What is this Karoo? Where is it? Is Sutherland in the Karoo? What’s Going on Here? Someone Help!
The first thing to fathom is where and what exactly the Karoo is. After that we’ll try to explain why people fall in love with it, as they always seem to do.
Just to be clear, you’ll probably fall for its magic too.
Right, Here Goes, Definition of the Karoo
The Karoo is a huge semi-desert in the middle of South Africa. It’s made up of five regions: the Little Karoo, Tanqua Karoo, Moordenaars Karoo, Upper Karoo and Great Karoo. The boundaries are marked by subtle changes in vegetation.
In the south, the Southern Cape Fold Mountain Belt divides the Karoo from the wetter Cape region. To the west, the frontier is the Cederberg mountain range. To the east and north-east, the lines are drawn by the rolling grasslands of the Free State. And in the north, which is where you find Sutherland, the Karoo eventually gives way to kokerboom (quiver tree) country.
The word Karoo derives from the language of an aboriginal people called the Khoi and broadly translates as “hard, dry, thirstland”. What this blunt rendition fails to convey is the special place the Karoo holds in the hearts of those who perceive beauty in its endless, sun-drenched spaces and flat-topped koppies (hills). They sense it in the evocative clunk of windmills urging sweet, untainted water from underground boreholes, and in isolated farmsteads where hospitality to travellers is a deeply rooted way of life.
Vast, remote, open spaces, silence, serenity and dramatic landforms combine with an extreme climate and unique vegetation to make up the alchemy called Karoo magic. That’s what visitors fall in love with.