Justin Bonello, well known South African cooking raconteur, and host of the SA Braai Master TV show, has just launched a new book. With his crew he spent two-years kicking up dust and exploring the bye-ways of the Karoo in an effort to discover the pulse of the dryland. His mission was simple. He wanted to capture the soul of the thirstland, witness its struggle for survival, experience the wide-open spaces, clean, crisp, clear fresh air and endless starry nights. He wanted to learn more of the San, to meet the modern-day people and share the legendary hospitality of this arid zone. Justin wanted to walk in the shoes of the locals, listen to their stories and cook in kitchens steeped in tradition and where family favourites reside in ancient recipe books. It was a long, intriguing, heart-warming journey, an unbeatable culinary adventure, which now, with a wide range of recipes, is recorded in Cooked in the Karoo, written by Helena Lombard. This is a superb book. It steps back in time to capture early traditional dishes, such as salt rib, offal, vetkoek and skilpadjies, but there are also modern taste treats. The adventure along the road less travelled and meanders through places such as Calvinia to enjoy the Hantam Meat Festival, as well as Merweville, Sutherland, Carnarvon, Steytlerville, Jansenville, New Bethesda and the Karoo National Park. In their adventure into time and taste the crew visited many far-flung farms to discover the spirit of the Karoo. The book is beautifully illustrated. It captures the Karoo, making those who know the region long to go there and those who don’t, yearn to discover its magic. Published by Penguin, Cooked in the Karoo, which even contains a survival guide, is available at book stores at a recommended price of R340.


Justin said: “Don’t think of the Karoo as a place you have to avoid at all costs as you speed along the N1. It is a fascinating 400 000 sq km of semi-desert that engulfs one third of South Africa and unless you’ve been there you won’t really understand its extremes, its vastness, its dramatic climate – up to 45 deg in summer and sub-zero in winter. But, it’s for me. It’s a place everyone should experience to understand life better. I travelled way back into history, discovered primeval animals and prehistoric humans. I also “met” our great, great, ancestors who endured the trials and tribulations of wild Africa when everything had bigger teeth and huge claws. My interest was piqued by a scribbling on a wall, shown to me by an Aberdeen farmer. Translated, it read: ‘I injected myself with poison. Don’t worry. I am going to town to die. I had no choice. Bye All.’ Those heartrending words sparked the journey. I simply had to learn more, and I did. I discovered a place where hospitality is a way of life, a place where farmers say, ‘God came to think’.”


Karoo lamb’s unique flavour comes from six shrubs says Justin. They are rivierganna, ankerkaroo, boegoekaroo, kapokbos, skaapbossie and silverkaroo. Individually they, of course, grow in other places, but nowhere else on the planet are they found together. These six in unison perform magic. They very slowly marinate the animal. It is herbed on the hoof to produce a unique flavour.


October promises to be a busy month in the small Karoo town of Richmond. The 12th Annual Heritage South Africa Symposium will be held there from October 16 to 18 and the ever-popular Boekbedonnered Book Festival is scheduled for October 23, 24, and 25. The Heritage Symposium, hosted by the Richmond Heritage Society and Saddle Horse Museum, promises great variety and interest. There will be talks on stargazing, cultural history and a debut screening of the Karoo’s first documentary film Layers of the Karoo. Professor Wally Peters will discuss the town’s architectural heritage, Peter Whitlock, will talk on the historic homes of the Sneeuberg and Graham Viney, author of Historic Homes of South Africa, will discuss the movement from Cape Dutch to Cape English architecture. A Tswane University team will present integrated development plans for the town’s future and Len Raymond, past chairman of Heritage South Africa, and recipient of the Simon van der Stel Gold Medal as well as the Western Cape Provincial Award for heritage conservation, with a panel of experts, will discuss conservation and restoration. A venison cooking school (costing an additional R350) will be presented by culinary guru, Annetjie Reynolds, on the first day. The fascinating life of vivacious Richmond-born Jose Dale Lace, (Josephine Brink) who rose to become the queen of Johannesburg Society, will be given by Neil Viljoen, curator of Northwards, the Parktown home designed for her by Sir Herbert Baker. Professor Bruce Rubidge, Dr Judy Macguire and David Morris will discuss the palaeontology, geology, archaeology and anthropology of the area.


