Dries Engelbrecht, manager of the Karoo National Park, recently had to travel to Augrabies, which like the Karoo is a hot, dry, semi-desert area. He left Beaufort West just as the recent rain and snow began. By the time he reached the top of the Nuweveld Mountains the snow was already a few centimeters deep. He thought of the hot dry area he was travelling to and the fact that children there seldom see rain, leave alone snow. Dries immediately stopped his bakkie, unpacked his provisions from his big cool bag and filled it to the brim with snow. On arriving at Augrabies he presented this “treasure” to the children. They were delighted. Indeed, none of them had seen snow. They dug their hands into it, licked from their fingers calling it ice cream.


Like most little Karoo towns, Prince Albert once had its own little local newspaper, The Prince Albert Friend, but like many other small town newspapers it vanished. The newspaper started early this century, but stopped publication in about 1940 Now another newspaper is being started in Prince Albert and in honour if its predecessor it will also be called The Prince Albert Friend. The Publicity Association is behind this project. They aim to produce the first copies by October, says information officer Pierre Kotze.


Not many tourists use the gravel road between Richmond and De Aar, but those who do are intrigued by eery ruins at the lonely little railway siding, Deelfontein. These ruins make Deelfontein unique. To all appearances they were one Victorian buildings designed to reflect the glories of the British Empire, Now a silent, dusty, decayed and ghostly mirage, they are a paradox just down the road from two cemeteries. In these neat rows of graves are all that remain of a once huge British military hospital of the Anglo-Boer War. Despite their pompousness all the buildings came too late to share in that chapter of history. They were a wayside hotel which now raises many questions. Known as the Yeomanry Hotel and built in 1901, it was named to commemorate the brave civilian volunteers who fought in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. The full story of Deelfontein and the men who lived and died there is now available from the Tourism Office.


The Land Services Club of Loxton Primary School is looking for a rare “donderweerskilpad” (thunder tortoise) They are busy collecting information for an American, Nicholas Bayoff, of Michigan, who is researching this creature Never before have any studies been done on this rare tortoise and therefore information is difficult to find. This tortoise, the Karoo Padloper, is also known in Afrikaans as the onweerskilpad (bad weather tortoise), reenskilpad (rain tortoise) and swartweerskilpad (black weather tortoise). Mostly it makes its appearance just before thunder storms. Many old people consider these creatures to be weather prophets. The Loxton children are all thoroughly enjoying this project and are carefully noting the time, date, place and weather conditions of every sighting in the veld. No eggs or small tortoises have yet been found, so there are still a great many questions to be answered.


Tourism promotional organisations from the Little Karoo, Central Karoo and Garden Route met in Oudtshoorn recently to discuss closer ties and the pooling of marketing expertise. This huge area has everything from beautiful beaches to historically interesting towns, scenic mountain passes, challenging 4 x 4 routes, walks and hiking trails, farms for holidays and hunting and national parks where game can be studied. But a carefully planned marketing strategies are required to bring these areas and their facilities to the attention of the touring public. This Strategic Tourism Planning Session, hosted by SATOUR was most fruitful. A follow-up session is to be held on October, 20 at the offices of the Regional Services Council in George.


There is a grave on the farm, Bitterwater, in the Loxton district, that poses many questions. This grave was discovered about ten years ago by farm owner, Danie Swart. While walking in the veld he discovered some old military uniform buttons and some other interesting bits and pieces. On searching about he came across this grave and found that it had been disturbed by vandals, probably digging for medals and other militaria. Danie did all in his power, without success, to try to find out who was buried in this grave. The director of War Graves at the National Monuments Council did not think that this was the grave of a British soldier who fought in the Anglo-Boer War. “That is was unlikely as almost all the soldiers’ graves had been located and there is no evidence of a skirmish in this area,” he said. “He could also have been a policeman or some other uniformed person travelling in South Africa. Danie has decided to preserve the spot as a grave of an unknown soldier. A flat Karoo stone has been placed on it as a headstone and, just in case, Danie plans to lay a wreath on this grave in 1999 when the Anglo-Boer War centenary comes around.


