The fourth and last part of Caroline’s roadtrip features the desolate and beautiful Richtersveld, in the Northern Cape. Her photos are so lovely we couldn’t resist keeping the text short and letting the images speak for themselves. Thanks for sharing your trip with us Caroline, we can’t wait to see where you travel next!
When trying to explain the Richtersveld to somebody you use words such as desolate, massive, barren, hostile, arid, magnificent, awesome, breathtaking … all in one sentence. The more you try to describe it, the more you know it’s a futile exercise. It is not possible to adequately describe or capture on film the sheer desolateness and arid beauty of the Richtersveld. It is something you need to experience for yourself so that you can carry it in your mind’s eye and soul forever.
After leaving Kamieskroon we meet up with two new travel companions: Carl’s friend Saul and his son Luc. Some shopping was in order and then we were off to the Ais Ais/ Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Nothing is simple when it comes to Carl and Saul, who have done many very adventurous roadtrips together; instead of going the ‘normal’ route to Sendlingsdrift they chose the longer but more spectacular route via Vioolsdrif, over Helskloof Pass to Eksteenfontein.
What an amazing sight this was! Awe-inspiring mountains and then hundreds and hundreds of cairns each built by passing visitors, using the stones that lie in abundance. Well, of course we could not resist the temptation and set about building a cairn that would make a structural engineer and Frank Lloyd Wright proud.
We drive through parts of the conservancy area before we reach the entrance to the park. It has rained quite a bit during the night so the roads are quite wet and slushy – but rather mud than choking dust!!
When we reach Sendlingsdrift just before 4pm it’s panic stations among the SANParks staff. They tell us that the 60 kilometers to Tatasberg could take up to 4-5 hours. With nightfall looming, they suggest a shorter route via De Hoop. Carl and Saul are given directions and a lecture from hell on the importance of avoiding a sand track running along the Orange. It is a race against time and when I ask for a quick stop to take a photo of a beautiful rainbow at De Hoop my head gets bitten off.
I aim my camera out the window and take as many photos as I can.
Hooray ….I am in the Richtersveld!!!! I want to capture every aspect, every rock, and every sunset colour but between the rocking of the vehicle and the speed many photos are just a blur.
Two and a half hours later we arrive at Tatasberg and are greeted by a rather relieved William, the caretaker, who had received a radio message to say that we were on our way. We quickly unpack and move into our lovely wilderness reed chalets with a panoramic view of the river and the mountains. Saul decides that pitching a tent is for the birds and convinces Luc that they would be much better off sleeping in the kitchen.
The next day is spent exploring our immediate vicinity and ‘river rafting’ down the Orange, Saul had the absolute brainwave to bring along an inflatable boat.
The Richtersveld is home to one of the oldest cultures in South Africa, the Nama. We came across these two Nama goat herders at Tatasberg. They tell us that the 150+ goats that they are looking after belong to a woman living in Springbok. In return for their herding they are supplied with meagre food rations every 4 – 6 weeks and the princely sum of R500.
I suspect that one of the reasons for their proximity to the camp site is to acquire leftovers from departing visitors. We happily give them the tea and sugar they asked for as well as a variety of food items, including braai bones for the dog. Their temporary home is a rudimentary shelter made from a few branches’ with a piece of plastic over it to protect them from the wind.
The barren aspect of the Richtesveld becomes a thing of beauty and the river a place of refuge from the unrelenting harshness of the surroundings.
The water of the Orange River sculpts the dolomite boulders into smooth and shiny shapes.
Sunrise and sunset leave you breathless with wonder as soft, ethereal light gently covers the rugged mountains. The play of light and colour ensures that every scene is different and nothing is as it was the day before.
On the second day at Tatasberg we drive to Kokkerboom camp. While some play boulles Mother and I walk among the boulders and quiver trees.
Quiver Trees are one of the most characteristic plants of this region, and are known as ‘garas’ by the Namas (from the word meaning “to scratch lines”). The soft branches were hollowed out and used as quivers. Many of these trees are dying, and it is believed that global warming is the culprit.
Among the boulders are miniature rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature to soak up the little moisture brought by the early morning ‘Malmokkie ‘(fog) rolling in from the icy Atlantic Ocean. Plants have found unique ways to survive the scorching heat and wind. Lithops grow among small quartzite stones where the quartz pebbles protect the plants from the blazing summer sun by reflecting a lot of the light and heat.
On our return from Kokkerboom we head for the water and enjoy the coolness. Fish eagles greet us loudly and cormorants silently watch as we float down the river.
As night falls a quiet comforting hush descends over us … we look up at the Milky Way and know, without a shadow of doubt, that this is one of the most magnificent places on earth.