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Discover the magic of the Central Karoo

The Central Karoo is the warm, welcoming heart of South Africa. The friendliness of this region is built on the hospitality of the residents of nine towns and villages, (listed below in alphabetical order). They have a great similarity, yet each is individualistically different. In each the magic of the Great Karoo is always only a breath away, but it will reveal itself only to those who set out to discover it.

While the sizes of these villages differs, and each has its own range of attractions, the welcome is always the same.

Beaufort West
The story of time can be traced in Beaufort West, the major town of the region. Here history stretches back across 300 million years to a time when the earth was young and the Great Karoo was a vast primeval swamp. Those who have time to tarry can study the transition from the Big Bang to the present at the Information Centre at the Karoo National Park, one of South Africa's prime game viewing parks only 5km from town.
Travellers rushing towards Meiringspoort mostly miss Klaarstroom and that's a real pity because its one winding untarred road ushers visitors into yesteryear. This hamlet, steeped in stories, has been the keeper of many secrets since farmers, attracted by the abundant, clear mountain streams, first settled here in 1777. They called it De Claare Stroom. Farms were snapped up, magnificent houses built, and vineyards planted. The vines produced such superior grapes that the area was called Constantia. But, the farmers didn't make wine, they made (and still make) "moonshine". Today it's called "witblitz", it's legally distilled and some say "it kicks like a mule".
Laingsburg flourished and faded within a century. This is one of the horror stories of the Great Karoo. The rains came late in January, 1981, and it poured without ceasing until this peaceful little town, established in April, 1880, was virtually washed away in a devastating flood on January 25. This traumatic event cost 104 villagers their lives and left only 21 houses standing. Visitors today gasp when they see the highwater mark half way up the lamp post outside the Dutch Reformed Church. Laingsburgers, however, were strong people, made of stern stuff. They would not be moved from their homes and roots, so they rebuilt today's modern, friendly village at exactly the same spot. Over 10 years later in a lesser flood returned a British soldier's gravestone, and it was replaced on his grave.
Leeu Gamka

Lions gave this settlement its name. The names of both little rivers which meet at this spot mean lion – they are the mighty Gamka (a Khoisan word) and its tributary, the Leeu (lion in Afrikans). From the outset this spot has been linked to travellers of the north south route. It was the only place along the wagon route in this area where fresh, drinkable water could be found. Travellers of the day, however, always warned of the dangers of lions. Many are the tales of predator attacks near the fresh water pools. The last Cape lion, now an extinct species, was shot at Leeu Gamka.

Ghosts, a British general, bagpipes, veteran cars and an old London bus all go to make Matjiesfontein a corner of Scotland and the last outpost of the British Empire. Initially this intriguing little village was started in 1884 by an enterprising Scotsman, James Douglas Logan, who became known as the Laird of Matjesfontein. (the "i" was only added to the name after World War II). The name comes from long reeds called matjesgoed, that grow in the nearby Baviaans River and from which the locals used to make mats.

An “Englishman’s Grave” brings people to Merweville. And, yet, even this important milestone of history is not right. The man, Lieut Walter Olifant Arnot, actually was an Australian who came to South Africa to fight with the British forces during the Anglo-Boer War. Once here he found circumstances quite different to what he had been led to believe. The Boers were not the hostile savages of whom he had been told. He developed a sympathy for them and in a fit of deepest depression died by his own hand on April 16, 1902. By then, the war was officially over. Saddened by his grief the people of Merweville vowed to look after his grave forever and they do.

A search for oil on land focussed attention on Murraysburg in 1966. This was the first area in which Soekor (Southern Oil Explortion Corporation) began to drill on a bitterly cold and blustery day in June. A giant rig was activated on Kareebosch, 40km from the town and on that day and while temperatures plummeted, hopes were high. Yet, in time, like all subsequent on land holes, this turned out to be a fruitless exercise.
At first glance Nelspoort would seem to be deserted. No more than a police charge office, a school and a few disused buildings – but this is not the true picture. Many mysteries like whispers of long forgotten dreams lurk in the shadows just waiting to woken and secrets, like wisps of early morning mist, shelter in the shade of the veld.
Prince Albert

Wine, olives, figs, good food and an undying interest in cultural history have put Prince Albert on the map. This beautiful little town is different from others in the Central Karoo, but it offers the same warm welcome. Prince Albert has its own style, starting from a unique gable designed for his beloved daughter by Carel Lotz to the sophistication with which it handles its annual Olive Festival. The town’s love for tourists dates right back to its founding father Zacharias de Beer, who in 1762 established the farm Queekvallei at this spot. Here he and his lovely wife, Dina, and their several children entertained all who plied he wagon route. This happy family so impressed many of the travellers that they wrote of the food, welcome and hospitality at Queekvallei.