The Eastern Cape Karoo region, also known as the Karoo Heartland, is the perfect destination for the adventurous and curious road tripper.
It’s deliciously quirky and friendly out here, with wondrous apparitions and encounters around every corner. Here are ten good reasons to visit. (And there are many more.)
Easily the finest Victorian-era Karoo restoration this side of Matjiesfontein, Die Tuishuise & Victoria Manor is a lovingly maintained set of candy-stripe cottages and an elegant old hotel in Market Street.
- Polar Explorer in the Karoo
Dr Reginald Koettlitz and his wife, Marie Louise lie in the Cradock cemetery. He died on January 10, 1916, and Mrs Koettlitz expired a scant two hours after him.
Read the inscription above his plinth:
“An explorer and traveller, surgeon and geologist to Expeditions North Polar and Abyssinia and with Scott to the Antarctic.” Enough said.
- The Cradock Club
One of the most treasured items in the Cradock Club is a Scottish Highland sheep’s horn. It is generously studded with silver and amethyst crystals and once contained a large dollop of really sneezy stuff. This snuff horn was donated to the club by the departing Sherwood Foresters Regiment after the Anglo-Boer War in 1901.
More4Less, not 100 metres west of the Cradock Moederkerk, is the town’s mystery treasure chest. Here you can find anything from an electric guitar to a jaffle-iron, a snuff box to a stop watch and any other pre-loved object you care to mention.
“My whole shop is an adventure!” owner Marlene van Nuwenhuys will tell you.
Once you’ve stayed with Hester and JP Steynberg on Ganora Guest Farm, it’s almost a guarantee that you will have fallen in love with the concept of a Karoo farmstay.
Agri-tourism in the Karoo Heartland is vibrant, and ticks all the boxes for the modern-day traveller.
The Owl House & Camel Yard is a must-see for the first-timer to this little mountain village in the Sneeuberge.
- Pomegranate Country
One question remains: why does the Karoo Heartland not have a fantastic Pomegranate Festival? After all, we celebrate garlic, pumpkins, writers and foodies with festivals – why not the super-healthy, goes-with-everything pomegranate?
Look out all along your route for these wondrous fruits in late summer (late February to April) growing in just about every back yard you come across.
There was a time when Graaff-Reinet was a serious drinker’s town, what with a thriving wine and brandy industry amidst thousands of thirsty frontier people.
There was also a moonshiner’s special called Withond that would sort the men out from the sheep – and amazlingly, it’s still on sale at the Reinet House Museum.
The only known griffins, gargoyles or terracotta dragons in the whole Karoo sit crouched on the roof of the old post office in Aberdeen.
Legend has it that the building was originally meant to have been the magistrate’s court in Grahamstown, back east in Settler country.
On the main street of Steytlerville you will find a typical Karoo traveller’s treat for petrol heads: a Willy’s Jeep, a Fairlane, an Opel Manta, an Anglia, an old racing car and a venerable 1937 Model C Ford, all in one lovingly-curated collection.
- Need a traveller’s guide book to this region? Here’s the Ebook Version of Road Tripper Eastern Cape Karoo or your tablet – and here’s the Printed Version for your cubby-hole.