|Cape Trip 2013
To the excitement of discovery;
the long views; the other side of the horizon.
The surprise around the corner and the song of the wind.
To the fun of having a companion and the pleasure
of experiences that are shared.
[T.V. Bulpin - 'Discovering South Africa (1970)]
Cape 2006   Lesotho   Mozambique   Mkhambathi   Safari wagon To view larger size of any photograph, simply click on the photo
My 'ol Hi-Lux (1998 SFA) does it again, 364988km over some nasty roads and the sand tracks of the Namaqua Park,
taking every kilometre in its stride. As the advertising jingle once said,
"Everything keeps going right ......... Toyota"
Before the 'Groot Trek' began comes the planning and preparation; not so much the planning as our main objective was Namaqualand to see the flowers.   As for the route; the first part was set as I had a meeting at Rosslyn near Pretoria, thereafter we would drift wherever the mood took us. Similarly the time frame would be approximately three weeks.
As for the preparation - my Hilux stays ready to go and all we needed was sleepinmg bags and to top up food stocks, not that much was needed.
Knowing that we would have rain in the Western Cape Libby decided to make a new awning for the back of the Hilux, (Libby loves making tents). After all, she made our roof-top tent on her Bernina which has never been quite the same. The roof-top tent has served us well for the past 14 years.
Once it was a pretty tent but now it looks more like something from a squatter settlement, it is dirty, stained and patched where it was ripped by thorns and almost 100% water proof. I say almost as on one trip to Mozambique we experienced cyclonic rain. The gale force winds tore open one of the side windows - so it did not actually leak, the rain just blew in!   Awnings are wonderful as long as you do not have strong winds, and I mean strong winds, especially when they gust faster than my 'ol Hilux can go down-hill.
While all this was taking place, Trudy our dog, knew exactly what was taking place. She had learnt from past experience
and her attitude towards us changed from the friendly pooch we know to one of abject misery. She would mope around and
look at us as if we were unfriendly aliens. I just have to take the Hilux out of the garage for her to drop her lip and
her eys fill with tears - they're going away again............
The first leg of our trip was on Sunday to 'Dube', a camp near Brits and
20kms from Rosslyn, near Pretoria.
After my meeting at Rosslyn we left for Ottoshoop to visit a relation living there. We left the N4 before Rustenburg and travelled along gravel roads via Koster till we eventually joined road R505.
Nothing exciting about Ottoshoop;
it is depressing to see a town in decay similar to many other small 'dorps'
(a one-horse town) all over South Africa, but it has a very interesting history.
We followed the N12 and camped at Boereplaas approximately 19km before Vryburg; my opinion of the camp is 'mediocre'. On arrival the receptionist was fast asleep. It was already Tuesday but litter left over from the weekend had not been removed. It must have been, and still could be, a wonderful camp and ideally situated but they need to tighten up on their management.
On the spur of the moment we decided to visit Mokala
reserve and phoned to enquire if camping was available.
-The lady affirmed that we could camp but on arrival were told that they were full;
(for future reference always ask for the name of the person you are speaking to.)
Needless to say I was not impressed but after some heated discussion they said we could
travel through the park and exit at Lilydale, the southern gate, and no charge for the visit.
They also arranged camping for us at 'Riverside Caravan Park'.
The Riverside Country Club and Caravan Park', on the banks of the
'Riet River', [sS29.97322, e24.46647], a small but delightful camp site.
The area is steeped in history, so if your passion is South African History concerning the Anglo-Boer War
then this is the place to be. I saw a few memorial plinths to commemorate the Battle of
Next morning we were in no rush to carry on with the trip and only got going after 10a.m.
After some discussion as to whether we should start our flower tour from the south, or north end of the West Coast,
we finally decided, with a flip of a coin, to start at the north end. So we set course for Springbok on gravel
roads via Plooysburg, Douglas to Griquastad.
Interesting facts about Douglas and Griquastad:
Then a day's wandering along back roads to Groblershoop where we camped at 'Kheis Riverside Lodge', named after the indigenous KhoiSan that means "place to stay", on the banks of the Orange River. Only stayed one night, should have stayed longer - good place to break a journey and chill out.
