A rare piece of rock art has been discovered near Prince Albert. Local geologist John Begg, owner of Scholtzkloof, found an uncommon bi-colour, red-brown drawing with white surround on his farm. “I saw this unusual San rock-painting beneath a shallow overhang on a cliff. Only a few similar swallow-like figures have been found among the many thousands of rock paintings known in Southern Africa,” says John. “In the past, these were misinterpreted as mermaids or fish-people. More recent research suggests that such images portray an out-of-body experience often induced when San medicine-men or shamans were calling up rain in their trance-dance ceremonies.” The figure on Scholtzkloof has a bird-like body with forked tail and swept-back wings, which almost look like human arms. “The body terminates in a curious, lump-like head, probably originally painted in white, which is not a durable pigment. Over the years it simply would have faded away,” says John. Researchers, such as Jeanette Deacon, say that the swallow was a highly revered “rain-animal” among the San. Its characteristic darting and swooping flight as rain-clouds gather was seen as the physical manifestation of the shaman adopting another form during the procedure of summoning the rain to fall and protecting his people from “angry rain” such as destructive thunderstorms. According to J D Lewis Williams’s book on San folklore, children were forbidden to throw stones at these little birds because of their special association and “power.” The San people believed that if anyone injured a bird some dreadful form of retribution would be visited on the clan.


Sentraal Karoo Distrikmunisipaliteit burgemeester, Doreen Hugo, het ‘n toerisme boodskap van die Karoo aan die VSA oorgedra tydens ‘n onlangse besoek na Florida. Die Wes-Kaap Minister van Landbou, Toerisme en Dobbellary, Johan Gelderblom, het haar genooi om deel te wees van ‘n groep wat hom en Ebrahim Rasool, Wes-Kaap Minister van Finansies en Besigheidsontwikkeling, na die jaarlikse Voedsel en Wynskou by Epcot Centre in Orlando, Florida, vergesel het. Hulle het ook Fort Lauderdale besoek. “Dit is verbasend hoe baie mense in die Karoo belangstel,” sê Doreen.


The mayor of the Central Karoo District Municipality, Doreen Hugo, took a tourism message from the Karoo to the USA when she visited Florida recently. Mrs Hugo was part of a delegation which accompanied The Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Tourism and Gambling, Johan Gelderblom, and the Minister of Finance and Business Development, Ebrahiem Rassool, on a visit to the Annual Food and Wine Show at Epcot Centre in Orlando in Florida. They also visited Fort Lauderdale before returning to South Africa. “I was amazed at just how many people were interested in the Karoo,” said Doreen.


A man who has lived most of his life in the arid regions of South Africa has come to the Karoo as head of the Karoo National Park outside Beaufort West. Norman Johnson was born and bred in Paarl. After school, he completed his BSc degree at the University of the Western Cape and taught for five years before joining the National Parks Board. Norman worked in socio-ecology before moving into management. Norman, wife Wendy-Lou and 11-month-old daughter Keisha came to the Karoo from Marakele Park in the Northern Province. “We look forward to the challenges of the Karoo National Park and to linking it firmly into the tourism mix,” said Norman. Wendy-Lou will be responsible for the socio-ecology division at the park.


When the National Roads Agency privatised maintenance on the N1, a series of projects was launched under the guidance of Ninham Shand and ASCH Consulting Engineers. Two Beaufort Westers, both retrenched teachers, have emerged as stars of this ABE (Affirmative Business Enterprise) programme. Petrus de Bruin established PJ Onderhouds-diens and won a small contract to eradicate thorn trees along the road reserve north of Beaufort West. He started the business with a wheelbarrow, three labourers and a borrowed bakkie. His annual turnover was R60 000. Still seen working along the N1, Petrus now has a fleet of four vehicles, road construction plant, rollers, and vegetation control equipment. Petrus offers full road maintenance services, including crack sealing, guardrail and fencing repairs. Annual turnover now exceeds R1,3m and the business continues to grow. Matilhda (yes, that’s the way she spells it) Olivier is the other star. After being retrenched she enlisted as a traffic counter. It was immediately obvious that Matilhda was under-utilised, so she was appointed as an administrative assistant. Then Matilhda became the key to setting up programmes to help police collect road accident data. Her input was praised as the best along the route.


