Circling the Great Karoo
a back-roads journey through history on an old scrambler
by Nicholas Yell.
There is a sense of great exhilaration when you set off on a long motorbike journey – alone. Especially when it entails riding the Great Karoo’s minor dirt roads seldom visited by anybody other than the diehards who farm there, and who manage to co-exist with one of the harshest environments and climates on the planet.
But this is not just any journey through the Karoo; it is a journey that also delves into both its recent and ancient evolutionary past. The result: a historical treasure trove filled with stories about South Africa’s earliest and more recent inhabitants, European explorers’ and outlaws’ trails, accounts of the Anglo-Boer War battles that pop up along the way and revelations about the mammal-like reptiles and first true dinosaur fossils that are uncovered during the journey.
While well documented in many different reference books, the many fascinating historical gems and interesting geological phenomena of the Great Karoo are not readily accessible to the lay reader in a single, armchair travel format, and this is certainly one of the book’s main advantages.
For the writer, motorbike travel is his muse, his solace and his teacher. It allows his soul often to ride pillion – exalting in the sheer wonderment of being allowed its own time and space to be revel in. And to be — just to be.