Category “English – Namaqua National Park”

Namaqualand National Park – Easter 2012: Part 1

Wednesday, 18 April, 2012

By PG Jonker 


“Koringkorrelbaai?  You mean there’s really a place like that?”

“Ja, man.  That’s where the Germans dropped Robey Leibbrandt off with the submarine.”

“Genuine?  Wow!  Who’s Robey Leibbrandt again?”

Sigh.  “Aag, never mind, just get your camping gear ready for Easter weekend, ok?  And by the way, Leibbrandt was actually dropped off by a yacht, not a submarine.”

“O, OK.”

Wednesday, 4 April


To miss the worst of the Easter weekend traffic out of Cape Town we decided to take the Thursday off as well.  So on Wednesday afternoon the packing started.  Packing is technically not part of touring, but believe you me, it is a journey in itself.  It warrants some comments.

Our destination is the Southern part of the Namaqua National Park, between the Spoegrivier and the Groenrivier.

[Source:   Map data ©2012 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Sleeping over for three nights without facilities such as running water and electricity requires a bit of planning.  Cooling facilities in particular.  I have a camping fridge.  It was a present from my brother.  Well, sort of.  Returning from a trip in the Richtersveld my brother could not find a Municipal bin big enough to dump the fridge in, so it ended up in my garage.  It works well on 220V, but the 12V jack and gas inlet turned out to be only of ornamental value. We did a similar tour last year on which I took this fridge along.  Suffice to say that practical considerations, and a happy marriage, require an alternative plan.

Due to the friendliness of friends, and friends of friends, I ended up with two camping fridges to choose from in my garage.  The one was slightly smaller than my domestic chest freezer, so I opted for the smaller Engel instead.  I also rented a back-up battery from Jacques Basson of Overland Camp Rental in Brackenfell.

But ai, that sinking feeling when you have everything neatly packed, and then your wife tells you there’s “only the last few things” remaining, and these “last few things” then require a total redesign of your packing plan.  Bear in mind that, apart from the fridge and the battery pack (in a crate), two 25 litre water cans and four packs of wood had to go along.  With no trailer or roof rack.

Eventually, rather late in the evening, I managed to close the rear of the bakkie.  Not without difficulty, though.  But it’s a bit like winning a rugby match with one point.  It’s done!

Thursday, 5 April

On the road again

We leave Durbanville just before 07h00.

We soon leave the city behind.  It’s always such a nice feeling leaving the city and to drive on the open road for a change.  Little traffic and so on.  Mos.

At Vanrhynsdorp we fill up with petrol – just in case Garies has a power failure.  I really need to take on fuel at the last possible opportunity.  (Ai, I again missed the opportunity to take a picture of the Gifberg, just to the South-East of Vanrhynsdorp.  It’s a rather imposing sight.)  Garies’ electricity is up and running, and so is the fuel station, so we fill up there again.

From Garies we take the gravel road to Hondeklipbbaai.  Some 70km’s later we turn left into the Namaqua National Park.

Our group leader, Martin, is camping at Bouldersaai from Monday already, some 22 km south of the entrance gate.  I assume this gate is not as busy as, say, Piccadilly Circus.  Gerrit assists us with the paperwork and signs us in.  He also advises that Martin and his son left the camp an hour ago, heading for Hondeklipbaai, but without his trailer.  His trailer will be pitched at Boulderbaai.  We have the whole site booked for our group, so we can make camp anywhere we like.  Now how cool is that, ek sê.

The road to Boulderbaai is still easy going, with no 4×4 required.  We saw a few Antidorcas marsupialis too.

Unfortunately it would appear that even in this faraway area crime has had its effect.  However, it is clear that the Parks authorities do not lack resourcefulness.  This deterrent should fix any would be gate crasher.

 The road is clearly marked.


My GPS takes me right to the Bouldersbaai camping site.  Yes, I realise that this is indeed what this bit of technology is supposed to do.  But these roads are not necessarily to be found on maps.  This was also the last destination in the Park that my GPS was able to find a road to.  As for the rest it could not calculate a route to the other destinations.

Martin had his rig pitched at site number 2.  Site number 6 is closest to (and right next to) the sea, with number 1 furthest away.  Site number 6 seems like a good spot to pitch camp.  Imagine sleeping with the sea roaring in your ears.