To view larger size of a photograph, simply click on the photo
A walk to the Augabies falls is a must. It has a well laid out walk-way, made with wood slats that meanders through the rocky terrain to a number of viewpoints, some of which extend out over the gorge. For folks fearful of heights this would definately give you the Heebie-jeebies.
'Rock Dassies' (Procavia capensis) are common around the camp and on the walk to the falls. They are not a nuisance, but BEWARE of BABOONS & MONKEYS. Make sure not to leave any food visible and unprotected - the monkeys will have it in a flash. There was a worker, with a catapult, patrolling the camp who was no deterrent at all, - I suspect her function was to make the campers feel more protected and complacent thereby making it easier for the marauders to steal your goodies.
There is also much to see in the park and surrounding area, a game drive through the park or explore the areas between Augrabies and Upington. There are the numerous wine cellars of the 'Orange River Wine Co-operative'. The wine may not have the same pedigree as wines from the Bordeaux region in France, but very palatable when back at camp doing nothing in particular, except to make space for a dozen or two bottles you bought to take home - if they survive the trip.
To view larger size of any photograph, simply click on the photo
Another task to fill in the time is to make bread. Two ways of doing it either, a normal size loaf or what we call
'breadlets'. It is the same mixture as we use for making our bread at home, except the larger bread is done in a pot,
whereas the breadlets are done in a very lightly oiled skillet. Libby is a master camp cook - she even made a
chocolate cake, with icing, for one of the kids birthday when on Safari in the central Kalahari; and that was in 1989.
Compared to other types of holiday accommodation camping is the best. By-and-large campers are friendly helpful folk, willing to share their experiences; where they have been, road conditions, interesting places, camps to avoid. Sometimes you can team up with some for a few days if you are moving in the same direction, especially so if you are travelling outside the borders of South Africa.
Then onto Springbok with the intention of camping for a few days at the 'Goegap Nature Reserve', previously called the 'Hester Malan Wild Flower Garden'. Over 15,000 hectares of sandy meadowland with outcrops of granite and a blaze of colour in August & September when the flowerse bloom.
Years back we visited our daughter at Stellenbosch University then set off on a trip to Namibia. It started raining
before we left Stellenbosch but I assured my wife, "Don't panic, as we go north the rain will stop".
Did it stop?   Hell no, it just got progressively worse. We called in at 'Hester Malan' and rented the house
they had available. We needed to wash our clothes but no chance of hanging it out to dry, so we dried our washing
in the stove warming drawer and oven, stayed close by reading a book and monitoring the temperature in case my
under-rods became over-done.
Back to the present:
The closer we got to Springbok the more flowers we began to see, not wall-to-wall carpets of flowers but patches
mainly within the road reserve.
So we decided to turn south to 'Kamieskroon' and camped the night at the Kamieskroon hotel.   Kamieskroon is also one of those small dorps that time has long passed by. It probably only sparks once a year during the flower season after which it settles back to hibernate until the next flower season.
Comments on the camp site: feel it is overpriced; site not very level, plus they were having a problem with the hot water in the ablution block. The camp site is close to the main road (N7) so traffic noise is an irritation, especially the big rigs with their airbrakes - sleep was difficult. OK for a one night stop but otherwise I do not recommend it.
That afternoon we decided on visiting the 'Namaqua Park' and phoned to ask if we could camp for two nights. They were very helpful and confirmed that camping was available at 'Boulder Bay' and at 'Delwers' camp for the second night. That night I made an internet payment for our stay at the Park.
It was a short hop from Kamieskroon to the Namaqua Park office at 'Skilpad' but the drive there took a while
due to frequent stops to admire and photograph the abundance of wild flowers.
Then we ran into a snag on our arrival at the park office as the payment made the previous night had not yet
registered on their system. The staff at the office were friendly and helpful; they certainly could teach
the personnel at the 'Kruger Park' much about customer friendliness and service.
From 'Skilpad' you travel to 'Hondeklipbaai'. Again I did not pay any attention to distances, no time for such trivialities when there was so much to see and photograph.
