One of the youngest towns in the Great Karoo celebrates its centenary next year. Merweville, established in 1904 on Vanderbijlskraal, home of the then local Justice of the Peace, is already planning celebrations. “We aim to ensure visitors leave with happy memories as well as souvenirs,” said Alida Victor, one of the organisers. Farmers in this sector of the Karoo, known as the Koup, approached the Beaufort West Church Council and Dominee Pieter van der Merwe in July 1887, for permission to establish their own parish. The faithful faced a 200-mile round trip in slow moving carts and wagons to fulfil their religious duties. Apart from distance time was a major concern. Many could not afford to leave their farms unattended for long periods to attend church. The fascinating story of Merweville is now being researched and part of the saga is briefly told in a new brochure. “In the late 1800s the community rejoiced when permission was granted for the establishment of a church and school on Van der Bijl’s farm, 80 miles from Beaufort West,” said Alida. “Their joy was short-lived. The outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War forced them to put their plans on hold. Van der Bijl, a devout Christian, set aside buildings for church services and lessons, but Dominee Van der Merwe only managed to hold a few services before British authorities stepped in and stopped this. Only after the declaration of peace could a town be planned. The community then built a magnificent church, today a focal point and a national monument.” The people of Merweville were shocked when, towards the end of the Boer War an Australian, serving in the British army, committed suicide on their doorstep. They vowed to tend his grave forever. This promise is still honoured. Sadly, Van der Bijl did not live to realise his dream of a town on his farm. He died on New Year’s Day in l904. “Diarise September 24 to 26, 2004,” says Alida. “Join us and enjoy true Karoo hospitality.”


Rose Willis is onlangs met die Beaufort-Wes Sakekamer se Bemarkingspersonlikheid van die Jaar toekenning bekroon. Sy is vereer vir haar betrokkenheid by die ontwikkeling en bemarking van toerisme tydens die 13 jaar wat sy die pos van streekstoerisme koörodineerder vir die Sentrale Karoo beklee het. “Rose het die vermoë om bemarkingsmateriaal te skryf wat soos sprokies lees,” het sakekamer voorsitter Francois Goosen gesê. “Die navorsing wat sy gedoen het, sal nog vir jare aangewend en benut word. Rose se besondere skryftalent, het gelei tot die stigting van Rose’s Round-up wat steeds die boodskap van die Karoo wyd deur Suid-Afrika en oorsee versprei. Dié talent is ook duidelik te bespeur in verskeie bemarkingspamflette van die streek.”


Olives are one of the major tourist drawcards in the Great Karoo. Farmers who prepare their own range of products for the markets often find demand exceeding supply. One product which keeps getting mentioned among the gourmets is the Rhenosterkop garlic-stuffed olives. Those lucky enough to have discovered these have guarded the secret of their source. But, soon the route to this well-kept secret is to be signposted on the N1. So, there is now no longer any good reason to ration yourself to olive products from Wally Nigrini’s Rhenoserkop Olive Farm. “We welcome tourists,” say Wally and Jeanine. “We offer a tour of the olive groves and show visitors how picking, preparation and preservation is done. We then introduce them to our widely acclaimed range and specialities such as garlic or pimento-stuffed olives.” Rhenosterkop lies north of Beaufort West and the turn-off is at the point where the road crests the escarpment. A range of black and green olive products, as well as olive oil, and olive paste is available. Rhenosterkop is no newcomer to the market. Olives have been grown and sold from this farm for over 37 years and they’ve always been in demand.


