Friday 7 to Saturday 8 January 2005, Bloemfontein


Ready to goAt last we have started traveling! We have sold the house and furniture, given away clothes and books and spent 3 weeks in the flat of our friends the Behrmanns trying to finally sort out the last bits and pieces.


We are going to the Richtersveld which is a mountain desert area in the west near the Orange River and Namibia. The Richtersveld was formed by the buckling of tectonic plates, changes in climate from the ice age to the current hot dry climate and volcanic activity. It has many types of rock including dolorite, granites, quartz, sandstone, conglomerates and shales.  It is said to be the most beautiful desert in the world and much better than Namibia. We will be able to compare it once we have been there. Of course January is the hottest period and the worst time to go. Oh well, we do not want to leave SA until all the finances are finalized, so why not?

Our first stop was Bloemfontein. Pieter did not fancy the boring drive straight to Uppington, so, as we have time, we decided to go via Bloemfontein and Kimberly. Saturday was spent sorting out the medicine box and sewing box. They were still in a huge garbage bag and in our way. Needless to say I did not manage to sort everything out before we left!!


The weather was relatively cool, mid 20s, and the wind was very strong. It also rained some, to the pleasure of the locals as they are having a dry spell.


Sunday 9 to Monday 10 January 2005, Kuruman


I just could not wake up properly on Monday. Fatigue from the last, hectic few months had eventually overcame me, so we stayed in Kuruman and I slept most of the day. I expect to gradually become rested over the next month or so, especially once the house and our general finances are sorted out.


Tuesday 11 January 2005, Askham near Kalagadi Transfrontier Park


Pieter remembered a route along the Botswana border which was worth driving. It cannot have been the one we took though. Our route took us through Hotazel (Hot as hell) to Askham (ask him). The road itself was heavily corrugated which broke the new steering shock absorber. Pieter spent the day holding on to a steering wheel that was jumping all over the place. The road followed the Kuruman River through the ‘Green Kalahari’ where there is quite a lot of tufted grass which looks greeny grey from a distance. In the real Kalahari there is very little vegetation, just sand. We could see the red sand meeting the white dirt of the Green Kalahari across the river. The municipal road had the occasional gate. As chief gate opener I got quite a lot of exercise! AN of course Pieter did his favourite thing - cutting firewood for braai.

We stopped late afternoon at Kalahari Camelthorn Camping in Askham. It is a very new campground, with great facilities and small patches of grass for each site. The price was unexpectedly high though, presumably the owners want to recoup the cost of building. The town consists of about 10 houses with a garage and a shop.

Gate on the municipal road   First roadside lunch break   Collecting wood for the first time    Caught in the act

Repair at Askham

 Next morning we had the shock repaired at the local garage. Pieter will have to buy spare washers as the problem was that these had broken.

It is hot out this way, probably 30 degrees in the shade. We are so glad to have air-conditioning in the cab!








Wednesday 12 January 2005, Uppington


I decided to try out the ‘washing machine’ today. This is a bin with a tight lid. I placed the clothes in the bin with soap and water, put it back in its storage place and we drove to Uppington. The drive provides the washing motion. It worked wonders. Pieter’s demin shorts came out quite clean even though they had quite a lot of grease on them and were full of dust. I am so glad as denim is always difficult to wash. 

It is not supposed to rain in Uppington in summer, it is expected to be the 30s. Of course it rained and the washing was on the line for 5 hours and still didn’t dry completely.

At least it was cool.


There was another camper living a similar life to the one we have started. His name is David, he is a widower, sold everything and has been on the road for four months now. He has a VW Kombi Camper Van and tows a small car for use when he stays in a place several days.


Thursday 13 to Friday 14 January 2005, near Pella


We decided to do the Namakwa 4x4 trail. It goes along the Orange River and into the desert areas. Booking is done in Springbok and luckily we arrived in time to complete the forms, deposit the fee in the bank and obtain the authorization certificate. We then went to Pella looking for a camp site only to find Pella consisted of a church, store, tourist office and RDP housing. We backtracked to ‘Oase in die Wildernis’ which provided rondavels and camping. Except we used the facilities in a rondavel, although they were also available near the pool.

There were quite a few trees and as we had shade we decided to stay over and sort out the last of the papers and general filing.

Pieter also cut my hair for the first time based on the knowledge that it would grow again and I did not have to go to work. He knew I always complained about hair in my neck and eyes, so he made sure it was short there. It is a lovely cool hair style although rather boyish.


Saturday 15 to Sunday 16 January 2005, on 4x4 route

Today we set off on the first part of the 4x4 route from Pella to Vioolsdrif.

The route went through Charlies Pass from Pella to Pelladrift on the Orange River. Charlie Weidner was one of the first white settlers and built the pass. There is a newer easier pass, but I doubt it is as scenic.

