê museumhoof Sandra Smit. Die museum is ook tans besig met beplanning vir ‘n funksionele ondersoek en besoek van Wes-Kaap Museumdiens vanaf Mei 20 tot 24. Plaaslike palentoloog, Dr Judy Macquire van Prins Albert, gaan ‘n praatjie oor fossiele van die Karoo lewer by die jaarvergadering op 18 Junie en PAC-parliamentslid Patricia de Lille, ‘n ou Beaufort-Wester, is genooi om ‘n praatjie te lewer op Vrouedag, 9 Augustus. Beplanning is nou ook onderweg vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Museum Assosiasiekonferensie wat vanaf 23 tot 25 Oktober gehou gaan word.


“Beaufort West Then and Now” is the theme for the Annual Museum Day Programme. “We expect visitors to increase on May 16 and 17 and look forward to contributions they may be able to make,” says Beaufort West museum head Sandra Smit. The museum is also planning for a functional investigatory visit from Western Cape Museum Services from May 20 to 24. Local palaeontologist Dr Judy Macquire of Prince Albert has been invited to talk on fossils of the Karoo at the Annual General Meeting on June 18, and PAC Member of Parliament Patricia de Lille, a former Beaufort West resident has been invited to deliver a talk on Women’s Day, August 9. Planning is also underway for a South African Museum Association Conference to be held in Beaufort West from October 23 to 25.


Goodwill will be saluted with goodwill in August when 110 athletes run from Cape Town to Johannesburg carrying more than R1-billion in donations from over 130 South African corporations for handover to President Thabo Mbeki at the Earth Summit. The funds are intended for in tourism, housing and crime prevention projects. The runners will pause in Beaufort West where a function is being arranged to support them The Long Run, which will follow the N1 and N12 routes, will be given full media coverage.


Merweville staan op die drumpel van sy eeufees. Dominee Louwrens van Vuuren en sy vrou Theresa doen nou ‘n beroep aan almal met inligting van die dorpie, sy geskiedenis, ou inwoners en boere, om hulle te kontak. Hulle beoog om alle inligting te boekstaaf betyds vir eeufeesvieringe in September 2004.


Merweville is about to celebrate its centenary. Dominee Louwrens van Vuuren and his wife Theresa are now calling on all people who have any information on the town, its history, old residents, farms and farmers, to contact them. They intend including all information in a centenary commemorative book which will be published by September, 2004


Author and broadcaster Gwynne Conlyn recently visited the Karoo in search of tasty treats and comfortable places to stay. She explored many venues in the Great Karoo including Gannakraal, Hillandale and Lemoenfontein guest farms near Beaufort West, as well as some wellknown venues in town. Gwynne was gathering material for her editorial pages, radio programmes, web page and a new book


In a dark and dusty corner on the upper floor of the oldest business in Beaufort West there lies a coffin that so far has had four owners but has never been the centrepiece at a funeral. As was the custom in the early 1900s, Abraham Jacobus Johannes Ellis, a Beaufort West farmer, ordered a preferred coffin to be stored until his death. So, doing would then not place any financial burden on those left behind. Soon, a coffin finished in beautiful combed design was delivered, all wrapped in stout green paper. Only a corner of the paper has ever been lifted to check that Abraham’s specifications were met. For more than 80 years now, the coffin has remained in its wrapping, waiting patiently. Towards the end of his life, Abraham became ill and went to Cape Town for treatment, never to return. He was cremated in the Mother City. Abraham’s worldly goods, including the coffin, were willed to his eldest child, a daughter, Maria Johanna Magdalena, fondly known as Tant Miems. By then the coffin had taken up residence in a shadowy corner of the top floor of M C Ellis’s Cycle Shop. Tant Miems ended her days on her son’s farm in the Merweville district on November 18, 1975. But the coffin stayed put when the son decided against buring her in it. With all her worldly goods it passed on to her brother, Mathys Christoffel Ellis. He, however, had predeceased her and it passed to his son, also Mathys Christoffel Elllis. When he died, another coffin was ordered and the by then ageing coffin in waiting became the property of his wife, Rina. “I’m sure I don’t want to be buried in it,” she says. “It’s become a bit of a family joke. My son, Tim, is threatening to turn it into a liquor cabinet, but his wife gets the shivers at the idea.” Her eldest son, Thys, is not superstitious nor daunted by the coffin. “If it’s still around when I pop off, I’ll be happy to use it,” he says.


Maybe it’s just fanciful, but is there not perchance something strange in the Great Karoo that produces so many medical greats from such a speck of population in so vast a place? The obvious ones are heart-transplant pioneer Chris Barnard and Emil Hoffa, considered the father of modern orthopaedics. But scant attention is paid to several such men who once called the Karoo home. Among them is Cecil Alport, of Beaufort West. The son of a shopkeeper’s assistant, he pioneered a cure for nephritis, a kidney disease, later named Alport’s Disease. Alport also wrote an expose on the horrors of the Egyptian medical system of the early 1900s, and as a consequence had to flee that country, barely escaping with his life. Richmond-born Hoffa had a curious link with the development of the contact lens. After completing his schooling in this little Karoo village Hoffa was sent to Germany to study medicine. In 1886, he became a lecturer at the University of Wuerzenburg, and later a professor in Berlin. While at Wuerzenberg, Hoffa befriended a young German who had married a frail young lady with a weak chest. Hoffa advised Albert Eugen Fick, who at the time was starting to work on an idea for contact lenses, to take his bride to the Karoo, where the fresh, clean air would ease her suffering. Fick took his advice and moved to Richmond where the bulk of his pioneering work on contact lenses was done.


