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Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 4

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Day six

Friends leaving

Adriaan and Lizette left shortly after sunrise to arrange and attend the funeral and pay their respects.  I felt a rather emply gloominess with them departing.

Koiimasis ranch is an active farm with a horse stud and livestock.  You can check their website:  http://www.namibia-farm-lodge.com/.  Due to the drought the live stock had been removed from the farm, though. We went on a 5km walking trail the afternoon. It’s a nice walk, with a viewpoint along the road.

That evening we baked a pot bread, and the remainder of the steakof the prevous evening found its way into the potjiekos.

 

Day seven

Sossus Oasis

This was the first morning where we had to decamp and pack the vehicles from scratch.  Everything went rather efficiently, though.  By half past nine we were ready to leave.

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google  www.google.com/maps]

Johnie was now in the lead.

We hit the sandy D707 again, but had the good fortune of eventually landing on the freshly graded tracks of a grader.  At a windswept Betta we stopped for petrol and coffee and snacks.

I found Betta to be a curious place.  It seems in the middle of nowhere, and I wondered whether you decide to start a refreshment station there in the middle of nothing, or whether you incidentally live there, see the opportunity, and then slowly develop the place.  Betta offers accommodation, with a nicely developed website:  http://www.bettacamp.net/.  I noticed that each of the camping sites had water, electricity, roof cover and a deck.

We met up with a Swiss cyclist at Betta.  Africa was his last continent to conquer before returning home.

Being so close to Duwiseb, we considered paying Duwiseb a visit.  By democratic election the vote went the way of visiting Duwiseb, but we nevertheless eventually decided gainst it.  We were swayed by another tourist’s advice of how bad the road from Betta to Sesriem was.  So we decided to rather get the trip to Sesriem over and done with.

Good call.  I like driving on gravel roads, so I hate to have to admit that, by the end of the day, I found the road to Sesriem to be just 20 kilometers too far.

[Pictures: Mariki Stassen]

The gravel roads that we travelled varied from the sublime (Solitaire to Maltehohe) to the exciting (sandy D707 rounding the Tiras mountains) to the horrible – Betta to Sesriem.  Very rocky and corrugated.

[Picture: Mariki Stassen]

We arrived at Sossus Oasis just past 16h00.  There was a nice buzz at the shop.  There was a garage and a workshop.  I suppose every enterprise on a road such as this one would also stock a few new tyres.   You could collect wi-fi vouchers valid for two days at the shop, and utilise the wi-fi on the stoep of the shop.  From there we could see campsite 1 – 12, built in a circle, and each with its own shade, shower and wash-up.  This looked very nice!  http://www.sossus-oasis.com/

However, we were directed to site 15.  The road went past the larnie sites 1 – 12.  It went past two other sites.  It pretty much went past everything, before ending up under a tree at the outer edge of the terrain.  I guess it was the outer edge, because there was nothing else but open plains.

My initial thought was that this was a real dust heap.  However, upon further inspection it turned out that there was a built braai, working surface for a kitchen, electric light and plugs to tap electricity from.  On top of that the large tree provided ample shade for most of the day.  We were closest to the swimming pool of all the sites, and there was very nice ablution about 50 meters away.   And once …

Namibia 2017 tour – part 5

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Day nine

Tsauchab River Camp

At Sossus Oasis the sun now caught up with the moon, and was up before the moon disappeared.

 

In the early morning we could see two air balloons rounding the mountain south of us.

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google  www.google.com/maps]

We took our time decamping and packing.  We only had a 77km drive to get to Tsauchab River Camp today.  http://www.tsauchab.com/

What an interesting, stunning place.  As you drive into the farm, you are greeted by a number of very old vehicles, humoristic welded iron artworks, and a neat erf.

Johan and Niki were our hosts.  There is wi-fi and a pool, but once you leave the reception you have neither wi-fi nor cell phone signal.

