Karoo Roadtripping – Heading out east

From Cape Town, the N1 stretches out after Touws River into dry scrub. Trucks ply the routes and the small towns are not quaint – Merweville features little more than a bottle store and a railway siding.

The land is harsh, sheep dot the veld and houses stand resolutely alone among windmills and gum trees. But as we near the Eastern Cape the landscape subtly shifts, and low-lying hills rise out of the arid flatness.

In Graaf Reinet, the “Moeder Kerk” gathers the town around her, and shuttered homes open directly off their “voorstoeps” onto ordered streets.

A leather-clad couple, long black hair flying, race down the astonished roads, their acid-yellow rocket burning up the tar. A bike rally has shut down the town and car boots open around beers, as bikers hum and strut around their machines.

The quiet plains of Camdeboo beckon as we leave town, heading towards Craddock.

Our first stopover is a 15 000 hectare farm, called Gordonville, which is part of a larger conservancy project dedicated to preserving the ecology and natural heritage of the Karoo.

We turn off the tar onto a rutted dirt track that criss-crosses  a railway line and leads us up into the shadows of the Sneeuberg. Our cellphone signal fades and drops and suddenly the landscape feels vast.

The land is abundant with wildlife; Mountain zebra, kudu, springbok and gemsbok graze in the late afternoon and our intrusion flushes out grouse and the occasional mongoose.

As the mountains stretch out onto timeless plains, we know we have arrived.

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