Construction of a new small-scale airport at Somerset East is scheduled to start mid-month. This project, estimated to cost about R12-million, will greatly assist tourism in the area. “Additional funds will be accessed to pave the road between Somerset East and Addo,” said Rob Beach, business manager of Blue Crane Development, the company responsible for the project. He told Travel News Weekly that work would be on-going for six to eight months and that the airport, designed to handle chartered and commercial flights, would open in mid-2014. “About 65 percent of the work on the runway has already been done. This will fast track development,” he said.


The acknowledged “Slow Food King” of the Karoo has produced a cookbook good enough to eat. Every dish in Veld to Fork – Slow Food From The Heart Of The Karoo looks mouthwatering and each has been so well presented by Brita du Plessis and photographed by Sam Calitz, that this book is a must for all who love the Karoo and its food. Author Gordon Wright, well-known chef and the owner of Andries Stockenstrom Guest House in Graaff-Reinet, does much more than just offer good food, tasty fare and ways to prepare it. In this book he celebrates life in the dryland, manages to capture the atmosphere of the modern-day Karoo and tie it to the gentler, lifestyle of yesteryear when people had time to socialise, to enjoy food and good company. In this book Gordon explains the satisfaction of growing, harvesting and preserving food as well as joy of cooking and sharing it Traditional and innovative dishes are showcased against the timeless, awe-inspiring beauty of the Karoo. Gordon offers hints, advice and tips to enhance food presentation as he introduces readers to a relaxed life-style, to his friends, neighbours and family and to the Karoo. His love for the region shines through the pages together with his love for well-prepared food. The book is filled with anecdotes and life-style information. It’s a personal journey, a nostalgic trip, a close look at what we have forgotten and need to re-learn. Published by Struik Lifestyle and available from most bookstores, Veld to Fork underlines Gordon’s philosophy that life’s too short for bad food.


Prince Albert’s second Leesfees is planned for November 8 to 10. The programme is exciting and includes a talk by former resident, Carol Campbell, on her highly acclaimed novel, My Children Have Faces. Kokkedor’s new Afrikaans-inspired cookery book and Riana Scheepers’s Vallei van Melk en Heuning will delight food fans. Hannetjie de Clercq will discuss Purpur en Kaneel, Komyn en Smarag and Die Stilte in Myself, Chanette Paul will talk about her new novel, Siende Blind, and prolific writer and historian, Chris Schoeman will present three new books. Lucy Corne, author of African Brew and Jacques Conradie of Karusa Craft Beers will discuss beer and food. Jan Groenewald’s play Daar Was ‘n Tyd, will be presented and there will be poetry reading sessions under the guidance of Toast Coetzer and his spoken-word band, The Buckfever Underground.


A new book on trees will be launched in December, Entitled South African Flowering Trees – A Botanical Adventure Through History it has been written by Rob Wood. It has 26 botanical plates by the late Millicent Frean and line drawings by Sandie Burrows.


Anthony Osler believes we are all on our way home. He states this in Zen Dust, the follow-up to his much-loved book, Stoep Zen. This book is a gentle read, it’s food for the soul, and a step back from the harshness of every-day life. Anthony claims to find divinity in the dust and a Buddha in every pothole. Life does not get him down, he believes that, as long as your eyes and heart are open, wherever you are is where you are meant to be. No matter where you travel, he says, home is always where you are. This is an oddly comforting statement, particularly to all who are rushing through life. Filled with gentle wisdom and deep compassion Zen Dust introduces the reader to the Karoo, its special people and places. It is sprinkled with poetry, personal anecdotes, history, insights and a fresh telling to the tale of the man who became Buddha. Anthony, a long-term Zen practitioner and teacher treats each encounter in life as a gift and willingly shares his feelings and experiences with his readers. He says: “There’s a song in the wind, we can’t quite catch. To hear it we have to stop, set ourselves aside and listen.” Published by Jacana and available in most bookstores, Zen Dust encourages readers to slow down and enjoy their journey through life. .


A new theatre will soon open in Prince Albert. For quite some time now residents have watched a new building slowly taking shape in Church Street. They have been delighted to learn it’s the new Showroom Theatre scheduled to open on November 22 with a show by “musical sensation” Nianell.


