This time we took the little Jimny a bit further into the Karoo on our ladies trip. We had a look at the map and said, yes, that road through the Moordenaarskaroo, that is the one we want to take to Sutherland and the Roggeveld Karoo, little did we know that we chose a shake rattle and roll road!
We were wondering what was happening in the Moordenaarskaroo to be blessed with such a name … so we went to explore. As the road snakes through the harsh and washed-out landscape there is not much to see – no animals, no man, no murderer – yet, there is a certain beauty to the stark scenery. There are a few theories about the name Moordenaarskaroo. Firstly, that it is named so due to the extreme heat and cold, because both can kill you. The second theory is that a couple of bandits broke out of jail in Worcester and came to hide here undiscovered for many years. And then there was a policeman, named Van der Colf, who patrolled the area, looking for thieves. When he caught the thieves, he tied them to his horse, and they had to walk all the way back to jail. In the book Timeless Karoo, Jonathan Deal writes: “When Van der Colf became bored, and perhaps a little drunk, he would release the prisoners to run away up a hill — and take potshots at them with his rifle, sometimes with deadly consequences.” I do not know which one is right, but all of them makes an interesting story to tell.
Then you arrive on the plateau at the small town of Sutherland located at 30°40 E and 32°24 S as the Welcome in Sutherland board says. At the centre of the town stands the Dutch Reformed Church (S32.39439 E20.066073) also with an interesting story. During the Anglo Boer war, the church was occupied by British soldiers and used for eight months as a fort and barracks. Inside the church there is still a wooden door where the soldiers carved their names to keep them occupied. The organ, originating from Germany, is also one of a kind and is still in perfect working conditions. Like the Karoo, Sutherland is full of gems if you are willing to look closer and spend some time.
The “star show” of Sutherland is obviously the milky way, the stars and in deep winter the snow wonderland. There are a couple of options from where you can observe the stars – Blesfontein, Sterland or the planetarium in the middle of town. As we stayed on Blesfontein farm we used the opportunity offered by Nicol van der Merwe to show us the stars and evening treasures through his telescope. I was really wowed out of my socks by the knowledge of Nicol and the easy manner in which he presents his talk so that even I can understand it.
Special note: the road to Blesfontein is a bit rough and corrugated so take it slow and you will make it there.