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Canon's Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure. August 2015.

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canon
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Canon's Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure. August 2015.

Unread post by canon » Sun Sep 20, 2015 8:53 pm

During August SO and I embarked on a trip that had been on our wish list for years. This journey took us across to the west, up to Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park through southern Namibia to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. We were familiar with Kgalagadi but had been putting off the Richtersveld for many years. It was thus with great excitement and expectation that we departed in our trusty Landy for this epic journey which covered close to 6500 km. This will be a complete trip report that could include bits that are not SAN parks but names will not be mentioned - it would be a pity to leave them out.

DAY 1
We left Grahamstown at 16h00 and headed for Graaff Reinet where we overnighted in the Lakeview Tented Camp in the Camdeboo NP. This is a perfect stop-over because one can arrive late which is very useful. En-route we stopped on the Bruintjieshoogte Pass to have a quick cuppa whilst enjoying the familiar view over the Karoo plains

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Rain was forecast for the night which was absolutely correct but fortunately the tents provided us with a warm and cosy nights sleep. It was early to bed because tomorrow would be a long pull all the way to Calvinia.

DAY 2
We had an early start and were soon heading towards Murraysburg. We had had a good night's rest and once the sun came up we got the true holiday feeling. The roads were quiet and before long we were in Victoria West where we stopped off for a steaming hot cup of moer coffee - SO could not resist doing a bit of retail therapy on the nick-nacks available at this establishment

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We were soon on our way again and were treated to this great sighting of a Martial Eagle a few KM out of town

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We could resist turning in at Loxton. It is an amazing little town that appears to be attracting a number of new residents who are giving up the rat race in the big cities. Certainly a tempting idea. The beautiful church stands out in the centre of the village

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The roads were quiet and we made good time - such a pleasant drive through this barren land. Vetkoek with plenty of trimmings at this little spot in Carnarvan provided us with the ideal break before heading for Calvinia where we over-nighted in a lovely guest farm on the outskirts of town

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Last edited by canon on Mon Sep 21, 2015 5:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Sun Sep 20, 2015 9:08 pm

DAY 3
It was another early start because we wanted to reach our next destination, a nature reserve near Springbok, before lunch. We stopped at this famous landmark for a pic before heading for Vanrhynsdorp which would be our first stop

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We were hoping to catch the flowers in full bloom but, being early in August, we soon found out that we to early for the flowers because the rains had apparently been a bit later than usual. After filling up in Vanrhynsdorp we turned north on the N7 and made good time. There appeared to be a good show of flowers at the foot of the Vanrhyns Pass but it was still early and overcast so not much to see. However, once we reached Garies the flowers were quite prolific. These pics were taken along the route

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After a very pleasant drive we reached our destination where check in went smoothly

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It took us about 45 min to reach our accommodation. The drive was very scenic and there were a few animals to welcome us

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We were very pleased to see this pair of Ground Woodpeckers- a "lifer" for us

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Last edited by canon on Sun Sep 20, 2015 10:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Sun Sep 20, 2015 9:15 pm

DAY 4
We spent this day at leisure and took a slow drive enjoying the scenery which was spectacular - no doubt preparing us for the Richtersveld.

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This Rock Agama kept a good watch over us - certainly a colourful fellow.

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We enjoyed our two nights here but were looking forward to the trip tomorrow which would take us to the Richtersveld. This would be the first time that we had traveled these roads.
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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Sun Sep 20, 2015 10:03 pm

DAY 5
In a sense I suppose one could say that we had now reached the business end of our trip - heading for the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier park. It was thus with great excitement that we headed north out of Springbok en-route to Steinkopf where we turned west to Port Nolloth. This was a really pleasant drive down to the west coast. We hoped to visit the much spoken about McDougals Bay but felt that we did not have time. We drove around Port Nolloth - not much to see really. Nice little harbour

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We found a filling station and filled up the auxiliary tank as well as with another 40l in jerry cans because we were not sure what fuel would be available further north. A quick cup of coffee at this delightful spot on the beachfront was welcome before heading for Oranjemund