Eventually we came to a T-Junction; left to the Namaqua park and right to Hondeklipbaai. We decided to turn right to visit the metropolis of Hondeklipbaai. Last time we visited was 12 years ago and I can't say we noticed any changes.
A short distance south of Hondeklipbaai is the wreck of the Aristea.
Built in Scotland in 1934 it served as a fishing vessel for Irvin & Johnston Fishing Company, then as mine sweeper from 1939 to 1942. She ran aground in July 1945, of a crew of 5, one died in the incident.
All that now remains is a pile of unrecognizable rusty metal, - hardly worth the visit.
Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
Back we went to the road that led to the Namaqua Park and came to an insignificant gate that turned right into the Park. From this point a 4x4 vehicle is required to drive though the park to Groenrivier at the southern exit. We could easily have missed the turn were it not for four other vehicles there with their drivers, pressure gauges in hand, reducing their tyre pressures.   The road looked OK to me so we just drove past. [Would reduce pressure when needed!]
Namaqua National Park with an area of more than 700 sq.km is a winter rainfall region. This biome is a
biodiversity hotspot with the largest
concentration of succulent plants in the world. More than a 1000 of its estimated 3500 plant species are
found nowhere else on earth. (Makes one realise just how unique the park is!)
Our first tour was to 'Spoegriviergrotte' about 7km(?) with some very sandy stretches. Don't think I'd like to pull a heavy trailer through such deep sand, but then some do it, probably with wide 'takkies' and very low tyre pressures, - Good luck to them!
On the way to 'Speogrivier' caves and river mouth the track changed from sand to deep sand and it became necessary
to reduce tyre pressure. I used a Boere method; that is a match stick and count to 15, or 20? After leaving the park and
reflating my tyres I saw that the pressures varied from 1,3 to 1,6 bars; that was adequate to cope with the sand.
Where necessary changing to low range in 3rd gear we just sailed across the deep sand on my Firestone (ATX 215x15) tyres.
We encountered two vehicles that got stuck, a Landrover Freelander and a Prado - no fault of the vehicles but obviously the drivers had no experience.   Later I met the lady from the Freelander at the office on our way out. She was complaining loudly to the staff suggesting, in fact demanding, that they improve the roads.
Our first night was at 'Boulder Bay' with six camp sites well-spaced apart. Other than ourselves there was one family
camping. A novel and useful idea was a curved wall built to act as a wind shield against the prevailing wind.
Loved the camp sites. This is what true camping is about, as close to bush camping you can get; camp sites
spaced out, no electricity, in most camps there is no water, no ablution facilities bar for a very basic long drop
with no roof, so make sure you have a wide umbrella or water-proof toilet paper. Sing loudly while there as there
is no door.
I hope that SAN Parks leave the camps just the way they are!
Next day we took a walk exploring the coast line before setting off for Delwers camp. Along the way we turned off to see some of the other camp sites along the way. Each was unique with a view that seemed better than the one before. We would have loved to stay at each and every one.
We arrived at Delwers, the last camp site before the Groenrivier offices and exit gate.
Our two days in the park were well timed as that evening a cold front moved in from the Atlantic with strong wind, cold and rain. It arrived with a gale force wind that hit like a runaway train. Our camp site was number 6, the highest point in the camp, so it hit us with full force, but we were prepared and had packed up leaving nothing outside. For us to pack-up is easy as all we take out of the Hilux when we camp are our chairs.
About 60 metres away another family were camping with one of the camp trailer combinations with all awnings pegged out.
There were shouts and screams and torches flashed as they tried to batten down flapping canvas and retrieve other
camping paraphernalia that was being blown away.
The 'Namaqua Park' is well worth a visit, not just for a day or two.
Next stop was 'Nieuwoudtville' via Garies and the back roads via Witwater, Platbakkies and Louriesfontein.
The flowers would have been exceptional, but the rain and dark sky kept them shut. None-the-less it was an
interesting drive with one section having 12 farm gates to open and close. Guess who had to get out
to open and (more muttering) close them .
