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Namakwaland August 2000

Namakwaland August 2000            

This is the story for our trip to Namakwaland in the Land Rover with our friends Doug & Mary Brodie and their two lovely kids Nicholas & ToniJo.   Doug drives an identical Land Rover Discovery 300 TDi (actually Mary uses the car mostly for carting the kids in the school lift club and climbing the Sandton pavements when parking). We were pleased to have a companion to tow each other home if something broke - we were after all heading for some of RSA's most remote spots.  The brochures warn that each vehicle must carry food and water for at least three days and that fuel intervals would be at least 300 kms.  The fuel aspect did not worry me as the cars have a range of almost 900km - and with the 300TDi engine fuel consumption degrades very little (10-20%) in the off-road situation – but a fuel line can rupture etc etc – so we took no chances.  I also took along a big box of tools which we never needed !

The Namakwaland 4x4 trail is split into 2 sections, each about 300 km long, the first starts at Pella mission which is close to Pofadder, and  follows the Orange river, with campsites dotted along the  river’s southern bank, ending at Vioolsdrif , the border crossing point with Namibia.

The second section of the trail departs from the river and water points are scarce and unreliable.  This  area is known as the Richter'sVeld, stretching form Steinkopf in the south up to the river - massively desolate - very low population – often no settlements as far as the eye can see - and blooming with daisies and other flowers when the rain comes - otherwise it's a desert - the northern most part is a declared national park, a mountain desert. 

On the whole trail, being in a conservation and ECO-sensitive area - everything that one takes in must be removed - that includes using the 'cat' method for toilet and burning any toilet paper used.  

The cars had a uneven loading - Doug & Mary had to accommodate their kids (9 & 10 years), with camping gear and clothing for both extremes of climate ; ie freezing nights and hot days; we could also not exclude rain - although this happens infrequently - when it comes it comes in large buckets.   In our car we had more space - I had removed the rear seats (leaving only one if we needed to split the kids up) - this allowed for all the food (for 15 days for 4 adults and two children) and 75 litres of water with our camping gear (this included lekker foam mattress’ to put on top of the camp beds)  and clothing.

We departed on Friday 4th. from Secunda and drove 455 km to Schweizer-Reneke.  We averaged  82,6 kph and  had booked into a guest house - this turned out to be the local 'joint' with pool tables, fag smoke, bad language and plenty of beer.  Ah well at least Doug and Mary had a nice evening with her mother in Kimberley - slightly out-of-the-way but great for Nick  & ToniJo - granny gave them enough pocket money for at least three days.  We had arranged to meet up at the Augrabies national park - but quite by co-incidence Doug overtook us at Uncle Charlies – an exit point of  Jo'burg.   We enjoyed the water falls - excellent chalets - terrible flocks of small flies - best time was at sunset when then sun downer was downed and the mochies (flies) can't see to fly anymore. Our day at Augrabies  allowed us to visit the parks lookout points - the canyon runs for 18 km downstream of the falls and is quite impressive; along the route we crossed a shallow river and caught a very close view of the most beautiful bird - a Malachite kingfisher - a tiny little fellow - we also saw numerous lizards, dassies and several klip-springers - the latter watched us from the safety of the rock face.

We spent two nights at Augrabies, enjoying, on the last evening a slap-up meal in the restaurant before hitting the trail with food of the tinned and dried varieties. One luxury was to be vacuum packed smoked beef and Drei Korn Brot which Edith reckoned would last the trip - she was proved correct - the packages of bacon also held up to the rigors of desert travel.   However, the fresh eggs to accompany the bacon only lasted a week - we should have coated them with Vaseline (don't laugh - it does work). Thank goodness for Smash (dehydrated potato), corn flakes, Pronutro, meusli and long-life milk.

Starting off  at Pella, a mission station in the middle of nowhere (aren't they all) - a beautiful Catholic church surrounded by palm trees we had a cup of tea (sorry - enamel mug) at the local coffee bar which was complete with overnight facilities in the form of a Nama hut (but with western windows and door).

