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The Karoo And It’s Beauty

September 23rd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

karooGrowing up there was never really any money for holidays. My mother was a shop assistant and my father worked for a building contractor. There was no such thing as Christmas bonuses or 13th cheques, so I can, honestly, never remember us going away somewhere on our own steam. I had a (reasonably successful, unmarried) uncle who tended to drag us along whenever he felt the urge to go anywhere and any holiday memories I have, are thanks to him.

We often hopped into his car and drove into the Garden Route, stopping at Tsitsikamma or Storms River for the day, a hastily packed picnic in the boot. Or we would simply pack up and drive to visit family in Cape Town over the weekend – my uncle believed in spur of the moment adventures.

Over Christmas times we would often all pile into his car and hit the long road to Upington (from Port Elizabeth). Have you ever followed the road north to Upington? It snakes out in front of you like a shiny gray ribbon, while the heat conjures up ocean mirages in the distance. If you ignore the small bushes and grass, you could imagine that you are driving through the red hills of Mars. The Orange River snakes through the red sand like a green artery, bringing magnificent colour into a world that could otherwise fool you into thinking it is dead. When the sun sets over the Karoo, it turns the clouds into orange islands in a pink sea. If you are lucky you might see a shooting star as it arcs across the diamond encrusted sky of the Northern Cape. If you are not-so-lucky you might have to stop suddenly for a kudu, as big as a house, as it leaps the fence at the side of the road and then walks past your car, while curiously inspecting the people inside. Sometimes we pulled off to the side of the road and tried to sleep under a sky so filled with stars that its brightness kept us awake.

I think that the fun of a holiday, for me, was always the trip there, never the destination itself.

Once in Upington we would complain about the heat, our toes being baked in our black patent leather shoes, but taking off your shoes was not an option either, as you then had to contend with the hot earth underfoot and the scorching sun on your toes. I would seek the cool shelter of the grape vine in the backyard, with beds placed under it. I would happily munch grapes the whole day, pretending to be alone in the world, until one of my cousins would grab me by the hand and we would go for a walk down to the Orange River. The walk lead through green cotton fields, across a small bridge and a copse of Weeping Willows and once we got there I would always be afraid of the river, rushing past in a deluge of muddy brown water.

Perhaps my favourite place in the world was Augrabies National park. I remember the thunder of the water and the spray on my face. I remember the little multi-coloured lizards that ran up and down the gorge walls like acrobats. I remember the Moon Rock and wanting to run up it with the bigger children, but my mother, ever aware of my accident prone self, would keep a firm hold on my hand and I could only watch. I remember crossing the swaying bridge over a gorge to the rhino enclosure, where nobody was allowed to enter. And I remember Echo corner, where you could hear yourself replying ‘hello!’ a million times over.

I do not have the traditional holiday memories. There are very few ‘us at the beach’ photos, but I do not really mind that. While writing this I have come to realise that these are the memories I cherish.

The Karoo and its beauty.

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  1. avatar
    September 23rd, 2009 at 10:50 | #1

    What a great article, Diva. You actually had me drifting off into visions of the Karoo at sunset…feel a bit homesick now. Your article reminded that the beauty of South Africa is one of the things that makes it worth fighting for.

    Good job.

  2. September 23rd, 2009 at 13:57 | #2

    Thank you Michelle 🙂 While writing this I was overcome with nostalgia. I have to go back soon!

  3. September 23rd, 2009 at 17:07 | #3

    I only visited the Karoo for the first time in May. Actually, I only DROVE through the Karoo… I’ve always flown over on my way to the Mother City.

    It was totally worth it. Some of the most breath-taking countryside I’ve ever seen!

    .-= Good Charlie´s last blog ..Dear Comrade Secretary General… =-.

  4. September 23rd, 2009 at 17:43 | #4

    I used to love driving through the Karoo on the way to Cape Town, it’s on of my favourite drives – even though the straight roads can get tiring, the scenery is so unique to SA
    .-= Alex´s last blog ..Old Takkies =-.

  5. avatar
    September 23rd, 2009 at 20:57 | #5

    What a lovely story. Diva, you make me want to go on a long drive to Upington. It is a part of the country I have never been to and now I am curious to visit it.

  6. September 28th, 2009 at 08:01 | #6

    Charlie – glad to hear it 🙂 Nobody should ever stay in/visit in SA without at least a small trip into the Karoo.
    Alex – agreed – the straight roads are killer. When you can see it stretching off into the distance like a straight line and you are tired and just want to reach your destination, that line – EISH!
    Ann – Thanx! You should! It is well worth it.

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