The plains of Camdeboo, by Eve Palmer
'The Plains of Camdeboo', published in 1966, made Eve Palmer famous nearly instantly. It is about Cranemere farm where five generations of her family have lived. The book traces the region's history from dinosaurs and early hominids to trekkers and sheep farmers and is also an account of Eve Palmer's life in the remote South African Great Karoo. From the beginning a bestseller, 'The Plains of Camdeboo' still is reprinted.
Few people have the good fortune to be born in a desert. I was. All my life I have been conscious of my luck. Not, indeed, that we of the Karoo often think of our land as desert. It is the travellers who have crossed our plateau for two hundred years, and our visitors of today, who have called it this - and still do. They are right - or almost so! And like other deserts and semi-deserts of the world, ours is a country of life. We have only to walk or ride into the veld to know this and be caught up in its pattern: the squat, fat, angled plants; the hunting spiders that flicker between them; the ground squirrels upright beside their burrows; the vultures; the pale wild gladioli; the cobras; the scorpions; the mantis coloured like a flower; the black beetles rolling balls of dung; the koringkrieks lurching on immense and crooked legs. Here moves a steenbok, a duiker, a springbuck, a lark clapping its wings above us; here are the tracks of an ant-bear in the soil; red dust and a mottled egg upon it; arrowheads; the smell of rain, karoo bush, wild asparagus; mountains and hills floating in a mirage of water; a white hot sky; the sound of cicadas and wings and wind. This home of my childhood lies towards the southern tip of Africa, on the eastern fringe of a vast plateau, the Great Karoo. It is in the heart of the plains with mountains rising steeply to the north, and like a far blue rim to the east and west. South, as far as we can see, there is only plain. It is a wide upland world, 2,500 feet above the sea and a hundred and fifty miles from it, almost midway between Cape Town and Johannesburg, just south of Olive Schreiner's famous Karoo farm, north and east of Pauline Smiths Little Karoo. Our eastern corner of this Karoo was once known as the Plains of Camdeboo, an old name given to the country, the thirst-land, which rolled for a hundred miles or more from the eastern heights, the Bruintjeshoogte, famous in Cape history, westward past Graaff-Reinet towards the Camdeboo Mountains, the Mountains of the Green Heights or Green Hollow. Nobody today knows for sure the exact meaning of this Hottentot word. Many early travellers described our plains under this name, and it remains vividly with me. East lies the small town of Somerset East; west the small town of Graaff-Reinet; and in the eastern tip of the Plains is the tiny hamlet of Pearston. Ten miles from here is Cranemere, our family home, my father's and grandfather's, and today the home of my brother's family. It is a country flooded by sun; lonely, sparse, wind-swept, treeless on the flats for many miles. In very good years thirteen inches of rain may fall in a year; in bad years three; and mostly it is somewhere between the two. After rain the Plains wave with grass and smell of honey and flowers; in drought they are desert. In between such times they are karoo - moorland, the early travellers called them, covered with low karoo bushes, little perennial daisy bushes with long, thin, wandering roots and tiny tough leaves that survive where grass cannot, and succulents of many kinds, breeding sheep with good bone and meat, and finest wool. Away to the west the Plains merge with the Great Karoo proper stretching three hundred miles to the Swartberg, the Black Mountains. [...]
This is an excerpt from the memoir 'The plains of Camdeboo' by Eve Palmer.
Title: The plains of Camdeboo
Author: Eve Palmer
Publisher: The Penguin Group (SA)
2nd edition. Cape Town, South Africa 2011
ISBN 9780143528029 / ISBN 978-0-14-352802-9
Softcover, 13 x 20 cm, 348 pages, several map sketches and b/w photographs
Palmer, Eve im Namibiana-Buchangebot
Lovingly described in her classic book of the Karoo, The Plains of Camdeboo, Eve Palmer introduces to the quintessential Karoo farm and her home Cranmere.
''Return to Camdeboo: A century's Karoo foods and flavours' as well as late Eve Palmer's previous memoir, 'The plains of Camdeboo', is a wonderful and soulful read.