Carnarvon was, until recently, the almost-exclusive preserve of sheep farmers and aviation nuts.
This is the land of the corbelled house, the open horizon, the black-faced Dorper sheep, the wind pump and the aeroplane – just about any kind of aeroplane.
The corbelled houses were built by itinerant farmers who had no wood for construction, so they chose to work in stone and set up dwellings derivative of ancient Portuguese designs.
The open horizons are typical of that part of the Upper Karoo, where road tripping is pure delight.
The Dorpers with their high-quality lamb’s meat have taken over from the Merino wool sheep in these parts.
The wind pumps – most of them much-beloved Climaxes – are essential to get at the underwater aquifers that deliver a particularly sweet brand of Karoo water.
And the aeroplanes come here because of all the wondrous dry pans to the north, where private pilots like to land and take off from. There’s an annual aviation festival in Carnarvon that sees all kinds of fly-boys – from retired jet fighter pilots to crop sprayers – gathering to celebrate life amongst the clouds.
And now there is SKA – the Square Kilometre Array. The scientists chose this area because it’s one of the quietest places on the planet. Which is just where one needs to be when listening closely to Outer Space.
This silence is why SKA, a massive, multibillion dollar international science project even surpassing the CERN Large Hadron Collider, is to be centred in the Upper Karoo.
One day the Carnarvon area will be a significant part of a 2 500-satellite dish complex stretching through Africa and across to Australia, picking up ancient and very significant radio signals from ‘out there’.
So watch the space around Carnarvon. It’s about to get very exciting…
Find our new e-Book, 101 Karoo Towns, HERE.