A century after the air was filled with gun smoke, “Boer” and “Brit” horsemen rode as comrades through Beaufort West in the Great Karoo recently to take the salute at the old blockhouse which still guards the railway line. Crowds lined the route to cheer them on their way. The British brigade, under “General” David Pickard-Cambridge, carried Union Jacks and “regimental colours”, while flags of the old Boer Republics marked the passage of the Boer Commando under “General” Piet Ellis. Tantalising smells of braaivleis wafted about and a small crowd waited in the shade of thorn trees for the arrival of the 25 mounted men near the golf course. The event marked the official re-opening of the Anglo-Boer War blockhouse, recently restored by the Central Karoo District Council. It was also the first in a series of events planned to commemorate the outbreak of the war. Central Karoo regional tourism co-ordinator Rose Willis gave a short talk on the blockhouse lines, statistics of the war and some happenings in Beaufort West, which, at the time, was filled with “horrid Jingoes,” according to Boer supporter Olive Schreiner. Frikkie Bekker, owner of Safari Rooms, and a member of Rapportryers, who organised the event, discussed the causes and effects of the war with special emphasis on the role of the horse. As Jose Burman, in his book To Horse and Away, says: “Horses were the true losers of the Anglo-Boer War. Some 520 000 remounts were supplied to the British forces, of which 326 073 died, mostly from disease and exhaustion. There was no Veterinary Corps to supervise and destroy ill or maimed animals. This would only be formed in 1903. The Boers also lost thousands of excellent mounts.”


Murraysburgers en Beaufort-Westers kan in Oktober meer uitvind oor Anglo-Boereoorlog gebeure in hulle kontrei. Johan Loock, ‘n deskundige op die oorlog in die Karoo, die slagvelde van die Vrystaat, en die konsentrasiekampe, lewer praatjies in dié dorpe op Oktober 27 en 28. Die praatjies sal gepaard gaan met ‘n uitstalling van waardevolle boeke en blouboeke oor die oorlog uit mnr Loock se privaat versameling. In Murraysburg sal Hermien Botha ‘n item oor musiek van die oorlog voordra, Roche van Heerden sal die vlae bespreek en Charl Conradie, gaan sy boek Murraysburg tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog 1899 – 1902 bekendstel. Hierdie 135-blad boek sal teen R45 te koop wees. “Oom Loock” soos Johan wyd bekend staan, is nie ‘n vreemdeling in die Groot Karoo nie. As deel van sy werk by die Departement Geologie van die Vrystaatse Universiteit, het hy heelwat navorsing oor die rotse van die Karoo en die sandsteen laag gedoen.


A paper entitled “Ecotourism in Gamkaskloof” was awarded the Western Province’s only gold medal in the 1999 Young Scientists’ Expo. Written by Henning Burden, of Paul Roos Gymnasium in Paarl, it was hailed as an excellent effort by the judges at the prize giving dinner in Pretoria. The 42-page project covers the geography and history of this fascinating valley from its first inhabitants to the present. Cultural history, religion and education of the people who made up this isolated community are discussed in detail, as well as the architecture of the tiny dwellings and their fittings and furnishings. In the final chapter Henning discusses the eco-tourism potential of the valley, as well as its position in the tourism mix of the Western Cape Province, including its capacity to increase the flow of visitors to the Swartberg.


The plains of the Great Karoo, particularly around Beaufort-West, are covered with a beautiful arid zone plant with tropical connections. It is Karoo Gold, widely known as the “wilde granaatbos”. “This shrub, botanically known as Rhigozum obovatum, blossoms lavishly after rain,” said Dr Sue Milton, a Prince Albert ecologist. “Bright golden-yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers completely cover the stark frame of this shrub, which can easily grow to shoulder height.” Normally, its robust woody stems and small leaves offered meagre pickings for birds and animals, but about ten days after good rains, flowers burst into bloom to the delight of mousebirds, antelope and goats. Blooms that escaped being eaten attracted sunbirds and insects that drank their energy-giving nectar and pollinated them. “Once pollinated, the flowers turn brown, shrivel and within a week are replaced by plump purple and green seed capsules. Most animals still find these palatable, but by the time they have formed the veld is normally so lush with plentiful fodder that the pods can ripen and release hundreds of winged seeds to the wind as the veld dries out. Oddly enough, Karoo Gold, such a glorious sight in the arid Karoo, belongs to the tropical plant family Bignoniaceae. The plants grow best in water-holding pockets among boulders on rocky hills along the dry river beds and along the sides of the highway,” Sue said.


