There’s a new book for Karoo and Karoo cuisine enthusiasts. Veld to Fork, written by Gordon Wright, a Graaff-Reinet chef and guesthouse owner, is more than just another collection of recipes. This 160-page, soft-covered book, published by Struik Lifestyle, showcases delicious dishes against awe-inspiring and beautiful Karoo landscapes. Gordon combines tradition and culinary flair with fresh local ingredients to present 82 mouth-watering dishes for every occasion. Obviously, Karoo lamb, beef, free-range chicken and venison take pride of place, but soups, side dishes and superb desserts are included along with preserves and baked goods. Before moving to Graaff-Reinet Gordon studied law and later went into investment banking, but food is his passion, so he and his wife, Rose, decided to move to the Karoo and open a guesthouse and restaurant. Today the restaurant is rated in the Top 5 of the Eastern Cape and Top 100 in South Africa. Gordon is a professional member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, an international gastronomic society founded in Paris in 1248. He heads the Karoo convivium of the International Slow Food Movement, hunts for his venison and grows as many vegetables and herbs in his own garden as possible. Veld to Fork, which is beautifully illustrated in full colour, costs R250 from reputable book stores.


Anthony Osler’s Zen Dust, a follow-up to his much loved Stoep Zen, is now on the shelves. In this book Anthony, a Colesberg-based farmer, takes readers on a fascinating trip down the lesser-known back roads of the Karoo. With gentle wisdom and deep compassion, he finds divinity in the dust and Buddha in every pothole. Anthony shares his enjoyment of meeting a variety of people along the way and tells their stories, both past and present, in this book. They are beautifully interspersed with personal insights and anecdotes as well as with a fresh telling of the tale of Gotama, the man who became Buddha. A long-term Zen practitioner and a teacher in the lineage of Zen Master Dae Gak of Furnace Mountain, Anthony believes wherever we are is where we are meant to be. A former Zen monk and human rights advocate. Antony leads meditation retreats in a stone zendo and enjoys ending each day by watching the sun go down. Published by Jacana, Zen Dust, is a 208-page paperback and costs R210 from major booksellers.


Philipstown, like many other tiny hinterland towns, was looking less than its best when it was asked to host the Karoo Parliament. Aware of this two local residents, Kay Fourie and Nannie van der Walt, decided a coat of paint might remedy the problem, so they approached Lauren Shantall, social media and public relations manager at Plascon Paints, asking the company to help them paint (at least some) of the town’s houses. Letters, proposals, budgets, costings, flashed to and fro until Danny Meyer, a member of Plascon’s management team, turned the request into a delivery. Two volunteer drivers then diverted from their regular routes and drove through the night to deliver R300 000 worth of top-quality exterior paint to the village. As it was unloaded keen locals, farmers, their workers and even the dominee, pitched in to get the job done and give the town a make-over. A mini-video has been made to show just how a coat of paint can help change perceptions.


The Karoo Development Foundation’s “Parliament” meeting will take place in Philipstown, 56km north-east of De Aar, on Friday, October 11. The aim is to afford stakeholders an opportunity of showcasing what they are doing, what they plan to do and to discover a lesser-known hinterland town. Philipstown was established on the farm Rietfontein in May, 1863, and named after British Colonial Administrator and Governor of the Cape, Sir Philip Edmond Wodehouse, eldest child of Edmond Wodehouse and his wife and first cousin Lucy. Before taking up his South African appointment on January 15, 1862, Sir Philip served in Honduras, Guiana and Venezuela. In each post he was called upon to resolve conflicts and for almost all of his eight years in South Africa he did the same. Shortly after his arrival he began arbitrating between the Orange Free State, (whose government he did not hold in high regard) and the Basuto chief, Mosheshe. It was a tough job and it took until February,1868, to reach an agreement, under which Basutoland (as Lesotho was then known) became a British Crown Colony. Sir Philip also worked on proposals for responsible government in South Africa, but he did not approve of it. He desired a more autocratic system. Wodehouse Peak, in Golden Gate Highlands National Park is said to have been named to honour his suggestion that the Boer/Basotho border follow the Rooiberge Range (this idea was, however, first proposed by Sir Peregrine Maitland). Sir Philip, who married Katherine Mary, daughter of F. J. Templer, in 1833, was transferred to Bombay in 1870. The couple had one child, Edmond , who became Member of Parliament for Bath. Sir Philip died in October 1887, aged 76. Philipstown, became a municipality in August 1876. It has some good examples of early Karoo architecture. Among these are the magistrate’s court, the old prison, Dutch Reformed Church and Teichhouse. There are also many interesting rock engravings on farms in the district.