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We were now in desert and sea sand combined. The wind had come up and clouds of sand impaired visibility significantly. There was evidence of mining activity all the way up ton Oranjemund. We topped up the fuel tank here (not much to talk about in this dorp). We had planned to visit the Orange River mouth but were once again pressed for time - will most likely regret this decision in years to come. We were soon heading out on a typical sand road that was in fact in really good condition making driving an absolute pleasure.
This is a harsh land that has this amazing river flowing through it - seems so sad that this water cannot be utilized for some form of agriculture

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Once you turn off the road to Kuboes towards the park it deteriorates dramatically. We were very pleased to reach the gateway to the park - Helskloof Gate. Here your bookings are checked and it is another 20km of rattle and shake before reaching Sendelingsdrift where you officially book in.

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The staff at the office were really amazing - so friendly and helpful and clearly very proud of their park. We were soon on our way to de Hoop camping site which would be our home for the next three nights. The first about ten kilometeres takes one through mining areas which is a real eye-sore but before long we were in Richtersveld proper - we had arrived
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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Mon Sep 21, 2015 6:17 pm

Thank you Hilda, Meandering Mouse and Manicwalker for your interest and comments - much appreciated

Once we had passed the hustle and bustle of mining area a sudden peace and calm enveloped us. The scenery immediately took our breath away and it got better and better as we drove further into the bowels of these desert mountains

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They told us at reception that de Hoop would take us a good three and a half hours to get there so unfortunately we were once again in a bit of a hurry. The first "wildlife" to catch our attention was this huge dog that seemed to be a bit lost. We assumed that it belonged to a herder because the Richtersveld is a community area where the local inhabitants are allowed to graze their animals

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We were soon passing through the Halfmens Pass where we were on the look out for these rare plants which are an iconic feature of the Richtersveld and is in fact a botanical wonder to the world. Endemic to this region, this slow growing species is characterised by long spiny succulent stems with the stem tips always curved northwards. The north-looking feature led to a legend told by the Nama people when they were chased from the north during the late 18th century into the Richtersveld by the Germans. It was told that everyone that looked north, back to their beloved land, would turn into this plant, forever staring northward. This story is obviously a myth - the real reason why they look northward is because the waxy leaves on the plant's "head" is actually the plants energy source absorbing water and the sun's energy. Thus they incline northwards to harness the sun's energy more effectively.

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Once through the Halfmens Pass we kept a look out for the road leading to the Oena Mine. About 200m down this road is the amazing "Hand Of God". This is a 2m high imprint of a hand which is visible on the rock face. The local people believe that this is the hand of God. Sculped into the schist rock face it is indeed one of the great artworks of the Richtersveld. The age of these rocks is anything from 700 million to 1 billion years old. They certainly must have a few stories to tell!

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Last edited by canon on Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Mon Sep 21, 2015 8:27 pm

After spending a bit of time at this amazing landmark we headed off again with the next challenge being the Akkedis Pass. This is the first steep pass with plenty of sharp turns , named after the typical walking pattern of a lizard. The going was relatively easy but took quite a bit of time which was a bonus, giving one time to absorb the surroundings. Here the richness of the succulent diversity of the plant life of the Richtersveld is very evident

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This big Botterboom was growing on the slopes of the Akkedis Pass. It is a dwarf succulent tree that grows up to 3m tall.

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The road became very corrugated as it descended down into the Kook River which led down to de Hoop. The massive mountains on each side really dwarfed us and we felt very insignificant in the rugged wild environment

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Almost without any warning we emerged from this arid world and were confronted by the mighty Orange River. What an amazing and beautiful contrast. We chose a lovely campsite right on the waters edge relatively close to one of the ablution blocks. Camp sites are not demarcated which is not a problem.

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We sat in awe of this amazing view that highlighted an abundance of water guarded by desert-like mountains of rock on each side - a truly magnificent sight.

