Although this series by Caroline guestblogging about her roadtrip off the beaten path has little connection to our usual tours of Cape Town, we’re loving experiencing this trip through her recollections and wonderful photographs. See part 1 and part 2.
Part 3 – Kamieskroon
We arrive in Kamieskroon in the late afternoon and the sun is shining for the first time in several days. As we drive into town we wonder why on earth we planned to stay here for four nights. It’s an ugly town. Even the Dutch Reformed church is ugly. The roads are dusty and potholed and each plot is enclosed with rusty wire fencing. Telephone wires hang loosely from tar poles. Many houses are unoccupied and look forlorn. Gardens are non-existent and old, forgotten, cars are the garden gnome equivalent.
As we open the door of Madeliefie cottage, our home for the next few days, we experience a sensory overload of note. The owner has decorated this minuscule cottage in every colour imaginable. A dreadful array of kitsch ornaments dating back to the 1950s is displayed on every surface of the house.
We want to run but have already paid so we have no option but to confront this décor nightmare. Cecile and I systematically remove every ornament and unnecessary layer of colour from sight. Task accomplished, we settle down in our new home.
The next morning we pack a picnic basket and set off to Soebatsfontein situated about 40 kilometers south west of Kamieskroon. The name of this small village (‘fountain of pleading‘) comes from a spring in the centre of the village. Legend has it that a man named Hendrik Stievert pleaded for his life here, but was subsequently murdered by a group of San (Bushmen) in 1798.
We stop to talk to an elderly gentleman pushing a wheelbarrow filled with fire wood. He tells us that he has been collecting wood since before sunrise. He walked several kilometers to the nearest riverbed where dry acacia trees provide the locals with fuel for their fires. We warn him that bad weather is predicted for the weekend and that he will need to stock up if he wants to keep his family warm.
We enter the Namaqua National Park through the Soebatsfontein gate (4x4s only). Although it’s already mid-September the flowers still put on a good show thanks to late and abundant rain. This park covers an area of more than 700 km2 and stretches all the way down to the coast. It has one of the most unusual biomes in the world, with the greatest biodiversity and highest concentration of succulent plants of any of the world’s arid regions. It is the kind of place where you need to spend lots of time with somebody who knows a great deal about these things. In spite of Mother’s lifelong desire to teach us, the only plants I recognise are the Namaqua daisy and the common variety of vygie. …and there are lots of those!!!
On day two we head over the Kamiesberg and visit remote communities such as Leliesfontein, Nouhoek and Paulshoek before taking the Stuber Pass back to Kamieskroon.
Kamiesberg gets its name from Nama words ‘!kimmie’ and ‘ams’ which mean ‘mountains of water bundled together’ The ‘kroon” refers to a peak that is supposed to resemble a crown.
Leliesfontein is situated 1300 metres above sea level and, like most rural communities in the Northern Cape, poverty stares you in the face. We learn that in 1902 Boer leader Manie Maritz massacred members of the Leliefontein mission community that were suspected of being British sympathisers.
We ask to see the interior of the church but the ‘oom’ with the key is nowhere to be found. I am intrigued by the two plaques on the arch in front of the Methodist church and wonder how much ‘Lilyfontein’ has changed since Clement visited from England!
Nouhoek is just another isolated Northern Cape town miles from any form of economic activity. Locals with the help of the CSIR are trying to cultivate a plant called ‘Kougoed’ (chewing stuff) which, apparently, has a calmative compound. We are told that the Koi used Kougoed to alleviate anxiety and toothache. Maybe this is why the folk in Nouhoek appear unfriendly – possibly spaced-out from too much kougoed!!!
A coffee stop and a bit of bird watching at the beautiful Nouhoek dam (a much needed perennial source of water) is a welcome break from all the driving.
Paulshoek is a hodgepodge of sand, rocks, stones, and meagre dwellings – many of them waiting for the return of their owners from surrounding towns where they try to eke out a living. Due to the scarcity of water, locals have innovated and built a wall on the dome shaped granite rock to catch whatever bit of moisture falls from heaven.
The strangest thing of all is that in the middle of nowhere, miles from traffic, shops or tourists, a stretch of road, not exceeding 500 metres, is being brick-paved. We notice this strange phenomenon in several of these remote towns and guess that the main purpose is job creation….just before elections!!
We return to Kamieskroon after a meagre lunch on the side of the road – we forgot the cooler bag with the salad and sandwiches at home! After three lovely sunny days the cold and wet weather set in so our last day was spent ‘sight-seeing’ on foot, reading, and returning Madeliefie to its original state.
Next stop and part 4: Richersveld.