Waking up with the thin fresh air touching your skin. The unrisen sun glowing behind the western horizon, throwing a masterpiece of color across the vast skies. The weavers have already begun to ‘chirp-chirp’ and the geese glide across towards the lucerne lands.
The Karoo has a heat which dries your lips and a cold which sits in your bones.
It has a breeze which mixes the air and makes the trees whisper. It has sunsets which can hypnotise you for hours. It has horizons which stretch as far as your eyeballs can focus. It has laughter and hardship. It has extremes. And this is its magic.
I grew up on a farm between a dusty little town called Aberdeen and a slightly larger parched town called Beaufort West. In Afrikaans: “die middel van niks en nerens”. The Karoo bushes don’t grow much taller than half way up your calf. The camelthorn trees dig their roots deep into the earth and stretch their rickety branches out as far as what the water allows them to. The Aermotor windmills tinker away and swing their tails with the breeze or the gale or whatever the weather has to offer.
Some may say it’s a throw-away-place. Some may say it is ghastly and boring. Some may say they cannot travel through it fast enough. But those who take the time to get to know the place do not take long to fall in love.
I think what the majority of people don’t understand is the degree to which the Karoo is part of the people who live there. On my last day of holidays, before I had to leave for boarding school, I would walk, with no predetermined direction, into the veld. I would sit down on the dusty soil. Sift the grains through my fingers. Smell it. Listen to the baby goats calling in their little voices, the mothers replying in a deep husky tone. There was sound but not noise. A peacefulness and a stillness. I hated leaving it all behind. I used to wish I could take all the smells and sounds with me. My heart used to sink every time I left and it still does.
The Karoo has a power you cannot imagine. Being able to walk for kilometre upon kilometre. Stand and look out over the nothingness. To know you are the only person who knows where you are at that very moment. There is freedom in that. It is indescribable, the uniqueness.
I have the dust in my bones, the sounds in my ears and the images in my thoughts. I grew up with the Karoo. It changed me. It made me. It is me.
We are blood brothers.