Monday, November 22, 2010

Tuesday 28th Sept 2010 - Desert Crossing - Part 1

.We awoke to a brilliantly clear day and got ourselves busy with packing up for the day ahead.  Today was to be the desert crossing and as Andre had explained, we'd have to first get out of the riverbed before exploring further and this sounded like an adventure in itself.
Breakfast was an interesting array of muffins, sausages, pap and sauce, cheeses and breads.  Once we had finished up, washed our dishes, made the final adjustments to our packing, we parked in convoy and waited for Andre to take the lead and guide us out of our little safehaven.

We joined up with section of riverbed we had driven through the day before and here we were instructed to pump up our tyres as we were about to ascend some very rocky terrain ... 

This terrain being WORS PASS, is made up of rock that looks like slabs of shale.  And that is all - just rock and pieces of it strewn everywhere.  Any plant life is virtually non existent and what there is is very scrubby and dry.
Here is Andre taking the lead and testing the track before the rest of us can follow.

Once at the top he radioed for the rest of  us to come up one vehicle at a time and here you can see just how high we are going - notice in the clearing just left of centre how tiny the 4x4s look! (click on the picture to enlarge).

And here is a close up of the type of rock we drove over...

Once at the top the view was again quite breathtaking with the contrasts of rock, dune and greenery. 

We assembled next to Andre, waiting as each vehicle slowly made it to the top.

Where the river flows the abundance of life is absolutely amazing and to see all this with one's own eyes is truly a privilege.

And so we continued our journey and not too far off we came to an area that is littered with Welwitschia mirabilis...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monday 27 Sept. 2010 - Let the Dunes Begin...

All the drivers drove their vehicles up to the main entrance to have radios fitted for the trip while the rest of us couldn't wait for that first cup of coffee and discussed the sudden change in weather and wondered what we were in for.

We settled down to a hearty breakfast - the perfect start to the long day ahead and Andre gave us the lowdown of what the plan for the day would entail. 

First stop was at the garage so that everyone could see to their last chances on petrol and water, wood and other odds and ends as we were not going to see another civilised spot until Friday afternoon.
We hit the road at 09:00 and made our way to the Namib Naukluft National Park Gate about 30kms away, where we all took a sho't left.

Once we had all turned and were through the gate, the convoy was brought to a halt and we were instructed to deflate our tyres to takkies as we had now entered soft sand territory and the flatter the tyre the better as you "float" across the dunes. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Home via the Karoo - March 2008

With the end of the Richtersveld weekend behind us, our road home was going to be the long one...

The road to Port Nolloth seemed as straight as an arrow.

The searing heat of the morning seemed to be cooling as a bank of grey clouds spread across the desert.  It looked as though a cold front was approaching from the west.

Port Nolloth is semi-desert, flat, sandy and scrubby.  Apparently the temperature here remains an almost constant 17 degrees Celcius twelve months of the year, with variances in February, when it can be baking hot and again in July when it goes from cool to cold.  August and September are the recommended months to visit as from October to March southerly gale force winds blow, making it rather uncomfortable for visitors to the area.

Clusters of houses face the sea and the small harbour is well protected by a reef of rock. 

The calm waters within the reef are somewhat inviting, but the Benguela Current flowing up the coast is bitterly cold - maximum 16 degrees Celcius.  Rainfall in the area is low - about 45mm a year, this because of the low sea temperature, which resists evaporation causing low precipitation.

We drove through the town and surrounding area.  There is a hardy character about the place and if one had the time to explore every nook and cranny, the memories of past things, tough men and forgotten adventures of this old copper harbour would come to light.

We just happened to be here on the wrong day - a public holiday, so all monumental buildings where shut tight and the town was still sleepy on Easter Monday...

A beautifully maintained Church and Convent stand out in the bleak greyness and attract one's attention... a place of peace and solitude.

We all seek refuge somewhere, somehow, sometime...

The history of the town is such that it developed from being a harbour on the Namaqualand coast for the shipment of copper ore dominated by the Cape Copper, the South African Copper and the Okiep Copper Companies, to a commercial fishing village with three crayfish factories and then, with the discovery of diamonds, the place boomed and affluent people such as Hans Merensky and Ernest Oppenheimer became involved in the mining operations, which caused all types of upheaval amongst diggers and the government and began what became known as the Namaqualand Rebellion.

If ever you are in town, you have to stop off at the little fishshop, Port Fisheries, for fingerlicking, lipsmacking fish and chips - fresh from the sea!  We armed ourselves with our bundle and went down to the beach.  Sitting on rocks we satisfied our hunger with seagulls screaming at us, trying to launch themselves at our treasure, which we shared with them anyway - at the very end.

Once refreshed, well fed and watered, we made our way back to the road we had arrived on and bade a "we'll be back..." farewell to Port Nolloth, leaving behind a sleepy little town steeped with history long gone and rich with mineral wealth... 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Richtersveld - Day 7 - So Long, But Not Goodbye...

Dawn arrived a lot quicker than expected.

I suppose it had something to do with wishing that this part of our journey would never end.  What we had seen of the Richtersveld was nothing but a pin-prick of what the area has to offer.  What is it about the desolated desert?  Why is it so difficult to leave?  Perhaps one day I will have an answer, but for now, let us get on with packing up the tent, boiling the kettle and having our last cuppa on the Orange River before we begin our new adventure.

After we had all pulled ourselves out of our camping area, we lined our vehicles up for the farewell group photo. 

It was with a touch of sadness that we had to say "so long.." to a couple of the people we had spent our time with and one especially I have to mention is Nic Nel,  "Sir Winston" as I fondly named him.  Something about his character is the way I would imagine the great Statesman of all, Sir Winston Churchill.  Perhaps it was the way Nic would take a walkabout with his whisky and have a chat with everyone in the early evening or was it the cloud of smoke from his pipe?  Perhaps it is his knowledge of traversing difficult terrain and he has done a lot of exploring.  Perhaps it's just the way he is. 