After reading the special Booktown edition of Rose’s Round-up, Dr Cyril Hromnik took issue with the story on G.F.Wreede. He says: “G .F.Wreede, who stayed at the Cape in from 1659 to 1672, never encountered any people called Khoi-khoi. He studied the language of the local “Quena”, also called Otentottu (Hottentotten by the early Dutch at the Cape), and he described them in Latin as “Natio Hottentottica in genere.” He compiled a vocabulary of “Hottentottica Lingua” (later published in Dutch as “Hottentotse Woordelijst”). This vocabulary contains a limited number of words from the language spoken by the “Quena”. It was published as “de Hottentotsche Nation in’t general,” as recorded by Wreede in 1710 and slightly modified in Reizen in Zuid-Afrika by E.C. Godée Molsbergen in 1918. The word Khoi-khoi is totally absent from Wreede’s and other early vocabularies. The indigenous Quena inhabitants never knew of this artificial nickname which is used by modern writers and archaeologists. It deprives the modern descendants of the original Quena-Otentottu of their inherited rights in this land.”


One day ten-year old Phil Barnes-Webb was out walking in the veld with his sister and a friend when suddenly an ostrich charged them. Phil threw a rock at the ostrich and killed it, states Joan Southey in Footsteps in the Karoo. As he was afraid of what his father would do, Phil kept quiet about the incident. Even when his father came across the dead ostrich, was most upset and called the police, Phil remained silent. As a result, “the guilty one” was never found! About 40 years later, Phil stopped at a coastal cafe for a tea break. As he was paying for his tea, the man behind the counter said, “I’m sure you’re the one who killed that ostrich.” Phil then discovered that the café owner, a retired policeman was the man who’d come out to investigate “the crime” all those years ago. The two shared a good laugh.


Prince Alberters were most generous when they heard that the fund-raising New Holland Rhino Run was to make an unscheduled stop in their village. They speedily arranged an impromptu cocktail party and auction at the Swartberg Hotel and raised R22 200 towards rescuing and feeding baby rhinos orphaned by poachers. “Run” organizers, who took a last-minute decision and to turn off from the N1 and visit Prince Albert during their 3000km tractor and trailer trek from Cape Town to Limpopo to raise funds for The Rhino Orphanage, were more than delighted by this donation.


The hinterland custom of sitting out on the stoep intrigued A G Hale, special correspondent of the Daily News when he visited South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. In Letters from the Front he commented on a young widow whose husband was killed at Graspan, sitting alone on her veranda one evening. “Poor thing is dressed in deepest mourning, a dress of heavy black material, with no touch of white or any colour to relieve its sombre shades. On her head is a cap, fashioned much after the style of the sun bonnets worn by Normandy peasant women, but hers is jet black, black as the grave. It rises high and wide and falls around her neck and shoulders. She has rather a nice face, a good woman’s face, pale and refined by suffering. No one can doubt that she has suffered, and suffered as only such women can, through this brutal, bloody war. I thought of all widows as I looked at her sitting there, so silently, so sad, her thin white hands clasped on the black folds of her lap. On one hand I saw the shining gold circle, which a few months ago had meant so much to her; but now, alas was only the outward, visible sign of all she had been and all she had lost. Behind her the snow-white wall of the house, sparkled in the red rays of the setting sun. I knew that under the proud Empire flag many a widow, as young and as heart-broken as this Dutch girl, would watch the sun go down as hopelessly as she, and I could not help thinking: May God’s bitter curse rest on the head of the man, be he Boer or Briton, who brought about this cruel war.”

The world of Katie Meintjies

Way back in 1925 journalist, Katie Meintjies, collected stories and some “tall tales” told by some of the old characters in and around Aliwal North. Some were dramatic, others heartbreaking and yet others truly funny. They all revealed so much about early hinterland life that the Northern Post ran them as a widely enjoyed, regular column. Then they again faded back into history until Madeleine Joubert and her husband, who work at the local museum, rediscovered them and sent copies to Round-up so that Karoo-lovers can once again enjoy them. One of the characters who often entertained Katie was old Oom Hans, a humble guileless man who loved nothing more than poking around to find bits of wire, iron, tin, nuts, bolts, indeed, anything useful. Some villagers named him “Old Oom Hamerkop”, after a bird also well known for scavenging. Oom Hans regaled Katie with some wonderful tales. He told her that way back when the Karoo plains teemed with game, he once managed to shoot ten springbok with one bullet. “Ja, those were the days…,” he reminisced, and proceeded to tell her of the day he primed his rifle seven times trying to “bag” a magnificent ram but each time he pulled the trigger the gun misfired. Initially the ram was “just nicely in range”. It ambled closer and closer, gently grazing, until the sound of the hammer hitting the gun’s steel plate spooked the buck and he sped off. Oom Hans loaded again, pulled the trigger and to his amazement the gun fired, but the buck was well out of range. “Locals said that was the first and only time that Oom Hans swore,” wrote Katie.