‘n Spookstorie oor ‘n geskietery in die berge het afgevaardigdes van museums na die onlangse SAMA-konferensie in Beaufort-Wes bra skrikkerig gemaak om in die donker oor die Swartbergpas te ry. Historikus en storieverteller Ailsa Tudhope sê ‘n destydse eienaar van die Swartberg Hotel op Prins Albert, Jan Haak, het ‘n koetsdiens na Oudtshoorn ingestel kort na die Swartbergpas geopen is. Volgens oorlewering het sommige passasiers Haak se swierige koets “‘n doodskis op wiele” genoem en verkies om te stap tot by Eerstewater. Nietemin, die diens was ‘n sukses en meesal vol bespreek. Haak se koetsier was ‘n spoggerige man en bekend vir sy uitstekende vermoë om akkedisse van klippe af te spoeg. “Hy was glo die beste spoegter ter wêreld,” sê Ailsa. Op ‘n dag toe die perde ‘n blaaskans op die kruin van die berg geniet het het ‘n gevangenis-koets van Oudtshoorn se rigting die berg opgesnel. Dit was op pad na Laingsburg met ‘n gevangene vir verhoor in die Rondgaande Hof. Die passasiers van die Haak koets het gegril toe hulle die vasgeboeide skurk agter die sterk tralies sien. Die koetsier en bewaarder het ‘n parmantig houding ingeneem, rondgestap en begin gesels. “Is jy nie bang die vent sal ontsnap nie?” het ‘n jong vroutjie in ‘n bang stem gevra. “Nooit,” spog die bewaarder. “En, as hy so iets sou probeer skiet ek hom sommer vrek!” Met die swaai hy sy geweer in die lug rond om hulle te oortuig. ‘n Skoot klap. ‘n Passasier, Chrisjan Swanepoel, is getref en op slag dood. Nou sê die mense Chrisjan dwaal daar bo rond op soek na wraak. “Tot vandag toe waag min mense dit om in die donker oor die berg te ry omdat kenners sê dit spook waar Chrisjan geskiet is. Na die geval het baie ook vertel van ‘n man wat saam met hulle die berg af gestap het.” Die was net een van die heerlike stories wat museumverteenwordigers van dwarsoor die Kaap gehoor het tydens die drie-dag konferensie oor storie vertellery en die bewaring van mondelingse geskiedenis.


A ghost story about a shooting on the Swartberg Pass recently had delegates at the SAMA-museum conference in Beaufort West glued to their seats. It also convinced most not to travel the pass after dark. Prince Albert’s local historian and story-teller Ailsa Tudhope said that shortly after the Swartberg Pass was opened the then owner of the Swartberg Hotel, Jan Haak, started a coach service to Oudtshoorn. “According to local legend many passengers called his handsome coach ‘a coffin on wheels’ and many preferred to walk up to the first little river, called Eerstewater. Nevertheless, the service was a success and most times fully booked. Haak’s coachman was an egotistical fellow with a questionable skill. He was said to be ‘the best spitter in the world’. Many locals said he could ‘spit a lizard right off of stones.’ One day, while resting his team of horses at the crest of the mountains this conceited coachman was demonstrating his prowess as a spitter to his passengers when a coach sped up the mountains from the Oudtshoorn side. It was a jail-wagon en route to the Circuit Court at Laingsburg and it was driven by an almost equally bombastic fellow. He drew up, leapt from the driver’s seat and began swaggering about trying to engage Haak’s passengers in conversation. They were nervous and even though the evil-looking convict seemed well chained up, behind sturdy-looking bars, most wished the wagon would move on. “Are you not afraid your prisoner will escape?” asked one young woman in a small, scared voice. “Of course not,” blustered the jailer, “If he tried, I’d just shoot him!” With that he waved his gun around to emphasise his point. A shot rang out and Chrisjan Swanepoel, a passenger in Haak’s coach, was fatally wounded. Now people say Chrisjan haunts the pass in search of revenge. Few dare to cross the pass at night,” said Ailsa. She also mentioned several people who after being stranded and having to walk down at night felt as if someone or something was following them. This was only one of the delightful stories which museum delegates heard during the three-day conference on story-telling and the art of preserving oral history.


Two Karoo residents are using their talents to benefit local communities. In Murraysburg no celebration is complete without the magnificent gladioli grown by Dennis Boddy. A descendant of “a long line of nurserymen,” Dennis has proved that the Karoo can yield good crops with proper care. He also produces vegetables such as petit pois, French green beans, zucchini and onions to the delight of the local guest house and residents. Down the road in Prince Albert almost all accommodation vendors serve Tessa’s Fruit Cordials. These appear at breakfast and also as sauces for ice-cream and other deserts. Most visitors agree that with a splash of something for the nerves the cordials hit the spot as sundowners. Tessa Collins, owner of Collins House, donates the proceeds from her fruit cordials to a feeding scheme for under-privileged children run by local preacher Father Joseph and his wife.


