Richtersveld Tour – Part 1


By PG Jonker

[Adapted version hereof published in Leisure Wheels, February 2011]


After returning from a Namibia tour where we drove up to Epupa with my Venture, I thought it a good idea to consider acquiring a 4×4. I had visions of me doing the great outdoors in my macho 4×4.  I’ve since realised that I lack the nerve for that, but fortunately I write a lot better.

So I set off in search of a 4×4. I found one, but first had to sell my Venture. I turned out that, when I was looking to buy my Venture, everyone wanted one, and when I eventually tried to sell mine, nobody wanted it anymore!

When at last I sold my Venture, the 4×4 that I had identified was also sold in the meantime, but not to me. So the search for a 4×4 started afresh.  Eventually I got an ex car rental Mazda Magnum DC 4×4.

So what now?  Have 4×4, better get driving.

Frikkie solved the problem by suggesting a trip to the Richtersveld.  Pieter and his family pitched in too, and off we went.


[Source: Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]


After leaving Durbanville early in the morning we met up with Frikkie and his family at Vanrhynsdorp. Frikkie’s Hilux used to belong to a missionary outfit that travelled as far as Uganda with it. The elevated suspension gave the Hilux a real mean appearance. On Frikkie’s make shift roof carrier two bags of wood were evident, as well as the four legs of a steel frame chair protruding upwards. That was Frikkie’s home made porta potty. Pieter and his family would join us in the Richtersveld.

At McDougal’s Bay (Port Nolloth) we rented a house with garage. The reason for that was that I just had a burnt valve repaired on my brand new second hand bakkie, and the obligatory 1000km retorque had to be done. This Frikkie did before breakfast the next morning whereafter we departed for the Richtersveld.


We attended to a shop and a fuel station in Alexander Bay. At Alexander Bay we had to sign in at a security gate before entering the town. There was also a notice warning you that you might be requested to unpack your vehicle for inspection. Eish! Heaven forbid, given what our luggage looked like.

From there we travelled along the Orange River on a gravel road to Sendelingsdrift, the entrance to the Richtersveld. Not too far from Sendelingsdrift we turn off to have a look at the Wondergat. It is a hole some 40 meters deep. It was a rather nervous experience keeping the kids from not falling in. It’s not like it looks anything like Kimberley’s hole, but you might do battle getting out again once you have fallen in.

After attending to the formalities at Sendelingsdrift we were, at last, on a genuine 4×4 trip.  My first.  How cool is that, huh?

The first 7km or so were like an ordinary gravel road. From there it deteriorated initially to something similar to a farm road, and eventually to the point where the 4×4 functionality became very convenient, if not necessary. This was great fun.

Progress was hampered when one steep incline on the road caused Frikkie’s roof rack to partially slide off the roof and first had to be fixed.  But fixing stuff is mos Frikkie’s thing.

Here we also see the first halfmense grow. Being stingy with my pre-digital era photos I kept holding out for a better halfmens until eventually, I left the Richtersveld without a picture of a single one! After a leisurely 43 km drive we reached De Hoop.

We found quite a number of people camping there. There were, however, quite a few kilometres of river sites from which we could pick our site. We made camp right on the bank of the river.


At De Hoop the river runs in a Northerly direction. Because of mountains on both side of the river, the sunrises and sunsets are maybe not so spectacular. However, in the evenings the sun reflects orange on the river from the mountains on the Namibian side of the river.

We enjoyed a leisurely day. It was one of the kids’ birthday. Undeterred by our environment we had a birthday party, complete with a pot bread-cake and surprise packets for each kid.

Party time

The arrangements for sanitation were less than desirable. [I understand this problem has since been attended to by the Parks authorities.] It’s OK finding your spot and marking it to prevent others from having a close encounter of the fourth kind, but the following week’s visitors might not necessarily be fortunate enough to enjoy the same benefit.

Frikkie’s home made porta potty earned its keep.

I also utilised this invention on occasion. In my private little spot I became aware of a commotion in one of the trees.  A bunch of little apes were sitting in a row on an overhanging branch, watching me intently and chattering amongst them. I’m sure I heard the one say: “Hey, check that larnie toilet, ek sê.” I might be mistaken, though.

Between the three families we brought along 150 litres of drinking water, but ended up using the water from the Orange River after boiling it before use for human consumption.

Two of the boys spent hours trying to catch fish. The piece of washing line and bent nail utilised for this purpose, however, turned out to be unsuccessful. However, “success” is a matter of opinion. Keeping two boys out of mischief for hours on end in my book actually counts for a great success.


From De Hoop to the Tatas River picnic site there is a “road” of some 10km’s. There is also a 45km detour. After a bit of planning, we (well, some of us) opted for the more challenging shortcut.

Frikkie, Pieter, PG

This road is very powdery sand causing impressive dust clouds as far as we went.  It took half an hour to do the first 6km’s, where we stopped at a derelict fridge. It seemed like a left over from one of the many prospecting locations of earlier years.

The remaining 4 km’s also took about another half an hour. Not everyone was excited about the sand. More in particular my wife, who was 8 weeks pregnant at that stage. Sand and roads like that do not go well with morning sickness.

The Tatas river picnic site was a wonderful site. So good that we even contemplated rushing back to De Hoop to pack up our stuff and to return before anyone else might arrive to do the same. We decided against that. After a vote by the ladies it was decided (read: we were told) to take the long (43 km) route back to De Hoop. However, that left me with the problem that I did not have a “been there, dunnit” picture of my bakkie on the sandy track. So Pieter and me went back for a picture of my bakkie in full cry.

It was a rather impressive sight to see Pieter disappear in a cloud of dust as I passed him where he stood with the camera. I suggested we do it again, but between a lot of coughing and snorting Pieter indicated an unwillingness to oblige.

The long route took us past the Richtersberg.

But it is not as if there is only this one mountain, so we actually still don’t know which of the many mountains we saw actually was the Richtersberg.

About 10km’s from De Hoop we stopped for some sight seeing. It is then that my bakkie’s immobiliser stopped working.

My bakkie has a by-pass socket where you can insert the rear end of the remote control to override the function.  However, it turned out that the mechanic who last did some work behind my dash board made this socket disappear. With me breaking out in a panic stricken sweat, Pieter fished out an old set of batteries from his cubby hole that got my remote up and running again. By then Frikkie also had it figured out where he could short circuit the immobiliser to get the bakkie running again.

Just before De Hoop we stop at Josef and his herd of goats (boerbokke).

They recently made a TV program of the Richtersveld, Josef told us, and he himself was on TV.

Part 2 to follow


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