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Chris Marais

Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit live and work in Cradock, in the Eastern Karoo, when they’re not travelling around the heartland in search of stories. They write for SA Country Life magazine regularly, have written two books on the Karoo (Karoo Keepsakes I and II) and run a website called www.karoospace.co.za and have just launched their e-Bookstore on Karoo Space.

The Karoo: Where Stories Roam

By Chris Marais 20-07-19 12:27

The question most people ask when we meet them somewhere on our travels through the vast dry Karoo region of South Africa is: “How do you find your stories?”… writes Chris Marais from KarooSpace. Those who read our Karoo books and our regular features in SA Country Life magazine and various other publications want to know what sets us […]


Pubs and Padstalle of Route 62, South Africa

By Chris Marais 30-01-17 17:11

It seems, for some of us, that the older we get the more inclined we are to be reckless. Who but the very bravest of long-distance drinkers, big-bike riders and hardened shoppers would take on the awesome pubs and padstalle of Route 62 in the Western Cape? Who but the youngest and silliest of us […]

the journey man

Diamond Cowboys of Port Nolloth

By Chris Marais 29-08-16 15:04

Decades ago and deep in the Namaqualand desert at a point between Springbok, Steinkopf and the sea, a Cape Town housewife with a squeaky voice steals our hearts. This mommy from the suburbs has requested a tune that plays into our early years, way before Disco, Johnny Rotten, Duran Duran and Really Big Hair stole […]

Old South African Brands

Old South African Brands in the Karoo

By Chris Marais 14-06-16 15:56

I love old signs when I’m on the road. They tell me where I’m going, who lived here, what brands were promoted and what the travelling salesmen flogged to the locals over the decades. Sometimes, on a dusty Karoo trail in the back of beyond, they’re all I have for company. I run across old […]


Making Like the Hogwarts Express in the Free State

By Chris Marais 04-04-16 18:29

It has been many years since I’ve awoken to the long, mournful toot of a steam locomotive engine. If I wasn’t lodged here in the staff house just across the tracks from Hoekfontein Station on Sandstone Farm in the Eastern Free State, I’d say it was all a dream. But it’s not. It’s a call […]

A Karoo Farm School with a Difference

By Chris Marais 08-11-15 11:05

A Climax windmill spins and creaks quietly alongside a dirt road linking Colesberg with the blue horizon. There is a cool morning breeze and a few sheep bleat in the distance. Soon, though, they are drowned out by the distant roar of a straining engine. A school bus appears, emblazoned with the words ‘Hantam Community Education […]

Karoo Diary: The Friendly Horse Road

By Chris Marais 25-10-15 10:58

It’s about 160km, give or take a metre or two on either side, from the House of Light & Shadow in Richmond, Northern Cape, to the Karoo Roos padstal outside Middelburg, Eastern Cape. That’s if you venture out on the R398, a dirt road that embodies all that is intriguing about the Karoo: big spaces, […]

Karoo Diary: Draadkar Fever (Wire Car Festival!)

By Chris Marais 04-10-15 13:17

If you want to taste excitement in the air, come to Philipstown this week. They’re counting down the days before the Wire Car Festival, the local event of the year. Wire cars, or draadkarretjies, are big around here. The young boys of Philipstown will do just about anything for a wire car fashioned by one […]

Nama Riel dancers, South Africa

Karoo Diary – Dancing in the Dust

By Chris Marais 15-09-15 16:44

This is no five-step waltz, no quadrille, and by no means is it a cakewalk. It’s more like a cactus tango or a dusty Jitterbug, this Nama Riel dance they do so well out here in the Northern Cape Karoo. It’s ‘Stomp the Yard’ in Calvinia, Williston, Brandvlei and beyond. The cheering crowd forms a square […]

The Journey Man Extracts: The Summit Club in Hillbrow. Remember it?

By Chris Marais 01-11-15 19:59

Back in 1994, when the New South Africa was but a pup, photographer Greg Marinovich and I popped in to the lunchtime strip sessions at The Summit – just for a bit of social research. It was seconds to showtime, and the place was heaving with yuppies, students, large fellows with ponytails and slinky topless waitresses […]

union buildings, pretoria

‘The Journey Man’ Extracts – Pretoria Blues

By Chris Marais 01-11-15 20:01

It was May, 1976…and as a lowly young reporter for the Pretoria News, I discovered that Siberia comes in many forms. Because I had disgraced myself and gotten a TV review horribly wrong, I was assigned a new position in life: Magistrates Court reporter. The position was seen as the grubby, greasy little bottom rung in the […]

the journey man

‘The Journey Man’ Extracts – Bosman Bliss in the Bushveld

By Chris Marais 01-11-15 20:01

Groot Marico, 1979 – It’s a lovely Saturday out here in the Bushveld…I’m sitting under a fever tree on a farm in the Western Transvaal (now Northwest Province) talking to a Marico family and drinking their mampoer very slowly and, if I may say so, quite thoughtfully. It’s all so very Herman Charles. [The late […]


