Saturday, June 26, 2010

Richtersveld - Day 5

Camp resumed life from about 06h20 with the crunch of gravel as campers scurried about in the dawning of a new day.

A thick mist covered the plain outside our comfortable and cradling shelter.

After quick cups of tea, coffee or juice and toasted Hot Cross Buns (Bev has an amazing toaster - thanks to Roger!), cleaning, packing and tucking away tents commenced with much diligence – everyone knowing their place, whilst the little ones carried on digging their “burglar traps” with our “Dougs” but their spades.

One little glitch was the discovery of a punctured tyre, flat as a pancake, but with quick advice supplied by Roger and Russell it was soon sorted out and we were ready to roll leaving Tierhoek at 09h10.

The journey to the Orange was spectacular – various vistas and types of vegetation greeting us at every twist, turn and rise. It is incredibly amazing how the left and right views are so remarkably different, in an area that is “all” the same!

Not long into the route we crossed and followed a riverbed, which became a dead-end.

A good opportunity was taken to have a look at and take pics of the plants and terrain whilst deliberation took place as to which direction to take us out and about to the river.

The track used was a tame 4x4 route with its little dongas, ascents and dry riverbeds strewn with boulders, rocks and pebbles washed smooth by the drought stricken winds and sands of time and rinsed off occasionally by the odd bout of rain that fills the valley and runs into the river, only to last a short while before returning to the state we saw it in today.

The group continued in convoy, rocking gently and sometimes roughly over rugged and interesting terrain.

Sadly, it appears that apartheid has not left here….. we came upon a herdsman who had separated his goats from the sheep and the sheep were separated by colour – black on one side of the road, a distance behind the goats and white on the other in a “class” of their own. Wonder what our politicians would think of that now?

A couple of times we crossed riverbeds where there was water, albeit very little, that seemed to be coming up out of the ground. In these areas the vegetation was dense and very green.

Gordon spotted a skin, very much dried – looked like that of a Rooikat, and well prepared by one of the locals perhaps, but dropped – in a hurry…?? Who knows?

By 12h00 we reached (and I know it is NOT Baboon Skull) a spot for a tea break and surprise, courtesy of Russell. Two concrete reservoirs, having served their purpose at some stage, stand quietly containing nothing but the skulls and bones of monkeys.

Obviously, when there has been rain, the little creatures, out of desperation, climb into the reservoir, have their fill (or not) and can’t climb out again, leaving themselves to perish under the Richtersveld sky. A very sad sight, but indeed a sign of the harshness of the land, yet there is life in abundance here yet to be discovered by us overlanders, who just fly by and like to call ourselves “explorers” or “adventurers”! If only we had time in our lives to actually stop and take a real good look…….yes, if only….

After tea we carried on and climbed what can only be described as “the devil’s backbone”. Absolutely awesome!

We drove on the very tip of the ridge with steep descents on either side and sharp turns to the left on the ascent, making one hold one’s breath and daren’t uttering a sound lest the driver’s concentration be broken!
 Congratulations to us all! We all made it successfully and probably in record time too – not that anyone was racing, but sheer fear just makes one move faster!

A little drive further brought us past a shack in a patchwork field with a car(wreck) parked in the yard,

where just beyond was a nice flat piece of land ideal for lunch at 13h00.

Half an hour found some “intrepid explorers” taking a walk - and not for obvious reasons – but to explore and observe the flora of the area, as well as the massive quartzite outcrops, which appear to run in a vein across the Richtersveld.

After lunch we carried on toward Eksteenfontein and came across the odd caravan and bakkie (definitely not 4x4) parked remotely – the first signs of real civilisation – but no sign of people. Perhaps they had also gone away for the long weekend!

Then, we came upon Eksteenfontein. An incredibly small “town”, with very neat and tidy houses, some of which are painted in bold yellow, pink, red or green giving what could be a very stark setting a warm, welcoming and happy appearance. The drive through took about two minutes at a very slow pace.

And so our journey continued back into the dry wilderness with ever changing vegetation and terrain both left and right of the track.

We found some “Halfmens” upon a hill, their faces turned to the north...

as well as some nice Quiver Trees..