At site number 6 we find the complete skin shed by a puff adder.  The whereabouts of the puff adder is a mystery, though.  Upon reconsideration we then decide it is a stupid plan to camp right next to the sea.  Too noisy.  So we opted for site number 1 instead.

After pitching out tents I let down my tyres to 1,5 bar.  The Spoegriver caves are less than 5km’s away, and we want to spend some time there.  Just then Martin arrives.

Spoegrivier grotte

Martin decides to rather wait for the next vehicle of our group to arrive, so we drive down to the caves on our own.  It is pretty thick sand, with 4×4 now required.  I would normally not want to do that on my own, but at least Martin will know where to come looking for us if we do not return.  Not so, Martin?

I can’t help but get this grin on my face listening to the Mazda’s 3.4 petrol engine doing that effortless woeroe-woeroe-woeroe at 1500 rpm in first gear high range.  At one stage I overestimate the challenge of the thick sand ahead and go to low range.  What a frustration.  Later I’m in low range fourth gear, and it’s still too noisy to my liking.  It’s really too much effort for the result.  Back to high range first or …

Namaqualand National Park – Part 2

Wednesday, 18 April, 2012

Friday, 6 April

Departure from Boulderbaai

Unfortunately we were not able to book Boulderbaai for the full duration of our stay.  We only had it for one night.  So, on day two we have to pack up and move camp to Varswaterbaai.

We awoke to a wet Namakwaland.  A few showers fell during the night (huge drops, but fortunately not much of it), and everything is wet.  As it is still overcast, however, it was clear that it will take the whole day if we wish to wait for the tents to become sufficiently dried out to pack it up.

It takes a while for the whole group to be packed up and ready to go.

The amenities at the campsites are basic roofless longdrop toilets serve to fulfil the bare needs.  It sports proper toilet seats, nogal.  However, in the nature of longdrops, it does become tiresome keeping your lips tightly sealed together for the duration of the visit to the amenity.  And one should also not make the mistake of holding your breath until you hear the ……  aag, nevermind.

SpoegrivierGrotte  –  again

By 11h30 we depart.  First we head north for the Spoegriver Caves for the benefit of those who arrive too late yesterday to go and have a look.

Just before one descends down to the caves you can see the Spoegrivier mouth in the distance.


It is Easter Friday.  Our in-house co-travelling minister of religion does a short sermon and we have communion.

One tends to concentrate on the face of the cave, whereas there are some other interesting rock formations if you care to just walk around the cave a bit.

This Toktokkie had a bad day.  It seems like he was kidnapped by the ants and taken to their home.

[Part 3 to follow]

PG Jonker…

Namaqualand National Park – Part 3

Wednesday, 18 April, 2012

Leaving Boulderbaai

Departing from the caves we still short one member of our group.  Thomas has not arrived.  Maybe we have to get used to not travelling along with Thomas.  It sounds a bit like that song of the chap that had to get used to not living next door to Alice anymore.

[Thomas!  Where the heck is Thomas?] 

A short distance away from the caves on the road back there is cell phone reception for probably about 200 meters.  From there Pieter manages to get hold of Thomas on his phone.  Thomas and his wife are at Garies already.  So they can be here within the next hour or so.

Knowing that Thomas is underway we head for Varswaterbaai.

Along the road to Varswaterbaai there are indeed spots that have fresh water fountains.


We follow Martin on the two spoor tracks, keeping as close to the see as we can.  (Some places offer more than one road.)


We come to one of the two more challenging parts of the route.  The board gives a good indication where the trouble may start.

The first part is thick sand, but everyone gets through without a problem.  Then we get to a hard patch.  From there you need to negotiate the twee spoor track over a dune in an “S” before getting to more even sand, but still thick.

This is the exact spot where Thomas got bogged down last year with his 2×4 Colt.  He now has a 4×4 Jeep Cherokee, but this time he has Pieter’s trailer to contend with.  While awaiting his turn, Koos finds his Crocs from last year that he left there while we were doing battle extracting Thomas from the sand!

[Thomas!  Where the heck is Thomas?]