Die bossiewandelpad by die Karoo Nasionale Park is onlangs vir toeriste opgegradeer deur die man wat dit oorspronklik uitgelê het. Sosio-ekoloog Stephanus Jooste sê plantdeskundige, David Shearing, wie hierdie uiters gewilde staproete beplan het kort nadat die park geopen is, het onlangs in Beaufort-Wes besoek afgelê om die roete weereens op datum te bring. ‘Oor die jare het van die naambordjies by die plante verlore geraak, of die plante en struike het so groot geword dat die bordjies onder hulle verdwyn het en nie meer sigbaar was nie. En daar was heelwat interessante spesies wat nog nie naambordjies gehad het nie omdat hulle te klein was toe die eerste roete ontwikkel was. Toeriste, veral oorsese besoekers, vind die plantegroei van die Karoo besonder interessant. Ons is dus bly om weereens te kan aankondig dat die roete in ‘n puik toestand is.”


Some say there’s no witblitz to touch the stuff stoked in the Hell, as Gamkaskloof is known. Others firmly believe the Klaarstroom version will add magic to your dreams. Then, there’s a selection of bottled bliss available at the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert. Here they say you’re guaranteed to find a cure for whatever ails you, or at least an elixir to blitz the pain. Myths and legends of the witblitz of the Swartberg will be aired at a function at the museum on October 30. Andre Gouws, the museum’s own witblitz-maker, will share knowledge on the history and distilling techniques of the local fire-water and some of his special-blend liqueurs. Visitors will be invited to sample the laughing water and other tasty local products, such as fresh and dried fruit, cheese, vegetables, meat and boerewors. “Delicious vegetarian dishes, potjiekos and braaivleis will be on sale at lunchtime,” said museum curator Lydia Barella. “Throughout the day, entertainment will be provided by local artists. There’ll also be a second-hand book stall. And to round off the day we plan an organ recital and performance by two local tenors and our local childrens’s choir.”


Tourism in the Western Cape is under the microscope. Far-reaching changes are being proposed to streamline and strengthen the industry throughout the province. This was recently announced by Mr Hennie Bester, Western Cape Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, when he presented a Green Paper covering a new framework, policies and strategy proposals. He called for comment from all interested parties by November 5, so that a final document could be prepared for implementation next year. Most of the changes were proposed in a report from Strategic Management Committee which the Minister appointed to investigate fragmentation and duplication, as well as discrepancies and loopholes in the Western Cape Tourism Act. A system of licensing and registration for all accommodation vendors was being investigated to ensure uniformity and professionalism. In time, this would be expanded to cover guides, travel agents and tour operators. New plans also included thematic packaging of information and route-based marketing initiatives, as well as tightly-targeted campaigns to promote events, experience, entertainment, exploration and adventure tourism, according to Mr Bester.


Ammunition collector Francois van Niekerk recently gave Beaufort West enthusiasts a revealing glimpse at the weaponry of the Anglo-Boer War. Speaking at the museum, he dealt with the firearms used by the Boers, British armaments and the ammunition used by both sides. “At the turn of the century all South African men between the ages of 16 and 60 were eligible for military service. Every burgher in both the ZAR and the Orange Free State was expected to be ready to go to war at any time. They had thus at all times to keep a serviceable rifle and at least 30 rounds of ammunition ready. They were also expected to have a horse with saddle and bridle at the ready for call-up. This was the basis of the commando system that made the Boers such a highly respected fighting force. When one takes a look at the amount of ammunition needed in this war, it seems enormous, but careful calculations and analysis reveals that both sides had to be careful. Neither could waste ammunition. In fact, there are many stories of one side or the other running out of ammunition in the field.”.


Boereoorlog belangstellendes in die Prins Albert omgewing het onlangs in die spore van Kommandant Gideon Scheepers deur die gebied gery. Om die dag mee te begin het Prof Johan Olivier van Oudtshoorn ‘n video-vertoning aangebied en die oorsake van die oorlog bespreek. Daarna het 30 mense na Steenbokskraal vir tee en verversings by Alba Stegman gery. Besoek is toe afgelê by die ruines op Koppieskraal waar Gideon Scheepers op 11 Oktober l901 gevange geneem is. Van daar het die groep na die Bloedrivier blokhuis gery. Rudyard Kipling se gedig “Bridge Guard in the Karoo” het wêreld bekendheid vir hierdie struktuur versorg. By die blokhuis het bekende Afrikaans sangeres Jacolise Botes, wie die gedig getoonset het, dit vir die mense gesing. “Dit was werklik aangrypend,” sê groepleier Helena Marincowitz, wie opgetree het as gids vir die dag. Daarna het die groep na Antjieskraal gery waar ‘n uitstekende middagete bedien is en waar Jacolese met gitaar begeleiding nog oorlogsliedjies, heelwat waarvan sy self getoonset het, vir die besoekers gesing het. Die kamer waarin Gideon Scheepers aangehou is terwyl hy drie ure moes wag vir ‘n trein na Matjiesfontein, is ook besigtig. Op pad huistoe het die groep ‘n draai in Leeu Gamka gemaak om grafte van Britse soldate te besoek.


Twee amptenare van die Sentrale Karoo Distrikraad is deur die Beaufort-Wes Sakekamer vereer tydens ‘n jaarlikse funksie. Toerisme ko-ordineerder Rose Willis is as kultuurpersoonlikheid van die jaar aangewys en René van Tonder het die toekenning as sekretaresse en telefooniste van die jaar ontvang. Mev van Tonder is die sekretaresse van die hoofuitvoerende beampte en voorsitter van die Distrikraad en een van die vriendelike stemme wat toeriste groet by ontvangs en op die telefoonsentrale. Toeriste wat die Distrikraad bel op soek na inligting is vol lof vir die manier waarop die telefooniste hul navrae hanteer en die moeite wat gedoen word om te verseker dat hulle geholpe is.


Murraysburg’s choice of “Enyati” as a name for its publicity association in the belief that it referred to rhinos has triggered a storm among experts. “It does not make sense,” says Dr Cyril Hromnik, an historian-researcher. “iNyati is a Xhosa (broadly Nguni) word for ‘buffalo’. ‘Enyathi’ actually means ‘at the (place of) the buffalo.’ I am pleased Mr Loock noticed this (Round-Up No 71, August, 1999), and I share his sadness that these good people were taken for a ride. Embarrassing as it must be for the people of Murraysburg to discover too late that the name they chose was picked from the wrong language, it would be incomparably more serious if they are taken for a second ride and accept the false (though I’m sure this was not intended) information that the indigenous people of their town were Khoi-Khoi. Not only would their rhinos be misnamed, but their citizens would be given a false history. The historical indigenous people of the Karoo called themselves ‘Quena’. This name is recorded in Jan van Riebeeck’s Dagregister of January 9, 1653, and again on October 31, 1657. The Quena have a history dating back more than 2000 years, whereas Khoi-Khoi and all its variants never once appears in the records of the old Cape Colony.” Dr Hromnik explains the origins of the term Khoi-Khoi in the next issue. He adds: “Murraysburgers may eventually forgive the Enyathi Committee for saddling their beautiful rhino country with a mistaken name. But they’ll never forgive the Buffalo Committee for giving them a false and non-existent identity. If the committee wants to promote their area as rhino country they should use the Quena name !Naba-ku, or ‘Knaba-ku, which is easier to pronounce.”


