Ashamedly I admit that I never truly knew enough about the Karoo National Park. So when I arrived at the modest entrance to the park, just outside the Great Karoo town of Beaufort West, I was not even sure what to expect. And as we drove along another dusty park road I waited in anticipation, staring out the window taking in all the details.
Koppies greet us at every turn and the dry karoo landscape feels astonishingly welcoming. Gazing springbok barely glance our way as I try to capture the quintessential springbok-in-the-karoo-landscape shot. Arriving at the the camp we are more than pleasantly surprised by a veritable oasis surrounded by gentle karoo koppies. The self-catering chalets are dotted around in such a way so as to afford each one an unexpected view across the now sweltering karoo landscape. The only place to spend the afternoon is in the shade of a generous acacia tree in the pool area. Lush grass lines an almost over-sized but welcome swimming pool, and our picnic lies scattered in between notebooks, cameras and swimming towels.
While the thoughts of an afternoon nap are more than tempting we use the time to explore the camp and follow the beautifully laid out fossil trail. I wander along the wooden decked pathway, from exhibit to rock gasping incredulously at the wonder and history of this area. One hundred million years of geological history is explained and strange prehistoric creatures lie encased in pieces of earth from beneath our very feet. I find myself fascinated by the flora, the many types of succulents that survive in this harsh desert landscape, yet produce startlingly colourful flowers in the spring.
A night drive, void of our much hoped for lion sightings, but plentiful in dust and dry air, has us collapsing in our beds with only the mournful owl calls breaking the night silence.
The final day of our trip has arrived and we have a plane to catch 250 kilometres away, but we are determined to eke out every last bit of the karoo and we head up to the top of the koppie, with one of the rangers to find more views. The ranger is armed (since we never found those lions we were happy for this) but not only with his rifle. Instead he peppers us with a steady stream of information, folklore and stories about this incredibly humble National Park and desert. He also finds us the hairy nipple vygie (Trichodiadema mirabile) which has me giggling like a schoolgirl at the incredible aptness of its name.
Alas, the sun is high and it’s time to go. We trundle down the koppie, pack up our stuff and roll off for the airport the cloud of dust left behind us for another day, another trip another adventure.