In 1925 an unusual hero tracked his way across the Karoo into world history and the record books. He was Sauer, a police dog, who together with his handler, Detective-Sergeant Herbert Kruger, set up a world record when they relentlessly tracked a stock thief on foot for a grim 160km across the vast, searingly hot summer plains of the Great Karoo. They did not stop until they had caught their man. To this day, 88 years later, this record has not been bettered anywhere. Magnificent as he was, Sauer, who was born at the South African Police Dog School in Irene in June 1917, almost did not make it into the police ranks. Both parents were top class Dobermans, but he showed so little promise that the trainers almost “wrote him off as too difficult to handle and too nervous for police work,” writes Caroline Barnard, a Doberman fanatic, who tracked down his story. Then, Kruger, one of the trainers, decided to give him a chance. With careful, patient, training Sauer soon improved. Within short the two were inseparable. Sauer made a name for himself around Worcester, Rawsonville, Robertson, Nuy and McGregor. Early in his career he stunned the world by following a trail that was 132 hours old and getting his man. Several more incredible feats followed, and Sauer became a legend in his own life time. He was totally dedicated and relentless. On one occasion he lost the scent when the thief caught a train to De Aar. Without much hope of success Kruger and Sauer boarded the next train and to everyone’s amazement caught the thief who had not gone far from the station. Sauer died in June 1926, in De Aar, at the age of nine. He was buried on police property. Sadly, no photograph of him exists.

Note: The first police Dobermans, Maxim, Bosco and Pitty, came to South Africa from the Netherlands in 1911.


The Karoo’s first female police officer, to qualify as a dog handler, came from De Aar. She is Constable R Seekoei and with her dog, Puma, she completed the extremely difficult and tough South African Police’s Patrol Dog Handler’s course as well as the tactical dog handler’s course. The concept of using dogs in assist the police in tracing suspects originated in 1907 when the daughter of a Dutchman, Cornelis Kuyper witnessed the McIntyre murder. Kuyper convinced the then Commissioner of Police, Colonel Theo Truter, to start training dogs to help prevent, combat and investigate crime. The S A Police Dog Unit grew out of this programme.


Those who love history, good food and travelling the byways to find these, should visit Waylands Guest Farm. This intimate gourmet getaway nestles beneath the Katberg Mountains in the Post Retief district of the Eastern Cape. It is a tranquil spot with a rich, turbulent history. Initially known as Hartebeestfontein, because of the vast herds of these buck that once roamed there, the farm was home to several trekboers, (migrant farmers) in the 1700s. It was from one of them, Willem Adriaan Piek, that John Joseph Smith and his French wife, Marian Josephine de Fallaux, bought the farm in 1834. John, a naval man who had served under Admiral Nelson, chose the farm for its favourable location and beautiful setting. It had open vistas which could be easily defended because the cliffs of the Katberg provided an excellent natural barrier. The farm had water, which came from the Koonap River and 13 crystal clear streams. The extensive, wide floodplain of an ancient pre-historic river, offered deep, fertile soil for crop cultivation. The farm was only a few kilometres away from Goed Genoeg which at that time belonged to field cornet, Piet Retief, a man destined to lead a trek in 1837 from the Winterberg, then the furthest frontier of the Cape Colony.


The mid-1830s was a turbulent time in this area. Constant clashes with the Xhosas resulted in nine frontier wars and as a result there are many interesting graves on Waylands. One dates back to the 4th Frontier War of 1811. The Post Retief Barracks was built in 1836 and, in time, its remains were declared a national monument. The Siege of Hartebeesfontein occurred on this farm during the 8th Frontier War in 1851. Historic tours of the area are conducted by farm owner, Dr Carl Kritzinger, who returned to Waylands, his boyhood home, in 1997. After attending school in Johannesburg and later Veterinary College at Onderstepoort, Carl went to London where he practised for some time. He returned to take on a busy practice in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg before returning to his roots. He and his partner Pieter van der Westhuizen restored the neglected farm and its many historic buildings. They refurbished and redecorated the imposing Manor House and turned it into a luxury guest house. Extensive gardens, including a large organic vegetable garden, were laid out. The farm also has a succulent nursery and registered Nguni herd. Waylands is a working farm dedicated to holistic resource management and sustainable agriculture.


Charles Mitchell, a keen Round-up reader, discovered an ancestor in the September 2013 issue. This is the second time he has found an ancestor in Round-up. He writes: “James and Ann Edward, who accompanied Piet Retief to Natal, were 1820 settlers and my great, great, grandparent. Their daughter Sarah Ann Edwards married Charles Benjamin Rorke (brother of James of Rorkes Drift fame) and their daughter Florence Ann, my grandmother, married Henry Harington. My mother was one of their 15 children. I have just received a 500-page book on the history of the Harington family from my sister in Australia. It was written by two women descendants of Henry’s father’s twin brother. It goes back to about the year 1200 and is incredibly interesting.”