The camping sites are all exclusive, with virtually unlimited space.  Our site comfortably housed our 4 tents, each with relative privacy.   Close by is an open toilet that faces away from the campsite (no, really).

Built in a big tree close by was a donkey to heat the water

with a basin and the shower built inside the tree.

Some 50 meters away there are two built facilities, one with a shower and toilet with also a separate toilet, and one with only a shower.  So we had access to three heated showers, and three flushing toilets.  There were no electricity.

Before dark we walked out a koppie that overlooks that farm.

The koppie that is visible about a third from the left, middle of the picture, is where our hiking of the next day took us.

Our dinner consisted of roosterkoek, butternut, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, salad and chicken stirfry.

The moon was now full or nearly full.  Watching the glimmer of the moon approaching over the koppie was like watching the headlight of a train appearing.  It was just so bright!

 

Day 10

Hiking and driving

Guided by maps provided by Niki, we drove out to south of the lodge where we took a stroll along a spring with old fig trees.  The lush green surrounding seemed totally out of place in the dry area.

There is a 4×4 route that ranges initially zero, escalating to 3, before you reach the ‘no beginners’ part with a 5 rating.  There is a further hiking trail that would take you from the one leg of the 4×4 route to the other.

[Pictur:  Mariki Stassen]

Those who wanted to do the hike, did so, and Johnie and I drove around with the vehicles.  We did not go beyond the 3 rating part.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

Steep inclines necessitated low range from time to time, and one rocky and twisting part caused a rear wheel to lift, but it is not the stuff that should hurt your vehicle if you do it slowly.

We were somewhat more rested than those doing the hiking trail when we met up again.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

From there we visited the Neuras wine farm for a taste of wine.

Dinner consisted of spagetti, viennas, leftover butternut, sweet patato, salad and chicken of the previous evening.  Thereafter we baked a bread to round dinner off with bread and coffee.

 

Day 11

Solitaire, Rostock Ritz

Heading to Rostock Ritz from Tsauchab River Camp on the C14, we travelled on the best gravel road this far.  At places it was as good as tar, up to Solitaire.

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google  www.google.com/maps]

At Solitaire I filled up, we did coffee and some of us had the obligatory apple strudel.  We also bumped into the Swiss cyclist whom we have met at Betta.

Just as we were at the point of leaving, I saw my rear left wheel has lost …

Namibia Tour 2017 – Part 6 (final)

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

 Day 12

Heading home, Grunau

We got up, motivated to get going, now heading for home.  This was a great tour, but I was keen on starting with the journey home.

[Source:  Imagery © 2017 Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2017 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google  www.google.com/maps]

Toit and Christine headed for Windhoek, we said our goodbyes to Georg and Sabine, and left for Grunau in our two vehicle convoy.

From Solitaire the road was extremely good.   At times we did 110km/h on the road.  I kept my vehicle in 4×4 though, for the safety of the four wheel traction.

[Picture:  Mariki Stassen]

Twenty kilometers before the end of our gravel roads, I heard and felt the wroep-wroepe-wroep of a rear tyre disintegrating.  At that time we were going uphill and not very fast, and I could bring the bakkie to a standstill.  There was a moment when the nose headed precariously in the direction of a donga next to the road, but at that time I was slow enough to apply the brakes without fear of losing control.

Johnie was ahead, and at that point there was no signal.  Marga then walked to a nearby hill until she got a signal to call Johnie to come back.  In the meantime, I got going on changing the tyre.

The outside sidewall of the tyre was virtually cut off from the tyre.  The spare wheel is underneath the bakkie, locked with a Solex lock.  I recently checked that it was still working.  And indeed, the key turned, but the lock would not unlock.  After a bit of under my breath encouragement, the lock relented, much to my relief.   I started jacking down the wheel, but after one turn, the crank handle would not move any further.  By then, the spare wheel has dropped only about an inch and was solidly stuck.  And so was I.