After two unsuccessful attempts Martin suggests that we let our tyres down from 1,5 bar to 1 bar or lower.  I take mine town to 1,2 bar.  Then Martin speeds off with quite a commotion.  After a while it becomes quiet.  Martin has radio contact with three of the vehicles.  As we hear nothing from him we assume him to have been successful.

One at a time we tackle the stretch of sand.

Thereafter it is easy going.  Along the way we see a colony of seals.

We also spot a beautiful Blue Crane bird.


It is cold and overcast when we arrive at Varswaterbaai.

Tonight is Koos and his family, and our turn to make the food.  We pitch our tents rather hurriedly.  Two pot breads need to be mixed and given time raise in the sun, and the sun is going down fast and with it the required heat.

Eventually the fires are burning, with the sun setting.  And still no sign of Thomas and Marienka.

[Thomas!  Where the heck is Thomas?]

There is no signal to make a call.  So apart from being concerned about them, there is nothing much we can do about it.

The chicken wings and kebabs are coming on nicely.  The two breads did prove a bit but not much, but they are being baked.  The chocolate cake for desert is doing its thing it the pot.

Then we see the headlights of three oncoming vehicles.  We all watch in suspense to see whether it is Thomas.

The first vehicle that pulls up is a double cab Land Rover with a trailer.

“Hey, that’s my dad’s trailer,” says Pieter’s son.

The second vehicle is also a double cab Land Rover.

“Hey, that’s my friend Nekkies,” says Martin.

The third vehicle that pulls up is a white Jeep Cherokee.

“Hey, that’s Thomas!” everyone exclaim.

OK, at least now we know where Thomas is!

The short version is that Thomas became stuck and that the guys with the Land Rovers came to his assistance.  One of these guys happened to be Nekkies of Getaway Off-road Centre in Wellington who regularly services Martin’s Land Rover.

By the time we have the food ready, Thomas has his tent pitched.  More or less.  The structure shows signs of it corresponding with the design as intended by the tent manufacturer.  However, by now Thomas has very little sympathy with a flysheet that does not want to co-operate and decides to do the rest tomorrow.  Like turning the flysheet around to face the way it should, and so on.

The chicken and pot bread came out very nicely, and everyone enjoys a good meal.  This is complemented by Surita’s chocolate cake & icing.  And, of course, the absolutely indispensable coffee.

By then we also dragged the more elaborate version from Thomas.

[Part 4 to follow]

PG Jonker…

Namaqualand National Park – Part 4

Wednesday, 18 April, 2012

Thomas’ story

By the time we get to the coffee we got Thomas and Marienka to give us a more detailed version of their story. Thomas made it to “Soft Sand 4×4 Only”. The first part went fine.

Then he got to the second part where we let our tyres down. At that time Thomas still had his tyres on 2,2bar.

Immediately upon entering the thick sand, he got bogged down. This is also the part where he got bogged down last year. He managed to unhitch the trailer and push it back and out of the way. He then decided to rather go and look for us and get another vehicle to tow the trailer. Just as an aside, inside the trailer was also Pieter rubber dinghy. But whatever they had in mind for the dinghy, it never materialised.

So Thomas and Marienka set off in the Jeep, leaving the trailer there. However, only a few hundred meters further on the Jeep ran out of ground clearance and got bogged down.

Two hours later there were two mountains of sand next to the road as they tried to dig the Jeep out. Some people really have all the fun, huh?

I did not get the impression that they quite enjoyed playing in the sand, though. One aspect that seems to drive home this fact is Marienka’s broken plastic cake bin. This was used in the digging process. However, it was not the digging that led to the demise of the cake bin. No, it was a well aimed (or maybe a badly aimed?) throw of a stone that went right through the bin, rendering it unfit for further use.

Eventually Thomas decided that the writing is on the wall. This Jeep is not going anywhere soon. So, as is required from a diligens paterfamilias he stuffed a few things in a bag. They are going to set out on foot.

Not so, said Marienka. Those wild Struthio camelus that they have seen shortly before getting bogged down may chase them. Ostriches mos do that.

They won’t, Thomas assured her.

Ja, you also said the Jeep can get through here. But in any case, we can’t leave the car here, reckoned Marienka. The next guy coming past may just bump into it.

Well, for the past two hours nobody came past, countered Thomas, so what are the chances?

