Rose’s Round-Up September 1994 No 20

NEW EYE ON TOURISM

A tourist information centre and home craft outlet has been opened at the Engen Garage in Laingsburg. Based in a small building adjacent to the caravan park and surrounded by a tiny garden, it provides a welcome travelling break. Almost before its doors opened tourists were already calling in for information and browsing for souvenirs. The man behind the project, Keith van der Schyff, aims to offer a first-class service to tourists by supplying local products and in depth information on the town, which was once almost totally destroyed by a flood, He will also have interesting information on the area surrounding the town. Pictures of the 1981 flood can also be seen here.

WELSH MALE CHOIR VISITS

The popular Welsh Male Choir will be in Beaufort West on October 21 to present a very special concert. The first half of the program will be held in the Gamka East church hall and the second in the church itself, says organiser Ria van den Heever. She says PACOFS’s operetta group also intends to visit Beaufort West to present excerpts from the Fledermouse on October 11.

MINISTER TO VISIT PRINCE ALBERT

The Minister of Tourism, Mr Lerumo Khulako, will be in Prince Albert on October 16, as part of his first visit to the Swartberg area. He will be introduced to the town and its environment and a small luncheon in his honour will be hosted at the Swartberg Hotel. While in the area, Mr Khulako is to address tourism co-ordinators at a function in Oudtshoorn at 10h00 on October 14. He, his wife and family will then visit the Cango Caves and other tourist attractions, as well as De Rust, en route to the Central Karoo.

WORKING TEAMS CHOSE CARAVAN LIFE

The Beaufort West caravan Park has proved a most popular venue among work groups from organisations such as Spoornet and Telkom. When these teams have assignments in the vicinity of Beaufort West, they choose to stay in this park mainly because of its tranquil, restful atmosphere. Also, they can enjoy frsh air and beautiful Karoo night skies while braai-ing at night. The park is a very convenient stop over, they say, because it is virtually in the centre of town and close to supermarkets and other stores. These teams were also full of praise for Leonore Lombard, manager of the park, and her staff. “These people make you feel at home and go out of their way to ensure that you feel welcome and are comfortable when you stay there,” they said.

OLIVE’S TREE

A single gwharrie tree stands like a pompom on a koppie across the highway from the village of Matjiesfontein. At its foot is a plaque proclaiming that it was here that Olive Schreiner loved to sit and write while pondering the plains of the Karoo she so loved. She was a great friend of James D Logan, the Laird of Matjiesfontein, and she lived in this little cottage which he kept specially for her when he was building the village. It still stands alongside the main road in the village. In one of her letters she describes this part of the Karoo to a friend.

THOUGHTFULNESS BY THE TRUCKLOAD

Towards the end of the last century a young English lass was sent to the Kruidfontein area in the middle of the Great Karoo to work, as a governess. Once settled on the vast plains near present-day Leeu Gamka she was very lonely and, at times, bored. Her family regularly posted her copies of the London Illustrated News. She loved it and wrote a letter to the editor saving she read it from over to cover – sometimes more than once – since it was all she ever got to read. He published the letter and within short people from the furthest outposts of the British Empire were posting her reading matter. In retelling the tale Ron de Villiers of Beaufort West, said: “Thank goodness the railway line had just been laid because the amount of material was so vast that a special coach had to be linked to the train to carry this mail and the railways had to make a special shed available to store it all for her”.

ENJOYABLE NAMIBIAN TOUR

Andre and Martie Lund of Elandsfontein farm, near Beaufort West, recently enjoyed a tour of Namibia. The accommodation, they said, was top class, as was the quality of service. “We actually went there to study hospitality conditions and tourist facilities, because we intend opening a guest house on our farm,” said Martie. “We learned a lot, particularly as regards service, the best way to deal with of clients and the expectations of overseas visitors, in particular. One of the best places we visited was a large farm in Damaraland. This was a true eco-tourism stopover and a most interesting area. They had a large, clean camping area and fresh water on tap. Everyone on this trip enjoyed sleeping under the stars at night. It was a wonderful experience. The farm also had walking routes and tourist information was featured on signs at various rocks along the route. Everywhere we found welcome messages from the owners. Everything was so comfortable that we all instantly felt at home”.

WORKING ON CUSTOMER CARE

The Prince Albert Publicity Association snapped up the opportunity to take part in a series of Customer Care Workshops organised by the Klein Karoo Marketing Association and the University of Port Elizabeth. This team travelled through the area towards the end of September under the leadership of Tienie Terblanche, of UPE Small Business Development Department, presenting three or four sessions a day in some towns. These low-cost workshops, priced at R25, for a two-and-a-half-hour session, were aimed at everyone involved in tourism and related businesses. Several people from Klaarstroon also joined the workshop.

