Driving the Karoo

Watching the last rays fall on the vast open landscape of the Karoo.

Watching the last rays fall on the vast open landscape of the Karoo.

What a privilege it is to live in this magnificent world and there is nothing like a long road trip to remind us of this.  Driving, for me, soothes the soul and expands the mind.

This month I had the good fortune to drive with my eldest daughter Ellen from Durban on the east coast of Africa to Cape Town on the west coast.  The drive is long. Very very long.  1635km to be exact.  We decided to do it in two 11 hour stretches and stop overnight in a small town (it can barely be called a town) called Colesberg which is somewhere in the middle of a mind blowingly vast and hauntingly beautiful Karoo.

We set off the first morning at 5am and felt the warmth of the sun rise as we headed west with George Ezra’s ‘Budapest’ playing loudly on the radio.   Taking turns with the driving, swapping every three hours, we stopped at every available stop for fuel, coffee, bathrooms and a dash of fresh air.

There is something so magical about road tripping. To steal the words from a text message I had sent to a friend on the trip  ‘Miles and miles of conversations, thoughts, sweet silences and a world so beautiful it takes your breath away.  It is an exquisite reminder of possibilities’.

The rolling green of the Natal hills turn quickly into the vast open dry landscape of the Free State.  Barren in it’s beauty, but beautiful nonetheless.  Endearing towns with quaint churches and golden fields of swaying grasses littered with wild flowers, it’s very openness encourages deep breathing and equally deep thoughts.

By far the majority of the drive is through the Karoo.  One simply cannot express the incredible size of this landscape except to say that probably around 18 hours of a 22 hour trip are on a mind boggingly straight road with nothing but dry, flat desert in every direction.

We made it to our overnight stop at around 4pm.  Time to roll out the yoga mat and stretch out those cramped limbs in the last of the afternoon sunlight.  It is easy to forget how very cold it can get in the desert in winter and as the sun set I took a walk around the charming but stark place we had chosen to rest for the night.   An icy wind blew at me but I stood my ground, determined to take a few shots of this amazing landscape as the day turned its back on us.

A hot shower, a warm fire followed by an exceptional dinner of roast lamb and finally a delightfully reassuring heated bed ensured we were well rested for day 2.

Another 5am start.  This one slightly delayed upon finding the car covered in ice.  One does not associate ice and snow with Africa but let me reassure you that the Karoo is cold at this time of year!  Half an hour later and the car finally warmed up and defrosted to the point of being able to see we head out onto that long straight road we had parted ways with just hours before.

There are very few petrol or coffee stops in the Karoo and it was two hours before we found our first cup of coffee. Two hours that had passed mainly in silence with the sun taking it’s time to greet us. A grateful stop for petrol and warm drinks and a driver swap and we set off for many more hours of tarmac, vast open landscapes and easy music for company.

About 2 hours outside of Cape Town we spot the first signs of mountains with snow covered peaks and lush green valleys. A welcome sight for any weary traveller.  A couple of hours of some of the most breathtaking scenery on this sweet earth and one arrives in what can only be described as the most beautiful city in the world.  Cape Town.

This is a trip I would do again in a heartbeat.

 

 

 

 

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1 Response to “Driving the Karoo”


  1. 1 Lisa Wilson 13/09/2014 at 10:01 am

    Sounds like an incredible road trip and it must have been lovely to have special time with Ellen during that time. I cannot wait to see more photos. I also really want to do the drive but leaving it for a few years 😉


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