Words and Photographs by Margie Adcock
The ‘Broekie Lace’ back roads of the Karoo are as intricate and fascinating as the metal work which embellishes the houses.
They beckon, calling to be explored and travelled. As I plan my journey into the Karoo, I pore over maps finding the smallest tracks weaving between the threads of larger, securer ribbons. I leave in pouring rain wrapped in a softness, a small mobile cocoon moving with a gentle ‘swish’, cars enveloped in a aura of mist, shared when passing.
At Swellendam I turn left onto the minor roads. The Karoo in rain has its own charm. Suurbrack village is a necklace of ancient pink, turquoise and blue cottages strung along the roadside. I climb over a pass, the low cloud pulled over the mountaintops like a beanie.
I stop at ‘The Jam Tarts Restaurant’ for a bowl of heartwarming sweet potato soup and homemade bread, perhaps served by one of the ‘tarts’?
Travelling mind-shots: tumbleweed wedged against a fence, kopjes glowing in a blush of pink flowering bushes, the vastness, the seemingly harsh exterior holding a million secrets, the effort for the vegetation to grow, the beauty when after a long, hot, dry summer the rains bring an explosion of colour and the land rejoices.
It seems gentle to me, soft even, and I feel at one with the land, a minute speck in this humbling landscape, the vast sky, today low and stormy. Peacefulness washes over me and I smile. The Karoo has woven its magic.
I pause for coffee and melk tart in an old farmhouse bulging with home made treats. It is only the country people who continue the tradition of making jam, pickles, drying fruit, crocheting and knitting mittens, fingerless gloves, tissue box covers and a jacket for plunge coffee pots!
Do not ask advice if you do not wish to hear the answer. I did and I didn’t. But I turned off onto the smallest roads in spite of been told it was not wise for a woman on my own, the rain over the past few days, the gravel road which was not good for my tyres, few people along the way…it sounded perfect, and it was. How are they to know I am also of farming stock and love the land?
I pause to admire small flowers on the road, appreciate horses cavorting in front of mountains, listen to the telephone lines sing, choose a stone to take home, a tactile connection to the earth. Warm duvets, steaming coffee, lazy bathes comfort my night stops. Springbok, sheep and goats sprinkle the land, the mountains rise and swoop in shades of blue and grey, remote farm houses shelter amongst trees, ribbons of roads and rails reach to the horizon, an abandoned car rusts in the sun. An owl stands firm in the road towards dusk, head swivelling as I pass.
The road narrows, crowded in by Acacia karroo bushes, the aloes light up the brown, cattle grids rumble beneath me.
Now snow brushes the tops of the mountains, the air so crisp and clear it could shatter into a million shards.
Forty eight hours later I arrive in Cradock. I am connected to the Karoo and not only by the ‘brookie lace’ roads…
- ‘Broekie lace’ is a South African term for intricate metalwork, usually cast-iron trim, on the balconies of our older buldings.
- Margie Adcock appears in one of the features (Walk of Love) in Karoo Keepsakes II – The Journeys Continue…