Namaqua National Park – Part 3

By PG Jonker

[Continued from Part 2]

Coastal part of the Park

We eventually crossed the main gravel road between Hondeklipbaai and Garies, with gates on both sides of the road to be closed (S30°21.195’;E017°25.569’).   We were now heading for the coastal part of the preservation area.

This area is one of the few unspoilt sections of Namaqua Coastal Duneveld left.

Shortly before 16h00 the afternoon we took the turn-off (S30°29.031’; E017°23.731’)to the Spoeg River caves.   The road became very sandy.  Although we let our tyres down a bit for the gravel road when we entered the Namaqua Park, our tyres were over inflated for sandy conditions.  Although I was in 4×4 I could feel the bakkie doing battle to remain on top of the sand.  Shortly thereafter Thomas’ Colt 2×4 became stuck.  He was actually doing rather well up to that point, but as the going speed was too slow, he got stuck. 

Fortunately the 49 degrees of earlier today had by then dropped down considerably, with a cool wind blowing in from the sea. 

The Colt was pulled out easily enough with the use of a fixed rope (not a kinetic strap), but became stuck again only a few meters on.  We now all let down our tyres to 1.2 kPa, the Colt down to 1kPa.  The Colt was then pulled out to the next hard section where our convoy had to wait to make way for another convoy returning from the caves. 

Here things nearly unravelled due to some miscommunication.  Martin was advised by the returning convoy that it is downhill to the caves, and that they did battle to make it back up the hill with the thick sand.  Given the Colt’s impediment Martin considered it better to rather not proceed down to the caves.  However, it turned out that only the guy towing a heavy off road caravan had some difficulties getting up the slope.  So once this convoy went past, we travelled the last half-a kilometre to the caves, leaving the Colt (but not its passengers) behind.   

Spoeg river caves

The caves are something rather special (S30°28.310’; E017°22.194’).   

The site also has the archaeological importance that signs of sheep farming dating back some 2000 years had been found there.  It is believed that the cave had been used by the Khoi-Khoi as they migrated South with their flock. 

For the only time on the tour a sense of urgency seemed prevailed to get moving.  It was now almost 17h30 in the afternoon, and we still had quite a bit to go before we would get to a place where we could make camp.  

This is a place where one should spent quite a bit of time, but then again, maybe on your own, to enjoy the absolute quiet and atmosphere. 


We were now south bound, heading for the Groen river mouth.  It was clear, however, that we would not make it that far that evening.

Just before 18h00 we reached a notice that said “Soft sand 4×4 only”. 

Shortly thereafter the lead vehicle became stuck in the sand.  Towing a trailer, things were slightly more complicated for Martin in his Landrover. 

With a little push from the rest of us Martin reversed the Land Rover out of the thick sand, and tried again, this time with a bit more momentum.  No problem this time.

The trick now, of course, was to get the Colt 2×4 through the thick sand.  Two words.  Speed and momentum.  OK, three words.  Speed, momentum and balls.  Thomas engaged his diff lock and flew off with the Colt after making sure that the coast was clear.  Rather amazing he came through without getting stuck. 

However, the worse was still to come.  The next difficult section required negotiating an uphill sand track.  This proved too much for the Colt, and it got bogged down.  

Three vehicles have past, three were left. 

Making a plan

Being stranded uphill, the converse is of course now true.  To tow the Colt out would mean a downhill endeavour.  How difficult could that now be?  I reversed my bakkie up to where the Colt was stuck.  The tow rope was hitched and I pulled the Colt out.  Uhm…. well, actually, not exactly.  I got stuck myself. 

I assume that:

(a) I left the diff lock for too late, and that it in fact did not engage, and

(b) I probably tried too quickly, bogging my bakkie down, instead of pulling us both clear. 

With some assistance I managed to extract myself from the sand again.   Now, I love these handy guys that always seem to have a plan.  Pieter, appearing very happy to get a shot at pulling the Colt free, came jogging past me.  “We’re going to make a plan now.” 

Friends of mine from the UK always find this a peculiar expression.  Apparently the Brits arrange stuff.  Not South Africans.  No, we make a plan.  But I digress. I’m not sure whether Pieter had any plan other than to simply hitch the Colt to his Fortuner and to pull it out with brute force.  This is exactly what he did.

But now things called for some plan making.  What do we do now?  Do we camp right there and make a plan tomorrow?  Do we turn around?  Or do we proceed.  It was decided to proceed.  Pieter would hitch the Colt, and they will then drive in tandem through the next stretch of road.  Those who already did that stretch of road felt that, if the Colt got through, albeit Colt-on-a-rope, there cannot possibly be any more daunting obstacles that would prevent the Colt from making it the rest of the trip.  

Smile and wave, boys, smile and wave

What followed could best be described through the eyes of Pieter’s grade 8 son.

Oom, my dad was behind the wheel of the Fortuner, chatting with oom Martin sitting next to him, and gave me the thumbs up as he went past.  Oom Thomas was clinging to the Colt’s steering wheel, concentrating on the road, with Oupa sitting next to him and hanging onto the grab handle with both hands.  In the back of the Colt Oom Koos had the tarpaulin folded away and was sitting there, all smiles, waving at us with the one hand, beer in the other hand.”

The Colt-on-a-rope reached the other end of this difficult stretch without any further problems.

Making camp

By now we have run out of time.  The sun was setting, and a thick fog was rolling onto the land.  Koos was sent out on a recce to see if he could find us a place to camp, in the absence of which we would simply camp right where we were. 

Shortly thereafter Koos reported on the two-way radio:  “I found spot, guys.  It’s so beautiful here, one can become romantic.”   We all rushed down to the designated spot before Koos could do so.

It was a bit difficult getting our tents set up, getting the food going, especially getting the smaller kids something to eat.  It was a cold night, with the thick fog leaving everything wet.  It was nevertheless an enjoyable evening.

With the scramble for space we ended up with our tent at a bit of an incline.  My wife’s reasoning was that, as you in any event sleep ‘uphill’ with a cushion, it should not be a problem.  Not so.  After a while our feet were kicking against the bottom wall of the tent as we glided down.  The sleeping bags on the mattresses were rather slippery.  Eventually I settled myself down at the bottom end of the tent at a 90 degree angle to the rest of the family. 

It was not an extremely comfortable night!

[Part 4 to follow]


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