Many a man had the same experience, said old Oom Hans, when the Karoo plains were teeming with game and old flint-lock muskets the only guns available. These antiquated weapons, “roers”, as the early farmers called them, were affectionately known “sanna”. They were about 1,5m long, and “had a kick which a mule would envy”. Oom Hans told Katie Meintjies that at short distances of about 100m these rifles were deadly when loaded with “loopers” – small bullets, the size of the point of one’s little finger – but at long range the bullets simply scattered, and the shooter was likely to be more hurt than the game. He then explained how the gun worked. At the rear end of the barrel was a cavity – called a pan – and into this a small quantity of loose powder was poured. When fired there were two explosions. The hammer, which had a firmly fixed flint, fell when the trigger was pulled, striking the steel and emitting sparks that ignited the loose powder in the pan. This in turn ignited the charge in the gun through a small hole in the end of the barrel and the gun fired emitting a “futch-a-koo-boom” sound, said Oom Hans. “It took pluck to fire a gun like that,” he said, adding that the flinklocks were prone to many problems and misfires were common.


There’s nothing much at Kendrew. However, like most “ghost towns” it sets you wondering. It seems the history of this little siding, south of Graaff-Reinet, is linked with that of a young man who once peddled hairclips in the Bowery, in New York to supplement the family income. From these humble beginnings he rose to become a financier and pioneer of the South African film and entertainment industry. On the way he sold farming land in the Karoo. Isidore William Schleisinger was born in New York in 1871, the second son in a Hungarian-Jewish family of ten. He moved from hairclips to newspapers and into insurance by the time he was 18. Then the Witwatersrand gold fields lured him to South Africa. He was almost penniless when he arrived and gold mining didn’t work out for him, but he did have the Midas touch and within two years he was earning over £1 000 a month by travelling across the country selling policies among other things. Among these was land in the Karoo. He persuaded the Government to allow him to sell an irrigation scheme at Kendrew, a railway siding south of the Van Ryneveld (now Nqweba) Dam.


Schleisinger, who pioneered large pineapple plantations, near Grahmastown, and established a canning factory in Port Elizabeth advertised an elaborate programme of citrus cultivation under intensive irrigation at Kendrew, near Graaff-Reinet. His ads, in a British magazine, showed a “bustling” town set to have farms, citrus orchards, a movie theatre, lucerne mill, fruit drying plant and cheese and bacon factories. To “lure” potential customers he published pictures of vineyards, cattle in lush pastures, fluourishing gardens and one of Graaff-Reinet’s feather palace Avondrust, which he captioned “a typical residence”. British war veterans keen on investing their “grants” were assured that 30 acres plus an additional 200 for grazing would be more than adequate for a thriving Karoo farm. They were also told that the climate was healthy and that even in a severe drought, imported sheep would kept their condition, “where native springboks succumbed”.


But no farming could happen before the dam was built and filled, so the newcomers to the Karoo stayed at a temporary hotel, drank it dry and invaded the passing trains for more alcohol as a diversion from boredom. Locals say even uncoupled coaches to prevent the train leaving before they were satisfied. The dam eventually filled, the canals brought water to Kendrew and the newcomers set about creating farms and a town. At its height, Kendrew had a “bioscope” (that doubled as a church on Sundays), a sports club, tennis courts and even a golf course. It is said that New Years’ parties in this village were legendary. Then came the Great Depression combined and one of the worst droughts in 90 years. And, as though that was not enough, a noxious weed, called Satansbos, was accidentally imported with pig feed from South America. It spread rapidly, growing everywhere, even where nothing else would and affected grazing so badly that some say 60 000 sheep perished in the Kendrew area, says Andrew McNaughton, who wrote up the history of this village in his newsletter Karoo Connections. In time the area was abandoned, the orchards died leaving only the Satansbos, some bluegums and mouldering ruins to tell the tale. Schlesinger went on to establish more than 80 companies.


The first radio listener’s licence in South Africa was issued to a man in the Karoo He was Dr J van Rensburg and he lived in Carnarvon. His licence was issued on August 16, 1924. According to the Britannica the first radio station in South Africa was put up by the South African Railways in Johannesburg on December 29, 1923. The Scientific and Technical Club in Johannesburg took it over on July 1, 1924. The Cape and Peninsula Broadcasting Association started a similar service in Cape Town, on September 15, 1924 and a Durban organization began broadcasting on December 10, 1924. Financial support came from listener’s licenses like the one issued to Dr van Rensburg.

Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebblesThomas Browne