FLORAL HERITAGE HONOURED
The Swartberg Nature Reserve is now part of S A’s ‘Big Six.’ It is part of the Cape Floristic Region, CFR, which was recently declared a World Heritage Site. This brings the total number of sites in the country to six, and the number of natural sites in the world to 154. South African sites include Robben Island, The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, Sterkfontein: Cradle of Humankind, the ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, Mapungubwe and the CFR. “The CFR’s listing is the result of three years of hard work,” says Cape Nature publicity officer, Erika Swanepoel. “The CFR is made up of eight unique ecologically protected areas of great biodiversity across the Eastern and Western Cape. These include Table Mountain National Park, Baviaanskloof, De Hoop Nature Reserve, the Boland and Swartberg Mountain Complexes, as well as Groot Winterhoek, Boosmansbos and the Cederberg Wilderness areas. It is a great honour for any country to have an area listed as a World Heritage Site. We are extremely proud of this listing because the CFR is the only site in the world that includes a botanical garden – Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is within its borders.” World heritage sites were major tourism drawcards both locally and internationally said Erica. They could be used to develop and market tourism, as well as to create employment and so contribute to local and the national economies. “We are now trying to get the Gamka Mountain and Klein Swartberg (in Seweweekspoort) declared as World Heritage Sites. We know it will take a great deal of work, but it will be worth it.”
TALES TO RAISE A GIGGLE AND GUFFAW
When a top writer and a top-class cartoonist combine to produce a book the result must be a winner. This applies to Karoo Ramblings, a collection of 50 amusing stories written by David Biggs and illustrated by his long-time friend and colleague, Tony Grogan. David’s wry writing style, which led to the popularity of his daily column, Tavern of the Seas, in the Cape Argus, will have readers giggling and guffawing from the first page to the last. Born and bred on a sheep farm, outside Middleburg, David is a true son of the Karoo. The freedom of his childhood and upbringing developed a curiosity that led him to try out some unusual careers, such as milk testing, cattle ranching and Basotho blanket designing, before “falling into journalism, column, wine and travel writing.” Tony Grogan’s black and white sketches perfectly capture the mood of each story in Karoo Ramblings, a 168-page, soft covered book, published by Struik. It costs R99-95 and will be on the shelves in time for Christmas. Tony has used cartoons to make wry comments on South African society in the Press for over 30 years. His work also recently helped Fig Jam and Foxtrot gain first place in the world in the 2004 Gourmand Cook Book Awards.
END OF AN EPIC JOURNEY
Right on scheduled, after walking for 21 days the Sak River Expedition reached Kwaggaputs on the edge of Grootvloer. This was the end of an epic 450km walk, the first of its kind, right across the Karoo. The three women and four men, who walked the entire route, ranged in age from 24 – 70. They covered distances of up to 30kms a day, mostly setting off at 05h30. “Blind flies, ticks, and mosquitoes were the biggest pests,” says organiser Steve Moseley. “We saw scorpions and snakes. We had a close encounter with a two-metre long Cape Cobra.” Highlights included seeing four Riverine Rabbits; awe-inspiring unique and varied scenery and the incredible solitude. “Finding drinking water was a problem. At times we had to filter water from pools or holes dug in the sandy riverbed. So much interest has been shown that we are considering repeating the walk in 2005.” Round-Up reader Tony Rogers, who walked part of the way, says “What impressed me was the stark beauty of the Karoo and the tough conditions under which farmers manage to earn a living. Sadly, some veld is in poor condition.”
