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DDeep in the Great Karoo, you’ll find the Tankwa Karoo National Park. Here you can spend hours gazing across the plains, marvelling at the plant life that has adapted to this hostile environment, and hunting for sightings of long-legged secretary-birds and the cryptically coloured Burchell’s courser. At night, the stars will make you gasp.
Over the Tankwa Karoo National Park, clouds sketch your thoughts onto a clear blue sky. Before you, a vast space breathes an ocean of air. At your feet, a small beetle explores a tussock of bright flowers.
And that is the essence of this otherworldly, arid park, situated in a remote area south of Calvinia and west of Sutherland, and mostly falling into the Northern Cape, South Africa's largest and most arid province.
HHave you ever considered walking the Spanish Camino de Santiago? Well, we have a gruelling practice walk that will test your endurance and sense of humour (or loss thereof); but also enrich your mind, body and soul. This is what you need to know about the Tankwa Camino…
TThe Spanish Camino is long and demanding but those who’ve tackled it say it is not as hard-hitting as the Tankwa Camino in the Karoo. In Spain, you can stop walking when you’re tired and rest in the nearest hostel, but when tackling the Tankwa you have to walk the 25 km to camp otherwise you are stranded.
It is a 256.6km (10 day) walk from Calvinia to Ceres. Starting in Calvinia, the walk takes you into the awe-inspiring Tankwa valley/desert, where you will walk through one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Africa. With those wide open spaces, it is a landscape that makes you realise just how small you really are. Ending in the picturesque town of Ceres, your journey will have taken you through vastly different landscapes.
You need to come well prepared with durable camping equipment, breakfast, lunch and enough drinks for the 10 day journey. You will carry a daypack filled with your essentials and water for the day. The rest of your food and camping gear is packed into one box, and transported by truck each morning to the next camp. You will be responsible for setting up your own tent, but not cooking dinner - that may be asking too much after a long day of walking. Rhina, who facilitates this walk, and her team prepare a delicious meal each evening.
TThe Tankwa Karoo National Park is part of the Great Karoo. This is one of the richest arid areas in the world, a “friendly desert” filled with life. So while it seems empty of life at first glance, it is a treasure house of a more subtle kind. Much of its life is found at your feet – plants that are found nowhere else in the world. In some years, spring rains sometimes coax up a carpet of wildflowers from the earth.
Millions of years ago, the Karoo was a vast and fertile inland sea. The layering of sandstone in the hills tells mute stories of ancient broad rivers that swept silt-down from vanished mountain ranges. Nowhere do you sense the immense ghost of the vanished sea more acutely than in the Tankwa Karoo National Park.