Richmond’s ever popular Boekbedonnered Art, Film and Book Festival, scheduled for October 23, 24 and 25, promises to be the best yet. The programme for this, the seventh annual event of its kind, is filled with top-class topics and speakers. On Thursday with Tuan Marais will discuss Painted Devils and the Land of Ordinary Men, Elena Bregin, Survival Training for Lonely Hearts, Joanna Richens, Adults Only and Professor Wally Peters will review The Architectural Heritage of Hanover and Richmond. In the afternoon Di Smuts will discuss You’re Awesome, Peter Cleary, Death on the Kunene and Jan van der Merwe, Vrystaat Dorpe. The day ends with a screening of Melissa Webster’s film Free State. On Friday Matilda Burden will discuss Cape furniture as portrayed in Ou Kaapse Meubels, Derick van der Walt, Hoopvo, Clinton V du Plessis, Woorde Roes in the Water, Chris Lowry, Memoirs of a Vet, Joe Spirit, Meloncholia in Literature, and there will be a presentation of the new Van Riebeeck Society book entitled The World’s Great Question: Olive Schreiner’s South African Letters 1889–1920. After lunch Denis Walters will discuss Bridges of the Eastern Cape, Darry Davids, The Fascinating Origins Of Words And Phrases, Mxlisi Nyezwa, New Country/Malikanye and Mark Borrie, Farm Workers Of Matjieskuil. On Saturday, Louis Esterhuizen will present Die Afwesigheid van Berge, Leslie Howard, Barrydale Unplugged and Dominique Botha, Valsrivier, Dawn Garish, Eloquent Body, Christo Barnard, Mandela My Prisoner, My Friend and C J (Jonty) Driver, Home and Exile. In the afternoon Roger Webster will discuss At the Fireside, True South African Stories. There will also be an exhibition of Professor Pitika Ntuli’s Marikana Sculptures at the MAP Gallery and the Richmond Horse Museum is always worth a visit


Plans for the second two-day Karoo Parliament are well underway. It will take place in the Vusubuntu Centre in Cradock on November 5 and 6. The programme will focus on action, initiatives, tourism, wellness and the economy. Keynote speaker, Prof Tim Noakes, from University of Cape Town, will discuss Why Nutrition is Essential for Effective Local Development. The movie, Unearthed, which offers a glimpse into the murky waters surrounding the fracking industry, will be screened at 17h00 on November 5.


The SME Observatory Conference scheduled for September 28 to 30 has been postponed until early 2015. Organising secretary Anita Harmse said: “We are excited by the growth in interest in SME development. We regret the delay, but we are currently in the process of refining the SME Monitor of the Free State and it is the key deliverable of the conference. We will keep you all up to date.”


Willie Mcalister recently enjoyed a delightful lunch with his family at the Kliphotel Country Shop at Misgund on Route 62 in the Langkloof. There he discovered a book entitled Mense Van Die Langkloof, written by Angst van Huyssteen (ISBN No. 9780620413169). Sadly, the book was not for sale. He was told it was printed in 2008 but was out of print. Willie would dearly love a copy and is appealing to any Round-up reader who has one and no longer wants it to contact him. “I believe that this beautiful stone building was originally a hospital for injured soldiers during the Anglo Boer War,” says Willie. “It apparently fell into disrepair after the war and many years later was refurbished as a hotel. Handmade soaps and other toiletry items are displayed on some washbasins and there are other superb pottery items and curios for sale. I would like to know more about the people of this place,” said Willie.


Baviaanskloof is an intriguing area. Steeped in history, filled with characters and a magnificent nature reserve which is well worth a visit. But, warns the tourism office, it is a rugged route not suitable for sedan cars. In the old days this kloof was a haven for the unlawful. The first police station, with three cells, was opened at Studis in 1900. The first policeman was the son of a Willowmore general dealer. Initially the long arm of the law patrolled on horseback, later they used Harley Davidson motorcycles with side cars. The station was closed in 1973. Studis was named after a German farmer, Studte. He and his wife lived here from 1902 to 1916 when most of their land was washed away in a flood. She was a nursing sister. The local post office was named in their honour. Lukas and Alet Smit, who lived in the Kleinpoort valley, also had a post office named after them. Opened in 1970, it was named Lulet. Its post code was 6687. A general dealer’s store and off-licence liquour outlet in time also opened near the postal agency.