Daar is ‘n nuwe gesig in Prins Albert Toerismeburo. Charlotte Olivier is aangestel as inligtingsbeampte kort na haar onlangse terrugkeer van oorsee. Charlotte het ‘n groot liefde vir die Karoo maar veral die Prins Albert gebied, waar sy groot geword het. Na matriek het sy ‘n diploma in toerisme voltooi voordat sy in Engeland gaan werk het.


There’s a new face in Prince Albert Tourist Bureau. Charlotte Olivier was appointed as information officer shortly after she returned from abroad. Charlotte has a great love for the Karoo and particularly for the Prince Albert area where she grew up. After matriculating Charlotte completed a diploma in tourism before leaving to work in England for a while.


In May, 1919, Beaufort West folk were stunned when a car rolled into town driven by a young schoolboy in the company of three friends. A report in The Courier of May 21 that year reads: “On Thursday afternoon a motor car turned up here with only four small schoolboys inside. The eldest and driver was said to be 16, but he didn’t look a day over 14. It transpired they had come from Heilbron and the driver was the son of the Reverend Perold. The four had set out in his father’s car intending to go to Cape Town and from there to work their passages overseas. They had apparently driven day and night, taking turns at the wheel. Unfortunately for them, their supply of petrol ran out, and suffice it to say, without going into full details, their endeavours to obtain more led to their detention. They were put up at the Royal Hotel. All looked at this as part of their adventure and none seemed perturbed at the thought of any retribution which may overtake them.” When three fathers arrived on the Saturday to fetch them, they were warmly welcomed by the townspeople. It appears the intrepid adventurers had quickly won the hearts of almost all Beaufort Westers.


The saga of the earliest human inhabitants of the Central Karoo is “written” on the rocks at Nelspoort. The curator of this site, Lawrence Rathenham, together with Gert Combrink and Tom de Witt, of Lanok, recently introduced the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Tourism and Gambling, Johan Gelderblom, to the rock art of Nelspoort. “This is the biggest site of its kind in the Karoo,” says Lawrence. “It is a treasure because it records the story of Late Stone Age people, the San or Bushmen, the Khoi or Hottentots and white settlers.” The Nelspoort story dates back 30 000 years and peters out in about 1850, he said. “The San didn’t simply scratch strange-looking figures on to boulders to while away the hours, nor to record details of what they saw and ate,” he said. “Proof of this is that rabbits, small buck and the plant material, which were vital parts of their diet, never feature in their rock art. For the San the land was a practical and spiritual resource. They believed that the spirit world existed behind the rock face and that engraving on rock surfaces would link them to this world.” There are many rare and unusual drawings at Nelspoort. There are also many more rock gongs than researchers previously thought. “Researchers today tell us that these gongs were as important in Bushman culture as architecture and music are in Christian cathedrals.” The site also has hundreds of geometric Khoi drawings, generally near water and mostly thought to have links to religious and initiation rites. There are many drawings relating to what researchers call the Historic Period.


‘n Pa en sy dogter wie dol verlief is op perdry is nou Faan Müller, 68, van Herbertsdale, en dogter Jacqueline Bernardt, 38. Vir baie jare al praat die twee daarvan om die Swartbergpas te perd aan te durf. “Net soos dit in die ou dae gedoen was,” sê Faan. Teen laat September het die twee vyf ander gesinslede oortuig om hulle droom saam ‘n werklikheid te maak. “Ek het goeie ryperde tot by Faan le Roux by Boomplaas op Calitzdorp gebring. Dou voor dag was sewe lede van die Müller gesin reg vir die uitdaging. Dit was ‘n wonderlike en onvergeetlike ervaring,” sê Faan. “Dit voel of ‘n mens so veel meer van die wêreld vanaf ‘n perd se rug kan sien. Die prag van die berge was asemrowend. Die weer was uitstekend en ‘n vris windjie het ons koel gehou. Toe ons laat die middag by Clive van Hasselt se plaas by Gay’s Dairy aankom was ons almal amper hartseer dat die rit voltooi is. Ons het by Susan en Herman Perholdt in Kerkstraat oornag en die volgende oggend te perd terug gery. Ek kan nie wag om dit weer aan te pak nie.”