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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Tue Sep 22, 2015 2:33 pm

We had most of the afternoon to set up camp so took our time. We actually decide3d to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the banks of the river. We put up our Oztent under a tree right on the waters edge and never added the extension seeing that our stay was only three nights - a decision we later rued because there was quite a bit of dust due to squalls of wind in the evenings.

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The atmosphere called for a glass of good osbloed

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As the sun began to set the water turned orange. Apparently that is where the river got its name from - the reflection off the mountains.

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Nothing beats a good fire, fatty chops and the sound of the water rushing over the rapids - fitting end to our first day in this wilderness

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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Tue Sep 22, 2015 5:55 pm

DAY 6

We decided that we were not going to do too much driving around and the fact that de Hoop was so beautiful influenced our decision to relax here for three days - after all we would be doing plenty of driving in Kgalagadi. So unfortunately you are going to see plenty of pics of de Hoop but it will be worth it - this place is a must visit.
After a leisurely "sleep in" we decided to take a walk down stream to see what the Orange River had to offer. The vegetation in this place is amazing and one wonders how they survive. These trees grow out of rock and must be tough as nails

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We reached the spot where the Kook River runs into the Orange - this probably only happens once in a couple of years but when this does happen it must come down in a torrent judging by all the rocks that lie in its path that are washed down by the flood waters

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Here we bumped into a fellow who works for the SAN Parks and what an interesting fellow he was - cannot remember his name. He told us that he had been left here for a couple of weeks now and was busy building another ablution block for the campsite. He regaled many stories about life in this barren land which were fascinating to say the least. From fishing to wildlife encounters - he knew it all. What a likeable fellow. Anyway he convinced us to change our plans about staying put at de Hoop - he told us that if you have not visited Kokerboomkloof you have not visited the Richtersveld. He also informed us that the sand road down to Richtersberg was safe to travel in a Landy as long as you hugged the mountain side - that made our mind up. Tomorrow we would spend the day exploring more of the Richtersveld's mysteries and delights.

This is the view back up the river from where our friend was fishing

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On the walk back we climbed up onto a little koppie behind the camp site and took these pics of de Hoop

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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Tue Sep 22, 2015 6:59 pm

There is never a dull moment when sitting on the bank watching the river - Darters flying past, fishing jumping out the water, fish eagles calling and most fascinating of all is the changing mood of the water and mountains (their colours seem to change all the time). One can sit and watch and before you know it hours have past! What a way to unwind. Here are some midday scenes from our camp site

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This Pied Wagtail was our constant companion for the duration of our stay. Note the ring on its leg

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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Tue Sep 22, 2015 7:45 pm

The view from the koppie was good so we decided to go one better and climb about half way up the mountain in the afternoon. We stuck to contours and this made the going a lot easier. After about an hour we reached a lovely vantage point which gave us a whole new perspective of the valley and camp site

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I am sure that after seeing these pics many of you will have de Hoop on your bucket list. Fishing is good with smallmouth yellowfish, Labeo, barbel and largemouth yellowfish being plentiful. Tubes and kayaks would add to your activity here and nothing beats a good wallow in the shallows. Our neighbours had great fun fly fishing in these little rapids in front of our camp

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With a view like this fishing can only be a pleasure

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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Wed Sep 23, 2015 7:36 pm

DAY 7

It was early to bed in anticipation of a long day tomorrow. The sound cobbling water and the distant howl of a lonely jackal lulled us off into a deep slumber. We were up early, watched the sun rise over the river before setting off along the river in the direction of Richtersberg. The road had sections of deep sand which was anticipated and of course our Landy took it all in its stride.

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After about 10 km we reached the Richtersberg Campsite. It is similar to de Hoop with ample space to pitch your tents along the grassed river bank. The eternal mountains form a serrated backdrop against the clear skies reflecting back on the calm river. This was the perfect place to get out the picnic blanket and the Stanley flask to enjoy a hot cup of coffee.