Before the matter could escalate into a domestic difference, the two Land Rovers arrived on the scene. And the rest is history.

When we eventually went to bed my wife suggested that we rather turn around with our heads away from the sea. It’s rather noisy. Surf’s up, you know. So we turned the other way.  I can’t say that the drone of the sea was any less intrusive, but it was more comfortable sleeping uphill, rather than downhill.

Saturday, 7 April

It’s a rainy day. Nice. For hours we just hang around in our tents. Or coffee crawl from trailer tent to trailer tent. The kids play on their PSP players, or listen to the music in the cars.

We have a tent with a view.

The kids play touch rugby on the beach.

During the course of the morning Nekkies and the rest of the rescue team of yesterday come driving past and pay us a visit. Someone mention in passing that Rinus’ Discovery is leaking sufficient oil to make an Arab smile.

Nekkies immediately offers to check the problem out. He is a Land Rover mechanic at Gateway Offroad Centre in Wellington. A few minutes later the problem is fixed. It seemed to have been an oil filter that was not properly tightened.

Orange is not quite my colour, but I must say, on Nekkies’ Land Rover it does seem to add a touch of class.

Today we’re not going anywhere. By early afternoon the rain stops. Rinus and Thomas get the fire running for their lamb potjie for the evening.

Only then do we notice the colony of meerkatte watching us from a distance. One of them seems like he is the sentinel, because he stays there all the time watching us. However, he is a lousy sentinel, if that is what his function is. I mean, he is totally unaware of what’s happening behind his back!

Quietly approaching him from the rear is the junior bunch of our outfit. It’s nice that the kids have this interest in things nature. However, you don’t go out to look and learn from nature with two catties with you, do you?

Fortunately we see these appliances of war before it could be put to use. A few loud reprimands (they were a distance away, mos) accompanied by hand signs (but not the one that can be successfully executed with only one finger) we indicated to the junior corps that they better have a change of heart, mind and direction if they do not want trouble. They then opted for the trouble free outcome.

Save for two short bursts of rain the weather held. Early evening the pot is ready. The lamb is so soft, it comes off the bone. Very nice! My understanding is that there would have been some form of pudding for which Marienka’s cake bin would have been required. As stated before, said bin was not fit for further use, and we had to settle for café chocolates. Not that it was bad. I mean, I am still to meet the café chocolate that I do not like.

And, of course, we had coffee. Rinus was fortunate to escape serious burns by jumping away from one of the coffee pots that toppled over. Fortunately no harm done, and the spilt coffee could be replenished with no ill effect.

[Part 5 to follow]

PG Jonker…

Namaqualand National Park – Part 5

Wednesday, 18 April, 2012

Sunday, 7 April

To Lambertsbaai

After two nights at Varswaterbaai we had to pack up. Now we are heading for Malkopbaai, Lambertsbaai.

Past Kwassebaai is another stretch of pretty thick sand. At places the tracks have become fairly deep, to the extent that it would be difficult to just hop out of the spoor should there be traffic approaching. Fortunately there is a double set of tracks for some of these places, which would ease things a bit in the event of two way traffic.

Those towing trailers need a bit more speed and momentum to keep going. Of course! So that would be the reason why, by the time we were through these sandy patches, I had to give some gas just to catch up with those in front of me. Not towing anything I could quietly trundle along, minding my own business at a rather leisurely pace.

Where we have a choice, Martin opts for the spoor closest to the sea. At one spot we have to negotiate quite thick sand with severe cross-axle movement. We take turns so that the vehicles can go through one at a time. You don’t want the front guy to get bogged down with the next vehicle right on his tail.

It looks very impressive watching a vehicle with a trailer going over that spot, with the vehicle and the trailer heaving and bobbing in opposite directions.

Martin’s initial planning was for us to swing west from the Groenrivier and head for the tar road. His idea was to take the fastest, albeit not the shortest, route so that we can get to Lambertsbaai not too late in the afternoon. Fortunately by the time we arrived at Groenriver, that plan was canned in favour of one to stick to the sand tracks for as long as we can.

The rain definitely made the sandy parts easier to drive, but caused some mud pools. Nothing serious, just enough to make your vehicle look very impressive to the neighbours back home.

Just before the Groenrivier we leave the Park at its Southern gate.