Eventually I got under the wheel and lifted it as high as it would go.  I managed to pry the stopper that kept the feel from falling to the ground through the centre hole of the wheel, and had the wheel come down on top of me.  I was rather relieved and remained in that position for a bit.  It was very refreshing.  The rest of the crowd thought I was dead.  But I was not.  Better luck next time.

Eventually I made it out from under the wheel and the vehicle.  As I put the wheel down on the ground without watching where I was going, I managed to split a finger nail when the full weight of the wheel squashed my finger on a rock that was substantially higher than where I expected the ground to be.  I duly noted a protest.

To my surprise this spare wheel,  that had not been inflated in the past 10 years, still had 1.8kpa of pressure in it.  Johnie took the wheel that came off into his Freelander, and off we went.

At Maltehohe we filled up, and attended to the tyre sales and repair outfit.  They did not have the size tyre that I required.  In the 17 years that I have been driving the bakkie, I have never had a puncture.  So given that the 112 km’s to Mariental was now tar, we decided to try our luck at Mariental.  The gentleman at the Maltehohe outfit was kind enough to remove my stuffed up tyre from the rim.  He could also pinpoint the cause of the flat tyre.  A small object on the centre of the tyre caused a similar leak to the one that was repaired at Solitaire.

At Trentyre in Mariental I was assisted by a friendly and helpful George. They stocked Goodyear tyres, but no Firestones, but at least I could get the correct size from him.  The tyre cost what the night in the …

JUKEBOX JIVE

Sunday, 30 October, 2016

By the time I arrived, the biker gang was there already, hanging around the counter of Molly’s Diner.  In spite of them swigging on their milk shakes, I did not feel intimidated.  I’m not that easily intimidated by 8-year olds, see.

The atmosphere held a palpable excitement, a mixture of parents and younger siblings getting ready for the show to begin.  This year Durbanville Prep School celebrated their 50th year with their annual concert, this time titled Jukebox Jive.   And what a show it was!

At the hop

The audience was captivated by the opening scene just as the biker gang was captivated by an (ageing) Molly, listening to her tales of the diner and its Jukebox that had been there since 1966, when she’d been there.  Which, of course, explains why she is by now slightly ageing.  Not that one would have noticed it, though.

Obladi oblada…verhoog

But speaking of age, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  The next moment an actor burst through onto the scene, with a just as captivating a dance.  I thought he might be slightly too old to be a learner of a school that only goes to grade 3.  I have difficulties guessing age, though.

I was thus relieved to be advised that coach Sampie was indeed somewhat closer to retirement age than to primary phase school going age.  But he ain’t lost none of his agility, I can tell you that.  I assume him to be the hip-hop coach.

With the help of the right song from the jukebox, the laaities in leathers then got tele-trans-time-sported back to the Cove of 1966.

Good golly, miss Molly….!

Impress them with your moves, bro.

Which the kids on stage duly did.  Jailhouse Rock, strait outa the fifties, ek sê.

And then Jimmy spotted her.

Would you be my girl?  Ba-ba-ba-barbara Ann…

Oh, and cleverly, Molly is suddenly her young 1966 self.

Time it was…

Barbara-Ann’s fun was then duly spoiled by her brother.  That’s mos the thing about siblings.

Dad says it’s time to go home, and “if my dad says it is ten o’clock, then it is ten o’clock”, Barbara-Ann explained.  Seriaas?  That’s clearly 1966.  Current day thinking considers “if my dad says it is ten o’clock” to simply mean the opening bet that sets in motion intricate negotiations regarding the true time to come home.

Enter Chi-Chi van der Merwe and Betty.  Man, need I say more….

Under the Boardwalk

Now Micky the sixties surfer started strutting his stuff.  Cool shirt.  Cool moves.  Cool hair.  Anything goes to get Barbara-Ann’s attention.  Which he duly does with some measure of success.

Then followed a cacophony of colours and dances.

Sonbrilletjies (no, not Al Debbo.  And if you don’t know who Al Debbo is, you are too young to read this anyway).   Followed by the Ossewa Jive (I kid you not), and then whole Hawai Huppelkind brigade joined in the fun.