STONE COMES HOME

Gawie Beukes, a well-known Karoo artist from Prince Albert district, once wrote on a stone: “Deze is my sitklip, 8 Mei, 1899, G J Beukes, Verschfontein”. (This is the stone on which I sit, May 8, 1899, G J Beukes, Verschfontein.) This stone travelled far and wide in the Karoo, but it was recently brought back home by historic researcher Arnold Hutchinson. He said it was found years ago by Estelle Bothma’s father under some thorn trees on his farm. It amused him, so he took it home and for years it stood on the veranda of his home. Much later he donated it to the Beaufort West Museum, however, a few years later they asked him to take the stone back. He did, but as he did not really want it he passed it on to friends. They passed it on to others, and so the stone travelled from place to place until it eventually came back home and became part of the Gawie Beukes Collection at the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Price Albert.

IN SEARCH OF CRYSTAL NIGHTS

Several people in Prince Albert are engaged in a rather unusual project. It involves measuring the clearness of the night skies and counting the number of clear skies in a year. Two people now taking part in the project are Mrs S Oosthuizen and David Rossouw, who was involved in a similar project 18 years ago. Recently two international astronomers, also interested in the clearness of the southern skies and keen to establish a facility for viewing these in the Karoo, also visited the tow. They were Mr and Mrs J Jansen of the CEA (Central European Astronomical) Research Institute. While in Prince Albert they also visited the old and now derelict site of the French Observatory on the Rietfontein Road. They also visited Beaufort West.

GREAT HIDE, SAY EXPERTS

The new hide at the Karoo National Park has earned high praise from birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. The first of its kind at the park, it was donated by the Honorary Rangers Association and sponsored by Arn Schyfer, who officially handed it over to manager Dries Engelbrecht, erected in a bird paradise at the large dam, near the rest camp, it allows enthusiasts to view a variety of birds and water fowl. It also offers enthusiasts an opportunity to study game and other wildlife that drink there. The park has several other projects in the pipeline. Among them are plans for an indigenous garden near the rest camp. “We aim to include mountain plants and aromatic herbs, such as wild garlic and mint, as well as lesser known flora, so that those unable to walk great distances will be able to see and enjoy these,” said information officer, Henriette Engelbrecht.

DISCOVERY OF THE “SWEET SINCLAIR

Many years ago, Nicholas Sinclair, who was born in 1899, planted a small sprig of an apple tree on his farm Taaiboschfontein in the Loxton district. The cutting was taken from an ancient, and dying tree on the family farm, Stampfontein in the Soutrivier area, near Victoria West, where Nicholas was born. Years later he told his son John, now the owner of Taaiboschfontein, that he well remembered the original apple tree from his childhood days and that it bore the “sweetest apples in the world”. The cutting flourished, and in time the tree bore fruit. Indeed, these red apples were “as sweet as honey”, said John Over the years John has establishes four other trees, He has had the apples tested by Paul Jolly, a technical authority and plant researcher and it seems that these apples are not a known variety. John has now registered as a “tree breeder” and has registered the apple as the Sweet Sinclair. He hopes to develop an orchard of these trees.

HIDDEN BLACK GOLD

A tale of an old coal mine in the Nuweveld Mountains area so intrigued historic researcher, Arnold Hutchinson, of Beaufort West, that he set out to find and study it. Recently, much to his delight, he was able to spend a night beneath the stars in an abandoned village at the entrance to the concealed shaft. The old mine is in the mountains of Leeurivierspoort, the farm of Tony Reynolds. The initial tale of its discovery and operation was told by the late Christiaan Jacobus Hattingh, who claimed to have explored this mine in his youth. He said coal from there was used in Beaufort West and that during the Anglo-Boer War, supplies were still secretly sneaked into town under wood on wagons. This was a boon to townspeople as it provided them with good fuel and warmth in winter months. Then, fearing the British would commandeer this source of fuel for the troop trains, the owners dynamited the entrance to the shaft. It lay forgotten for over 30 years. Then, towards the end of World War II the mine was re-opened, but it was uneconomical to mine the low-grade coal. Once more the entrance was dynamited. Now four derelict stone cottage, once the homes of those long forgotten miners, are all that remain.

