The first road sign welcoming tourists to the Western Cape Province was recently unveiled in the Beaufort West area by a man born and bred in the Great Karoo. While standing on the Karoo plains near the curiously shaped koppies at Three Sisters, Mr Piet Meyer, Minister of Transport and Works, reminisced about his carefree childhood days at Noupoort. “The Karoo is a special place and makes an intriguing northern gateway to the Western Cape Province,” he said. “This sign on the busy N1 will welcome tourists from neighbouring provinces, as well as our friends from Gauteng who stream through the Karoo every year to enjoy the beautiful Cape resorts during the festive season. Tourism, which is valued at R 11,5-billion a year in this province, is of great importance. Effective road signage will encourage market growth. Good roads and efficient signage are a key to the economic development of the Western Cape,” he said.


n Opwindende bekendstelling aan die Groot Karoo wag op lede van die Wes-Kaap Toerismeraad se Staande-komitee op Ontwikkeling wat op 2 Desember in Beaufort-Wes vergader. Sentrale Karoo verteenwoordiger Marius Bergh het ‘n puik program vir hulle gereel. Dit begin met ‘n staptoertjie deur die historiese kern van die dorp en ‘n besoek aan die Barnard versameling in die museum. Daarna sal skemerkelkies bo op die Nuweveldberge bedien word. “Dis asemrowend om van daar bo af die son oor die Karoo vlaktes te sien sak,” sê hy. Dan is daar aandete by Matoppo Herberg en ‘n nagrit deur die Karoo Nasionale Park om die skaam diertjies van die donker te sien. Ter afronding sal spookstories oor ‘n slaapdoppie vertel word. Komiteelede sal ook ‘n kans gegun word om egte Karoo water en witblitz uit Die Hel te proe.” sê Marius.


The Western Cape remains South Africa’s preferred destination. Tourism in the province is poised for growth as more overseas visitors now use Cape Town as arrival point,” said Mr Hennie Bester, Minister of Trade Industry and Tourism, during a recent visit to Beaufort West. “Grant Thornton Kessel Feinstein forecasts an encouraging growth of 12,5% in foreign tourism to South Africa for 1998. Foreign arrivals at present are up 16,4% and 1,6 million of these are actual tourists. But analysts warn that occupancies are below 60% due an increase in supply in the accommodation sector. We are condfident of achieving the growth, but must ensure that service and standards are high. We need more flights. Most are fully booked until March. Top-level talks are scheduled with the airlines because expansion at Cape Town Airport will certainly enable us to cope with the influx created by more weekly flights. These will have an obvious spin-off for the platteland.” The minister added that a business plan had been tabled and a chief executive officer would soon be appointed at the Western Cape Tourism Board. “The Strategic Management Team is also to finalise and table its report by the end of November. This will assist us in solving many problems which have arisen, particularly with the legislation. This team has done stirling work analysing structures, setting guidelines for the database, evaluating marketing and development campaigns and creating a better system of road signage. Improved communications campaigns are planned and we are confident that a busy and exciting year lies ahead.”


They never die, they just fade away. Anyway, that’s what’s said of old soldiers. As they grow old, the famous and once feted achievers drift into obscurity. Medals and trophies tarnish, certificates gather dust and press cuttings turn yellow. Beaufort West Tourist Bureau Information Officer Wendy Anionic is determined to see that the town’s heroes of the past do not go unheralded. So she has started a project to record their achievements, wherever and whatever these may have been. Wendy now records anecdotes and memories in a book she hopes will one day be the core of a cultural history exhibit in the museum. She would like that, in time, space be made available to display treasures and trophies to so ensure that achievers are nor forgotten. “The project is a very exciting one,” Wendy said. “I am finding a wealth of material, and I am also being encouraged to record colloquial language, particularly that of the Coloured community. Delightful phrases are emerging. For example, to describe total confusion, some will say `he’s as muddled as a chameleon on a Smartie box!’ This is the rich language of people whose surnames include all the months of the year and many names of the animal kingdom, like Olifant, Seekoei and Katt. There are also bird names like Windvogel, Kiewiet and Tarantaal. The surnames and their origins are a study on its own.”


Twaalf huiseienaars in Prins Albert is deur die Stigting van der Stel vereer vir hul bydrae tot die kulturele historiese atmosfeer van die dorp. Almal wie onlangs hul huise herstel het is vereer tydens `n vergadering by die Fransie Pienaar Museum. “Die historiese kern van Prins Albert is deel van sy besienswaardigheid en ‘n aantrekkingskrag vir toeriste,” het burgermeester Dawid Rossouw gesê toe hy sertifikate namens die stigting oogehandig het. “Ons moet sorg dat die dorp se karakter behoue bly.”


A Mediterranean flavour has come to Prince Albert in the form of Anna-Maria Silva, a Mozambique-born pewter artist. In an intimate candlelit venue she offers Portuguese cuisine from a varying menu based on fresh produce. Every day is a different culinary day with Maria’s dishes filled with Mediterranean richness. A four-course meal costs about R50 per person, and while guests wait to be served they may browse in Anna-Maria’s pewter studio with its variety of articles on sale. The tiny restaurant, part of Anna-Maria’s house, can only accommodate eight people, so booking is essential.