The missing link

Around here somewhere I missed a chapter which was called Limbo.  Or actually, I did see it, I just missed when it started.  But worse than that, I realised I got the characters totally confused.  I was sure that Jimmy, the biker dude chasing Barbara-Ann, got switched!

Turns out he was indeed switched!  Jimmy the biker dude who is chasing Barbara-Ann #1 got taken ill.   So between scenes Jimmy the biker dude who is chasing Barbara-Ann#2 seemlessly took his place.

Sommer just like that.  The show must go on.  And it did!

muur-1

Candyman

Now here’s a tip for future business opportunities.  Everything in this scene had to do with sugar and sweets of all kinds.  Imagine you take a break here and open up the tuck shop for 10 minutes.  Just a thought, nuh?

Ok, I must say the Drakensberg Boys Choir ensemble at the back threw me out a bit, but I take this as a clever anachronism.…

A touch of 4×4

Thursday, 30 June, 2016

This past holiday we stayed on a farm in the Klein Karoo – basically house sitting while the farmer is away on holiday.  We had friends over, and I took my friend for a look and see on the farm.  It’s been a while since my bakkie has done any off-roading, so I relished at the opportunity just to engage the transfer box for a change.

On the farm there is a kloof where the farmer made a road with a bulldozer a few years back.  Being a bit tied down with farming activities, though, the road was used seldom in the recent past.

It is a rather steep incline.  Low range is essential as a safety precaution against having to contend with a runaway vehicle.  Given recent rains I was uncertain whether it would be a good idea to drive down there.   So we stopped at the point of no return.  Once past this point you have to go down right to the end of the road to be able to turn around, except if you feel crazy enough to drive back in reverse.

Afdraend

 

After a cursory inspection I judged it safe to proceed.

The 3.4 liter petrol engine does not provide the braking capacity of a high compression diesel engine, so even in low range first gear some slight braking was still required to keep the speed in check.

I find it very frustrating that pictures just never give an indication of how steep an incline is.  Regardless of how I take them, the pictures is just never impressive enough  to convince the unenlightened reader.  The picture below maybe illustrates the incline more clearly.  It shows two fourteen year olds walking down the road, doing battle to keep their balance.

Sukkel

After traversing the steep  incline around two sharp bends, the road evens out below.  However, the further we went, the less it resembled a road.  At some places the road was totally obscured by trees and shrubs that have overgrown it.  Die pad

I had nothing with me that could cut or hack, and there was no escape route or place to turn around.  So the bakkie simply had to bash down the obstacles.   At least the general whereabouts of the road was still evident, so one could just point the bakkie’s nose in the right direction.

Driffie

Eventually we reached the end of the road where there was place to turn the vehicle around again.

By that time the two side mirrors were pressed flat against the vehicle, and the body showed the marks of its battle with the flora.  We were fortunate to not also encounter some of the local fauna. A researcher has taken some very impressive pictures of leopards with her motion detector cameras on the exact spoor where we were travelling.

 

I know, you may ask ‘where are the pictures of the bakkie’.  No, there is none.  Whilst doing the trip, there was no time to consider that.  These pictures had been taken upon revisiting the kloof a few days later.  But then I thought it better to leave the vehicle at the last point where I could make a seventeen point turn, as is the ordinary turning circle of my bakkie.

In any event, just to get back to the story.  The return trip had the benefit that most of the obstructions had by then been subdued by some two tonnes of vehicle.  However, now it was uphill, instead of downhill.

After passing a little driffie, the bakkie got bogged down with all four wheels losing traction, bringing us to a grinding halt.  After the second attempt, my friend got out to guide me further.

Komplikasie

I would probably have done better to also inspect the terrain myself, but first it was the driffie with water running, and I was not inclined on getting wet.  And then followed the obstruction which allowed for only …

Skywalker goes to Bloemfontein

Tuesday, 12 April, 2016

Going on a road trip

The Modern Pentathlon national championships South Africa were held in Bloemfontein in April this year.  Kleinboet made it into the Western Cape team, and I decided to join the lot going up to Bloemfontein.  Just to keep an eye on him.