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We had a rather embarrassing moment whilst sitting here. A loud hippo-like sound emanated from the bush on the far side of the river. It startled us somewhat and then grew louder and seemed to get closer. Our immediate thought was Hippo and we considered making a dash for the sanctity of our Landy. "But hang on" we remembered, "Humphrey, the last surviving hippo from this area died near Oranjemund in 1921!". The sound become fiercer and all of a sudden a huge bull (of the domestic kind) burst out of the undergrowth on the far side of the river (in Namibia). Clearly this fellow had lost his mates and was calling for them. We had a quiet blush, checked around to ensure that nobody had seen our mild and embarrassing panic attack before finishing our cup of coffee.

From here we headed inland towards Kokerboomkloof and once again had to marvel at the spectacular rock formations that greeted us

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When we reached the R8 junction we turned left which took us to the top of the Tatasberg pluton. Here we crossed the vast and desolate Springbokvlakte which made us feel very small indeed

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Soon we reached the track that took us to Kokerboomkloof

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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Wed Sep 23, 2015 7:49 pm

Before reaching the campsite we decided to visit two viewpoints and what a spectacle they proved to be. We first drove the viewpoint called "Watershed" or "Silent Valley" and the sight that greeted us took our breath away - the photos will never do justice to this view but have a look

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We sat here for the best part of half an hour. The silence, the view and the beauty of this vista is certainly one of the highlights of all our travels. Whilst sitting here a movement on the rocks caught our attention. Dassie Rats had emerged from their sanctuary under the rocks to greet us. They are frequently seen around Kokerboomkloof and the Akkedis Pass. The dassie rat is a squirrel-like dassie with a slender hairy tail, usually a dark chocolate colour.Its wide flat head is adequately adapted to allow for it to fit into the rocky crevices where it breeds and nests. This was another first for us.....

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Last edited by canon on Wed Sep 23, 2015 8:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Wed Sep 23, 2015 7:59 pm

The second viewpoint looks across the Springbokvlakte and is just as stunning.

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From here we moved down to the camp site. It is situated on a large granite dome with enormous boulders that are slowly weathering away to form a variety of amazing rock formations such as Queen Victoria and Die Toon (The Toe)

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Each camp site has its own ablutions and kitchen but from what I could gather the water supply is very patchy so if visiting this alien place it would be advisable to bring your own water.

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Unfortunately we noticed that humans had once again done their level best to leave their footprint on this amazing place. Litter was evident, the braai area were damaged and in some instances the shower heads had been removed. So sad.......
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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Wed Sep 23, 2015 8:07 pm

There are thousands of Kokerbooms growing in profusion across the plateau.Walking amongst these bizarre aloe trees takes one into another world and is hard to describe. The white, ghost-like stems seem to be keeping watch over you wherever you walk

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We were sad that we had not booked a night here - only can only imagine the beauty of these Kokerbooms in the late evening light. Anyway - another one for the bucket list.
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Re: Richtersveld, Namibia and Kgalagadi - an experience to treasure.

Unread post by canon » Thu Sep 24, 2015 6:49 pm

We headed back along the same route on the way back passing through this little pass from which we had a good view of Tatasberg. SO and I decided that the next time we visit we would like to climb this mountain - the view from the top will surely be awesome

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When we reached the Richtersberg Camp Site we decided to quickly drive up the river to see what the Tatasberg Reed Cabins looked like. This short stretch of road was very sandy and quite confusing given the profusion of tracks that went off in all directions. Anyway we stuck to the rules and hugged the mountain side reaching our destination without any problem. This looks like a delightful place to stay if you are not into the "camping thing". It is very isolated and remote and together with this you have the comfort of a solid roof over your head. The cabins are self catering units (two beds) with hot showers, a 12 volt lighting system and a gas fridge and stove. Paraffin lanterns are supplied in case the lights fizzle out and the resident caretaker is on site in case of any problems.

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The cabins are a short walk from the cabins and the view of the river is stunning

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