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 a little grey green shrub called “Karoo Bush” which strikes its roots many feet into the ground till it reaches moisture. The leaves above ground become shriveled to the apparent lifelessness of dried seaweed by the sun in summer. Millions of sheep (the Union of South Africa apparently has 34 million) get enough nourishment from grazing on Karoo bushes. These keep them going through the longest summer. Spring rains can transform the Karoo into a gigantic wild flower bed of red and yellow, green and blue flora. In a brief space, the desert blooms with colour, freshness and delight; then the relentless African sun parches it all bone-dry again for another year. The best thing about the Great Karoo is its sunsets. Directly the sun sinks behind the sharp outline of the naked ironstone kopjes the white, blank wilderness becomes transfigured with rosy light. As the first glow fades strange orange colours spread themselves in sweeping strokes across the sky – all hues of fiery orange, green, purple, lavender and bronze. For a few moments the whole horizon is aflame in a weird pageant of rich half tones; then suddenly the life dies out of it and the night drops down to complete the desolation of the desert”

© Rose’s ROUND-UP

Vol 2 No 12 – September 2004