We made up part of the Boland contingent of the Western Cape team, which in turn were made up to a large extent from the boys of Paul Roos.  We departed early on the Thursday morning with a minibus and trailer from Stellenbosch.  Well, for me half past five in the morning is early, given that I had to leave home before 04h00 that morning to get to Stellenbosch.

We have not even left Stellenbosch when a quietness setlled  down on the bus with everyone asleep.  Except Coenie, of course, which was rather reasonable, given that he was driving the minibus.

There had been a mutual and total misunderstanding by all the athletes as to how the pit stops would work.  At the first post dawn stop just past Worcester, they were advised that this was a 10 minutes loo stop only.  But no, everyone also ordered some takeaways to eat.  The result was that a planned 10 minute stop became a 35 minute stop.

Near De Doorns Coenie’s lack of sleep the previous night (and obviously whilst driving too) caught up with him, and he swopped seats with Gerhard.  We managed to not stop at Laingsburg.  Trucks ruled supreme on the road between Laingsburg and Beaufort-West.

As we entered Beaufort-West I noticed that Club Lipstick does not exist anymore.  Not that I ever visited it, but two decades ago we considered it a bit of a landmark on the Southern side of town.  I just knew that this is a snippet of information that the readers of this publication were just dying to know.  We had to take on fuel, so this time the kids were free to take their time.  Which they duly did.  We considered this our lunch stop.

Steers

The exercise was repeated at Three sisters.   To our dismay we realised that we had been on the road for close to 7 hours already, and this was only the half way mark.

The upside of modern times is that all kids nowadays have are-we-there-yet deflectors, powered by either MTN, Vodacom or CellC.

Are we there yet suppressor

That, of course, takes some strain off the driver of the vehicle not having to provide running commentary on the progress being made.

There were not much planning put into fuel stops. As we stopped so often, we just filled up as we went along.   Somehow, though, we got it wrong.  At Colesberg the designated petrol stop was under construction, so we attended the nearby KFC instead.  They did not have unleaded fuel on offer.  Nor any  other fuel, for that matter.  The kids ordered food yet again.  I don’t know what it is with them.  If they don’t need to pee the need to eat!

Hop on the bus gus

With the fuel gauge still sitting comfortably at half, we set off for the last stretch to Bloemfontein.  As dusk approached, though, we realised we are running out of both fuel and towns.  After missing Springfontein South, we managed to get the Springfontein North turn off.  I’m not making this up.  This town with a population of 3699 people, has two entrances, duly marked, and really far apart.

After filling up yet again, we could then set off for the last 140 odd km’s knowing we will not run out of fuel. I even allowed my full weight back on the seat.

At 19h07 we reached Bohmer secondary school, where we were to stay in the school res.  The lady on the GPS had some fun first by making us drive right around Böhmer school’s residence before allowing us in at the main gate.

After getting everyone settled in, and some showered and …

Having fun with cars

Monday, 10 August, 2015

So I get this call from my son on my mobile phone one Sunday: “Halooo! I’ve been in an accident.”

And so starts a Sunday afternoon of fun.

I told Ouboet to just stay put (he said that was his plan) and not to allow anyone to tow him away other than the insurance appointed dude (he says he will).

I call the emergency line of the insurance company. I voice mail answers, taking her absolute time telling me how welcome I am at this particular facility, that all calls are recorded, and…..

OK, by then I stopped listening and decided this must be the wrong number. You can’t have such a docile response to emergencies. I terminated the call (if it was not my mobile I would have slammed down the phone just to make my point of course). I dialed the alternative (non-emergency) number I have for the insurance company. Aaaah! The same voice answers, telling me the same story.

