Namakwaland August 2000
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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).
first three camping nights were along the banks of the Orange river - we
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
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.
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 !
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!
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).
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 !
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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 !
Nolloth is a sleepy place 80 km south of Alex - the seafood lunch was good
but lengthy !
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
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
we do it again - YES - but we
have learned a few tricks for the next outing .
& Edith Hoskin - Doug & Marie Brodie + Nich & ToniJo