The Great Karoo “framed like a painting in the window of a railway coach,” once mesmerised a British Viscountess. Estella Cave accompanied her husband Lord High Chancellor, The Rt Hon Viscount Cave GCMG, to “the territory called Rhodesia” in 1919. She was enthralled by the Karoo and wrote of it in her diary. In 1928 these notes were published as part of her book, Three Journeys. Lord Milner, Secretary of State for the Colonies, commissioned Viscount Cave to preside over a Judicial Commission of Enquiry into the affairs of the British South Africa Company. “Their main task was to settle the ultimate sum to be paid if persons other that the Company should at some time govern the wonderful land of Rhodesia,” wrote the Viscountess. “We left Cape Town in the railway coach named ‘Constantia.’ It had a big saloon, delightful bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen with a very good steward and a chef. We soon found ourselves travelling through hundreds of miles of dry country covered with short, stubby bushes. This was the Great Karoo, tranquil, peaceful, eternal. Here and there is a farm, but so few and so far between. What a magnificent place. Where the ground has been bored, water found, and a windmill set up, the sun-scorched earth becomes green and fertile.” The mimosa, with its lovely scented, yellow blooms, was an indicator of water, she said. “In places the division between barren and irrigated land is so narrow that you can stand with one foot on hot desert soil and the other in a field or orchard with pink blossoms against a matchless blue sky. Despite great difficulties these brave souls face at their far-flung oases, they have compelled the veld to give them a home and a living. Here and there lonely graves dot the veld and sometimes a stark headstone marks the place where some soul lost the battle against this harsh land.”


‘n Nuwe “afskakel” oord open langs die N1, suid van Beaufort-Wes op 6 Desember. Teri-Moya Game Lodge, ‘n wildsbesigting, nie jagplaas nie, het sewe heerlike grasdakbedekte privaat chalets, elk met twee enkel beddens en dubbel, oopslaan “sleeper couch” in ‘n ruim vertrek. Die oord se naam beteken “asem skep,” maar die gebied waarin dit geleë is is asemrowend. “Die chalets het ‘n ongelooflike uitsig oor die 19ha groot Stolsrivierdam,” sê eienaars Ria en Terence Young. “Ons beplan om volgende jaar rustige vaarte en hengel op die dam aan te bied. Dit is vol vis. Wild is ook volop. Daar is talle springbokke, gemsbokke, swartwildebeeste en blesbokke te sien. Volgende jaar kry ons zebras, ‘n 4 x 4 roete vir Karoo-liefhebbers en ‘n konferensiesentrum.


Visits to out-of-the-way villages in the interior were once very much the “in-thing.” Many wrote “home” telling family and friends of “unusual and outlandish experiences” at hinterland hostelries, which varied from very good to totally indifferent. Lady Duff Gordon, who arrived in the Cape in 1861, was one such traveller. On one trip she arrived at a place, “half inn, half farm,” owned by a German. “It was little more than a mud cottage and mighty queer,” she said. “Our Malay driver nevertheless informed us the host was ‘a good old man, all clean with no louses.’” The German, his wife, and some fine-looking children met the travellers. “There were five lads and two pretty fair girls with real German faces. The youngest waited at the table while the eldest waved a green bough over it to drive off swarms of flies. The chops served for dinner were excellent, ditto the bread and butter, but the tea was only tolerable.” The meal was served in the “parlour,” a tiny room with a mud floor. “Two tiny, dark bedrooms, each with a huge bed that filled the room almost entirely, led from the parlour. Our driver had been right. The rooms were perfectly clean with neither ‘louses,’ nor fleas. The family was extremely friendly. The man delighted in talking to me, his wife had almost forgotten German. The children spoke only Dutch and a little English. Cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry roamed about. Innumerable pigeons pecked up a living here and there, cost nothing and often ended in a stew pot or pie. Fruit and vegetables grew well where there was water. This excellent bed and breakfast stop cost only nine shillings all told,” said Lady Duff Gordon.


A world-wide ‘Barry Conference’ will take place in South Africa at Witsand in March next year. Organiser, Lorraine Martin, whose maiden name was Barry, says this family has tentacles that stretch to way out places across the globe. Over the years many people with this surname have visited our guest house, Barry’s Holiday Accommodation, in its picturesque spot at the mouth of the Breede River. Several, who had never met before discovered here that they were related. So, we decided to organise a Big Bash for the Barry’s. So far reaction has been good. Any Barry’s and who would like to join the fun, should just telephone me for an invitation and full details of the programme we are planning,” says Lorraine