We came to a T-junction that had no direction boards and were not sure if we had to go left or right, even with our
Road Atlas we were not sure of which way to go.
At the junction was an elderly coloured man with a wrinkled face and a smile that would have scared a crocodile. He seemed oblivious to the cold and rain. I asked, "Se vir my, waar gaan die pad heen?" With the logic that only the coloureds have he replied, "Meneer! Die pad bly net hier; maar waar heen wil meneer gaan?"
My wife has a school friend who owns a delightful B&B (Swiss Villa)at 'Nieuwoudtville'. and that is where we spent the night. It rained steadily from the time we got there and most of the night. That night we were slept indoors all warm and cosy, but, I missed not been in our tent. There is something magical about sleeping in our roof-top tent, warm and cosy, with a rain-drop tattoo on the canvas.
Next morning it was still cold and windy but other than a few spits of rain the clouds were breaking up, the sun was beginning to win the battle against the dark clouds, so the day promised to improve - but for how long? Checking the weather on my lap top showed another monster front was on the way with another close behind.
Time to move away from the West coast inland to the dry sunny Karoo.
'We had friends at 'Vanderkloof' who had insisted we visit if we were ever in the Cape. Prior to leaving on
our trip we had spoken to them saying we would visit but did not know when, now was the time to make the arrangement.
As expected as we moved inland we left the rain behind but it was still 'vrek' cold.
Travelling the route through Calvinia and Williston we arrived at Carnarvon, a town with more churches than ATM's, and decided to stay over for the night. Carnarvon, the former 19th-century mission, is booming due to the 'Square Kilometre Array (SKA) mega-telescope that is being built and Scientists now fly in on a weekly chartered flight. Property prices have shot up and the number of guesthouses has grown. However, the very high-tech development does not seem to have done much for the local coloured population. The small groups at street corners sitting listlessly on the pavement, are an indication of high unemployment levels in the local community.
The local caravan park looked suspect but we had seen a sign painted on the side of a cement reservoir advertising 'Meerkat Manor'. We found 'Meerkat Manor', the site is in the yard of a house in town. The house, and the one next door, is a B&B establishment. I doubt if more than 4 caravans would fit in, but the site was very clean and a good place for a stop-over. Astronomy has even influenced local branding as 'Meerkat Manor' is named after the SKA's MeerKAT telescope.
Next day we travelled to Vanderkloof via Britstown, De Aar and the back roads to Phillipstown and Petrusville.Must metion De-Aar, as recently there has been a furore by residents at plans by Transnet to dump 52000 tons of asbestos in two borrow pits near the town. To me this is a storm in-a-teacup. I went to school for many years in a school with pre-fabricated asbestos classrooms, as did many other kids all over the country, and we never had a problem!
Besides, I'm sure Transnet would bury the asbestos deep, cover it with top-soil and plant suitable indigenous vegetation. The asbestos would be returned from whence it came - below ground. Having no value no one is likely to dig it up.
Once through De Aar we came across Solar Farms.
Tracts of land where rows upon rows of solar panels were erected,
each probably twice the size of a standard garage door; there must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of them
and more being put up - all to generate electricity from the sun's rays and feed it into the national grid.
The village of
spreads over the southern shoreline of the 'Vanderkloof' dam; previously
the [PK Le Roux dam], the second largest dam in South Africa and it is a sight to behold.
The main body of water, they call it 'die groot dam' lies some eight(?) kilometres up-stream from the dam wall.
The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page.
Next 'port-O-call' was Orania, -
the Afrikaner enclave established in 1990 by Professor Carel Boshoff. Much has been written about it most of which is
'bad' press and this, more than anything else, prompted me to want to go and see for myself.
Now was the ideal opportunity as Orania is only 45km from Vanderkloof. We set off with the intention of
a brief visit, spend one night camping at their camp, 'Aan-die-Ower', have a quick-look-see and leave the next day.
What an experience. The ambiance of Orania was one of peace, restfulness, cleanliness, order and most if all friendliness from everyone we met. As for crime? - don't think they even know how to spell the word in either Afrikaans or English.