At the Groenriviermond we do the been-there-dunnit pictures, and follow the spoor past the Groenrivier light house, heading south.

And what a nice drive! Eisj! What were you thinking, Martin! We nearly missed all this.

My understanding is that the roads that we now travel on used to belong to the mine, but that the land was offered to the Parks. Whether they have taken it over is not clear. It is in any event unlikely that they would have the money to develop the area.

This is probably the reason why people can camp at various places next to the beach. A bit of a free for all, where all shapes and sizes of abode seem to go.

Before we reach Brand-se-Baai we stop for lunch.

Pieter decides to inflate his tyres with his electrical pump. This attempt blows a fuse on the bakkie, ending the inflating exercise. So I decide to show Pieter how things should work, making use of basic technology – such as a foot pump. I get my foot pump out and start working (pumping just does not sound right) my tyre.

However, after a short while I decide that, as there will only be 28km’s tar road to go, I can just as well leave my tyres as they are and have it inflated at the Lutzville fuel station. I could then sommer also discretely look for a bin to chuck my now dysfunctional foot pump into.

My friend Alwyn, whom I see about once in a decade, comes driving past with his family. This, of course, increases our statistical average of meeting each other substantially.

Eventually we hit the tar road again and travel slowly on the road to Lutzville. My bakkie does not pass a fuel station by easily, and I have to fill up. And inflate my tyres, mos.

Just outside Lutzville, heading for Strandfontein, the wind spectacularly removes Martin’s camping table from the roof of his Land Rover. If it was not for the fact that he was driving like a maniac at that time, I could have been hit by the table. Fortunately I was still playing catch-up some distance behind him.

After a cursory inspection of the table Martin decides to rather leave it there for the needy.

From Strandfontein we take the gravel toll road to Lamberts Bay. The road is in brilliant condition. We arrive at Malkopbaai late afternoon.

The camp site is right opposite the Muisbosskerm. It has proper ablution and grass. Some parts of it sports West coast roll on lawn in the form of anchovy net, but I assume that to be temporary.

Strange how, after only three days of longdrops, one can go ape at the sight of flush toilets, running water, electricity and grass to camp on .

Pieter & Hanneke and her parents (Oupa & Ouma) are in charge of the food. Pieter made prior arrangements to have yellow tail and witstompneus fish delivered for the braai. Some friendly neighbours offer us cooked crayfish that they took out at the Groenrivier, they said. It tastes marvellous. The red tide clearly did not affect these crayfish. Not that surviving the red tide helped them much. What you win on the swing, you lose on the roundabout, huh?

The fish tastes wonderful, complemented by just as nice salads.

Marienka has recovered from her lack-of-cake-bin syndrome and prepared soetkluitjies for desert, collecting pots and pans for this purpose from her fellow travellers. Food (quality and quantity) is surely the last thing that anyone can complain about on this tour!

Monday, 8 April

The long road back home

Today the tour ends. The weather is nice, but we had some rain during the night, and it takes to about 11h00 before most of the tents are sufficiently dry for us to pack it up.

We have a nice time sitting around, chatting, having coffee, and in between doing bits of packing.

After a group photo (you have no idea how long that took) the group starts to disperse, with us being the first to leave.

Nou daai was ‘n lekker toertjie gewees!


On the route

[Source: Imagery ©2014 TerraMetrics, Map data ©2012 …

Namaqua National Park – Part 1

Saturday, 14 May, 2011

Or:  how PG got his groove

By PG Jonker

[Extracts hereof published in Leisure Wheels, July 2011]

“Kamieskroon?  Ja, sure, I know Kamieskroon.”

Well, I don’t really know Kamieskroon.  It’s more like the way you know the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause.  You sort of know them, you just never met them.

Anyway, to cut things short, we were invited to join a crowd already existing of 5 vehicles to an outing to the Namaqua National Park and the Spoeg river caves.  The rendezvous point would be Kamieskroon.

Caracal route


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


Now, before our date of departure I had to attend to a few things on my bakkie.  More in particular, for quite a while the bakkie had been teasing me with a “hoi!” when commanded to start the engine.  Invariably on a second attempt, the engine would start.  However, this is clearly not the way the engine was designed to operate, and I thought it would be rather unsportsmanlike to proceed on the trip with what appears to be a pending hassle.  I might bog down the whole group in a difficult situation in sand.