John X Merriman Guest house has opened in Victoria West. This is one of the historic old homes of the town and it has been tastefully restored by Le Roux Hugo. It is now a convenient stop along the N12 route. The house, which is neatly furnished and includes all crockery, cutlery and linen, has a private and enclosed braai area. Costs are R50 per person per day. The venue is self-catering, but a hearty Karoo breakfast can be provided at R10 a head as well as other meals on request.


There is now a new café in Loxton that provides light meals and sand wishes for tourists. Known as the JPS Kafee, (not for cigarettes, but because these are the initials of the owner, Johan Smith and his wife) She is normally in the café and she is also the one who is responsible for the delicious food that is served there. The café is open from 07:00 to 22:00 and the Smiths welcome tourists during those hours, even if it is just for a cup of coffee. They are also prepared to provide snacks to tour groups, but would appreciate it is these are ordered in advance.


Rietvlei Guest Farm, located between Laingsburg and Ladismith, is an ideal venue for those wishing to holiday in the beautiful Elandsburg and Klein Swartberg areas. This farm which belongs to Tony and Marjory May Kruger, offers full board and lodging for holiday and overnight guests in two bedroomed units which have en-suite bathrooms. There is also a caravan parking site with ablution facilities, scullery and braai area. There are many walks and hikes which vary from easy to strenuous, so the farm also has comfortable huts for hikers. These have bunk beds, scullery, ablution and braai facilities. And, for those who do not have too much time to tarry, Marjorie May provides tea’s or wholesome light meals using fresh, home-grown farm garden produce.


Two Karoo towns, Richmond and Victoria Wes,t are celebrating their 150th anniversaries over the weekend of October 8, 9 and 10/ Festival programmes are obtainable from the offices of the Town Clerks.


To assist those wishing to attend as many events as possible at its 150th anniversary celebrations, Richmond is making special tickets available at the cost of R250 per couple. These will allow access to all events, concerts, braais, and other meal times. Truly a bargain when everyone is watching their budgets.


The Dutch Reformed church in Victoria west has been declared a national monument. The church was consecrated on March 10, 1850, and since then has barely under gone any renovations, however, it has been upgraded for the 150th anniversary. The National Monuments plaque will be unveiled on Sunday, October 10 by Russel Brann, the northern Cape manager of the National Monuments Council.


Rand Coach Tours is again planning to bring one of its senior citizen trips and to the Karoo and to include the Karoo National Park in its itinerary. This tour, which will include stops as the Hendrik Verwoerd Dan, a visit to Port Elizabeth, five days in Cape Town and stops at Ceres, as well as Kimberley en –route home, is to stop at the Karoo National Park on October 16. This is one of our most popular tours, and our tourists all truly enjoy the park” says Julie Lapedus of Rand Coach Tours, but like all tour operators she stresses the need for peace in the country so that the tourists can begin to really enjoy travelling again.


The Beaufort West Fleur Garden Club in planning a great day on November 12. To help them enjoy a top quality programme they have invited a group of gardening enthusiasts from Cape Town. Every effort is now being made to get people to join the tour which Eben Niemand. Of Radio Kontrei and Mannie Kriel of Van Rhyn Brandy Cellars are organizing.. Among their guests will be journalists and photographer from national news media as well as TV journalists and a cameraman from TV1 Full details are available from Eleanor Steenkamp.


Anthony Bannister mentions the Karoo, particularly the Karoo National Park in his newly published book. Interviewed on radio recently he said he found the area interesting, dramatic and exciting. He also felt that the Nuweveld mountains were a bit like a moon landscape.


