Travel

Dalliances with en-route phenomena

Brrrrr. I’m overnighting in the desert. Well… a town whose geographical location is in the Karoo. Which I’m sure is classified as such.

The Karoo is a semi-desert natural region of South Africa. No exact definition of what constitutes the Karoo is available, so its extent is also not precisely defined. The Karoo is partly defined by its topography, geology and climate, and above all, its low rainfall, arid air, cloudless skies, and extremes of heat and cold

Oh, color me corrected. Semi-desert. So… whatever that means.

The AirBnb has electric blankets though. For those (like me) with a delicate constitution. I’m also sleeping with a beanie due to the unfollicled nature of my cranium. I figure I have enough brain damage, need to keep the frost off what I’ve got left, lest this blog devolve even further than it already has.


I drove down from Jo’burg to Cape Town with, rather enthusiastically on my part, a 4 meter, double axled two tonne trailer. It took about 17 hours to complete the 1417km sojourn to our new domicile. Mostly this stems from the paranoia I have of the moving peeps touching my stuff. Well my workshop machinery, my comic books and my ‘art’. And so I took it upon myself to translocate these items on my own-some. Which turned out to be quite a commitment. You can’t barrel down the highway at a DeLorean pace towing a two tonne trailer… so I had to adopt a more… American style speed limit… ha ha… which feels glacial. (I don’t know how you guys survive)

Anyways, the semi-desert is cold tonight.

Normally if I’m driving to the fairest Cape I don’t muck about. Its a blinkered drive from A to B, no time for detours or dalliances with en-route phenomena. But for my drive back, I was feeling tired and so uncharacteristically I decided to break my journey into two parts, the first, eight hundred and something kilometers. And then the remaining six hundred tomorrow.

With time to burn I decided to take my DSLR and took some pictures as I went, pictures I will now inflict upon the world.

This is close to where we are going to live. Its called the Overberg. A berg being a mountain, it is imaginatively named such because from Cape Town (at least) it lies over the Holland-Hottentots Mountains, east of the original colony.

The Overberg has very different climate from the rest of South Africa and has a deeply agricultural and viticultural bearing. Its full of valleys and mountains and is topographically quite interesting.

I always drive past Majtiesfontein… which is sad because its actually quite quaint (by South African standards). This is the Lord Milner, a hotel that was built here in the late 1800s. It is quite literally in the middle of nowhere but became known as a spa and resort town for people with… tuberculous and other ‘bad air’ conditions that the desert climate could expunge.

The ‘town’ post office. Important in its day. Obviously less so now. COVID has shuttered the place and there wasn’t anyone about. Which was eerie. But also quite nice.

The ‘classic’ fuel pumps. Although I imagine these were added much later. Go well, go Shell.

Most people arrived by train. 195 miles to Cape Town. This train line stretched from Cape Town to the Diamond fields in Kimberly. And then later to the Gold Fields in Johannesburg. It became a critical piece of infrastructure during the second Anglo-Boer war circa 1900.

This is one of the (many) Blockhouses the British built during the war to protect the railway line. This one is just outside of Lainsburg. The British needed to transport troops up from the Cape to Fight the Boers in the Orange Free State and in the Transvaal. The Boers tried to infiltrate the Cape Colony to blow up the bridges… the Blockhouses (along with masses of barbwire) turned out to be really good at discouraging the destruction of the these traverses by the lightly armed Boer Commandos.

I am a massive train and history dork. So I decided to try find some of the other Blockhouses along the way.

I love this spooky abandoned farmhouse outside Leeu-Gamka. I think anyone who has driven to Cape Town knows this one because its quite close to the main Road. Not somewhere I’d spend the night.

Personally I would classify Leeu-Gamka as a ghost town. But there are still people living there. Weathered looking old ladies that stare at you from behind their net curtains… while their inbred sons howl and smash against their chains in the basement. I’m assuming of course. I’m sure they’re lovely, but would likely not take them up on an offer of tea and biscuits.

… my second Blockhouse find of the day. This one’s roof has fallen in, and there’s an acacia tree growing up through the middle.

The jaw bone of some unfortunate creature lay nearby.

I briefly thought about stopping here for something to eat. It looked… interesting, but by this stage I had Blockhouses to track down and photograph.

This one is outside the metropolis of Beaufort West, the self proclaimed capital of the Karoo. Its known for its Merino Sheep. And lack of water.

Last one. I promise. This one is slightly off the beaten track near Three Sisters.

Anyways I’m sleepy now so perhaps consider yourself spared. If you’ve made it this far I mean. Tomorrow I will be feeling less travel blogger-ish and resume my regular programming. Which is mostly whining about how hard my life is. And… eh… actually that’s more or less it.

Hope you’re fine. And dandy. Eating candy.

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