WATCH | 3 days in the deep Karoo: Where a canoe trip is rewarded with lamb 'tjoppies'


Cape Town to Hanover GPS time: 8 hours. 

The N1 stretches across the beige, then brown, then green landscape in a straight, almost never-ending straight line. Arid in parts, warm in most, and friendly in all, the Karoo is far from big cities, but close to home. 

There is something about slowly trekking your way up to the deep Karoo. From billionaire's mile in De Doorns' grape country, where money almost-literally grows on vines, to the historic, one-street town of Matjiesfontein, where you stop for a mandatory stoep coffee at the Lord Milner before continuing on to Beaufort West and the Three Sisters Shell Garage to buy a refreshing coke. 

READ | Barrydale: Hit pause in this Klein Karoo dorpie before taking on the Garden Route  

Cape Town to Hanover actual time: 12 hours.    

Arriving at the New Holme Guest Farm, just over 20km outside Hanover in the Northern Cape, you immediately feel the farm. The air feels fresher and  your heart feels lighter.

A working sheep and game farm situated on the banks of the Seekoei River in the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve, it forms part of the Cape Country Routes. This place has character, charm and romance coming out of every pore as proven by the owner's first words to us, "Make yourself welcome, grab a glass of wine from the bar." 

PC Ferreira started this guest house in the 90s with only space for two guests. Now it's a 4-star guest farm and wedding venue with a lot of promise. Surrounded by the family and their farm animals - the lambs, pigs, dogs, cats and the odd meerkat - here, you truly feel part of the family. 


(Farm animals. PHOTO: Marisa Crous)

Though many might find it strange to meet the farm lambs in the morning and then have them later for supper - it's just the way of things out here. PC tells me, "The uglier the tjoppie, the more delicious." And my taste of Karoo lamb, was hideous.

Night one, and after a decadent three-course meal and a quick thunderstorm, I go to bed comfy and cosy as I listen to the silence. The kind of silence you never find in the city. I don't miss my bed, or even my life back in the city. It's almost like New Holme was my 'new home'. 

As always on a farm, you wake up at the very crack of dawn.

Luckily in my case, this meant around 6am. Very late in farm world. I was going on a canoe trip. New Holme offers guests many activities, and I was being afforded the opportunity to canoe down the Gariep River (formerly Orange River), for a 2-day experience of splendour. This meant no signal or soft beds, but an adventure that takes you through a gorge. You get to stay for a night in a raw tented camp site where Afrikaans-as-can-be guides lovingly braai (again, ugly chops), hand you red wine as often as you want and then leave you to sleep under the stars. With no signal, the Gariep banks echo the sound of nothingness. 


(10km into the canoe trip. PHOTO: Marisa Crous)


(Approaching the gorge. PHOTO: Marisa Crous) 


(A braai with a view. PHOTO: Marisa Crous) 


(Bush toilet. PHOTO: Marisa Crous) 


(Discovering along the way. PHOTO: Marisa Crous) 


(Home stretch. PHOTO: Marisa Crous) 

READ: Jaffles, pancake, biltong and cheese: How to eat yourself silly in the Karoo

Ending at the Doornkloof Nature Reserve on the second day of canoeing, you feel refreshed. Tired after 23km, but open to the new, as you've just experienced the simplicity of nature in its very complexity. You return to New Holme with the feeling of a child going home for the weekend from boarding school. Mom and dad are there to greet you with open arms, to feed you delicious food and treats, and to make sure you sleep soundly, protected and happy. 


(Game drive to the hippo pool.* PHOTO: Marisa Crous)

And then the next day, before you leave, you make sure to say goodbye and thank you. Thank you to the land that hosted you, that fed you succulent skaaptjoppies, which embraced you with open arms, making you part of this Karoo family.

And as you jump out of the car to open and close the farm gate behind your city car, you wonder whether you'd ever feel this welcome in a strange place again. 

*Marisa Crous was hosted by Cape Country Routes for 3 nights at New Holme Guest Farm. *The guest farm also offers a ‘Shy 5’ night game drive, where you can see aardvark, aardwolf, black footed cat, porcupine and bat eared fox. 

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