Toerisme-, natuurbewaring- en ontwikkelingsdeskundiges het onlangs in Beaufort-Wes besoek afgelê om te help met beplanning van ‘n program vir die World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). “Omdat die gebied deel is van die presidensiële ontwikkelings-sone sal ons ‘n voorlegging moet indien oor ons groot projekte,” sê Stefanus Jooste, PIMS-sentrum hoof. “Daar is ook ‘n moontlikheid dat van die afgevaardiges dalk hier besoek sal kom aflê om van die projekte te sien.”


Experts on tourism, nature conservation and development recently visited Beaufort West to help plan a programme for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). “Our region is part of a presidential development node we will need to present information on some of our larger projects,” said PIMS centre manager Stefanus Jooste. “There is also a possibility of some delegates visiting the region to see various projects. We need to be prepared for this.”


In his book Satyagraha in South Africa, Mahatma Ghandi, the man who spent the seven years between 1907 and 1914 struggling for Indian rights in South Africa, pays tribute to three women with links to Beaufort West. Gandiji, as he was affectionately known, mentions Emily Hobhouse, Olive Schreiner and Betty Molteno as “women who never missed doing a good turn to Indians.” British-born Emily Hobhouse, the great reformer, loved Beaufort, where she was treated with great affection. Olive Schreiner, author and women’s right campaigner, hated the town, calling it “a dirty, dusty place, filled with Jingos.” Ghandi met her in De Aar and was immensely proud of this friendship. Betty Molteno was the daughter of Sir John Charles Molteno, the “Lion of Beaufort West” and first premier of the Cape.


During a time of great discord within the Dutch Reformed Church in 1867, a Murraysburg man who considered himself a loyal British subject resigned from the local congregation as he felt the church had insulted Queen Victoria. On Sunday, December 15, 1867, Joseph Sississon, a top military man, who eventually became Commissioner of Police, demanded that Murraysburg’s Dominee A Louw read his resignation from the pulpit. De Volksvriend, a popular newspaper, reported that Sississon had resigned as “secret councils handling the Burger case were an insult to Her Majesty.” Sississon, born in 1828, commanded Murraysburg’s local Volunteer Cavalry. In 1878, he led the Volunteer Cavalry and Auxiliary Force in the Gaika Campaign. In May that same year, he was instructed to raise a regiment. Under the name of Sississon’s Horse, it fought in Bechuanaland. In January 1879, Sississon was called on to raise a second regiment, the Northern Border Horse, which defeated Chief Klaas Lukas and restored order in the northern territories. Colonel Sississon also fought in the Gun War of 1880. Having made a name for himself as a soldier, he turned to law and served as a magistrate before being appointed Commissioner of Police. Colonel Joseph Sississon died in 1909.


At the end of the 1800s, Louie A Wood made a name for himself in the Karoo as a freelance photographer. When the Anglo-Boer War broke out, Louie took a job in the Beaufort West Hospital and began compiling an album of his best work. In it he included street scenes of Beaufort West and surrounding towns, pictures of local labourers and residents, refugee trains, prisoners of war and various regiments embarking and disembarking from trains at Beaufort West Station. The album also contained photographs of the capture of General Piet Cronje’s guns and General Andrew Wauchope’s funeral at Matjiesfontein. To fully capture the drama of the war, Louie compiled a second album of newspaper clippings and included a variety of passes and permits. According to auctioneer David Rees, the albums were willed to Louie’s granddaughter, who recently offered them for sale at Bristol Auction Rooms in England. The reserve price on the albums was £300, but to everyone’s surprise they fetched £620 (over R9 000). “Who would have thought that there could still be that much interest in the Anglo-Boer War in the Karoo,” the granddaughter said.


Laingsburg has a special place in the heart of Dr Ingrid Byerly, Professor of Anthropology at Duke University in North Carolina in the United States. Ingrid grew up in this Karoo village, and on a recent visit found her love for her old home town quite undiminished. She was in South Africa with a group of academics from the Duke Institute of Tropical Studies, an organisation that conducts research programmes on geographical regions and infrastructures throughout the world. “We are investigating the possibility of extending our research programme to the Western Cape and particularly the Karoo, as this would be an excellent region in which to study geology, fauna and flora.” While in the town, Ingrid also spent time finalising a film script she is writing. Laingsburg is central to the plot. She also investigated several possible venues for filming.


Die prag en natuurskoon van die Karoo het drie Gautengers gelok om na Prins Albert te verhuis en ‘n restourant te begin. Michael Heyns, Craig Ludwig en Frederich Blomerus het “The Blue Fig,” in ‘n historiese Karoo kothuis gestig. Die spyskaart van Karoo vleise en produkte bied ‘n fees van geure en smake. Michael en Craig toor in die kombuis, terwyl Frederich sorg vir knap diens.


The magnificence of the Karoo recently captivated three Gautengers and convinced them to move to Prince Alert where they have now opened a restaurant. Michael Heyns, Craig Ludwig and Frederich Blomerus opened “The Blue Fig” in a historic Karoo cottage. Their menu, a festival of flavours, is based on Karoo products and meats. Michael and Craig are the magicians of the kitchen, while Frederich is responsible for smart service in the restaurant.


Prince Albert’s successful art workshop programme, now in its fourth year, starts again this month. Three courses aimed at artists of all levels will be run by local artist Christine Thomas, who has a BA in Fine Arts from Rhodes University, and Mary Anne Botha, who has a BA Fine Arts honours degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. The workshops, arranged by UKaroo Art Studio, start with a six-day retreat in May, then there is a sketching weekend from June 14 to 17 (R425 per person), a Spring Art Week from August 12 to 15 (R600 per person) and another six-day retreat from September 15 to 20.