A Bible that was sent to Holland in 1938, as part of a mission campaign, led to one of the Karoo’s great romances. This Bible was donated to the campaign by Nellie Pienaar of Stolshoek farm(now part of the Karoo National Park). On arrival in Holland it was given to Jan Esveldt of Gorinchem and because it had a note with the donor’s name and address inside, he wrote to thank Nellie. Sadly Jan was killed during WWII. But his wife continued the correspondence. Later, Frank van Aarde, a friend of the Pienaars, began to corresponding with Teunie, the Van Esveldt’s daughter. This correspondence led to a long distance romance which ended with a wedding in Beaufort West. But that was not the end of the story. Shortly after Frank and Theunie were married Theunie’s niece began writing to Frank’s brother. He also came to Beaufort West and they too were married. These memories were all recalled recently by Dominee Bombaai van Rensburg, who recently visited Beaufort West. He spent quite some time discussion his mission work and Bible distribution campaign in Romania and Hungary with local residents. Many new residents to town wondered how this minister got his unusual name “Bombaai” He told them that he had worked on the oil fields of the Middle East to raise money for his studies On his way back to South Africa he was stranded in Bombay in India for quite some time. Initially he was given this nickname as a joke, but in time it stuck and became permanent, he said.


The Inter Cape bus company plans to extend its service to include a daytime stop in the Central Karoo, so as to allow passengers to enjoy a stay at the Karoo National Park or on one of the farms While this service is still in the planning stages, officials at the park and local farmers are quite excited by this idea.


Research has revealed that Merweville’s Englishman was an Australian. Walter Oliphant Arnot was a lieutenant in the Australian Army and served with distinction with the 3rd South Australian Contingent during the Anglo-Boer War. He committed suicide on April 16, 1902, after leaving a sad note for his wife in his book of common Prayer. It seems he was very confused and depressed. His grave, outside Merweville is still tended by the people of this tiny village, which befriended him so long ago. The full story of Walter Oliphant Arnot is available from the Tourism Office.


Loxton is planning to create an indigenous garden. It will be laid out at the school and the idea behind it is to encourage visitors to the town to learn more of the ecology of the Karoo in general and the Loxton area in particular. The garden will be centrally situated and the whole community will be encouraged to take part in its creation. The chairman of the Loxton Publicity Association, John Sinclair, said the garden would be planned in co-operation with ecological authorities in the town. “We want to ensure that from the outset this project is tackled correctly, that the layout is perfectly handled, so that the garden will become an attraction for the town. We have invited Henriette Engelbrecht, information officer at the Karoo National Park to come and address us on indigenous plants, as well as plants that might be endemic to the Loxton area. She will also tell us how to plan and layout the garden as well as how to care for it,” he said.


THE Karoo display at Flora 93, the Cape Flower Show, was a huge success. “Visitors to this show, considered to be one of the top botanical events in the world, were amazed at the variety of dryland plants that were exhibited,” said Henriette Engelbert, the information officer at the Karoo National Park. She and her team of helpers, which included Hendrik de Bruin, Stuart Jones and Peet Peens from the Wilderness, Paddy Gordon from Cape Town and Pat Marincowitz, a self-confessed Karoo pant fanatic” from Prince Albert, gathered and displayed about 77 different plants and four endangered varieties The TV team covering Flora 93, which was held at the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town, were intrigued with the Karoo display. It featured as a four-second item on the News at Eight on Wednesday, September 16.


Because Beaufort West is situated on such an important tourist route, the town constantly strives to ensure that it meets all demands of this market sector. At present, the main street, which is also part of the N1 is being upgraded and the road around the jail is being also widened The town apologises to passing tourists for any discomfort and inconvenience caused by these road upgrading projects.


There is a new company in the Central Karoo. It has been created to meet the demand for safaris in South Africa. The person behind the idea is a keen and dynamic young lady, Louis Conroy, who feels that “safaris are not all just about hunts and trophies.” She is prepared to organize a photographic safari for those who would like one. She concentrates of the international market and since staring her operation earlier this year, has managed to bring several international groups to the Karoo. Having been associated with Karoo farms and hunting all her life, she realized that overseas trophy hunters do not wish to make dozens of phone calls to set up a hunt, so she does the hard work for them and places hunters with reputable local farmers.


Visitor numbers to the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert have risen during the past month. The greatest number of visitors came from Natal. Among the visitors was Frieda Haak,. The museum was her childhood home and so she was able to share many memories and details of how the house once looked with information officer Pierre Kotze and his wife, Cathy. She also donated some historic material to the museum during this visit. Pierre recently attended a major museum meeting in George to discuss co-operation in this field.