There is a huge contrast between the river area and beyond. The flat places close to the river are green with trees and cultivated fields. These stretch up to a kilometer or two from the river. Beyond is the desert. Unfortunately the camera setting were incorrect and we made black and white photos. Even with colour it would be difficult to see the beauty of the desert. However, the differences in colour and light give it a beauty all its own.


We met up with David. He was heading for Klein Pella camp ground and had missed the turnoff. Since we had just come through that way we were able to give him directions.


Start of Charlies Pass  Quiver Tree and general view. The San made arrow shafts from these trees.


We saw a variety of houses used by the Nama (original inhabitants, goat herders, nomadic), these ranged from beehive shape made from flexible branches covered with reed mats, plastic or tarpaulin, through square reed huts, round and square huts made with the readily available flat stones, caves, caravans and brick and mortar homes.


The route went through all types of conditions from sand to rock. It was not always easy to follow as there are tracks going all over the place and although the route description was very detailed, our interpretation was not always accurate. Eventually we really went wrong and followed a track where (we found out later) no vehicle had been for several years. The tyre marks were still there though. Of course, first we went too close to a rock and tore off the door of one of the toolboxes and next we got bogged down in soft sand. We dug the wheels out and put down rocks to provide traction (at least Pieter did although I did help some), but that did not work. There was very little shade as the trees were low to the ground and it was hot! Probably 40+ in the shade, too hot to work. So we settled down to wait for evening to come, reasoning that we were entirely self sufficient and could camp right where we were. About 3pm 2 Nama men came by on their way to Pella (now about 20k away). They had no difficulty digging out the wheels at a much greater depth than we did, finding large flat heavy rocks and cutting down living branches for traction. Pieter started Grom and was on solid ground very quickly. We gave them a lift back to the turnoff to Vioolsdrif and watched them walk away without effort much faster than I could have gone. Obviously acclimatized.


Bogged down  Supervision!  Our friendly Namas


We made the official campsite, called Melkhoutboom, before dark and had a nice cool wash and relaxed. The official campsite has no facilities except the Orange River itself and a few trees.

Next day Pieter spent the morning fixing the toolbox. We decided to stay for the rest of the day and rest. Bad idea. It was at least mid 40s in the shade. I spent the day in the shade and my newly uncovered forehead and neck were badly burnt. Pieter’s head also suffered and we drank and drank and drank. We both developed heat rashes as well.

Pieter tried out his idea for a bush shower in the late afternoon. He carried the water from the river. It was heavenly.


Fixing the toolbox. Shade courtesy of the unbrella  There are very green trees in the middle left of Pieter's head, where the Orange River is.   Showering, heavenly!


Monday 17 to Wednesday 19 January 2005, Vioolsdrif


Today we completed the first part of the 4x4 trail to Vioolsdrif. Again it is difficult to describe the beauty of the desert.


Desert scenery  There is a granit streak that looked like a river   Quiver Tree in desert


Vioolsdrif is a border post and it consists of ..... a border post, a police station, a spaza shop, a guest house and a camp ground. No petrol station though. However, 10 kilometers along the Orange River there is a wonderful campsite called Fiddlers Creek run by Bushwacked and another kilometer along there is a spaza shop, a post office and a petrol station.

We decided to stay a few days to chill out, use the electricity, the grass, the shade and the ablutions. We took a quick trip into Springbok to buy supplies as it is 80ks down a tarred national road. Then we investigated some problems such as why we only had black and white photos (incorrect settings), why we could not run the PC using the inverter (PC needs more power, will have to find another way of using the battery), how to set a route on the GPS (impossible unless you are in America, Canada or Europe), why the fridge was overheating (not enough ventilation) etc.


The campsite is also used by the overland trucks and we chatted to some of the travelers about their trip. And it poured with rain for a full morning, extremely unusual.


Thursday 20 January 2005, Rooiberg         


We thought the first section was difficult to follow. The second section was even more difficult. The tracks went through rock and stone and over the sandy river bed again and again. At times there were only slight markings but at least there was only one track. There was also one very steep incline which we went down. When we tried to go up on our return, Pieter tried again, again, again and again without success. So we went looking for an easier route but could not find one. Then Pieter remembered to engage the diff and he went up without any problems. Throughout the day Pieter had to continually change gear, engage the diff, disengage the diff  because of the conditions.

 Desert scene (1) gravel makes going up more difficult  Desert scene (2)  Desert scene (3) you can see some of the different coloured rocks  Desert scene (4)


  Going down  further  and further  what goes down must come up


  The route led to a spectacular view point. Magnificent scenery but does not come out on a photograph very well.


A panoramic view


Enthusiasts have designated an area as a tower field. Some of the towers must have taken quite some time to build. Pieter added our small contribution.


A small section of the Tower Field  Another Quiver Tree  Washing up inside


We spent the night at Rooiberg. It is supposed to be a guest house and camp site. We couldn't see any ablutions though so we found our own camp site. There was quite a chill very strong wind blowing, so I used the inside washing up facility for the first time. This consists of the front of the cupboard under the stove coming down at an angle and a shelf being put up to provide a surface for the washing up bowl, clean and dirty crockery etc. The night temperature must have dropped below 15 degrees as we needed a blanket.