GREAT INTEREST IN THE FESTIVAL

Trevor Young, organiser of the Beaufort West Oktoberfest, was recently interviewed by Radio SAFM journalist, Peter James smith. During this talk he said that there was a great interest in the festival. “At present I am receiving a great many calls each day from interested parties, so I anticipate that this is going to be a very special occasion, particularly seeing that Beaufort West has never had such a festival before,” he said. Trevor, however, is not the only person busy planning a Karoo festival. The Prince Alberters too are busy planning next year’s Olive Festival. It will form part of the town’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Greeff Heidenrych, the man behind the ever-popular Victoria West Wildsfees (Game festival) is also busy with arrangements for next year’s programme. Oudtshoorn residents are in the throes of organising an Ostrich Festival which is scheduled to take place from October 13 to 15, and not to be left out, Uniondale is arranging a Spookfees (ghost festival).

HOSTEL FOR HIKERS

THE Saxe Coburg Hiking Hostel has just opened in Prince Albert in a 140-year old part Victorian / part Karoo house. Owners Dick and Regina Billiet can accommodate 14 hikers at R20 per person per day in cosy comfort.

DAYS OF ROMANCE

Long ago young Edna Batchelder lived in Clyde House, Her Friends were Joan Grimbeek, whose grandfather-built Vine Lodge and Pearl and Ruby de Villiers. They were among the eligible young ladies of Beaufort West. And, much to everyone’s amusement Edna now even admits to having had a “crush” of Pearl’s brother Vincent. As happens they drifted apart. Recently Edna (now Wimble) was passing through Beaufort West with her son, Douglas, and a friend. She decide to renew old ties. She visited Clyde House and was amazed to find her old home now an art gallery. Edna wandered from room to room recalling falling down the narrow stairs, watching sunsets from the balcony and the beautiful patterns created by light passing through the stained-glass doors. She remembered the old Beaufort Hotel, the churches and many of the other buildings. She found several quite unchanged, while others sadly had vanished. She missed Joan, now Mrs Steyn, but found Pearl and Ruby. “What a wonderful visit. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said.

WAGON WHEEL ON THE ROLL

“The upgrade on the Wagon Wheel Hotel, on the outskirts of Beaufort West, is moving along extremely well,” said owner Ria Young. New wall to wall carpets are being fitted throughout the complex and new linen has been ordered for all the rooms. “The whole upgrade is aimed at meeting the needs of tourists,” said Ria. This motel is licenced and there is a comfortable dining room and ladies bar. All rooms have television. “We are aiming to provide a home from home along the N1 route “said Ria. There is also a caravan park at this complex.

ANYSBERG IDEAL FOR ECO-TOURISTS

Some of the original old farm buildings at the Anysberg Nature Reserve have been turned into accommodation cottages to cater for the eco-tourism market. “The facilities are basic, but they fully meet the market they are designed to serve,” said manager Allan Martin. “Cottages contain beds, a fridge and stove. They are ideal for those who enjoy hiking, walking and the outdoor life in general. Children, particularly love this reserve. We have about ten horses and often take our younger visitors out on a two-day pony trail through the reserve. We have established an Outdoor Enjoyment Club and it has received many donations from the businessmen who have visited the reserve. We use these funds to bring under-privileged children to Anysberg and to teach them an appreciation of nature,” said Allan

INDIGENOUS GARDENS ALONGSIDE THE N1

The Karoo National Park recently mounted a competition and invited five primary schools and the Bastiaans High School to participate. The school children were asked to identify problems in the environment and to highlight anything which they considered to be endangering the natural environment. They were also been asked to suggest solutions. Co-ordinator Henriette Engelbrecht, who is also the information officer of the National Park said that judging was strict because the winners would qualify to attend the Youth Symposium at Golden Gate, later this year. The winning project was an indigenous garden opposite the Wagon Wheel Motel. The layout was done by A H Barnard School and this school will also be responsible for the upkeep. St Mathews also had a project which bore the importance of tourism in mind. They created an indigenous garden in front of the school on the route to the Cape.

BIRDMAN OF ANYSBERG

Johan Vaughan was once a labourer on the original farm on which Anysberg Nature Reserve was established seven years ago. He opted to join the reserve staff and today in one of the best qualified field rangers in his class. He has reached the highest level of proficiency in biology and ecology and he is also the first person of his rank in South Africa to qualify as a bird ranger. Proudly admitting that he always had a love of the veld, Johan says birds are his favourites. He has also been responsible for surveying and collecting material almost all small