The auto electrician where I took it to replace the battery advised that it was not the battery, but the alternator.  They did not have time to rebuild it before the weekend, so I settled for a replacement alternator.

However, shortly after taking delivery of my fixed vehicle I was merrily greeted again with a “hoi!” from the engine compartment.  I called the auto-lec, but he assured me that I must just give the new alternator a chance to properly charge the battery.

On the road again

So on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend in March we left Durbanville in 36 degrees Centigrade.  Upon later reflection this accounted for a cooler part of the weekend.

Just before Citrusdal we had to stop at road works.  Upon restarting the bakkie, it said “hoi!”

I thought: “$%^&!”, but said nothing – just smiled at my wife.  She later advised that she would prefer that I do not smile at her like that.

Shortly after that, just about 100m before the turn-off into Citrusdal, I noticed the battery light coming on.  I then realised what that faintly familiar sounding clonking sounds were that I heard from underneath the bonnet shortly before that.  As a best case scenario my fan belt broke.  Worst case scenario, the new alternator departed.

I turned into Citrusdal.  It was 17h15 on the Friday afternoon that marked the beginning of a long weekend.   

Engine problems

The first building to be found in Citrusdal turned out to be the Toyota garage.  With the bakkie’s temperature needle reaching for the upper quarter of the gauge I coasted to a halt in front of the (open!) doors of the part of the building that read:  “Service Centre”.

I opened the bonnet and saw the remaining strings of my fan belt stuck around the new alternator.

A very friendly JP Visagie came out to see what the problem was.  JP is a big chap.  I would assume he will make a good lock forward for the local rugby team if they can work up his aggression levels a bit. Having successfully identified the engine and alternator to him, he had me pull the bakkie into the workshop, and set to work.   It turned out that my new alternator is of a different type than the previous one, which necessitated a different length of fan belt.  The new fan belt might have been either too thin or too loose, and got chewed up by the alternator.  Also, the second belt had a 180 degrees twist in it.

JP had to experiment with pretty much half of the fan belts they had in stock to get one that could serve as the now non-standard fan belt.  I bought an additional one of those (for the past 10 years I’ve had spares of all three belts in my bakkie, never having any use for them).

A half an hour later the bakkie was up and running again.  Pieter & Hanneke Loots have since learnt of our problems and called to say they are waiting for us at Klawer until we got there.  I suggested they rather not do so, but Pieter assured me that he had nothing better to do than to sit in the Wimpy at the garage and sip some coffee – which, incidentally, is served virtually by the gallon by that specific outlet.   We arrived there some time after dark, and travelled in convoy further.

It was the night before the super full moon of 19 March 2011, and we had a very full moon shining.

We were the last two vehicles of the crowd to arrive at the Gousblom B & B at Kamieskroon at 21h30.

It was a happy crowd.  We were introduced to each other, had a braai, and eventually settled down to sleep in air conditioned(!) rooms.  The nineteen people easily fitted into the guest house, with even some rooms unoccupied.


We awoke and started doing breakfast / packing at a very sedate pace on Saturday morning.  No-one was in a hurry.  This is actually nice.  It puts a bit of pressure on those without trailers and tray systems and the like to keep up with a fast moving crowd.

After a last stop at the Kamieskroon petrol station we left Kamieskroon at 09h00.

We took the gravel road that leads past the Kamieskroon Hotel into the Namakwa National Park.

The line-up

The full complement of the tour group consisted of 6 vehicles and 19 people.  The vehicle line-up was:

  • Land Rover Defender Td5 with trailer.  Martin Behm, tour leader, at the helm, with his son Daniel.
  • Current generation Hilux double cab.  Koos & Surita Janse van Rensburg and their sons Janco and Wikus.
  • Previous generation Hilux double cab.  Johan & Celia van der Merwe (oupa & ouma).
  • Mazda 3.4 double cab.  PG & Marga Jonker with Anita and Chris-Jan.
  • Toyota Fortuner with trailer.  Pieter & Hanneke Loots, with their sons André and Hanro.
  • A 2×4 Colt cab-and-a-half.  Thomas & Marinka Swanepoel with their daughter Tayla. 