`n Eendag werkswinkel vir handwerkers wie se produkte geskik is vir bemarking aan toeriste is onlangs in Beaufort-Wes gehou. Dit was deur die Craft Action Body, die plaaslike Bronne Sentrum, Toerisme-buro, en Wes-Kaap Toerismeraad se Staandekomitee vir Ontwikkelling gereel. Die doel was om mense te help om bemarkbare produkte te identifiseer, in die mark te bring en op die !anger termyn klein sake-ondernemings te stig wat die toerisme bedryf sal bedien. Bywoning was goed en ‘n komitee is gestig om idees verder te voer en produknavorsing te doen. Volgens ‘n Sunday Times artikel bestee toeriste jaarliks RI,7 biljoen op aandenkings en tierlantyntjies.


Suzelle Koorts has opened a guest house on Weltevrede, one of the beautiful farms in the Prince Albert area. It lies along a picturesque area at the foot of the Swartberg mountains on the road to the Gamkapoort Dam. There are also several new farm holiday venues in the Murraysburg area. Among these are Doreen Pienaar’s farm Toorfontein, which has a one-day hike, a 4 x 4 route and offers horse riding, Jacques and Maretta Theron’s Misthoek has a 4 x 4 route and offers donkey cart rides; Bloupoort, the home of Karel and Lesley van Heerden has a house that accommodates 10 and a hiking hut that sleeps eight; Quaggasdrift, the beautiful farm belonging to Antonie and Theresa Troskie, is a lovely venue in the mountains; Another mountain venue is Badsfontein which offers a hikes, cycle routes, rock art and has watersport facilities,


Growing interest in Denys Reitz’s route across the Swartberg and into the Hell during the Anglo-Boer War keeps telephones ringing in Gamkaskloof. “Many have read the account in Reitz’s book ‘Commando’ of the Boer descent into this isolated valley,” says Zannie van der Walt, Cape Nature Conservation’s warden and a permanent resident in the valley. “The story is full of mystery and excitement.” The Boers slithered down the steep slopes in swirling mists, trying to keep their horses quiet. They thought the valley was uninhabited. They were startled when ‘a man clad in goal skins’ emerged from what they imagined was a shepherd’s hut. Their alarm increased when they discovered his son had been monitoring their progress since early morning. “A controversy has developed over which route Reitz took into the Hell, and this is what keeps my telephone ringing. We know he was riding hard in an effort to catch up with General Smuts. He tried going through Seweweekspoort, but saw a garrison in the pass. He turned back and crossed into the Hell. Some think he took the route from Bergplaas, while others are sure he came across Wyenek Goenfontein. Alternatives have also been suggested in articles in Die Burger. We also know that two men led Reitz and his party out of the valley along the course of the Gamka River. Many say it was a Mostert and a Marais, but this also still has to be proved. The British who spotted tracks made by the departing Boers followed these. They ended up in the Hell. Two men were arrested for assisting the Boers and locked in the stables near my house. They were held under heavy guard. The British intend to try them as traitors. But it was soon established that this isolated community were not aware of the war, so they were released.”


Die blokhuis by die rooi spoorwegbrug in Beaufort-Wes is tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog deur Britse soldate gebou, maar is onlangs, ironies, deur “Boere” herstel. Die struktuur pronk nou met ‘n nuwe deur wat op ‘n outydse, tradisionele manier gemaak is, vloere, deure en ‘n dak. Messelwerk rondom die gebou is reggemaak, en waar nodig is klippe vervang. Die skietgate en -platforms is oorgeverf. Die befondsing vir hierdie projek is deur die Sentrale Karoo Distrikraad bewillig so dat die werk afgehandel kon word voor die komende herdenking van die oorlog. Die distrikraad het ook ‘n blokhuis roete vir toeriste deur hulle gebied ontwikkel. Dis die tweede keer dat mnr John van der Merwe, hoofuitvoerende beampte van die distrikraad, met so `n projek doenig is. Jare gelede was by ook verantwoordelik vir die herstel van die blokhuis by Brakpoort buite Victoria-Wes. “By elke projek is so veel inligting as moontlik ingewin. Vir ons jongste restourasie in Beaufort-Wes het ons kopiee van die “Royal Engineers” se oorspronklike planne bekom en in noue samewerking met deskundiges soos Richard Tomlinson in Port Elizabeth en Johan Hattingh van die Museum van die Boere Republieke in Bloemfontein gewerk. Ons het probeer om so na as moontlik aan oorspronklik te bly, maar ons moes ook die veiligheid van toeriste wat die struktuur sal besoek in gedagte hou. Ons wou ook sorg dat die blokhuis vir die nageslag behoue bly,” het mnr Van der Merwe gese.


