The Karoo – Ode to joy

Discovering this idyllic place, we find ourselves filled with a yearning to linger …Where time stands still and beauty overwhelms…the stillness touchable… That my fellow traveller is The Karoo.

There is something in the Karoo that stops you in your tracks once you allow yourself to linger and open yourself up to the new experience. Whether you find it barren, harsh and desolate or whether you find it beautiful and serene, you will never leave the Karoo with your soul or whole being untouched. The Karoo yearns to share its secrets with you so stop over and take note, do not just drive through on the N1, you will be missing out on so much, please turn off and explore all the little towns and the interesting people. The Karoo is like no other place on earth. The overwhelming emotion of just being able to “Be” is paramount while you are fully accepted for who you are without reserve. Travelling through the Karoo you will encounter many interesting small towns, but It is only when you stop to take an interest, go for a walk and chat to a friendly local that you will really discover the uniqueness of this vast area relatively untouched by the stresses of the cities and larger towns, here the hospitality of the people are genuine, warm and caring.

I started my journey literally with stars in my eyes, or shall I say the vision to see the cosmic beauty of the skies at the “Gateway to the universe” as Sutherland is known. Astronomy has fascinated people for as long as there have been civilizations. Sutherland became the home of South Africa’s largest telescope “SALT” for short. I learned that Astronomy was used not only used as a mode to navigate, but the Astronomer’s in ancient Babylon used the stars to tell the time and pinpoint dates. The Egyptians took this one step further and devised the first solar calendar which fixed the length of the year with 365 days. It was with this knowledge that I was extremely fortunate to be invited to join a group from a bus tour visiting Sutherland that very evening for a journey of exploration to the stars. I accepted with grace and apart from freezing my butt off, it really was the most incredible experience being able to see the cosmic galaxy so clearly, and to be informed about the stars and the Milky Way so thoroughly and with dry humour by Jurgens Wagener, one of the local residents and tour guide to the stars. We were able to see the stars through incredibly strong telescopes very clearly because the air in Sutherland is very pure and unpolluted. To me this was a very humbling experience, as I realized that I am but a mere cosmic spot in the whole of our awesome creation. My only regret being that I missed the donkey rides and the ghost trial, which I believe is great fun however is part of the pre arranged tours on offer in Sutherland.
The following day took me to Fraserburg with the most interesting Sandstone architecture and one of the three places you are able to see authentic Corbelled dwellings. These unusual dwellings which date from as early as 1870 had its origin in France. However, it is only seen in the three towns namely Fraserburg, Williston and Carnarvon. The building stones were cemented together and plastered through a mixture of clay and husks, which after great rains had to be redone again, as it simply rained off the buildings. The Corbelled homes were very popular as it was warm in winter and very cool in the heat of summer, with the added bonus of a rifle being able to protrude and so great aim could be taken in shooting cattle thieves.

Another rarity in Fraserburg district is the Paleontology sight of the dinosaur footprints, for those of you who have ever doubted the reality of Dinosaurs, be assured they existed. Footprints show that they did indeed exist and the fossil remains found in Williston are the seal upon the reality. These may be seen through pre-arranged tours. Williston and Fraserburg also have interesting grave sites dating from the 1800’s and you could visit the graves of the people who died from the flu pandemic in the 1800’s and some headstones were carved by hand out of Sandstone, which were readily available in the area. On some headstones, richly decorated through carvings in the sandstone, you could see the time, care and respect which must have gone into the making of the headstone. The symbols of the person’s life will often depict an upright tree followed by a fallen tree, symbolizing his death. However, this by no means is macabre as there is great respect bestowed on those who have left us to travel the plains of the Karoo, unhindered and free. It reminds me of a short poem I once read, and with that, I leave you to follow on roads less travelled.

The rising sun… blesses my mind with joy. The setting sun …blesses my heart with peace! ~Sri Chinmoy


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