Now understand, I’m slightly agitated. My son is standing at the roadside at a busy section of the N1, and I understood other cars were involved. I fear someone doing a local rendition of road rage, and I would want to get there as soon as possible.

Eventually the voice tells me to press 1 if I have an emergency or if I want to lodge a claim. Thank you! Incidentally I mos wish to do both. In their defense I must say that from there on things went pretty quick and smooth. They will send a tow truck.

I jumped in the car to drive out to the scene. I took my thirteen year old along so that he can man the WhatsApp for further communication with Ouboet. Kleinboet also has his mother’s iPad open on the maps function. “Just so you do not get lost,” was my wife’s parting words. Really, woman! I live here. I know this place.

OK, out on the N1 inbound to Cape Town. Ouboet advised that I must take the Sable Road bridge to get back on the N1 outbound. I do so. After a while I can see him standing. However, he is on the N1 proper, and I am on the connecting road running between Century City and the N1. I cannot get close to him. I can see there is another car, but no overt aggression is observed.

Now I need to get back on the N1 inbound, take the next bridge after Sable road, and repeat the exercise. Piece of cake, it will just take a bit of time.

The first bridge where I can do this is the connection with the N7. So I take the turn-off. But hey, this is wrong! Instead of heading to the bridge to cross over and get back on the N1 I find myself on the road heading to Malmesbury. @##$%!

Which way now. I turned left at the next road, now heading behind Century City in the direction of Milnerton. I missed the Sable road connection (well, I was not looking for it, really) and soon thereafter found myself in Milnerton. I turned left and now headed in the general direction of the N1. Traffic light red. Next traffic light red. Next traffic light green until I’m nearly there. Ysterplaat. Traffic light red.

Ouboet’s WhatsApp comes through: the truck is here.

This place must really be a red light district. Negotiating red light upon red light I eventually get on the N1 outbound. At least now I am in the lane that will take me to Ouboet.

We get there. No cars.

?

Kleinboet checks the WhatsApp. Ouboet is waiting at the N1 City MacDonalds. Good. Now just for the N1 City turnoff.

The first bridge is Monte Vista Boulevard. There is no board for N1 City yet, so that must be the next turn-off. Noooo! Just as I …

A Taste of West Coast

Wednesday, 5 August, 2015

Laaiplek & Stompneus Bay

We recently went for a short weekend to Stompneus Bay, my home town. Kaart

It’s a leisurely two hours drive to get there.

A river runs through it

We arrived at the twin towns of Laaiplek  / Velddrift on Saturday afternoon.  The Berg river runs through the town and reaches the sea there. Hawepunt

Velddrift is where the annual Berg River canoe marathon ends.Laaiplek arial

[Source:  Imagery @2015 CNES/ Astrium, Cnes /Spot Image, Digital Globe, Landsat,Map data @2015 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Some 80 species of birds can be found in the estuary there.  I’m told there are 30 000 birds there, but they did not say who counted them.

Down by the river

I found myself just too late to catch the SA Fisheries Museum open.  They just closed three minutes prior to my arrival.  Will simply have to come back later for that.

We attended the Laaiplek hotel for lunch.  We sat outside.Laaiplek hotel

And this is the view we had over the river from where we sat.Rivieruitsig

Close by the the Laaiplek Slipway did business.Laaiplek Slipway

And some 100 meters away the Martinho has apparently been docked there since 2005, but sunk in 2010.  Maybe the owners should contact Laaiplek Slipway?Martinho

At the jetty there were very few boats.  Most were out to sea.  Stormkop was there.

Stormkop

Stormkop rear

Shelly Point

Later the evening we returned to Stompneus Bay and headed for Shelly Point where we stayed for the night.

Stomneus Bay is part of the bigger St Helena Bay, where the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama set foot on African soil in November 1497. Vasco da Gama

We studied this at primary school, probably because the school was at Stompneus Bay.  I was never good with dates.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia, nuh?