‘The Journey Man’ Extracts – We Remember Hillbrow

By Chris Marais 01-11-15 20:05

Hillbrow, Jo’burg’s inner city Tenderloin district, was never a nest of angels… In the late 1970s and 80s, it was the most cosmopolitan piece of real estate in South Africa. You had your excellent Hillbrow Records, your Mi-Vami shawarma place, Estoril Books, your globe-trotting tattoo artist down in the basement shopping area on Pretoria Street […]

pella cathedral, northern cape

KAROO DIARY: Showdown at Pella Cathedral

By Chris Marais 26-02-15 13:33

Some time ago, this nun and I were in deadlock over a daisy. Neither of us was giving any ground on this hot and bothersome day in Bushmanland. In the museum section of Pella Mission, Northern Cape, to be precise. “Just let me take the plastic cover off for one little minute,” I insisted. But […]

flippin' good wine club, cradock

Karoo Diary: The South African Spirit

By Chris Marais 12-02-15 12:52

Last night here in Cradock, a bunch of us gathered at someone’s house and formed a wine club. Sounds like small potatoes, right? Maybe, but in this world you take your pleasures where you can find them. And so, when the load-shedding kicked in and the lights went out, the candles were lit and the […]

KAROO DIARY: A Cradock Walkabout

By Chris Marais 10-01-15 15:13

Let’s go for a walk around my home town, here on the edge of the Karoo Heartland, where the Great Fish River flows really fast and the local undertaker sells pumpkins on the side. HARRY POTTER & THE GRAVE STONE We’ll begin in the town cemetery at the gravestone of Harry Potter. Yes, you heard […]

KAROO DIARY: Graaff-Reinet’s Drostdy Hotel Comes Alive!

By Chris Marais 27-02-15 19:46

The Drostdy has always been one of the select few grand old hotels of the Karoo. As the prime accommodation in Graaff-Reinet, it began its “hotel life” as Kromm’s Drostdy Hotel back in 1876. The Drostdy had many re-models and facelifts over the century to come, the latest being an intensive upgrade that has taken […]

KAROO DIARY: Six Ways to Love Us

By Chris Marais 04-11-14 13:55

What? Six? Sheesh, I could give you six dozen reasons to climb in a car and come and kuier with us here in the Heartland. However, in honour of short-number listings, let’s look at a sixpack of motivations, beginning with that crazy-creative festival they stage out in the Tankwa Karoo every autumn: AfrikaBurn. www.afrikaburn.com At […]

steyt 4

KAROO DIARY: Getting Smashed in Steytlerville

By Chris Marais 27-02-15 19:47

So this is a true Karoo Moment… Jules and I are sitting on the front stoep of the Karroo Theatrical Hotel. We’re spending the entire afternoon on this stoep, drinking much wine and shooting the breeze with the innovative hotel owners, Mark Hinds and Jacques Rabie. But lest you think we’re a bunch of old […]

KAROO DIARY: Those Magnificent Mother Churches

By Chris Marais 09-10-14 21:01

I’m a presently-lapsed Anglican boy who once attended a Dutch Reformed church service, somewhere in a dusky Mpumalanga coal town, just so I could sit next to a certain farmer’s daughter. I was almost charged with Attemped Kerfuffling! And I never saw that girl again. But now that I’ve begun my middle-aged meanderings through the vast […]

KAROO DIARY: New e-Books from Karoo Space!

By Chris Marais 01-10-14 18:11

This time of the year, you would usually not find Jules and me at home in Cradock. We would be tootling around somewhere on a back road in the vast Karoo. Namaqualanders just had a spectacular daisy season out in the west; summer is said to be on its way and is it shearing season […]

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KAROO DIARY: A Silly Sense of Snow

By Chris Marais 11-09-14 06:25

Looking out at the vast and sunny Karoo Heartland today, you’d never think that less than two weeks ago we were all snow-stormed in. Which takes me back exactly 33 years to the day, when I was sitting at a bar in Montana, USA, called The Cherokee Strip. The locals who drank at The Strip, […]

KAROO DIARY: Seeking Out Saskatchewan!

By Chris Marais 03-09-14 12:07

Last summer I had a thought and shared it with my wife Jules. “Jules,” I said. “Imagine a South African sitting up north somewhere like Saskatchewan. He’s working in Canada but he’s missing South Africa like crazy.” “Yes?” “Now imagine that guy’s been to the Karoo but his kids haven’t. And neither have his new […]

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