Landscapes and nature

The Karoo as experienced by a British soldier, 1901

The environment near Richmond, Karoo, as experienced by the British forces in 1901: “It was a typical South African nek [mountain pass]. An execrable path winding over the saddle of a low range of tumbled ironstone. Just one of those ranges which force themselves with sheer effrontery out from the level of the plain. Loose […]

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The locust scourge

Many early writers describe great swarms in Karoo “as a blanket drawn up over the sun.” Remembering his teenage years, José Burman wrote that on a clear day it seemed as if the sun had suddenly gone out. Myriads of insects covered the land as far as the eye could see. Flying swarms took up […]

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The Prince of Wales in the Karoo, 1926

The magnificence and beauty of the Karoo were not lost on those who travelled through the region with the Prince of Whales. Ward Price’s account of the journey, published as Through Africa with the Prince of Wales, says the barren interior plateau of the Cape looks harsh and dried up. “Trees are rare. Everywhere grows […]

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The wild history of the Koup and the Nuweveld

The Koup region of the Karoo takes its name from the Khoi word “ghoup,” which means “caul fat.” This is the stringy, lacy fat found around organs such as the stomach of sheep or game. It is widely used throughout the Karoo for wrapping pieces of liver, sometimes with interesting fillings, for roasting on a […]

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To the top of Compassberg

In 1840, an Indian Army Officer left his mark at the top of Compassberg, a mountain on the outskirts of Nieu-Bethesda. Major Walter Stanhope Sherwill was on long leave from Bengal and decided to visit South Africa. He initially sailed to Cape Town, where he explored for a while and then continued on to Port […]

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Tracking hares in the Karoo

William Burchell mentioned that the Karoo “plains abounded with hares.” This observation was made at Dwaalpoort, near the Sak River, 35km east of Fraserburg, on August 30, 1811. Generally, however, few people mention these creatures, states CJ Skead in Historical Mammal Incidence in the Cape Province, yet they must have been plentiful on the dry […]

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William Burchell: Crops and spekboom in the Graaff-Reinet valley

William Burchell found “an abundance of verdure” when he traveled into the interior in 1812. On the way to Graaff-Reinet he found the road very steep, and in some places broken and dangerous. He saw trees of a larger size than he had seen before, he said. “The deep glens and bold sides of the […]

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