Namaqua National Park – Part 2

Saturday, 14 May, 2011

[Continued from Part 1]

The Park

The Namaqua National Park Park is still in a development phase, and there is still active farming activities going on there.   This will apparently be phased out over time. 

Quiver trees abound.  Some Maartblomme were visible.  At the bookings office there were marked succulents like Taaibos and Kukemakranka (so there’s genuinely such a plant)!

After registering at the Skilpad office, Namaqua National Park (S30°09.489’; E017°46.29’), Martin led the way on the Caracal Eco Route.  Each vehicle received a booklet in which the routes are marked.  Without that I can imagine you can easily get lost in the Park!  Turning points on the route are marked with Caracal signs, some of which are numbered to enable you to plot yourself on the map in the booklet.

After visiting the first view point we descended down the Kamiesberg mountains on a cement road.  The road then became a typical tweespoor farm track on hard ground.  Old ruins are to be found where there used to be permanent settlements. 

At the Witboois river we turned off, rather than to head for Soebatsfontein.   Martin chose the detour that would eventually take us over the Wildeperdehoek pass.

By now we have seen quite a number of Gemsbok and Springbok, and also a solitary Hartebeest.  In spite of the office bearing the name Skilpad, I’ve only seen one dead turtle.  Which is probably a good reason to preserve them.  The area is apparently frequented by leopard, with camera traps set to get pictures of them.  

The road remained pretty much what you would expect on a farm road. 

Before the Wildeperdehoek pass there is one very steep incline where low range is convenient to get up there slowly.  It is not essential, though, as Thomas’ endeavours with his 2×4 Colt would attest to.  The Colt went up the incline with no apparent strain.

It appeared that my bakkie’s starting problem was more acute when the engine was hot.  By now, every time we stopped I would first get the now standard “hoi”, before the engine would fire up at the next attempt.  I became reluctant to switch off my engine.  However, by now the outside temperature had gone up to 49 degrees.  Letting the bakkie idle soon saw the temperature needle climbing.  From previous experience I knew that my viscous fan only kicks in once the red line is reached.  I’m not inclined to wait that long, though, and previously had a separate switched connected to the air conditioner’s fan so that I can activate this manually, while keeping the air conditioner off.  This worked well.      

Wildeperdehoek pass

We turned left for the Wildeperdehoek pass (S29°56.319’; E017°38.085’).  From the Parks’ office to the Wildeperdehoek pass it took some three-and-quarter hours travel.  The tweespoor becomes a proper road that takes you over the pass. 

The pass was built in similar fashion that the Bain’s passes.  It was constructed in the late 1800’s for transporting copper ore from Springbok to Hondeklip Bay.

From the pass you look down on a grass plain to the West which is apparently one of the few grassy areas in Namaqua.  In the distance below you can also see the two gravel roads that runs to Koingnaas and Soebatsfontein respectively.

Reaching the bottom of the pass we took the road to Koingnaas.  This is a gravel highway, as opposed to the twee spoor tracks that we had been doing up to that point.  At the next split in the road (S30°06.691’; E017°24.781’) we aimed south. 

Somehow, however, we took a wrong road (I kid you not). 

Car trouble (again)

Fiddling with my GPS I went through a pothole that caused my number plate to come loose.  As the convoy had to turn around to get to the correct road, however, Martin saw it before I lost my number plate completely.  The convoy was in any event brought to a grinding halt with a stick puncturing the sidewall on Koos’ Hilux. 

Once again, it was a merry crowd.  Out came the tray systems and cooler boxes, with refreshments readily at hand whilst advising Koos on plugging the puncture.  It is unlikely that Koos will ever again have so many advisers on the issue of plugging a puncture.  Koos did the job with aplomb, and soon we were underway again. 

I was parked slightly out of the way, and could quietly seek the assistance of a more practical member of the convoy to assist me with what was supposed to be the fairly simple task of getting my number plate affixed to my bumper again.  

With everyone fixed up again we found ourselves south bound, again on a twee spoor track. 

Sanpark’s booklet describes the area as having rare arid fynbos elements, with pin cushions to be found on the dunes. 

