Karoo Space


Who hasn’t dreamt of bidding big bad Jozi farewell and setting off to live the simple life in the Karoo? JULIENNE DU TOIT and CHRIS MARAIS are two writers who actually did it


Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa  By Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais (MLM Publishers, Cradock) Price: R260

Don’t give lead author Julienne du Toit any guff about global urbanization trends. All she sees is the trickle-back of down-sizers. And she’s spot on. Who isn’t fed up with the oxymoronic frack-supporting, factory farming ‘ethics’ of GMO-peddling corporates? Who doesn’t yearn to inhale crisp, clean air, commune with free-range chickens and know exactly who produces their food?

I loved a local woman’s reason to Julienne for liking the Karoo: ‘I can see my enemies coming for miles’. Ain’t that the truth! Also, nobody mocks your garden gnomes.

Having lived in the platteland for more than a decade, since their move from Johannesburg in 2007, the award-winning photojournalists, authors, and indie publishers still tune into the morning traffic reports on Radio 702 for fun sometimes.

Victoria West rush hour!

While we city slickers would love not to be stuck in the daily hooting, smoggy gridlock most of us call home, there’s a lot to consider before ‘semigrating’ to the platteland.  You’ll have to select a suitable dorp to live in, fit in with the locals, relocate your business, build a network, educate your children, contend with bad municipalities and maybe break into the hospitality by running a B&B.

Phatt Chef Simon Kerr says country cooks should visit the city to ‘study their prey’

Luckily Chris and Julienne’s latest book, Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa, is a veritable bible for anyone thinking of ‘semigrating’.

Poring over 316 pages of valuable experience and advice, illustrated with 138 monochrome images of well-known characters such as Phatt Chef Simon Kerr and Steytlerville artist Johan Trollip, makes me feel as though I’m there sharing adventures and tasting the creative sweet spot. The entire book makes me drool, but in a ‘this could really be possible’ kind of way.

Johan Trollip, the successful Steytlerville artist, was a former banker who now collaborates with other artists.

“Chris and I had the privilege of listening to the stories of hundreds of new plattelanders who abandoned the city for a new life in the country. From sculptors to restaurateurs, painters to padstal owners, writers to small-crop farmers, teachers to bakers – they’re all out here, happy as larks.”

Ever wondered what happened to Chris Prior, aka the Rock Professor of Radio 5 fame? He moved to Greyton in the Western Cape where today, his ‘bourbon-laced-with-cream’ voice seduces thousands more from Khazakhstan to the Karoo via his weekly podcasts.

The LegendaryDJ Chris Prior in his Greyton home studio.

And he’s just one example. There are too many more to mention. You’ll have to buy the book (which I HIGHLY recommend) for yourselves.

The authors, Julienne and Chris, also recount the failures that some of their subjects experienced, which provide valuable cautionary lessons for those keen to make the country move.

The main street of Steytlerville, Eastern Cape, carries the family crests of the locals.

“It’s not a rose-tinted account of rural life,” says Chris, “though we do make a strong case for choosing the platteland. The book was designed to answer a need, to provide guidance to small town incomers, and inspire them for the long winter months.”

Cradock main road

So, whether you have a family seeking pastoral relocation or you’re in the 50+ group contemplating a new direction, then Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa is the best guide book available.  Even you’re intent on staying put in the big smog, it’s a riveting read of what could have been (or might still be) one of your parallel lives.

  • Buy the print or ebook versions direct from Karoo Space and selected stores around SA. The book can easily be couriered to your front door .