go! | Drive & Camp

The vastness of the Great Karoo

The vastness of the great Karoo.
The vastness of the great Karoo.

Your route starts in the town of Hopetown in the Upper Karoo, about 600 km south of Johannesburg if you take the N12 highway.

Hopetown was one of the northern frontier towns of the Cape Colony, where things weren’t going well in the middle of the nineteenth century. Close to 14 000 Afrikaner farmers left the colony during the Great Trek, mainly because of a severe drought. The British Empire also started to crumble in 1839 and that, coupled with the opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt, meant far fewer ships visited the Cape of Good Hope. Just when the colony seemed to be heading for an irreversible disaster, Africa’s first diamond, the 21-carat “Eureka”, was discovered in 1866 by one Fanie Jacobs here in Hopetown. For the next century, Africa, but especially Southern Africa, would produce 98% of the world’s diamonds. These tiny treasures would save the Cape Colony for the settlers and eventually lead to first the Union and later the Republic of South Africa.

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