[ Part 3 to follow]…

Namaqua National Park – Part 3

Saturday, 14 May, 2011

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 …

Namaqua National Park – Part 4

Saturday, 14 May, 2011

By PG Jonker

[Continued from Part 3]

Groen rivier

The next morning we took our time to get uncamped again.  We made sure that we took everything with us that we brought in, and by 09h45 we were on our way again.

The temperature remained some 21 degrees.  With the fog of the previous evening, the thick sand was now much easier to negotiate.  It still was a very impressive sight to see Thomas in his Colt flying off, after giving the vehicle in front of him some space, never to get stuck in spite of long stretches of very thick sand.

At one point, though, there was a sharp bend in the road, with rocks in the sand.  Obviously you do not want to do that with speed, as such a rock can do some damage to your vehicle.  So as a precaution the Colt was hitched to one of the vehicles to enable him to negotiate this bend at a more sedate speed.

The problem with getting involved in the action is that you tend to forget about pictures.  By the time we realised that we should actually take a few pictures of the Colt in full cry, most of the thick sand parts were behind us.  However, at the next stretch my wife made a point of taking pictures.  But this happens on the move.  The result is a picture of the blue sky, one of the bakkie’s bonnet, another of the sand tracks in front of us, all blurry.  So we were not as successful as we would have wished to be in getting evidence of Thomas’ feat.

The sand tracks run right next to the sea.  Various basic areas of ablution had been set up by the Parks authority, offering you a long drop and some rocky walls that give shelter against wind. 

Just before noon we reached the Groen river mouth (S30°49.751’; E017°34.950’).  It’s actually an estuary that is only occasionally opened by wave action, when sea water would flood the estuary.  As the water evaporates, it leaves the salt behind, making it one of the saltiest on the South African coast. 

It was nevertheless a good time to do lunch.

We left, taking the road past the Groen river light house. 

There were still a few sandy stretches left, but none of those appeared daunting any more.  By about 15h00 we hit the tar road again, heading for Lutzville.

We were driving slowly, as our tyres were still under-inflated for the sand.  About 40 km’s before Lutzville Koos’ patched up tyre blew out its last wind, necessitating a stop to change wheels.  It was then that Koos realised that, following a recent rear end bump, he never checked whether he could reach the spare wheel underneath his Hilux.  It turned out that he could.  Not that it would have made much of a difference – between the remaining vehicles (three of us remained with Koos) we had sufficient spare wheels to help him out).


After filling up at Lutzville and inflating our tyres we headed for nearby Strandfontein.  And what an amazing place it turned out to be.

We were allocated camp sites in the ‘horse shoe’ part of the Municipal camping site.  Before our arrival there was only one vehicle there.  The lower camp site overlooking the sea, though, appeared to be fully occupied.

The weather was absolutely perfect.  Slightly overcast, windless, quiet (save for us, that is).

We ended the weekend with a potjiekos competition.  The options to choose from were sheep, chicken,  bread (two variants) and chocolate cake (true).  After much deliberation we decided it was a draw. 

A perfect end to a wonderful weekend.

In the groove, babe

Now, there is a malicious rumour going around that I don’t have the balls to do heavy 4×4 stuff.  So let me be clear on this.  This rumour is absolutely true.  But this tour, I would say, falls squarely within what I find extremely palatable.   

So maybe one can say I’ve got my groove….




Day 1:    Cape Town to Kamieskroon                        481km’s

Day 2:    Kamieskroon to West Coast                        180km’s

Day 3:    From overnight to Strandfontein              198km’s

Day 4:    Strandfontein to home                                 339km’s               (via St Helena Bay)

Total distance travelled:                                              1 198km’s

Distance on gravel and 4×4:                                         290km’s

Fuel consumption – best:                                             7,4km/l

Fuel consumption – worst:                                          5,2km/l

Fuel consumption – average:                                     6,3km/l

To consider before my next trip

Get the starting problem on the bakkie fixed – nope:  been there, done that, no cure – that in itself is another story

Consider a fixed fan instead of a viscous one – nope:  been advised that this is not a good plan;  noisy, uneconomical, and apparently causes uneven temperature in engine

Check whether the diff lock is in fact working – now there’s a good idea.

Get some balls.  The kids love playing with balls.

To read:

Booklet:  Caracal Eco Route – Namaqua National Park