Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit of Karoo Space have been appointed Travel Writing Tutors at the prestigious SA Writers College, a long-standing online education facility with bases in South Africa, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
“The hallmark of SA Writers College Courses is that the courses offer real training by real writers,” says the founder, Nichola Meyer.
“The tutors know what writing will sell, and what won’t. The courses are practical, current and to the point. Each course answers all the questions an aspirant writer will need to write in a specific field, and teaches students to write high quality copy in the correct style for their genre.”
The SA Writers College, established in 2005, has more than two dozen international award-winning wordsmiths on its books. They specialise in everything from features to fiction, blogs to business – and travel writing courses taught by two of the most colourful and experienced freelancers still operating in southern Africa.
“I’ve spent most of my working life in someone else’s back yard, wandering down alleyways where they don’t speak English, where the food tends to wriggle on the way down, where they pour tomato juice into their beer and actually drink it, where they stash ancient Arabic scrolls in their back yards.
I’ve sat with head-hunters in the jungles of Borneo, sipped bourbon with my friends under banana trees on hot summer nights in New Orleans, slept like a dead man in a Mongolian ger at the dog-days of a bitter winter and charged up the Niger River to Timbuktu, on a mission devised by madmen.
I’m not sure if all this mileage made me wiser, more complete or even more understanding of the human condition. It probably didn’t. But the truth is, I just love the narrative life. All I really want to do is tell you a decent story.
For the past ten years, I’ve been living and working in the vast Karoo region of South Africa, criss-crossing the dry outlands with my wife and working partner, Julienne du Toit. It has been the trip of my life. A trip I’ll let my sidekick tell you about.”
“A friend, living in London, once told me that she remembered the Karoo best when she thought of bedsheets, dried by sun and wind.
She had a whimsical but intriguing theory that while you slept, the Karoo would seep gently into you through the sheets.
Before guests from the ‘big city’ come to visit, I wash the sheets and hang them up on the line, so they dance in the breeze. And later, when I make up the bed, it’s like spreading pure Karoo sunshine.
Just stand at the side of a Karoo road in the middle of nowhere, and the land will engage all your senses. The road will begin to sing long before the distant truck comes into view on the horizon. A wind pump – probably a Climax – will creak and groan in the silence. A fragrance of clean herbs will rise from the knee-high Karoo shrubs. Overhead, cirrus clouds fatten and spread in an incandescent sky.”
In her popular blog on Karoo Space entitled: A Gentle Guide to Karoo Roadtripping, Julienne says:
“Rest your eyes on the far horizon, walk the streets of the small towns, learn the art of stoep-sitting, look up at the night stars, hang out at farm stalls and if you’re a diesel driver, remember to always hunt down the local farmer’s co-op. They’ll give you the best prices.”
Their Freelance Work
Chris and Julienne write and photograph for local and offshore print and online publications that include SA Country Life, Sawubona (South African Airways in-flight), High Life (British Airways in-flight), Sunday Times (Johannesburg) Travel, The Guardian (UK) and Wild Magazine (SA National Parks).
They also produce travel books on the Karoo, independently published under the MLM (Main Line Media) imprint.
Books by Chris Marais & Julienne du Toit: A Drink of Dry Land – Journeys through Namibia, Namibia Space, Shorelines – A Journey along the South African Coast, Coast to Coast, 101 Beloved Bars of Southern Africa (with Pat Hopkins), Karoo Keepsakes, Karoo Keepsakes II, The Journey Man – A South African Reporter’s Stories (Chris) and Road Tripper – Eastern Cape Karoo.