My love for the Tankwa Karoo first blossomed 19 years ago when I accompanied Oom Sarel’s two shepherds, Jan Baadjies and Flip Mysner, on their yearly sheep trek.
We walked for some nine days from Visgat in the Witzenberg Vallei, over the Skurweberg, and down to Dadelboom, their winter grazing farm in the Tankwa Karoo. It was one of the highlights of my life. This annual trek had continued for generations. Sadly, today, it is no more: the farmers now use trucks to transport their sheep.
But this wide stretch of earth, starting in Ceres in the south and ending in Calvinia in the north, had me firmly in its clutches. The Tankwa Karoo is a large basin surrounded by mountains − in the west, the rocky, sandstone sculptured Cederberg mountain range; to the west, the Roggeveld Escarpment; and, in the south, the Klein Roggeveld Mountains.
It was the middle of winter, but I had a brand new Toyota Hilux Raider and a Jurgens XT140 trailer rolling behind.
When I stopped next to the old thatched buildings at Karoopoort, some 42 kilometres from Ceres where the tar R46 ends and the infamous and lonely gavel R355 begins, I wondered what lay in store for me in the Tankwa Karoo.