In the big desert spaces of the world, an overland driver often encounters interesting objects along the road. Sometimes it’s a novelty object, a ‘world’s largest’ something or other. Other times, it’s a road sign full of bullet hotels. And you park next to it and wonder: what happened here?
And then you come across a rusted old car wreck lying in the veld, a few metres from the road. The tragedy was played out a long time ago, but the set is still out there, and it tells its very own story. Privately.
The most haunting – and, at times, undecipherable – veld messages are the San Bushman etchings on the rocks, and their paintings in the caves, left there thousands of years ago to celebrate a hunt, a trance-dance or to commemorate a tragedy in their lives.
The Boy with the Pen & the Gun statue outside Nieuwoudtville at the flowery foot of Namaqualand celebrates the laying down of weapons in the Anglo-Boer War – and the ‘taking up of the pen in the fight for the Republic’.
Outside the village of Aberdeen lies an old bedstead in the veld. It’s covered in grass and rocks. This, according to legend, is the grave of a Voortrekker woman who took ill and died before she could see a doctor. Her husband buried her here and put the bedstead over her grave as a touching, very intimate, headstone. Just another sad little Karoo story.
This is an extract from Karoo Keepsakes I: A Traveller’s Companion to the Heartland of South Africa, by Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit (MLM Publishers, 2009).