Excitement reigns in Graaff Reinet. Top South African movie maker Anant Singh has chosen this historic Karoo town for the filming of an intense drama based on an adaptation of Gillian Slovo’s novel, Red Dust. Even more exciting is the fact that the stunning, Oscar winning actress Hilary Swank, is to play the leading role opposite top British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. The cast also includes a variety of wellknown South African actors, including Ian Roberts, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Elize Cawood and Marius Weyers. Backed by the BBC and Industrial Development Corporation of SA, Red Dust is being produced to celebrate ten years of democracy in South Africa. It will also be shown at the Cannes Film Festival next year. Red Dust is the second major film to be produced in the Karoo within the last few months. In September yet another South African producer, Bonnie Rodini, brought a leading film crew to the Karoo to film Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm. The film was shot at Matjiesfontein, the tiny Karoo village that Olive so loved and at Zoutekloof, one of the first farms to be established in the Laingsburg area. The star role of Bonapart Blenkins, the Irish rogue, philanderer, trickster and liar, who tries to cheat a poor farmer’s wife out of her farm, was played by the popular British actor, Richard E Grant, who stole the hearts of most people at Matjiesfontein while he was in the Karoo.


‘n Egpaar van Australia beplan om hul “wortels” in Murraysburg te kom soek. John en Josie van Beek sien al lank uit na die reis, hulle enigste hartseer was dat John se ma, wie vir jare ‘n Murraysburg inwoner was, nie sou kon saam reis nie. John het met Rose Willis geskakel en sy het die probleem met Carissa Smuts van Kareebosch, bespreek. Die storie het Carissa se hart geraak en sy het onmiddellik te werk gegaan om Murraysburg Australia toe te stuur. Met’n digitale kamera het sy John se moeder se ou huis, ander geboue en straat toenele afgeneem en dit na die van Beeks ge-epos. Hulle was verhueg. “Dit was absoluut wonderlik om Murraysburg van vandag vir my ma wys. Talle Australiese vriende het nou ook kennis met Murraysburg en die Groot Karoo gemaak,” sê John, wie ook sommer heelwat ou fotos van Murraysburg terug ge-epos het na Carissa.


Joan Soldada wants knew more about her grandfather and the world in which he lived. Scratching around in historical records has proved difficult. “Hinterland records are either poor and difficult to access. Trying to sift through these has presented innumerable obstacles,” she says. Joan’s great grandfather Frederick Begbie Brazier came to South Africa from England in the late 1800s. What brought him to Beaufort West remains a mystery. Perhaps it was the lovely Ursula Honeyborne, who he eventually married. Joan’s grandfather, Thomas Bolton Brazier was born of this union in Beaufort West on November 7, 1893. After attending school in Beaufort West, he seems to have stayed in the Central Karoo area, because Joan next discovered him in Prince Albert, where he married Aletta Elizabeth le Grange on November 25, 1922.


Fancy owning a town? Well, a tiny Karoo “dorpie” is in the market. At R2,5m it costs less than a Clifton Beach apartment writes Nicki Padayachee in The Sunday Times of November 16. Middleton, established in 1879 to serve the railway, is already privately owned. Property developer Marius van Coller, acquired it seven years ago. Middleton boasts a post office, police station, petrol pumps, bottle store, school, 40-bed hotel and tiny, private church. Marius says he is putting the town back on the market with a heavy heart. Middleton was first offered for sale in 1904. It was bought by Percy Sparks for R602. Since then it has changed hands many times.


My move to Bloemfontein has been a wonderous mix of joy and sadness. Adjusting to life in a large family took time. My dogs did well. They are now thoroughly spoiled family pets. My new life has been an exciting whirl of flower shows, museums, music, concerts, book launches and talks. I’ve joined some organisations and libraries. The Bloemfontein Public Library was a joy after years in the platteland, but it paled into insignificance when I joined the incredible library at the University of the Free State. On the negative side, I experienced a literal baptism of fire into city life when my Volkswagen burst into flames outside Park Road police station, where the crisis was efficiently dealt with. Next, I found my Alfa Romeo standing on bricks. The wheels had been stolen. It seems no one can avoid becoming a statistic in the wave of crime that these days bedevils South African life.