INSPIRATIONAL TALK ON KAROO PLANTS
Botanical Society members were recently enthralled by David Shearing’s expert knowledge of Karoo plants. Forty-five people, among them farmers, doctors, tour guides and rangers, from Beaufort West, Cape Town, George, Knysna, Laingsburg, Murraysburg and Plettenberg Bay joined David for a Bossie Day at the Karoo National Park to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the launch of his book, Karoo: Wild Flower Guide. David gave a talk on the Karoo and its flora at the gate. Then it was on to Lammertjiesleegte turn-off where visitors were introduced to the plants of the plains. Later, while studying plants of the foothills just below Klipspringer Pass the group was dive-bombed by Samburra, a black eagle, rescued some years ago by Rob Davis. “Perhaps he felt his territorial rites were being threatened,” says David, “We nevertheless bowed to his superiority and moved to the top of the pass to see mountain plants. The tour developed informally. We drove to each spot, then walked a short distance into the veld so I could identify plants and tell people what I knew about them. This included grazing patterns, growth, medicinal uses and anything else I have picked up over the years. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day, but one man in particular was inspired. Park ranger Pokkie Benadie, who started out as a labourer 27 years ago, helping to clear the site when the park was declared, and who worked his way through the ranks become a ranger, was so moved that he has started writing a book on the medicinal plants. “I have gained so much knowledge of the Karoo in this park, I feel the time has come to share it with others. I asked David to guide me in this project and I am so proud that he agreed,” said Pokkie.
THE BUTTERFLY AND THE ANT
Catching a butterfly in a net is not easy says Karoo expert David Shearing. The story of the golden Poecilmitis midas butterfly (Round-up, No 13, October, 2004) took David back almost 40 years to a time when he joined a pair of keen lepidopterists in a search for this rare, elusive creature. “Russel Badham and Bill Teare visited our farm Layton on October 8, 1965, while searching for the Midas Butterfly. They never found one. On a subsequent visit, however, they collected specimens in the Roggeveld and at Carnarvon. Later that year, on November 22, while collecting specimens of Pelargonium longifolium and Pelargonium carneum on top of the mountains on Layton, I saw golden butterflies feeding on both plant species. I called Bill Teare, described the creatures and he was sure they were Midas butterflies. He was also delighted to discover their food source.” Bill told David that Midas butterflies lived in symbiosis with ants. Pupae were taken into an ant burrow where they lived until the butterflies emerged in October or November. “Sadly, this is normally a windy time in the Karoo and the butterflies get buffeted about so badly that their delicate wings get damaged. This is why virtually all specimens in collections have battered wings,” said David. “Rex Pennington’s father collected the first specimen just north of Layton, on top of the Nieuweveld Mountains between Beaufort West and Fraserburg. At that time, he collected about 14 specimens – then the only ones to be found.” By the time Bill Teare visited Layton again on October 14, 1972, after Russel Badham’s death, he had not managed to collect any further specimens. “I think they eventually found a few more. I will always have very fond memories of climbing the mountains and searching for golden butterflies with them. At the time I was about 25 to 30 years younger than both and I battled to catch butterflies with a net.”
TOAST OF THE KAROO IN A BOTTLE
It’s taken a while, but at last SoetKaroo is a reality. Getting this delicious, beautifully coloured wine made and bottled its own reward, says Herman Perold. It all began four years ago when he decided to plant a vineyard in a big irrigation plot (leiwatererf ) next to his home in Prince Albert with advice and assistance from winemaker and long-time friend Wouter Pienaar. Wouter recommended an interesting and unusual red Hanepoot, Muscat d’Alexandrie, a grape only rarely used for making wine, as ideal for the local soil and climatic conditions. He also suggested small plantings of other varieties with the intention of creating unusual fortified dessert wines. “Back-breaking, time-consuming, hard work are all the right words for getting a vineyard started,” says Herman. He has now, however, reaped the reward of his labours. Herman and his wife Susan – “a tower of strength throughout the whole process” – were like proud parents recently when they collected the maiden vintage of SoetKaroo, from Flip Smith, cellar master, at Kango Winery in Oudtshoorn. “Way back Prince Albert was known for sweet grapes and the production of fortified dessert wines. SoetKaroo is typical of these old ‘soetes,’” says Herman. “We are particularly proud of it. Only one other red Hanepoot was certified this year. Visitors are welcome at our tasting room, “a grape-pip-spitting-distance” from the vineyard. A limited number of bottles are available there and at Gordon’s Drink Store in Prince Albert.”