At a coffee shop I enquired where to buy meat and was advised that the best meat was from Oom Gavies' slaghuis
who has a butchers shop at his home, [S29.81454, E24.41480]. His pork sosaties are the
best in Africa!
Orania have their own radio station and currency, actually a coupon called an Ora of different denominations, which
are used for financial trading within the community.
I was told that the economy of Orania is booming. From what I saw there is no reason to believe otherwise.
As for its legitimacy - For those interested refer to the South African constitution, Chapter 14 - General provisions, section 235.
Now it was the last leg home taking the by-ways to Luckhoff, Fauresmith, Jaggersfontein and onto Ladybrand.
Besides the endurance race it is one of only three towns in the world where the railway line runs through the centre of town.  So it was until 1976 when the ol' steamer puffed its last.   Pity it is not operational today, it would be a great tourist attraction!
Next town on the route was Jaggersfontein. Diamonds were discovered here three years before Kimberly and the Jaggersfontein Mine yielded some historic stones such as the 972 carat (194.4 g) Excelsior Diamond of 1893, the 637 carat (127.4 g) and the Reitz Diamond of 1895, which was presented to Queen Victoria on the 60th anniversary of her coronation, so the gem was renamed the Jubilee Diamond to commemorate the occasion.   The mine is the biggest hand-excavated hole in the world. It is not the deepest, the Big Hole in Kimberley holds the title at 219 metres, but at 201m it's not far behind.In the century of operation it yielded approximately 9.6 million carats (1,900 kg) of jewel-quality diamonds.
The mine officially closed in February 1969 and De Beers sold the mine to a black economic empowerment holding (BEE) company, Superkolong Consortium.
The viewing platform to view the 'big-hole' is now closed and I wonder if the museum still exists?
Jaggersfontein has fallen on hard times since the mine closed and the downward spiral continued due to municipal mismanagement in the post-apartheid era. Like Ottoshoop, another town in melt-down; - Quo vadis South Africa?
We finally arrived at Ladybrand and continued to Oldenburg Game Lodge, about 10km out of Ladybrand. We had camped
at Oldenburg 3 years before. Then we found the camp facilities were not good but assuming that things must have
improved we decided to give it a try. Well, nothing had improved, not one tiny-little-bit.
However the surrounding area has picturesque views.
Finally, not wanting to go home we dragged our heels at Weneen Game reserve for two nights and enjoyed some great rhino sightings, so much so that we decided to go back two weeks later, and this is what we found, a Rhino slaughtered. Subsequently we heard that four had been killed!
When will the slaughter end? When the specie is finally extinct? Protection of the Rhino in its natural environment will be impossible. Well not impossible, but the cost of 100% protection in gameparks where the animal roam free would be prohibitive unless in smaller areas, ultimately in zoos behind bullet proof glass.
Another alternative is to actually farm with rhino. I can imagine the greenies working themselves into a froth over this idea, but what options are there? Shoot the poachers? Will this save the rhino - I doubt it.
The value of rhino horn is currently at
$100,000 a kilogram.
Many Asians have maintained their faith in traditional Chinese medicine, which holds that rhino horn is an important restorative. Shaved or ground into powder, the horn is immersed in hot water and used to treat fever, arthritis, or high-blood pressure. Among affluent Vietnamese, the horn is also a status symbol, a means for people to flaunt their wealth. Rich people and well-to-do government officials have been known to gift rhino horns to each other.
It was a wonderful trip.
The North & West Cape are tremendous, the roads are excellent with no 'pot-holes', difficult to believe but true. The country is also clean and free of litter. Compared to KZN it is clinically clean as were the road-side picnic spots.
Traveling South Africa can be an enlightening experience as it has a broad spectrum of culture, history and scenery. Don't rally through Africa, slow down, speak to more people and take more photographs. I have found that writing about it not only helped me remember more about the trip, but also what I should do in the future to enrich my travels.
A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.
Cape Trip 2006       Trip to Lesotho      Trip to Mozambique
Mkhambathi-Wild Coast)      Safari wagon
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© Harold Churchill
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