Our first three camping nights were along the banks of the Orange river - we travelled along normal dust roads and were then directed off these along tracks which eventually guided us down dry river beds (feeders to the Orange) - over great clumps of polished granite - thru' the sand - around the thorn bushes - meanwhile above us on both sides mountains of sun scorched boulders seemingly ready to crash into the valley - as many had done before !    The first evening we had no access to the river - this was blocked by several hundred metres of bush and reeds; the 2nd & 3rd evenings we had very cold bathing facilities at hand; albeit 200 m away over sand and rocks. In this section Edith was elated to see fields of cotton growing.  As Doug & I selected the choicest place to pitch the tents we spotted the tracks of a large cat - definitely not of the domestic variety !!  We were also visited by a sole Ververt monkey – just checking out what was available !

These campsites, being so far away from civilisation, proved to be the perfect place for Doug to set up his newest toy - a computer controlled telescope - only trouble was that the instructions were so easy to read in the bright moonlight - and the orientation of  the star chart that was in the instruction pack !   - it took us a few days to get it partially right - being a Yankee instrument and we being in the southern hemisphere didn't help.

On this first 4x4 section the roads were fairly easy to negotiate - a couple of sticky bits though - especially a 100-200m section of very deep sand - must say though that the Landie tackled this lot just as easy as the Jo'burg freeway !   It should be put on record that Mary and later her children (with her guidance) did a superb job with the navigation – the sheets of clues given were OK but not brilliant.     I (and Doug) were very happy with the cars' performance - the 300TDi is no rocket ship but that motor just keeps chugging away in the difficult bits - and we were quite heavily loaded - being the food and water carrier our car got lighter by the day !!  On our route was an abandoned mica mine – a small outcrop mixed with white quartz - a first for me – very interesting !  Aloes the different vegetation that sprouts in this desert area – the ‘quiver’ trees and the halfmens boom ; the latter like a huge daisy always facing the sun !

We completed the first section without incident - dodging the sharp rocks to avoid tyre side wall failures - 300 km without seeing another vehicle or person - is that even feasible in Europe? - but that's why we traveled together with a good tow rope!

After the desert (even though one meets the river on occasion) the commercial campsite 'Peace of Paradise' on the banks of the Orange, close to the border crossover from RSA to Namibia,  was indeed 'paradise'  - grass lawns to pitch the tents - Peter the owner able to serve a cold beer and provide braai packs, firewood etc - we stayed two nights in his paradise (Peter hailed from Mpumalanga - an ex-Escom manager who had opted out of the rut) and enjoyed the unisex showers under the moonlight (no roof) - the first day we tackled a circular tour into Helskoof - it was described as a trip into desolation surrounded by rum & raison ice cream - so true the mountains looked just like stacks of coloured ice cream and when we got to the elevated viewpoint below us was the aftermath of a Jurassic glacier flow - we were at 800m and on top of the world - as far as the eye could there was nothing - not a tree - no habitation - no 'life' .    After a lengthy lunch break - we 'feasted' with PROVITA dried bread biscuits and Marmite with lashings of water mixed with fruity flavouring - such are the high points of a trip to the end of the world.  Also Doug was brought back to reality - just as we wanted to drive back to camp a front tyre was decidedly flat - only at the bottom though - so the well oiled team jacked and pumped - no ways - just as well we had taken two extra spare wheels with us (on Doug's roof rack).

It was time to tackle the second section of the trail so we topped up the diesel tanks at Peter's local store 'RooiWinkel' on Saturday and set off for  Eksteensfontein - another quaint Nama settlement nestling around the inevitable mission church & school.  We were surprised to come across date plantation – Edith about 600 boxes to take back with us.  Part of the route was on declared dirt roads which then changed into farm tracks which went into, up over and through the mountains - some places were very rocky and needed to be crawled over - other places had been subject to heavy wash always - remember as I mentioned earlier when the rain is delivered in these parts it comes in Beeeg buckets. We also traversed elevated plains with nothing but succulents growing in a multitude of colours. We also took great pains to inspect and photograph a plant with sponge type leaves (similar but much smaller than the Welwhitsia) - later on we would drive through acres of the same vegetation - looked just like an endless cabbage patch !

We lunched at a water hole which was supplied by ubiquitous wind pump - Doug had to get the pump working of course , and then we headed toward and arrived at Kuboes by 16:05 on a good dirt road - very fast - we could now travel at more than 20 kph !