Prince Albert Cultural Foundation members recently took a trip back in time and thoroughly enjoyed a brief glimpse of pre-history in the Karoo. With geologist Albert Theron and retired farmer, Fanie Kershoff, the group visited the paleo-surface at Gansfontein near Fraserburg. “It was a wonderful experience,” says local researcher Ailsa Tudhope. “We saw evidence of a huge Mississippi-like river that once flowed across the Karoo pushing mud and silt into the Ecca Sea. Aquatic creatures were trapped. Now as fossils they tell us much about their world. We hardly noticed the chilly morning breeze, as under Albert and Fanie’s skillful guidance the ancient world came alive for us. In our mind’s eye we could almost see the primitive creatures. We could almost hear the roar of the torrential downpour 250-million years ago that caused a dam to burst, spewing mud and debris across the flood plain and trapping a host of creatures. In an effort to escape a huge Bradysaurus slipped in the mud. Today elongated fossilised footprints and a deep tail indentation tell of the drama. Feathery, frond-like marks caused by smaller and minute fleeing creatures, add to the tale. So do the trails and tracks left by insects as they scuttled across the muddy surface. More trail and indented ‘drag’ marks indicate how worms slithered to the side. A curious series of mini “volcano cones” were created by creatures that quickly burrowed back under the mud. As the deluge subsided the water lapped the shoreline, creating ripple effects in the mud. In time, these too fossilised into a rock hard, grey mudstone adding another dimension to the story.


‘n Tweede versamelaarsboek oor die Anglo-Oorlog in onlangs deur Kraal Uitgewers en die Oorlogsmuseum in Bloemfontein bekend gestel. Hierdie puik werk Die Lyding van die Oorlog is a fotoboek waarin heelwat van die museum se groot foto versameling gebruik is. “Ons het meer as 9 000 fotos die meeste waarvan nog nooit gepubliseer is nie,” het kol. Frik Jacobs, direkteur van die Oorlogsmuseum, gesê tydens ‘n bekendstelling van die boek. Nog in die pyplyn van hierdie uitgewer is boeke oor die swart konsentrsiekampe wat nagevors is deur die die Amerikaanse skrywer, Eerw. Stowel Kessler, die ZAR se geheime diens wat deur Gerhard Kamfer geskryf is, en ‘Die Bittereinde-vrede, deur Prof M C van Schoor. Die boek sal in Engels, sowel as Afrikaanse beskikbaar wees. Volle besonderhede, sowel as pryse, is vanaf Kraal Uitgewers, Posbus 328, Brandfort 9400, verkrygbaar. Eienaar Paul Alberts sê: “Daar is weereens groot belangstelling van die buiteland.”


Celebrity Surgeon, Johnathan Ball’s recently launched biography of world heart transplant pioneer Chris Barnard, hit the headlines billed as an “expose” and “sensational.” “Not so,” says author British journalist, Chris Logan, who came to South Africa for a series of radio, TV and newspaper interviews. “In some ways it was great to kick the week off on the front page of the Sunday Times. Inevitably that story made it sound exactly the kind of book it isn’t. The things they mention are in the book, but overall it’s a pretty well-balanced serious account, which the publishers consider a good read and the first ever full biography of Barnard.”


Deirdré Barnard, dogter van hart oorplantingspioneer, prof Chris Barnard, het haar eerste boek tydens ‘n gesellige geleentheid by die Beaufort Wes Museum bekend gestel. In Vet, Bekend en die Lewe saam met Pa, vertel sy van haar eie lewe en die lewe van die Barnardfamilie. “Dis ‘n lekker lees boek, vol vreugde en hartseer,” sê museumbestuurder Sandra Smit. “Lesers lag en huil saam met haar terwyl sy van suksesse en verliese vertel, die skending van hul privaatheid en die ondersteunende krag van die familie.” Deirdré het Beaufort-Wes gekies vir die bekendstelling van haar boek “omdat my pa hier gebore was en die dorp so baie vir hom beteken het dat hy die tuin van sy ouerhuis gekies het vir sy laaste rusplek. ‘Ek het huis-toe gekom,’ staan op sy gedenksteen en dit was inderdaad so. Pa was altyd ‘n seun van Beaufort-Wes.” Boeke word by die museum te koop aangebied teen R150-00 elk. ‘n Engelse weergawe, met die tietel Fat, Fame and Life with Father, is ook beskikbaar.


Beaufort West has a new tourist “guide.” The tourism marketing arm of the local Tourist Bureau has printed a new map and walking tour guide detailing all historic buildings. “Visitors normally arrive here late in the afternoon and need to stretch their legs after a long car trip. They love the new guide because they can tackle the route at their own pace,” says marketing chairman Koos van Dyk. “Businessmen also find it a valuable guide.”