As we drove along the coast to our destination we could see the trawlers heading out to sea.  Some found fish close by the shore.  We spotted Silver Bounty going about his business very close to the shore at Shelly Point.Silver Bounty

We had a glorious sunset.  I only waited until too late before I took the picture.Sunset

The sound of memories

During the spitbraai dinner at the Bon Shelly Point hotel we were entertained by a gentleman making live music.  Rather nice.

About 04h30 the morning I woke up from what sounded like a helicopter hover overhead.  Later I thought it is probably a truck.  But there were no roads nearby for a truck that can make that kind of noise can drive.  And then it dawned upon me what I was hearing!

I got up and watched out of the window.  Between the lighthouses of Cape St Martin and Shelly Point I counted six trawlers heading to the factories with their loads of fish.  The typical wooden vessels’ engines produce up to 500 horsepower, and the bigger steel vessels up to 1500 horsepower.   Which probably explains the rather beefed up sound effects.  Picture the sound of a lorry’s exhaust brake – and amplify it a number of times.

I got back in bed and found myself still for long time listening to the vessels on their home run, with a smile on my face.  The sweet sound of memories.

 …

Northern Cape tour – Part 1

Monday, 20 July, 2015

First leg:  Montagu to Augrabies

Roete dag 1

[Map data © 2015 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

 

We left Cape Town on a sunny Friday afternoon after a week of rather good Cape Town winter weather.

Our first stop at Montagu still offered some benign weather.  Moving out earlyish on Sunday morning (12 July) it was a different story, though.  Through the  Keisie valley to the connection with the N1, temperatures dropped to 2 degrees.   Pretty chilly in our book.

We came on the N1 between De Doorns and Touwsriver, turning north.  A bit unsure of the fuel situation in the small towns we are to encounter for the rest of the day, I played it safe and filled up at Touwsriver.

Matjiesfontein

As we had to turn off at Matjiesfontein we decided to do a quick look and see tour of Matjiesfontein.

Pompe

The website  offers some insight on the history of Matjiesfontein.  It was founded in 1884 and became a Victorian health spa.

Post OfficeThe Lord Milner hotel was built in 1899 at the start of the Anglo-Boer war, and served as a field hospital, with some 10 000 British troops camping near the station.

Lord Milner hotel

Sutherland / Middelpos

From there we headed for Sutherland (population 2800).    The garage there was closed at that hour, so it was just as well that I filled up at Touwsriver.  We did a quick stop at the Sutherland hotel – it seemed like the only place where one could get access to ablution.

From there we took the gravel road to Middelpos and beyond.  The road was quite good.  Heeding some prior advice that the gravel roads in these parts of the Karoo have leiklip which is prone to mince up tyres,  I travelled slowly.  I was acutely aware of the fact that my Tucson was shod with highway tyres, rather than on/off road tyres, and limited my speed to 80km/h.  One could easily have gone faster.

Then we hit some muddy patches.  I tried to discern the muddy parts from the non-muddy parts, but of no avail.  There seemed to be no tell tale signs indicating which are the slimy bits.  You would just feel the car give way, and hear the noise of the mud clods hitting the inside of the wheel arches.   At one point we were going downhill with a bakkie approaching from the front, when the Tucson started slip sliding away.  Not due to any effort on my part the car kept on our half of the road and we safely went past the oncoming vehicle.  That was at 60km/h.  So I keep the gas to rather sedate levels for the rest of the road.

Modderkar

We missed Middelpos.  You had to turn off to get to the town.  Middelpos was evidently the stop over for a biggish motorcycle crowd.  We picked up the tail of this entourage as we went past the turn off, having had quite a number of bikes approaching from the front the previous few kilometers.

Afterwards I looked Middelpos up, and now I’m disappointed that I did not take the trouble of visiting the village.  There are some websites with detail about the town:

http://www.karoo-southafrica.co.za/?page_id=182

http://www.karoo-southafrica.co.za/?page_id=182

Middelpos rendered sir Anthony Sher, a famous British based actor.  OK, I’ve never heard of him, but I can’t even remember the names of the movie I watched last night, so my knowledge in this regard obviously does not count.

