The San called the Great Karoo the “Land of the Great Thirst”, which would have been ironic 280 million years ago when the land was a vast swamp. Today, it can only be described as an arid land and its attraction lies in its expanse of blue, open skies and far-reaching landscape of plains and hills where one is tempted to draw one deep breath after another and twirl like a child in ever larger circles because you will not bump into anything.
The rain, on those few occasions when it does fall, comes down in torrents, eroding the dry river-beds. Familiar sights in the Karoo are wind-pumps, which use the energy of the wind to continuously pump water from deep boreholes to fill livestock troughs, and the flocks of sheep grazing on the scattered shrubs. The many prehistoric fossils found here reveal the region’s prehistoric nature and have attracted international attention.
The dry and arid plains were once a refuge for runaway slaves, smugglers and the banished. Some of the hills were known as Murderer’s Karoo, as many murderers and robbers escaped into the vast and desolate plains, never to be seen again.
The Karoo has had a lion’s share of pioneers in diverse fields. Born in the Karoo were Dr Emil, hailed as the father of modern orthopaedics, Albert Fick who did pioneer work on contact lenses and the heart-transplant pioneer Professor Chris Barnard.
Indeed, when you come to the Karoo and allow the stillness and expanse to weave its magic, it is easy to believe that these great thinkers drew their inspiration directly from the vast source of wisdom that is Mother Earth.