Friday 21 to Sunday 23 January 2005, Brandkaros


We decided we'd had enough of 4x4 driving for a while and headed for Alexander Bay. We were amazed at the colours. It is the middle of summer and we were expecting the landscape to be dry, dry, dry. Instead there was such a variety of greens it was amazing. The greens ranged through grey, red, yellow, blue, pale and occasionally bright emerald green trees in a water course. There were also flowers although not many, perhaps because of the recent downpour. It is impossible to capture the colours on a photo.


  Desert scene (5)  Sour figs in flower - you can eat the dead flower heads when they are really brown.  Sour figs in flower - detail


Closer to Alexander Bay there were lots of mine dumps created by diamond mining. It looks as ugly as the gold mining dumps in Johannesburg. However it does provide jobs for the local people which are otherwise very scarce.

Just outside of the town is a decent airport and a borderpost with a bridge across the Orange River leading to Orangemund on the other side.


The town is at the mouth of the Orange River and is owned by Alexkor a diamond mining company. You have to sign in at the entrance gate. The town has a school, a few shops and one liquor store as well as some guest houses. We filled up our supplies and headed 20 k up river to Brandkaros. This campground is also owned by Alexkor and has chalets as well as camping facilities. We parked between four large trees and had glorious leafy shade over our tent. We spent time washing clothes, fixing minor problems with Grom caused by the rough terrain we had covered, writing up this journal, reading and relaxing. We also watched the the vervet monkeys come around and fed the birds of paradise and weavers. Pieter was able to get the male bird of paradise to eat out of his hand but the two females were more circumspect.

There were a few other guests over the weekend, presumably from Alexander Bay as they were families with young children. David, our aquaintance from Uppington also arrived on the Sunday. He had enjoyed Klein Pella, but had his wallet stolen at Port Nolleth and now had to wait until Friday for his credit card.

There was also a woman living in a chalet whose husband had a 6 month contract. Monday morning she had a short chat with us and then went on to chat to David, very talkative and probably very lonely during the week.


Under the trees in Brandkaros  Working under the trees


Monday 24th January 2005, De Hoop, Richtersveld

The road up to the Richtersveld National Park is reasonably good, but once in the park you need a high clearance vehicle at the very least. The roads have had some attention, especially on the mountain sides where water tunnels have been built under the road where needed and roadside gullies divert the water away from the road. Only one section has been specifically designated 4x4 and that is because of the soft sand. However, there is soft sand elswhere and I am glad we had a 4x4.

The mountains are impressive. They range over the colour spectrum using blue, red, purple, orange, grey, green all in the one view. It is a painters paradise as that would be the only way to show other people. Photos are just not good enough.

De Hoop was spacious, near the river, with many trees. There is a new ablution block made of reeds which is great.


Tuesday 25th January 2005, Richtersberg, Richtersveld

Today we drove through most of the park. The distances are quite short, it is the terrain that takes the time. We spent the afternoon and night at Richtersberg. This site is again on the Orange River with new ablutions. The afternoon is the time when the local herds come for water. We were surrounded by a mixture of sheep and goats for most of the afternoon. The male head of the herd was a magnificent creature, very regal and healthy. The youngsters played with each other and bounded excitedly to their mother when she called. Naturally they were all looking for shade and we had taken quite a large portion. Every now and then we made a loud noise to prevent them from encroaching too much.


And we had visitors. We thought we would be the only people crazy enough to got to the Richtersveld in January. However, Richard and his mother Shirley were also exploring. He works for Drive Out magazine and was testing the new Pajero. His mother came along because she loves the outdoors.


Rocky outcrop  desert scene  Warning that ahead is a diamond area  Richtersveldt scene


Richtersberg  Richtersberg and herds  Keeping the herds at bay  Richard and Shirley


Wednesday 26th January 2005, Springbok


Landy beside a rocky outcropUnfortunately we woke up to two flat tyres, both on the drivers side. Pieter was not pleased but at least we had two spare tyres. We headed out of the park to Springbok via Alexander Bay and Port Nolleth. But not without taking some last photos. The plants are truly amazing, very well adapted to their environment.


Richtersveldt sceneI do not know the name of this plant  Aloe Pllansii or Bitteralwyn  Aloe Pilansii

Springbok campground is good. There is grass and clean ablutions. David was also there. After spending Monday morning talking to the woman at Brandkaros he decided he would rather wait out the time to Friday somewhere else!


The night was cold, two blankets worth, meaning under 10 degrees centigrade.


Trip Statistics


Averages       NEXT to Namibia
Cost per litre diesel R 4.41      
Kilometers per litre 7.5      
Accommodation per night R 81.48      
Kilometers traveled 4,920   Johannesburg return    
Punctures 3    


Car Problems                    broken steering shock

                                        Grom would not start at times

                                        Handbrake stopped working