Just before we hit the R27 (the Calvinia – Keimoes road) we passed two vehicles standing next to the road.  One of them lost a tyre to the leiklip.

Brandvlei

From there onwards it was the tarred highway.  We filled up at Brandvlei again, and attended the Windpomp restaurant, that boasts to be the best pump in town.

Boesmanland Instap

It was Sunday afternoon, and only two other tables were taken when we got there.In die Windpomp

The man in charge had a slight situation with …

Northern Cape tour – Part 2

Monday, 20 July, 2015

Second leg:  Augrabies and Riemvasmaak

Augrabies National Park

We visited the park the next day.  Since we had been there some 11 years ago a number of new boardwalks and railed platforms had been erected, enabling you to see the waterfall from different angles.

Boardwalks

 

Railed platformAt some of these platforms we had to first shoo the dassies away to get on.

DassiesThey were reluctant to move.  Which I understand.  It was about 6 degrees Celsius, with a very chilly wind blowing. I detected a hint of distrust on the part of the dassies.

Nog dassies

The waterfall is an impressive 56 meters fall.  With the boardwalks one can view the fall from various angles.

Great NoiseAccording to the Sanparks website the Khoi people called it Aukoerebis, place of great noise.  Point taken.

We went on a drive through the park.  We did not do the whole drive, but visited the red granite moon landscape.

Maanlandskap

From there we went to mount Ararat.

AraratAnd then again to another lookout point, Oranjekom,  where there is a bend in the river.  So you see where it comes from, and where it is going.

Oranjekom

Near the camp a naughty little bugger was keeping a lookout for things to scavenge.  We saw him have a go at a window of one of the houses.  We saw the aftermath of him visiting the tented camps as well.  He was not popular.

Boggom

One day, this hairy guy will become a butterfly.  So I’m told.  The one below, I mean.Haarwurm

Quiver tree.Kokerboom

Night Drive

Dressed up like Eskimos we went on a one-and-a-half hour night drive the evening.

The dressing up turned out to be a good idea.  Some of the things that the guide stopped for us to savour is the Katabatic wind.  That is the name of the **** cold wind that blows at night.  Apparently this lovely wind also has a daytime name, the Anabatic wind.  Now you know.

The guide did his level best making the tour worth our while.  The hour-an-a-half turned into a three hour trip.   The guide did his best to make this an informative two-way discussion.  Fortunately my wife hates uncomfortable silences, so between her and the biology teacher on the tour with us, they kept the guide good company.  If they could just drive away the chill the way they did with the uncomfortable silences.

We saw Cape hares and bush hares, black thorn (swarthaak, which I misheard as swarthaas, much to the delight of my family), spotted eagle owl, kudu, klipspringer, a variation of reeds and bushes, which admittedly I also saw during my self-drive day drive, only without the benefit of running commentary on it.  And, of course, we were introduced to the ***** katabatic wind.  Quite a few times.  Actually, it was a pretty ongoing encounter.

Just on 22h00 the evening we were dropped off again at the parking area.  Kudos to the guide for a very nice tour, and for his endeavors to keep the occupants of the vehicle going in a language none were quite comfortable in.

English, she ees not beeg in Augrabies.

Riemvasmaak

Having done and seen all we came for at the Augrabies National Park, we decided to go find Riemvasmaak.

Riemvasmaak has a very politically laden history.  In about 1973 the Riemvasmakers were moved to make place for an army shooting terrain.  The Xhosa speaking part of the community was moved to the Eastern Cape, and the Nama speaking people to Namibia.  No amount of assuming can get met to a logical reason why they moved the Riemvasmakers so far away from their place.

In 1993 they were moved back there.  The Xhosa speakers were moved to Vredesvallei at the banks of the Orange river, and 17 km’s apart, the Nama people to the old mission station – that is where we went.

Riemvasmaak

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