Elizabeth Salt, (nee Covare), heroine of the Battle of Grahamstown, is said to have hidden her treasures on Waylands. Nothing has ever been found. When chief Makanna and 10 000 warriors streamed over the hills on April 22, 1819, to attack Grahamstown Col Wiltshire and Col Trappes had only 330 men at their disposal. Egged on by their prophets, the Xhosa were determined to sweep the white men out of the Zuurveld. Faced by these overwhelming numbers soldiers were about to retreat, until the spirited, vivacious Elizabeth rallied and cheered them on to the fight. At a critical moment she carried a barrel of gunpowder through the fray to where men had run out of ammunition. The Grahamstown Herald of September 21. 1850, reports the death of French-born Elisabeth on her birthday, August 22, at the age of 65. Energetic, courageous, full of life, she faced more dangers and difficulties than most, said the newspaper. She was apparently granted a farm for saving the town, but does not seem to have taken it up. She was survived by one daughter.


The 100km Karoo to Coast cycle race assists the visually challenged. Sponsored by Lions, Die Burger, Pennypinchers, Tru-Cape, Mitchell’s Beer, Fit and Powerade, it is part of a campaign which restores sight for poor, visually impaired people. Last year the race paid for a handheld tonometer which allows the scheme’s optometrists to quickly and easily detect glaucoma. It also paid for 2203 cataract operations, four cornea replacements, two strabismus (severe squint) corrections, two operations for people born with defective vision, one prosthesis for a child with one eye and 280 cataract investigations appointments. It also bought 36 guide dogs. Riders set off 07h00 on Sunday, September 22, from Uniondale, a village established in 1856 when Hopedale and Lyons merged. The route moves through Uniondale Poort, to the notoriously rugged Ou Wapad and on to Avontuur, from where it winds into Prince Alfred’s Pass, one of Thomas Bain’s most magnificent creations and one of the longest passes in South Africa. Then it’s on along Kom-se-Pad through the Gouna Forest to Knysna. It’s a challenging route through breathtaking scenery against a backdrop of the Kouga and Kammanassie (a Khoi word meaning “mountain of water”) mountains. The latter shelters a small herd of endangered Cape zebras and San engravings dating back over 3 000 years.


The Japanese celebrate the elegance of imperfection and call it Wabi Sabi. Local academic and Karoo cultural chronicler Dr Mark Ingle does the same. He finds beauty in the aged, crumbling, cracked and fading objects of the hinterland. “Wabi Sabi does not proclaim itself in any way,” he says. “It is a visual aesthetic of weathered and taken-for-granted things, with no market value. It resists consumerisation and is generally encountered in obscurity and neglect,” he says. “Stuff sticks around longer in the Karoo mainly due to a combination of poverty, uncertain supply, the habit of ‘waste not, want not and making-do’. Here drought and hardship have forged a culture that enjoy the luxury of planned obsolescence, so Karoo Wabi Sabi is easy to find. Just walk around a deserted old Karoo farmstead in the fading light of day and look closely at the doorways and windows. Timeless portals of what has been of days gone by, they seem to lure you to towards them. They add a dimension of charm to the Karoo. They are the essence of its beauty.”


Prince Albert Olives pioneered the export of South African olive oil to the USA by shipping over 18 000 litres to Veronica Goods in Oakland California. It will be re-bottled and sold in 300 stores across the States. Owner, Fred Badenhorst says the company is now also testing the Chinese market. There was great interest in the product after oil maker, Essie Esterhuizen, presented a paper at an international conference in California in July. Now, Prince Albert Olives Karoo Blend has just won a gold medal in the delicate oil category of the S A Olive Awards for the second year in a row. It won silver in the first year it was entered. The company’s Mission, Frantoio and Favalosa blend won silver in this year’s award programme.


Scottish-born James Wilson started making sweets in East London just before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. They were such a success that his brother Robert, a naval architect, came out to join him in 1902. Within two years, says the Daily Dispatch, Wilson and Company was “one of the top manufacturers in the Eastern Cape and producing a kaleidoscope of colourful sweets from tempting chocolates to jaw-breaking billiard balls.” The brothers then introduced a “contrivance” into which a paste was poured and which within two second emitted a lozenge stamped with the company’s name. This extra strong mint was an instant hit with men wanting to disguise their drinking habits from their wives. James returned to Scotland in 1938, but Robert continued and in time formed an alliance with the Rowntree Chocolate Company of New York.

We are our own devils; we drive ourselves out of our own Edens – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe