Karoo towns

A Narrow Passage And A Name Forever – 1884

When the railway line from the Karoo to Port Elizabeth was constructed in 1884, it had to pass through a very narrow pass between the Kikvorsberg and the Agter-Rhenosterberg mountains. The local Dutch-speaking community referred to this as “naauw poort” (the narrow pass). A village was established in 1894 in this strange little triangle of […]

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Cricket in Graaff-Reinet, 1854

The Graaff-Reinet Herald of Wenesday, July 19, 1854, stated:  “What with Dissolving Views, the Races and now two Cricket Clubs, we are going ahead surprisingly well.  To be sure there is very little business doing right now and this melancholy fact doubtless accounts for a loss of gaiety.  But, be that as it may, we […]

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Darlington: A Damn Fine Story

Small places are often guardians of wonderful tales. Darlington, a tiny hamlet, which ended in a dam, is a case in point. It was officially founded in 1905 by a hawker and Eastern Cape farmer, P.W.F. Weyers, who harboured a life-long grudge against the Boers because they shot and killed two of his cows on […]

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David Rawdon, who saved Matjiesfontein

An icon of the Karoo has passed on, but his dreams will never die.  David Duncan Rawdon, the man, who loved life, enjoyed Spanish champagne and a good brandy will forever be remembered at his beloved Matjiesfontein.  He re-created this village 40 years ago and turned it into the tourist spot that its original owner […]

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History Preserved In Stone: Nieuwoudt since 1742

Nieuwoudtville lies on the Bokkeveld escarpment between Knersvlakte and the Hantam. The town’s story can be traced back to 1700 and the lovely loan farm, Groenrivier, which was granted to Michiel Heyns. A widow, Keesje Heufke, took the farm over from him in 1731, and Lieutenant Nicolaas Laubscher later lived on it 1742 to 1783. […]

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Horses In Demand in Kimberley

Horse racing became an extremely popular sport among diggers at the diamond fields in the 1870s. The first race at the fields was run at Pniel in January, 1871, and it was such a success that a group of sporting diggers banded together to form the Diamond Fields Turf Club, writes Brian Roberts in Kimberley, […]

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Illness, sanitation and fashion in Colesberg in the mid-1850s

The immense heat of Karoo droughts brought problems for humans as well as animals. Thelma Gutsche writes, in The Microcosm, that the great heat of 1852 was accompanied by locusts and typhus fever. This affected the entire Colesberg district and absorbed all of the energies of the local medic, Dr Orpen. All races suffered and […]

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Nieu-Bethesda: Owls, Pilgrims and explorers

The attractive little town of Nieu-Bethesda, established in 1875, lies in the southern foothills of the Sneeuberg. Over it towers Compassberg, which at 2 502m is the highest peak of the range. This mountain was named by Governor Joachim van Plettenberg and Colonel Jacob Gordon in 1778 because from its summit they could “encompass a […]

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Olive Schreiner’s exhilaration in Matjiesfontein

Olive Schreiner loved the Karoo. On March 25, 1890, she wrote to Havelock Ellis saying she was going to put on her hat and “go out for a walk over the Karoo, where such a sense of exhilaration and freedom comes over me.” At the time she was living at Matjiesfontein, where she had “a […]

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The beauty of Graaff-Reinet

Bishop Griffiths found Graaff-Reinet a beautiful town with neat houses, all white-washed and thatched. “They are seldom more than one storey. The streets are planted at each side with lemon and orange trees. Water for irrigation purposes is conveyed to these by cart.  The whole town is surrounded by mountains. It is quite an oasis […]

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