“The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.” Marshall McLuhan, Canadian author and educator, could quite conceivably have penned these words after perusing staff lists in the Report of the Yeomanry Hospitals in South Africa for the Anglo-Boer War years of 1900 to 1902. A dollop of imagination added to actual names and ranks from the staff and casualty lists produces a fanciful medical tableau that proves the learned McLuhan’s thinking. Consider this. In a tense operating theatre Dr Handson and Sister Gash manipulate sharp instruments, doing desperate things to Private Ayling, who was whipped from his bed, donated by Gravesend. In attendance are poised sisters Keene and Mustard and Corporal Livermore. A crisis develops. A clear, emphatic message has to be sent to Medical Superintendent Colonel Kilkenny (spare a thought for poor Kenny, whoever he may be). Messenger Private Black rushes the vital words to telephonist Private White. Private Cooling urges calm. Keeping a beady eye on developments is Private Eagle. Hovering anxiously in the background are privates Bird, Pidgeon, Pye, Swallow and Duck. Orderley Allchin looks grim and Sergeant Churchyard nods knowingly. The inevitable happens, and all that is left to do is summon Reverend le Grave.


A love-struck ostrich recently startled a group of artists in the Swartberg area by performing his beautiful mating dance at their picnic. They were taking a break during an outdoor painting workshop, run by artist Heather Mockridge, when the huge bird appeared out of nowhere and squatted, long neck weaving and wings describing great arcs. Being city folk, these artists knew little about ostrich body language and, intimidated by this impromptu floor show, surreptitiously armed themselves with branches and umbrellas. The undulating ostrich, however, kept his distance to cries of “shoo, shoo!” The artists settled down in the warm afternoon sun to continue their lesson. Concentration was intense as they tried to capture the tranquil Swartberg scene. The light was perfect. Scudding clouds dotted the horizon. Sunlight leaked through leaves to enhance textures of bleached pebbles in the dry river bed. Ancient stumps and knarled branches peered through thorn bush on the banks and the Trapsoetjiesberg was mirrored in fresh rain puddles. Totally absorbed, the artists worked in silence. Then a shriek slashed the air. They turned to see Peggy Clow-Wilson almost nose to beak with the amorous ostrich. Perhaps it was the glint from her spectacles or the skinny wooden legs of her easel that attracted him. “We’ll never know. He took the shriek to mean utter rejection and strode off in despair,” said one artist. The incident in no way dampened their sprints. The artists so thoroughly enjoyed the course that they have requested follow-up sessions in Autumn and Spring next year.


Die Springbok wandelpad by die Karoo Nasionale Park word gesluit. “Die rede hiervoor,” sê parkhoof Leighton Hare, “is die her-introduksie van indemiese wild soos die Kaapse buffels en swart renosters. Die gekose habitat vir albei is die dig bebosde gebiede langs die rivieroewers. Dit kan tot konflik lei tussen stappers en gevaarlike diere. Om albei se veiligheid to verseker moes die wandelpad, een van ons eerste besoekersfasiliteite, gesluit word. Die besluit is geneem in belang van toerisme uitbreiding.”


Friends of the South African Museum in Cape Town recently visited Beaufort West to hunt for fossils under the guidance of palaeontologist Dr Roger Smith. All 37 fossil enthusiasts are now ready for more. During a three-day trip they scanned marked areas on Putfontein, near Meiringspoort, and Dunedin in the Nuweveld Mountains. This is the farm where Roger Smith completed the research for his doctorate in 1987 and where he conducts on-going studies. At La De Da they discussed fossils which had been exposed previously and then walked the Fossil Trail at the Karoo National Park. “Sites were chosen to give a full exposure to the Karoo and types of terrain where fossils are found,” said Dr Smith. Fossil preparator Georgina Skinner demonstrated how to free fossils from surrounding rock and mark finds with cairns for follow-up research. “Work done by such groups is valuable to science as meaningful finds can be made by laymen,” said Dr Smith, who stressed that it was illegal to remove fossils without permission. “Trips to the Karoo are increasing in popularity and we plan another by March, 1999.” Dr Smith recently visited classic dinosaur sites in Utah in the United States where he addressed an international conference and the British Museum of Natural History in London. He has also just completed studies at Graaff Reinet where an important fossil track, probably of an Aulocepholodon, a herbivore, the size of a small cow, was recently found at the Santa Anna Private Game Reserve. Some time ago a fully-articulated, complete fossil of a Pareiasaurus serridens was found at Doornplaats, Murraysburg. “This was a valuable find because its skin was preserved and all its bones are intact,” said Dr Smith.


A self-drive fossil route is being developed for those intending to explore the Great Karoo. Designed to start at the South African Museum in Cape Town, it follows a circular path through the Karoo. After enjoying displays at the SA Museum, the route leads to Laingsburg where there are many interesting rock formations, a fossilised tree stump and a geological walk near the blockhouse. A new fossil display has been completed at the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert. There are also fossilised footprints on Spreeufontein, a nearby farm. The fossil trail at the Karoo National Park, near Beaufort West, is popular, as well as the display created at the Graaff Reinet museum by the late Lex Bremmer. At nearby Wellwood farm there is a private museum that can be visited by appointment. There are fish fossils at Victoria West and the paleo-surface at Gansfontein, near Fraserburg, is world famous.