This road resembled a fairground switchback ride - the road followed the hilly countryside - speeding down the one hill and up and over the next - trouble is that one you can't see if anything is coming towards you or if the road veers to the left or right !   We headed past the mission and village for the Oornag Kampterrein - only to find it padlocked - Doug went back to the village - into the general store - turned on his best Afrikaans and got the keys - we had the whole place to ourselves.  This campsite was half washed away - long drop toilets which we didn't use (much easier to imitate a cat by now) - had a tap which didn't work - and a collection of Nama reed huts of which the Hoskin & Brodie families  occupied two for the night - these were 'POSH' - with concrete floors, a rollup reed door and a reed mat roof through which the moon shone all night.

After dropping of the campsite keys back at the village store on Sunday  morning we set off to the south to select what we thought was the correct track for the trail - maybe it was but I was now using my newest toy - the GPS (I had programmed in some waypoints before the journey) for it's intended purpose - for about  3 hours we followed our noses using the GPS to guide us to our destination, the BrandKaros campsite on the banks of the Orange river about 27 km upstream from the river mouth and the diamond mining town of Alexander bay.   Now we passed quite a few isolated shepherd huts - these mostly equipped with a plastic 1000 lt water container and a half broken pickup truck.

Great excitement from the children when Doug spotted a tortoise crossing the track and then later a fattish leguan and a very busy dung beetle.  At various times during the trip we spotted or heard black eagles, Kori Bustrad, secretary bird etc. etc.

Just short of the camp at BrandKaros the terrain suddenly changed to a sand/stone desert with not a touch of green to be seen anywhere until we got to the camp which  was on a working citrus (very nice oranges) farm.   The facilities were excellent - a very cold pool for swimming and oodles of grassy space and shady trees.  As the orange trees were being purged of blossom and fruit to 'rest' them (they have no season and would bear fruit continuously if not controlled) ;  we had 'cart blanche' to collect and eat.

Whilst relaxing on the lawns after our 600 km cross country trail Doug discovered his second puncture which was solved the next day at the tyre dealer in Alex (along with flat #1).  The following day we drove past the barbed wire fences of the diamond mines from BrandKaros towards Sendelingsdrif which the official entry point for the section of the Richter'sVeld that has been declared a national park.

We would go for a short drive, about 40 km., to a place called 'Wondergat' .   Now Doug was delivered flat #3 - a total blowout caused by sharp stone cutting straight thru' the carcase - the tyre looked to be ruined but another trip to the tyre dealer in Alex the next day would fix it with an internal gaitor and a new tube.  Well all we found from 'Wondergat' was the signpost pointing into the desert - after a good few kms of true off-road stuff we turned around to retrace our tracks back to the stony road (remember flat #3) stopping for a cool-drink and a light snack . The others wanted to climb the Koppie - maybe the 'Wondergat' would be spotted from higher up - I stayed with the cars and checked tyre pressures all around - one of Doug's tyres (fixed the previous day) needed some extra air -  so did one of mine !   We also made a visit to Alexander Bay town on Monday morning - wow - green lawns, a coffee shop and a fish & chip shop (sorry luv' fish's 'orf) - at least the supermarket provided the best Boerwors I have ever tasted.  Our visit to Alex would not be complete without a walk on the beach - the way was well signposted and indeed a triple security fence guided the cars to the beach where under the ever vigilant eye of the guard in the watch tower the kids could build sandcastles on the never ending beach - we crossed a wetland, full of flamingos, on the way to the beach - what a crying shame - the greed of an industry to leave such a mess of gravel dumps, derelict buildings and miles of  security fencing in such an ecological area. Let the ECO watchers do a National Geographic program on this and show the world what it means to wear a diamond ring!!

Departing from BrandKaros with another bag of oranges aboard we headed for home- first southward to Port Nolloth.  My tyre eventually gave up it's air and had to be changed with the spare - Doug had disappeared into the distance and returned to my assistance just as I was lifting the flat tyre onto the rear door.   From here on, we stuck closer together as I now had no spare and he had three !

Port Nolloth is a sleepy place 80 km south of Alex - the seafood lunch was good but lengthy !

From here the road home was tarred and a continuous 1200 km with night stopovers at Springbok and Kuruman.   Total distance traveled was 3657 km, of which just 900 km. was true 4x4 trail.

