Travel in the Karoo

Travelling in the 1700s: Carl Peter Thurnberg and Francois Masson

Adventurous men were drawn to the vast South African interior, but they soon discovered exploring was not easy. Water was the limiting factor and so the map became littered with names indicative of the drought and hardships of travelling. Towards the Sandveld (itself an unfriendly name) lay Knersvlakte (gnashing of teeth) then there was the […]

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Travelling through heat, cold and dust

The Karoo was in the grips of a terrible drought in the November, 1903, when T Silver attempted to drive through the area. This decision cost him dearly.  He tells of his experiences in The Veld and African Pictorial, of November, 1903. “The sun-baked Karoo lay before me, an illimitable panorama of rocky boulders, stunted […]

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Travelling through the Karoo in the 1940s

A South African policeman escorting refugees discovered there was much more to the Karoo than he’d been led to believe. During WWI, after the German forces were beaten in South West Africa, Sam Cowley was detailed to take some German refugees from Roberts Heights (Voortrekkerhoogte), outside Pretoria, to Cape Town, so that they could return […]

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Travelling through the Karoo: The diamond rush of 1871

The description by Boyes, travelling through the Karoo to the diamond fields in 1871:   The “coach”, a huge wagon, was drawn by eight horses, had three wooden benches under an awning. It could seat nine passengers and two more could “perched” at the back with the guard.  There was little room for luggage, so […]

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William Gill of Somerset East: Doctor and botanist

Way back in the mid-1700s, a medical doctor, William Gill, came to practice in Somerset East; he turned his attention to botany and in time a major Eastern Cape college was established in that town and named Gill College in his honour. © Rose’s Roundup, April 2012. To subscribe to Rose’s Roundup, contact Rose Willis […]

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William Shaw and the ox-wagon

Many early writers describe ox wagon travel as tranquil, but Wesleyan missionary, William Shaw, did not find it so. He found it noisy, but amusing. Extracts from his letters and journals in Never a Young Man, compiled by Celia Sadler, state: “The African wagons, covered with white sail-cloth tilts, were each drawn by 12 or 14 […]

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