In order for us to experience a bit more of the diversity of South Africa, my coordinator took us on a 5 day trip to the Karoo, a semi-desert located in the South-Western parts of South Africa.
We spent the first day in Montagu – more accurately in a resort with warm waterfalls flowing from the mountains. We slept over on a remote farm, in a beautiful house. Outside all the windows were roses growing, while beyond the stark desert contrasted sharply.
On the second day we went to Matjiesfontein, a tiny village in the Karoo with nice architecture, that used to be a stopover for trains heading to Cape Town from Gauteng. Olive Schreiner, a well-known writer, used to live here and she wrote: “It is curious, and to me very attractive this mixture of civilization & the most wild untamed freedom; the barren mountains & wild Karroo & the railway train.” (March 25th, 1890) Nowadays the whole town is a museum that can be visited to admire the preserved buildings of the Victorian era.
The days that followed we were sinking into the Great Karoo. When looking through the car window, we could see a unreal combination of orange-red sand with green plants growing up on it, and flat plains around us but high mountains and hills in the background. It created a very special vibe as a result.
We spent the last 2 days in Anysberg National Park, an amazing nature reserve that showed the Karoo desert at its peak. Here we could go walking, cycling and horse-riding and we were lucky to spot some wild animals such as gemsbok and baboons. We could also safely swim in the dam – and spend one evening admiring the stars from the swimming pool deck, as there is no light pollution here.
On the whole this trip was one of the most exotic I had in South Africa by far, and the weird impression of being isolated in the desert turned out to work reversely when we came back in town – we were suddenly overwhelmed by how many people were around us. I definitely would like to go back to the Karoo.