In circumspect we have to say that the kids behaved wonderfully – we pulled Nick’s leg all the time , he would eat nothing without tomato ketchup – he wanted to make an open fire every evening with dad giving the permission to strike the match – we enjoyed the campfires as much as he & Jo did.  During the trip ToniJo turned 9 years and she was allowed to choose the supper that evening – she managed to select what Nick was not so keen on (kids! – Edith and I have been there and worn the teeshirt)  They always found something to keep themselves busy  and certainly didn’t miss the TV set

Would we do it again - YES - but we have learned a few tricks for the next outing .

Bill & Edith Hoskin - Doug & Marie Brodie + Nich & ToniJo  August 2000

 

Consumption figures and GPS waypoints

Fuel consumption for open road - fairly heavy load with roofrack just under
9 lt/100 km cruising at true 100 kph - over off-road sections 11,5 lt/100 km
with lots of low range working.



Record of journey
-----------------
Friday   2000/08/04
Depart  Secunda 41366 10:55
Arrive  Scheizer-Reneke 17:10
 455 km AvSpd 82,6 kph

Saturday 2000/08/05
Depart   08:50
 Fillup Kuruman 10:17 42024/714 R222.69 70.91 lt
 Kiemos
 S 28 42,504 E 20 58,263  42328 14:16
Arrive Augrabies 15:15
 S 28 35,530 E 20 20,131 623m

Monday  2000/08/07
Depart  Augrabies 42445
 GPS trip 1073 AvSpd 83 kph set to zero
 Fillup Poffadder 42596/571 11:03 53,33+20(in Jerry can) R233,93
Arrive  Kraphol Island 16:30 42749/153
 S 28 50,869 E 18 44,692 259m GPStrip 304km AvSpd 55kph

Tuesday  2000/08/08
Depart 10:35
 lunch at Groot Melkboom
 S 28 53,933 E 18 23,524 219m GPStrip 352km
Arrive  Kamadrif 42829
 S 28 53,137 E 18 19,936 230m GPStrip 382km

Wednesday 2000/08/09
Depart 10:00
 pass old mica mine at S 28 59,975 E 17 59,484
 GPStrip 442km 668m
Arrive  Kamgab 13:50
 S 28 51,312 E 18 01,716 194m

Thursday 2000/08/10
Depart 10:10 42911/314 GPStrip 464
 Vioolsdrif 43000 GPStrip 554
Arrive  Peace of Paradise camp 15:30 43022/425
 S 28 42,360 E 17 28,540 152m GPStrip 574km

Friday  2000/08/11
 Helskloof circular route - viewpoint 703m 6hrs 72km
 Doug had first flat tire at viewpoint
 S 28 54,597 E 17 33,004
 back at P_ofP camp at 16:38 43095/498 GPStrip 646km

Saturday 2000/08/12
Depart  10:00
 fillup diesel at RooiWinkel 43106/509 38,3 lt R126,10
 Eksteensfontein 12:22
 S 28 49,441 E 17 15,244
 lunch at waterhole ( WATER0) S 28 46,518 E 17 09,832
       more water at (WATER1) S 28 42,051 E 17 07,268
Arrive  Kuboes 16:05 43233/126 GPStrip 784km

Sunday   2000/08/13
Depart 09:40
 drive down to intersection 7 (ContiMap) - then travel across
 country to BrandKaros
Arrive  BrandKaros 12:45 43319/212 GPStrip 869km
 S 28 28,719 E 16 41,064
 Doug had 2nd flat tire - leaking valve patch on tubed tubeless tire
 trip to Alexander Bay and the seaside
 drive towards Sendelingsdrif to find Wondergat
 Doug had 3rd & 4th puncture
 grease propshafts and add 500mml engine oil

Wednesday 2000/08/16
Depart BrandKaros 10:20 43462/355 GPStrip 1012km
 change nearside rear wheel for spare - slow puncture !
 seafood lunch at Port Nolloth
Arrive  Springbok 16:30 43723/616 GPStrip 1272
 campsite S 29 40,393 E 17 53,954 891m

Thursday 2000/08/17
Depart 08:00 fillup in Springbok 43725/619 60,14 lt R196.65
Arrive Kuruman 16:15 44374/649 GPStrip 1923

Friday  2000/08/18
Depart 08:30
 fillup just short of Vryburg 44472/746 (amber warning lamp on at 44460)
 pump registered 86 lt - only paid for 73 lt R224.11
Arrive Secunda 16:45 45037/564 GPStrip 2584 diesel still indicating 1/2 full

Total distance by vehicle odometer 3661 km
        by GPS trip         3657 km

 

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