His wife Jenny, appeared to be the epitomy of patience and I can actually picture her picking wild flowers and pressing them, keeping record of their journeys in a giant journal ...

After having taken each others photos and hugging and wishing each other well, the convoy took to the dusty track leading away from our little nest. Driving out of the area, we turned towards what looked like a patchy yellow carpet - very difficult to believe that these flowers are weeds and grow in very little soil.

One often sees them along the roadside and they just add such a bright touch to what can sometimes be colourless arid land...

About twenty minutes later we reached the Nababiep Nature Reserve where one will find "Peace of Paradise",
well that is what the sign
says, but by the look of things everything has been allowed to rust in peace and perhaps paradise is just beyond the palm trees... 

I should imagine this must have been quite a spot in its heyday, but I believe it has been closed since about 2005 and there are no funds available to rebuild and restore the facilities that have crumbled to nothing...

And so we travelled on and once again, the vista was forever changing - all nice and green along the river side of the road

And dry and dusty arid land on the other ...

There are huge farms along the riverside and everything seems to grow in abundance.  The soil is almost black and is exceptionally fertile, as is land along rivers...

We pulled up outside a "General Dealer" store, found some Bully Beef from Botswana for future trips, and bought some frozen water ices.  The temperature had soared to 25 degrees and it was only 10:20.   We all gathered our refuse bags and placed them in the bins provided at the shop and continued about two kilometres further where we pulled up alongside the road to pump up our tyres as the road had improved and tar was not too far ahead and after final farewells we each left as and when we were ready to and vanished off into the distance, leaving nothing but dust in our wake...

We hit the tar at about 11:30 / 12:00 and took the turn heading in the direction of Port Nolloth, while everyone else headed toward Springbok...

And so, our adventure home begins...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Richtersveld - Day 6 - Lazing on the Orange

We awoke to the sound of children hurrying here and there, squeals of laughter drifting from all around.
Russell had played Easter Bunny and hidden Easter eggs in the grass, bushes and trees around the campsite.

Since we had no obligation to go anywhere or do anything, we took the opportunity to investigate our surroundings and nice long walks along the Orange River became the order of the day for most of us and the tiny tots spent most of their time splashing about in the little pools of water inland from the river.
Just when we all thought we were the only people in the middle of nowhere, a fleet of canoes came cruising on down the river.  A competition of some sort is held every year in one of the little "towns" up river and is quite an event.

By about 11:00 it was pretty hot and both the children and adults were looking longingly to the cool water for some relief.  Russell and a couple of others managed to tether a rope around a rock in the middle of the river and to a rock on land and those who had, took their rubber tubes upstream and floated down to where the rope crossed the river as a barrier to stop anyone from being carried away by the rapid waters. 

Splishing and splashing and great peals of laughter filled the air.
Nic, or "Sir Winston", had made himself quite comfortable a little downstream and tried his luck at fishing. 

What a lazy day on the Orange.

Gordon asked if anyone had a spare tube we could use and we trundled off upstream.  About a kilometre or so from the campsite, we stopped off under some trees and lay in the long grass, soaking up the sounds, smells and sights of the beautiful surroundings.  Cormorants and other birds spent their time fishing, diving off rocks...

Just across the river from where we were is Namibia, the Orange River running along the border.  Fancy that! A hop, skip and a jump away!  Problem is if I had to do it I'd get nabbed!  So I quickly discouraged the thought and focused on the adventure to come.

After about ten minutes we continued our walk upstream and found a spot where we were able to launch ourselves into the tubes and take a leisurely, sometimes awkwardly bumpy and hair-raisingly scary, float down the river, back to camp.  We passed many nests, built by the Cormorants, which were put together with thorny branches and other matter.  These nests were about the size of the tubes we were using - HUGE and dangerous!

We allowed ourselves to drift this way and that and even touched the banks of Namibia!  After what must have been about half an hour or so, we began the approach to the barrier across the river.  For some strange reason, it seemed our tubes had picked up speed.  Oh me gosh...!  Boing, out the tube!  Under the water and washing away! With arms raised and rushing at a speed of knots, I just managed to grab hold of the rope, the river so desperately wanting to take my body downstream...!  I clung on for dear life and with much effort, managed to get my feet back on to the rocky and slippery surface of the riverbed and hoist myself out. 

Everyone else was relaxed.  Chilled.  How come it felt like I had almost met my end?  Panic.  That is what it was.  That moment I had experienced was mine alone.  Yhew!  It felt like an age before I was on terra firma, and the knees seemed to be made of jelly, but what an experience!  A wonderfully, cooling and refreshing ride down the Orange!

In no time at all we were all dried out and longing for a second go at the river, but I decided that wading in the water near to the bank would be a better option, so I went off and joined some children fishing for teeny-weeny fish in the rock pools.

The day lingered on and eventually we all started settling down, getting ready for night to come.  As the sun dropped behind the mountain across the river, the shadows changed the scenery once again.  Amazing what  difference a little shadow can make to a terrain.

Dark drew across the sky, fires were lit, children washed and fed, and stillness crept in.  Russell had another surprise ready.  Once it was dark enough and the fires were about ready, he threw some stones into the coals. 

There before our eyes, luminous green began to glow brighter and brighter and with little explosions, the stones split into pieces, creating a little firework display.  The stone - fluorite, or fluorspar as it is also known.

With the crackle and warm glow of the fire, everyone sat and chatted, braaied, ate and relaxed, this being the last fire of the weekend with an early start tomorrow for the long trek home for many and the beginning of an amazing trip for Gordon and I. 

The journey is only about to begin....