Horse riding enthusiasts Faan Müller, 68, from Herbertsdale, and his daughter Jacqueline Bernardt, 38, both dreamt of riding across the Swartberg Pass. “For years we’ve discussed how we’d love to experience crossing this pass in the same way that early pioneers did. This year we decided to turn this dream into a reality,” said Faan. By late September Faan and Jacqueline had persuaded five other family members to join them on a trip to Prince Albert. Faan took his best horses to Faan le Roux’s farm, Boomplaas, on the Calitzdorp side of the pass and next day, the seven-member Muller cavalcade was ready for the trip. “We set off at first light. It was a wonderful. One seems to see so much more on horseback,” said Faan. “The mountains were breathtaking. Throughout the day a delightful breeze kept us cool. By the time we reached Clive van Hasselt’s farm at Gay’s Dairy in the afternoon we were almost sad that one part of the trip was over. We overnighted with the Susan and Herman Perholdt in Church Street. Next morning, we were saddled up and set off again bright and early. I can’t wait to repeat this experience.”


Ecological researchers Chris and Tilde Stuart of Loxton have captured Prince Albert on video. “After we completed videos on problem animal management and the flora of the Bokkeveld we needed another Karoo-based project. Prince Albert and its people inspired us, so we decided to work there. The help we got from local residents was impressive,” says Chris. The video captures the spirit of the town and its surrounds. It is available from the Prince Albert Tourist Bureau in English, Afrikaans and German at a cost of R110. Tilde is the local GP at Loxton and Chris the local ecological researcher and historian. From the village they run the African-Arabian Wildlife Research Centre, which studies biodiversity and carnivores, and Eildon Vision Worldwide, a film unit. Chris and Tilde have also written 13 books.


A recent Internet chat brought a Getaway journalist to the Karoo. Photo-journalist Marion Boddy-Evans was working on a story on South Africa’s top 20 destinations when she “met” Prince Albert’s Dennehof Guest House owner Elaine Hurford “cyberchatting” about art and good getaways. The discussion whetted Marion’s appetite, so she and husband Alistair recently spent three days at Dennehof researching Prince Albert, its places and people for inclusion in the feature, due for publication in December.


Since the first event, Ladies’ Golf Day at Laingsburg just keeps growing. “But this year bookings have taken our breath away,” says librarian Francis van Wyk, one of the organisers. “A record 92 women have booked to compete in our golfing weekend. After they have settled in on Friday, November 16, we will play a few friendly rounds. A relaxing evening is then planned to allow them to gear up for the competition on Saturday, a stiff four-ball, better-ball team event. The day will be rounded off with a huge braai and prize-giving. Councillor Joe Serfontein has arranged a champagne breakfast at his guest house, Laings Lodge, for Sunday morning to round off the weekend.”


Alan Avis, who lives in New Malden, Surrey, England, discovered Round-up while browsing the Internet. He would now like to contact South African Boer War enthusiasts interested in Gorringe’s Flying Column. A story in Rose’s Round up No 77 mentioned that Mike Mortlock was searching for details on this regiment. “My Grandfather, Gervais Chancellor Collett served with this column, so I would love to be in touch with people like Mike who have an interest in the column, particularly through a family member who served with this unit,” said Alan.


Wellknown journalist and broadcaster Gwynne Conlyn recently visited Prince Albert to gather material for her radio programme, a series of articles and a book. She spent time in the village visiting top guest houses and restaurants. Some material has already been broadcast on her Radio 702 and Cape Talk programmes. Gwynne’s article will appear soon in Food and Home. There will be more in her book.


Two books from Prince Albert writer Elaine Hurford are on the Exclusive Books Bestseller List. “Both SA – A Culinary Journey, and SA – Magic Land have exceeded expectations,” said a spokesman for Exclusive Books. “They are particularly popular among international buyers.” SA – Magic Land is now in its fifth reprint, while Elaine’s other travel book, South Africa, a Visual Celebration, has just gone into its third reprint. As a result of this success Elaine now writes a monthly column, “Delightful Destinations,” for the Exclusive Books electronic newsletter, mailed to 15 000 readers.


Boer war authors Taffy and David Shearing are finalising a book of Boer War stories in time for Christmas. “Entitled The Brave Boer Boy and Other Stories, it contains 39 Anglo-Boer War tales,” says Taffy. “The book, illustrated by Bridget Randall, includes photographs never before published.”


Prince Albert has now added a series of pony trials near the town to its attractions. Developed by Jacques van Heerden, they have become popular with tourists. Jacques also offers riding lessons and even visitors have turned up for these. Murraysburg farmer Philip Maasdorff encourages tourists who enjoy riding to explore the beautiful world of the Sneeuberg Mountains on horseback.