Gariep Village, Free State

Lake Gariep

Lake Gariep at sunset.

There’s nothing quite like dipping your toes in the waters of Lake Gariep while sipping a sundowner – unless it’s dipping your toes in the pool waters of De Stijl Gariep Hotel overlooking the massive dam at last light.

Depending on the time of day you pass it by, Lake Gariep changes mood from sullen midday browns to the dark blues and coppers of dawn – and the molten silvers and golds of sunset. Karoo hills poke through it, appearing in soft light and morning mist like vapid Japanese islands.

You can’t help being impressed by the back-story of Gariep Dam. Construction started in 1966 and finished in 1971. While the Gariep Dam was being built, this isolated region became quite cosmopolitan, with Venterstad, Gariep, Oviston and Steynsburg hearing as much French and Italian spoken as English and Afrikaans.

By any measure, the dam is impressive. More than 1.9 million cubic metres of concrete were poured into the wall, which actually bends slightly due to the force of the water. The dam can store nearly 6 000m3 of water, covers an area of 374km2 and has a coastline nearly 400km long.

The building of the Gariep Dam enabled the creation of hundreds of farms. A quarter of its water is sent down the Great Fish River via the Orange–Fish Tunnel, bringing irrigation and life to the Cape Midlands and Sundays River Valley. A Mother Dam to shepherd the Mother River and her offspring.

But more than all that, for a South African living in a thirsty country, it’s a great comfort and joy to visit Lake Gariep and simply gaze in awe at its vast waters.

For visitors to South Africa who have spent some time driving through the arid Karoo, a delightful new tourism route running around Lake Gariep will reveal more than ‘big water’: historical sites, eccentric country types, a plush hotel, waterside herds of antelope and wide-angle landscapes to thrill the eye.

locovers0001  Find our newly-released e-Book, 101 Karoo Towns, HERE.

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