Shortly after, we came across an outcrop of shale where hundreds of little “towers” have been put up by people passing through.

It has an almost eerie feel, especially since it appears in the middle of nowhere and could have been put up by the ancient gods of the Nama!
Some towers are very intriguing indeed and this spot makes a nice quickstop.

After everyone had fulfilled their rock-building dreams, the convoy moved on, but had to stop to sort out a puncture picked up by one of the group. We parked off in another dry river bed, much to the delight of the children.

Half an hour later, we passed an area renowned for Petroglyphs (rock engravings) created as a means of communication by the San People who roamed the area hundreds of years ago.

Another half an hour later we entered a completely different terrain once again.  The many types of sceneries one sees in one day is innumerable. It would be the most amazing experience to stop off and explore these different areas a few days at a time to truly marvel the diverse life forms that exist in each piece of terrain.
After much driving around and trying to find the spot, we eventually reached our campsite down by the riverside just as dusk began to fall. We all had to find a spot and set up as quickly as we could in the failing light.

After a long, relaxing drink, we enjoyed cold chicken and salad
and settled down to a quiet night along the Orange River, with Namibia just across the way...

Tomorrow was going to be a laid back Easter Sunday, with nothing to do but take in the beauty of the surroundings, take a walk up the river, sit under the trees, read ... zzzzzz

With no ablution facilities available, it was a trek with doug out into the sparsley bushed surrounds.  With the light of the full moon looming above, one felt quite exposed, but all went well and we all managed our own privacy without any embarrassing moments! 

One does what one has to do in nature, no matter the circumstances, after all, we are all the same...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Richtersveld - Day 4 continued...

It is amazing how much time passes when recollecting and sharing one's travel experiences and in case you would like to refresh the first three days of the Richtersveld trip, here are the links for easy accessibility...
Days 1 and 2
Day 3
Day 4

Once we had all turned off, the convoy was brought to a stop in order to deflate tyres for desert driving conditions.

Once we had all dropped to the correct pressure, we continued our journey, being absolutely taken aback by the breathtaking, expansive terrain we were passing through.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shingwedzi Trip - Day Ten - The End

It was actually such a strange feeling to be staying in a house after our week long stint in the bush, roughing it and making do with very little. You only realise once you're back in a built up area with all the amenities, how the creature comforts have actually taken over our lives! I could still quite easily give them up, as pleasant as they are - do we REALLY need so much?  A topic to contemplate and make a serious decision on.

We were up just after 06:00 and very well rested.

It had rained most of the night and the temperature had dropped considerably. 

We washed, dressed and packed and ate a hearty breakfast in the dining-room.  Cereals, fruit salad, yoghurt, juice, bacon, eggs and sausages - a meal fit for an army, nevermind a king - well worth the stay and recommending to anyone travelling through Lydenburg.  An-Mari Bed & Breakfast - very, very nice indeed.

We hit the road just before 08:30 and it felt like winter.  The temperature at the same time the day before was 27 degrees celcius and today 16 with an 80 percent chance of rain spread across the country, right up to whence we came.  Seems our trip ended just in time.

And so we journeyed on, through rain and potholes until we reached home - about 14:30.

The close to another amazing trip.  I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you.  Perhaps next time you will actually come along ...

Visit Transfrontier Parks Destinations and decide how you would like to traverse Mocambique.  There are a variety of options available - Backpacking & Fishing Trails; Wilderness & Hiking Trails; Canoeing Trails and what we did, the 4x4 Eco Trails.

As well as Mocambique there are several other wonderful places to visit too.  Think about it, it is an unforgettable experience...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shingwedzi Trip - Day Nine - Homeward Bound

We awoke to a beautiful morning. 

The birdsong greeting the day permeated the air and the threads of the Golden Orb webs dazzled in the early morning light.

Breakfast was a quick yoghurt and we were not alone.  A Shongolo munched away heartily on a piece of eggshell we had accidentally dropped the night before.

Washing up, packing and a last look around at the wonders of nature

took us through to 08:00, the drivers briefing about the road ahead and possible problems and we were on our way.

We drove through a lot of water still on the road from the previous rains. 

We passed through Mashambe Village, which was dead quiet, this being a Sunday morning.