Story & Pix by Chris Marais
Karoo Space and a popular Facebook group called KAROO recently held a snap poll asking 200 readers what Karoo town they preferred above all the rest.
Some found the task impossible, and chose to list five or six of their best hideaway haunts. For the purposes of this poll, we counted the first place they listed and discarded the rest.
“People are always asking us where our favourite Karoo spot is,” says Julienne du Toit, lead author of Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa.
“We enjoy 90 percent of the 101 towns, villages, settlements and inhabited railway sidings in the Karoo and Kalahari crossover zone. It would be like choosing one amongst a beloved crowd of children in a large kindergarten.”
So we asked the Karoo Space group what they thought, and for more depth we invited the KAROO group to respond as well – which they did, in equal numbers.
To cut a long story short, the Western Cape village of Prince Albert was voted the winner, hands-down. Totting up the runners-up in the Top Ten, however, was a much closer affair. Here’s that lineup:
- Prince Albert (Western Cape) – 26
- Willowmore (Eastern Cape) – 15
- Graaff-Reinet (Eastern Cape) – 13
- Merweville (Western Cape) – 11
- Fraserburg (Northern Cape) – 10
- Sutherland (Northern Cape) – 10
- Williston (Northern Cape) – 10
- Nieu-Bethesda (Eastern Cape) – 9
- De Rust (Western Cape) – 9
- Steytlerville (Eastern Cape) – 9
Our home town of Cradock, unfortunately, did not make the cut. It pegged in at 12th spot, along with Calvinia in the Northern Cape and Ladismith in the Little Karoo – not bad company to be in, come to think of it.
Then there was Montagu, Loxton, Somerset East, Victoria West, Middelburg, Richmond and Beaufort West. Altogether 38 towns were listed, the last one being the tiny Eastern Cape settlement of Rietbron, between Willowmore and Beaufort West.
The poll results also had surprises, not so much with what came in but what was left out. What, we wonder, is wrong with Barrydale, Klaarstroom (Western Cape), Bedford, Tarkastad and Jansenville (Eastern Cape) Port Nolloth, Leliefontein, Loeriesfontein (Northern Cape) or, for that matter, Brandvlei in the same province?
And what about the southern Free State towns like Gariep, Smithfield, Bethulie, Philippolis or Springfontein? Do folks not know that’s the Grassy Karoo?
Although many of the people who live there might not love their current municipalities, they are passionate about their home towns. And there’s a lot to like.
So next time you look at a map of the Dry Middle of South Africa, try to pinpoint places like Vanwyksdorp, Vosburg, Pella, Riemvasmaak, Springbok, Middelpos. Then fuel up and head off on a road trip adventure. Just go there.
Who knows? You might like it so much you’ll want to live there. And that’s when you get your copy of Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa from us. For the printed book, click HERE. For the ebook, click HERE.