‘SAKKIE-SAKKIE’ GETS THE MESSAGE ACROSS
Boeremusiek played to honour the Karoo, once caused consternation at a Cape Summer School. Gawie Fagan recently referred to this when he opened the Cape Folk Architecture exhibition at the Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town, reports Andre Johan Du Rand van Graan in the Vernacular Architectural Society Newsletter. “Forty years ago, at a serious summer school on Cape Dutch architecture, where places such as Groot Constantia, Boschendal and Nederburg were under discussion, the wailing sounds of ‘sakkie sakkie’ boeremusiek suddenly filled the hallowed hall. This was Professor Barrie Biermann’s accompaniment to his slide show on humble Karoo cottages. There were general murmurs of disgust. Some delegates might have even walked out, but Barrie had made his point: We must overcome snobbery and prejudice to discover the world of the unsophisticated artist, be it musician or builder. Later the incident provided the inspiration for the inauguration of the Vernacular Architecture Society. James Walton chose the name “vernacular” to apply to the indigenous architecture of the region. The word’s root is the Latin ‘Vernaculus’ which means native or home-born person. This word is derived from “Verna” a home born slave. Today, Vernacs (as Society members are fondly known) study of the rich heritage of humble buildings. People may question the importance of this. After all, a house is a house, providing warmth, shade, shelter and security, some argue. Yet, it is the appreciation of these humble dwellings, their construction from limited resources, using primitive materials and ancient tools that make these buildings interesting. Studying such structures teaches us about beauty, dignity, self-sufficiency, perseverance and courage, no matter whether it is a humble Khoi hut, or a sophisticated farm. Each symbolises a striving towards order, beauty and perfection of the universe of which we are all a part.”
CAN ANYONE HELP?
“Does anyone know what British regiments were in Hanover during the Anglo-Boer War?” asks Jennifer Slade Baker. “I believe over a thousand troops were stationed here when the town was under Martial Law. I have tried to find the names of the regiments without success. I believe The Annexe, now part of Darling Street Guest House, was a British Military Hospital (It was a nursing home until recently) There is a large gap in the history of Hanover and I can’t seem to fill it. Bully beef tins and spent cartridges have been found in the veld, but pinpointing actual events is proving to be quite difficult.”
DATE TO DIARISE
Prince Albert’s ever-popular Olive Festival is scheduled for May 6 and 7, 2005. Tourism information officer Charlotte Olivier warns that early booking is essential as there is an increasing demand for accommodation. “The organising committee is already hard at work planning the 2005 festival. It promises to be as exciting as ever with a few new attractions in the mix,” says Charlotte.
TRUST JUST WITHERED AWAY
When Benjamin Israel Nowitz died in 1926 he left £1000 in trust and donated a bed to Beaufort West Hospital. The bed has long since vanished and six months ago the hospital was forced to close the trust. Administration costs had eroded it. Yet, in its day £1000 was an extremely generous bequest. At that time Karoo farms sold for £1/8/2d a morgen. Old Ben bequeathed similar amounts to 10 other institutions.
FROM CHILD LABOUR TO MOTOR CARS
Victor Riley, grandson of William Riley, founder of the Riley Motor Manufacturing Company, recently visited the Karoo and loved it. Victor was one of 38 enthusiasts who took part in the 2004 Riley Rendezvous, a ten-day tour, which included the Karoo. After seeing the local weaving operation, Victor told The Friend that his grandfather once also had a weaving business. “Child labour legislation forced him to abandon this and seek another business venture. So, in 1889, he bought Bonnick Cycle Company. My dad, also Victor, left school when he was 13 to build bicycles. Within seven years Bonnick became Riley Cycle Company, and my grandfather took to racing bicycles very successfully. Then, my dad and his brother, Percy, began to build a motor car. They made phenomenal progress, but Granddad was not interested in the internal combustion engine, so they appealed to their mom. She had saved £39 and was prepared to invest this in their venture. Granddad relented and allowed them to add engines to bicycles. This was the birth of the Riley Motorbike. In 1903, a third wheel was added to William Riley’s bicycle and three years later, in 1906, a fourth. This was the first Riley car to hit the streets of Coventry.” At the outbreak of World War I, in 1939, William Riley sold his company to the Nuffield Group. It stopped the production of Riley cars in 1969. Victor said he hoped to launch a new Riley one day.