An animal lover who has cuddled a lion, hugged a cheetah, snuggled up to a 25-year-old rhino, kissed a giraffe and a warthog, has now paused in the Great Karoo to stroke a crow and bottle-feed a lamb. When at home in Queensland, Australia, Joy Pulsford is a professional animal carer. She specialises in raising and caring for injured and abandoned kangaroos and wallabies at her home in Hervey Bay. “Australia has a wildlife conservation policy which I feel all countries could adopt,” she said. “Anyone finding an injured, stray or abandoned wild animal only has to get it to the nearest police station, hospital or veterinary surgeon. From there it is placed with a carer. We do this work voluntarily, without any reimbursement at all. Our motivation simply is the care and protection of Australian wildlife to so ensure that it is there for future generations to enjoy. Veterinary surgeons across the country offer their services free when attending to these foundlings.” Joy said baby kangaroos were as demanding as small children. They required special formulas every few hours and constant reassurance, love, care and attention. “Humans can’t catch anything from a kangaroo, but they seem to catch everything from us. I once nursed a diabetic kangaroo and struggled unsuccessfully to save one that was brain damaged after being hit by a car. We have a structured repatriation programme to build the animal’s confidence for when it is returned to its natural habitat. A carer friend in Cairns has a property adjoining a national park and many kangaroos are released from there. Believe me, you miss them when they leave.” Joy said South Africa should create more sanctuaries where tourists could pet animals. She felt these would become great attractions.


Die Karoo Nasionale Park is steeds op soek na die geskiedenis van die plase wat onlangs gekoop is om die park te vergroot. “Dis ‘n interessante area met ‘n kleurvolle saga van bannelinge, sendelinge, liefde en leed,” sê Stephanus Jooste, die park se sosio-ekoloog en ko-ordineerder van die projek. “Die verhaal begin in die dae toe die Nuweveldreeks nog as die Boesmanberge bekend was. Dit sluit in bannelinge van die Slagtersnek-rebellie van 1815.” In Slagtersnek en Sy Mense skryf Dr J A Heese: “Die banneling Willem Frederick Krugel en sy skoonseun, Klaas Prinsloo, het hulle in die Nuweveld, destyds nog die distrik Tulbagh, gevestig. Hulle is later gevolg deur ander wat ook in die opstand betrokke was, en wie na die verhoor verby was by landdros Stockenström kom oorgee het. So het Marthinus Christoffel Barnard en Gerrit Pieter Bezuidenhout met hulle gesinne in die distrik, later bekend as Beaufort-Wes, te lande gekom. Die Brits-familie het hulle ook daar gaan vestig. Hulle het die gebied tussen Beaufort-Wes en Rietbron geskies en mettertyd het dit as die ‘Britse gebied’ bekend gestaan.” Ou mense in die area sê die naam was nogal verwarrend tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog. Johan en Lynette Brits bly vandag op die ou Brits familie plaas, Amandelhoogte, wat die kern gevorm het van die Brits-gebied. Dr Heese vertel dat Gerrit Pieter Bezuidenhout in 1837 op sy familieplaas Eilandsfontein in die Nuweveld gebied gesterf het op die ouderdom van 75 jaar. Twee van sy 11 kinders het in Beaufort-Wes in die huwelik getree. Hulle was sy vierde seun Cornelis Johannes, wie in 1824 met Susanna Petronella Viviers getrou het, en sy vyfde dogter, Lea (wie na haar moeder Lea Barnard vernoem is). Sy het in 1826 met Matthys Martinus Bezuidenhout getrou en hulle het ook in die Nuweveld gebied gewoon.


Among the farms recently purchased by Karoo National Park is Morceaux with its stately homestead, once the pride of Charles de Villiers. This homestead, high on a plateau of the Nuweveld mountains, is reached by a winding pass. “This pass was built specially for my grandfather by a Coloured man called Barend Jooste,” said Murray de Villiers who once farmed on La-De-Da. “It took him a year to complete it, after which Barend announced he’d like it to be called Charlie’s Pass in honour of my grandfather. Before he built it you could only reach Morceaux by driving up through a kloof.” Morceaux is a French word meaning “morsels”, Murray said: “My grandfather gave his farm this name because it was made up from bits and pieces of small farms, such as Brandkop, Kruisaar and Damfontein.” Morceaux once had a splendid garden, ruins of a summerhouse, flowerbeds built from Karoo stone and a huge dry swimming pool bear testimony to this. Also, in the garden is a delightful dolls house, built way back for the little girls of the family. Adults have to stoop to enter. As they do so a world filled with children’s laughter seems only a whisper away. This tot-sized cottage, complete with lounge, fireplace, built-in cupboards and bookshelves, has four bedrooms with built-in box-type beds. Long ago the little place probably transported many a little girl to her own private wonderland.