Trekking across the Karoo: Surviving the Tankwa Camino

Posted by Anita Froneman on 10 May 2021

‘I have never experienced the extremity and harsh barrenness of the Karoo as intensely as on the Tankwa Camino, which stretches for 259 km across the desolated earth from Calvinia to Ceres,’ says Lize Froneman.

Based on the idea of the original Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in northwestern Spain, the South African version might be shorter but is just as gruelling.

The journey pushes hikers to their physical, emotional and spiritual limits. But it is not without beauty.

‘I had to stop in awe and wonder at the beauty of sunrise and sunset over stony mountains and hills in the distance, my aching back and sore feet forgotten for one sweet moment,’ Lize continued.


‘With ground temperatures which measured up to 50 degrees Celsius at midday, the 63 hikers on the Camino were no strangers to blisters and tears. Apart from the odd tree (few and far between), there is no shade along the way, no shelter from the elements at whichever barren spot along the road we camped for the night.

‘What made this Camino more of an endurance hike than a pilgrimage for me, was the heat and terrain combined with the fact that we still had to fetch our crates and tents from the transport lorries when we arrived at the camping stops (I certainly would not use the term campsite, since we literally pitched tents right next to the road). The cooler nights were a welcome relief, and fortunately we experienced only one night of strong wind,’ she added.

The trek is known for the arid landscapes, which take their toll on your body and mind as soon as you lay foot in the dusty road.

‘Hiking the Camino, the Tankwa desert will become your drug for ten days as you will walk through one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Africa, a landscape that beggars belief and that makes you realise God is indeed in all the detail,’ the information website states.

But when you are stripped bare of daily luxuries, creature comforts and the usual things we reach for after a long day, every small victory is a triumph, and every simple pleasure is cause for celebration.

‘The hearty Karoo meals which were prepared for us on open fires each evening, the feeling of accomplishment of another day completed were a huge highlight,’ Lize added. ‘And most of all – new friendships forged amid stone and gravel and pitching tents. Would I do this again? Maybe not this one, but there are a few other Caminos in our very own country which I haven’t done yet! Who knows?’

For more information, visit

Pictures: Fonnie and Lize Froneman


What to pack for the Tankwa Camino

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