DUTCH PRIEST BRINGS THE CHURCH TO TOWN
The priest who “brought” the Catholic Church to Bloemfontein, first spent time in the Karoo. Father J Hoendervangers, a Dutchman and member of the Premonstratensias Order, was one of three priests invited to South Africa by Aidan Devereux, first bishop of the Cape’s Eastern Districts, after his consecration in 1847. Hoendervangers arrived in Graaff Reinet by ox wagon in 1849 with two Belgian priests. He later moved to Colesberg, then to Somerset East and, in July 1850, to Grahamstown. From there, according to Patience Our Daily Bread, he was sent to the Orange River Sovereignty to assess the situation there. Hoendervangers travelled alone, riding one horse and leading another carrying his meagre belongings. It was a gruelling journey. The trip from Grahamstown to Bloemfontein took 60 hours. Hoendervangers had almost no money and was unable to feed himself and his horses, so he had to return to Grahamstown quickly. He reported finding very few civilian Catholics in Bloemfontein and only a few soldiers in the 45th regiment. The following year, 1852, Devereux appointed Hoendervangers resident priest in Bloemfontein. This time Hoendervangers was sent off with an ox wagon to carry his goods. He had great difficulty finding a suitable house and chapel in the fledgling village. Funds were in such short supply that he described himself as “poorer than the poorest person in South Africa.” He wrote: “My house, which is also my church, is so small that I have to say two Masses on Sunday although there are only 65 Catholics. Formerly the building was a carpenter’s workshop, but as it was no longer fit for use, it became a sleeping place for stray dogs. I had to take immediate occupation, but it took me almost a whole month to clean the place from vermin. In fact, ten Catholics have not yet been to church because of the poverty and the state of the building.” Hoendervangers had a strange habit of wearing all his clothes, topped off with a coat and a tall ‘chimney-pot’ hat, when he travelled. His clothes were very old fashioned, and he was an odd sight. He frightened farmers’ wives. They rushed to remove laundry from the lines when they saw him. One night, while travelling in his wagon, he fell from his hammock. The heavy ox-wagon went over his legs, breaking them both and leaving him crippled.
QUO VADIS VRISGEWAAGD FOSSILS
A unique panel of exceptionally well-preserved fossils, discovered a year and a half ago on Vrisgewaagd farm near Prince Albert, is now in extreme danger. Dr Judy Maquire reports that on-going severe temperature and humidity fluctuations at the site are causing alternating expansion and contraction of the fine layers of shale on which the 390-million-year-old marine fossils are preserved. “This has caused the rock to decrepitate, i.e. crack and flake off, taking the precious fossils with it,” she says. In August, invertebrate palaeontologist, Dr Herbert Klinger, and special museum technologist, Derek Ohland, both from Iziko Museums in Cape Town, were invited to inspect the site. They submitted suggestions ranging from leaving the site alone to deteriorate, through stabilising it using methods that could also cause damage in time, to removing fossils. This would obviously cause irreparable damage to the site but have the advantage of preserving rare material. “Permission is needed for any such work, it is expensive and as always there is the question of who pays,” says Judy. However, since returning to Cape Town Dr Klinger has been through the entire collection of Bokkeveld fossils bequeathed by Roy Oosthuizen of Zwartskraal to the S A Museum. He had this to say: “Oosthuizen had some good specimens of Placocystella capensis (the tadpole with horns), but no starfish near as complete as the specimens at the Vrisgewaagd site. It would be a pity to let these self destruct in the open, but in the end the final decision rests with the people of Prince Albert.”
BE COOL IN A CATHEDRAL
Bloemfontein’s Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals are cool places to be on hot days. Magnificent, traditional stained-glass windows in the Anglican Cathedral tell the history of British troops who crossed the Karoo to make a town and build a place of worship in the Free State. It is a story filled with drama and bravery. The bright, modern, and inspiring windows of the Catholic Cathedral were designed by a nun, Sister Pienta. In this much more modern cathedral, with its distinctly African flavour, they contrast sharply with their traditional lead-outlined Anglican counterparts. Their story too is no less dramatic. Bloemfontein historians Joan Abrahams and Noreen van Arkel conduct regular fund-raising tours for visitors and groups through both churches at R25 a head and R5 for children It is necessary to book.
Truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders than from the arguments of its opposers.”
William Penn, born in London in 1644, but hailed as the “founder of Pennsylvania,”a vast province he was given in payment for a debt that Charles II owed his father.