The Karoo

The Karoo is an extensive area of semi desert in South Africa and was where we were headed after the wine and fruit growing region of our first few days. Think big skies, and scrubby vegetation. Much of it is featureless but fortunately for us we skirted the edges of the Karoo in cooee of the dramatic Cape Fold Mountain ranges. We started on the Klein (little) Karoo landscape before stepping up to the Groot (great) Karoo.

From Montagu we climbed up the first of three stages to increasingly higher plateaus. We traversed the Aynesburg scenic reserve camping for our first time this trip at the Park campground complete with hot showers and  kitchen facilities. We saw our first pack of baboons, luckily not habituated to people so they scarpered away with amazing agility up the rocky landscape with the large male keeping an eye on us at the back of the pack. A confrontation with a baboon is one of our biggest worries.

To date we have been staying in private accommodation sourced from AirBnB, booking.com or in one case rocking up to the property that we found on Google. In this area endless fences border the roads so there is little scope for wild camping. Like NZ many farms offer accommodation in the form of cottages or camping.

From the town of Ladismith we followed the incredible Seweweekspoort canyon that took us through the Swartburg Range and up to 1000m and the start of the Groot Karoo. The scale of this ancient and folded landscape is blowing us away, and, the open topped trucks full of ostriches coming down the canyon (heading to market?) made us laugh.

We camped on a private property – showers again but time to break out the (luckily not confiscated by airline) trangia cooker for our old staple of pasta, fish, tomato paste and mayo. We are trangia pros getting 2 brews and a soup each as well as dinner out of one small trangia container of meths. The standard fare for camping here is a braii (equivalent of bbq) but we are not packing meat and firewood on our bikes!

Temperatures presently in the Karoo are cool in the evenings and have been warm during the day. The temps can fall well below zero in winter and reach the 40’s in summer. Tonight we are staying in the Grand Hotel in Laingsburg before we head up to the Sutherland Plateau at 1500m over 2 days. The town of Sutherland has the reputation of being South Africa’s coldest town recording -15 in winter.