31 May 2012 by Melanie-Ann Feris

Falling in love with the Karoo

The magnificence of the Karoo is addictive: food, people and beauty have all combined to make me fall in love with the region.

Today I went up a mountain and came down in love with the Karoo.

I must admit that before today I didn’t know much about the area – except, of course, that it is the site for the multimillion-rand Square Kilometre Array super-telescope project.

The day started with an early-morning breakfast on a farm in the area. Here we were treated to coffee and roosterbrood (traditional South African bread), baked over an open fire.

Proteas in the Klein Karoo. Photo: Melanie Feris

And this was no normal coffee – the staff here roast raw coffee beans in metal pots, stirring continuously so the beans don’t burn. When the beans are cooked to exactly the right colour, sugar is added to bring out the flavour. The sticky, brown, gooey beans are then cooled, ground and then placed in a bag, which is dipped in water to produce the most delectable coffee.

After breakfast was a trip to an olive oil factory with a spectacular view over the Klein Karoo. Farm owner Anthony Still believes that the farm, De Rustica, will, in a few short years, be a big player in the olive oil industry in the country.

Then it was on to the little town of De Rust, which carries the huge honour, for the second year running, of being South Africa’s town of the year.

Here we were literally taken on a treasure hunt through the town.

Our transport? Gaily decorated donkey carts, a throwback to the famous karretjiemense (‘cart people’) of the Karoo. All along the main road of the town we were invited in by business owners – into a coffee shop, then a haberdashery, a glass-blower’s studio, an antique shop.

Everyone was eager to show off their wares and treat us to home-made goodies, from cakes and preserves to an eye-wateringly potent concoction make from ginger and chillies. 

A wedding dress at the Old Trading Post in De Rust, Klein Karoo. Photo: Melanie Feris

Lunch was served in the magical garden of the Old Trading Post. Home-brewed beer, biltong soup and a delectable baked pudding were on the menu. But it was the bottles of liquid bubbles, left on the table for each guest, that had us reduced to children, and the air filled with rainbow-coloured bubbles.

It’s winter at the moment, and the sun sets a lot earlier … and there was still so much more to see.

The next treat was a drive between the most spectacular mountain ranges that led to a magnificent waterfall with the clearest, sweetest pools of water.

Everyone was eager to show off their wares and treat us to home-made goodies, from cakes and preserves to an eye-wateringly potent concoction make from ginger and chillies.

Then, for me, it was on to the best part of the day – a 4X4 drive into the Swartberg mountains to see the sun set. The terrain is rough, but the view as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains more than made up for the bumpy ride.

And there was an unexpected surprise: hectare upon hectare of pink and white Proteas, as far as the eye could see. Surrounded by this pink and white beauty, we silently watched the sun set over the valley…

It was too beautiful for words. Too soon it was too dark to see anything and reluctantly we made our way back down the mountain.

And it was quickly to bed – the sooner I sleep, the quicker tomorrow comes, offering more spectacular discoveries in the Karoo.

  • Melanie is currently on a five-day trip in the Karoo.
Bettie Galant roasts coffee beans in the traditional way. Photo: Melanie Feris

Category: Routes & Trails

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