Jan Schoeman, better known as Outa Lappies, was an icon of the Karoo. His ‘karretjie”, his unusual art and fanciful dress style were tourist attractions. Since his tragic death on July 7, 2011, his daughters, Mathilda Mareko, Almina Erasmus and Naomi Dewater, have worked long and hard sorting through his belongings with Lydia Barella, from Prince Albert’s Fransie Pienaar Museum, and Cape Town art expert, Lizelle Kruger. Their aim: to set up a permanent exhibition at the Fransie Pienaar where “Chapters” the embroidered story of his life, his “lighuisies”, tin and glass lanterns and the distinctive rickshaw, which he wheeled across the Karoo, can be displayed.


During the Anglo-Boer War, the more some saw of the Karoo, the more they wanted to go home, states Stephen M Miller in Volunteers on the Veld. Some called De Aar “a rotten little hole”, and Kroonstad a “foul smelling place.” Brian Alt wrote: “After leaving Cape Town, who’s only redeeming feature is the mountain, I did not see an acre of ground worth fighting for. Nothing but stones, dust and thorn bush.” He also noted that there were heavy downpours but added they were “Not quite like English rain”. “There is no water, everything is dry,” wrote another. These sentiments echoed over and over in correspondence. The thirstland affected the morale of the troops. They found it dreary and depressing. It made them weary, but it was war time, they could not see the beauty of this ancient, arid land.


Surfing the internet recently revealed the story of a Roving Rabbi with links to the Karoo. It was written by Harvey Leifert, director of the United States Information Service in Johannesburg in the 1980s, now a freelance writer based in Bethesda. He once returned to explore the Karoo with Bob Hyams, a friend. They meandered from one small town to another and from one National Park to the next. It was a superb experience. One day en route to Willowmore they saw a sign “Jewish Cemetery”. Amused by the fact that a traditional road sign bearing three crosses pointed the way to this graveyard, they set off along a winding, well marked route and eventually arrived at a walled enclosure with a locked gate. They prepared to take a few photographs over the wall, but a young man suddenly emerged from a cluster of nearby houses and, without a word, unlocked the padlock to admit them to the neat, clean and well-kept cemetery. They found graves dating back to 1904 and the lastest marked 1960. Some tombstones were traditional, in Hebrew and English, while others merely carried the name of the deceased, dates of birth and death, or even R.I.P. Harvey and Bob left pebbles on the graves and before departing asked the young man whether he was the caretaker. “Yes,” he replied. “Who pays you?” they asked. “A woman regularly brings money,” he said. This intrigued Harvey, he wondered who she was and where the money came from. The man could not tell him, so he set off on a research project which led him to Africa’s travelling rabbi.


Harvey and Bob discovered that Willowmore once had a thriving Jewish community, rabbi and synagogue. The found the rabbi’s former residence, with Stars of David still incorporated into the decorative front porch railing; the building, however, currently housed an undertaking establishment. In a small curio shop they discovered a three-volume history of the region. It included a page on Willowmore’s Jewish community. By the 1960, in keeping with other little hinterland towns, this Jewish community here had dwindled. The synagogue, built in 1907, was sold and the proceeds were dedicated to the upkeep of the cemetery. Back in the States Harvey discovered that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies governs the religious life of South Africa’s Jewish population, including those in remote towns. He also learned the board reaches out to Jewish communities and individuals throughout sub-Saharan Africa. “Rabbis are rare outside South Africa, so the board created the position of travelling rabbi, to minister to isolated Jews around Africa,” wrote Harvey. This man is Moshe Silberhaft. He travels over 80,000 miles annually by car and plane to perform marriages and bar mitzvahs and to oversee the sub-continent’s 230 Jewish cemeteries, 14 of which are in South Africa. He told Harvey “I am paid to be out of the office.” He said only seven sub-Saharan African cities, outside South Africa, still have viable Jewish communities. They are Nairobi, Harare and Bulawayo, Lusaka, Gaborone, Maputo, and Windhoek


The 2014 Prince Albert Cultural Foundation Award was recently presented to Pieter de Vos and Jan Groenewald, owners of the 1910 Victorian bungalow at19 Mark Street and builder Kosie Stols for an outstandingly high standard of conservation. Throughout the project traditional building skills, materials and methods were used and great attention was paid to detail,” said Derek Thomas.


Doornkuil farm’s last art workshop for 2014 takes place from October 13 to 17. The theme is food and art and presenters are Coral Fourie and well-known Karoo cuisine expert, Annetjie Reynolds. The cost of the course and accommodation is R3800 or R4500.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, but he never said this. It is an “orphan quotation,” attributed to a famous person simply to lend it credibility