Walking out, in the Richtersveld





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  1. #1
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    Default Walking out, in the Richtersveld

    Life generally has an ebb and flow to it, currently mine has a bit of flooding.

    However, I have a bike and now a brand new, to me, Diesel SWB Pajero and I had a few days to spare. My excuse was that I have a whole lot of study work to work on and going someplace remote and quiet would be perfect to make a big dent in it. Also, this flooding in my life could benefit from the space too.

    I’ve had a long history with the Richtersveld; first being a river guide there for many years, then meeting my wife there, and, lately I partook in a multistage Dakar style motorcycle rally last year through some of the more remote places. In my will, my ashes are to be scattered in the river. So the Richtersveld is has a strong spiritual pull.

    The plan was to get into the Richtersveld, basically turning left at Garies for a suitable amount of time and then heading north parallel to the N7 to finally follow the stage 3 rally route. Then once I hit the river, right to the border and do some work for a few days at the Felix Unite camp. What could possibly go wrong?

    Friday 4pm, I find out that the fan belts need changing. That put a dent in the early Saturday leaving. I finally got away at noon. It was cold and wet. Winter is definitely here.



    Just past Vanrynsdorp, things were looking up.



    40 litres of extra fuel in Garies, a few steaks and chops and a tin or two, some ice and a 6 pack and off I went to find a bed.

    About 80k’s in after the sun had set, an old wind pump and broken kraal was perfect for free camping and just far enough off the road not to be bothered by passers-by.

    Steak and vegetables in foil washed down with some of Namaqua’s finest.











    Then, because this was a study trip, I made an effort to finish the book I had chosen to review. I usually prefer Astrix and Oblix, but there you go.



    Bed for the night



    Was up at 4. I’ve never needed coffee or tea to get me going in the morning, so a breakfast of champions that took but a minute to break out, Prof Noakes would be proud.



    Then into the Namaqua National park for some sight-seeing. I only really have eyes for my new truck, sorry.



    Then for most of the rest of the day was just brilliant. Mostly easy trails with stunning views, brilliant weather and a few tough climbs or down hills. I followed mostly the Buffels rivier 4x4 trail with a few excursions to see interesting stuff.

    Homemade Garmin holder. My motorcycle mount didn’t work, so a few minutes with some wire and hey presto, a self-levelling, spring suspension and braced GPS holder, patent pending.











    The pipe trail was a bit of a scramble. I had to break out the winch. I am sure I could have backed up a bit and tried a second time, but a new toy does need to be played with and, and, er what other excuse was needed?



    The Nigramoep mine must have been quite big in its day;



    As time was a bit few, I skirted the first bit of the rally section and went up the knersvlakte then came into the mountains from the West. I had seen a route on tracks4Africa



    In the valley that I chose to go up, there was a spring perched on the side of the mountain. Amazing and quite out of place.





    I considered camping there but still had light and wanted to be on the route. I also thought that, this being a desert, there must be quite a bit of traffic to the spring – small and possibly big toothy ones too, so carried on.

    The climb up the side of the valley was pretty steep, a crawl. I was really loving this SWB. If I’d been on my bike, I might have been far faster but certainly a lot more sweaty too.

    It was noticeable that there was only one set of tracks in front of me. It looked a few days old, and then prior to that was some tracks but they had been before the rains that had fallen a few weeks before. This was Sunday, the week after the huge bunch of public holidays so the chance that anyone else would be up here was very remote. Even less chance was that anyone would be coming along either.

    As soon as I hit the Rally trail, I had promised myself a beer. I am used to riding these kinds of trails and having a beer is hard with a helmet on, so it was a huge novelty to crack open a frostily cold one and enjoy the late afternoon views whilst putting along. Yes driving and drinking….



    Aha! I had in my mind’s eye the place I wanted to camp and it was down there



    Perfect timing.



    It’s really rugged country, I am deeply attracted to it.







    Then, as I was pulling my head torch on, the retractable string broke. I tried fixing it in the headlights for about 20 minutes, then turned them off and tried again with the light of my cell phone.

    I was engrossed in this when I heard a rapid tick tick tick from the truck? Hmmm, that sounds like a starter relay? !!!!

    I jumped up and tried the ignition. It wouldn’t even turn over.

    Oops!

    I was mostly angry with myself. There was nothing for it but to start supper and have another cup of wine neither of which tasted half as good as they should have. Being in the poo had put a damper on things.



    So, on with the thinking cap;

    Can’t push start the truck – it’s automatic and I’m on my own
    I had nearly 20 litres of water.
    Food for 2 days maybe.
    Tomorrow being a Monday, the chance of anyone coming along in the next week is very remote.
    A few knew where I was, sort of. I have an online tracking app that I had sent out, But the alarm would take a few days to go off.
    It’s full moon.

    It was clear I had two choices;

    Get up a hill and check to see if I can get signal.
    If none, then walk to the river 30.6km’s away.

    The weather was cool for the desert so walking in the day was not going to be an issue. I didn’t want to go climbing up a hill at night even if there was a full moon. I’d had 2 beers and 2 cups of wine, so for at least till dawn I was going nowhere.

    I pulled my computer out and called up Mapsource and traced the route onto some paper and left instructions about which way I was going to be going and to bring the car along if they found it.



    I then pulled out the jumper cables, left the note in the jaws and left them on the radiator with the bonnet open.




    Going to sleep I tried to think if I hadn’t missed anything. I even thought of trying to use the computers batter to jump to the cars! Yes my mind was like a till on pay day.

    It was still nearly dark when I got up and packed everything.

    Top of the hill - nope that didn’t work…



    I nearly sprained my ankle on the way down. I gave myself a good talking to about that.



    There was no use being sentimental, I packed my bag; I only had my material briefcase to hold all my stuff


    3 litres of water
    Sun cream
    Camera
    GPS
    Spare batteries for GPS
    Passport
    Wallet
    Beanie
    Long sleeved top
    A tie down
    Leatherman
    Umbrella
    Cheese
    Ham Roll
    Two handfuls of pecan nuts



    A took a long drink form the water can and, Cheers for now



    It really was quite pleasant…



    Until I did the mental arithmetic as to how long this was going to take



    Lunch



    Basically it was walk for an hour and rest for 10 minutes.

    I was pretty certain that I could do 30k’s. I just hadn’t walked further than 5k’s since my time in the army. I was reasonably mtb fit so I thought I’d be ok. It was a pity I didn’t bring my MTB along it was an awesome track to have ridden…



    After sometime of trying to sling the briefcase and then use the strap across my head, I used the tie-down to fashion a neat backpack. I should have done that from the start.



    I had a lot to think about. I have a panel that will be testing me in a month and for a few hours I was having a word with them. I had ample time to sort out some of the things that have been on my mind. I also got a chronic case of helmet song. It’s the disease of the same songs going round and round in your head, only this time, no matter what song it was it was playing to a marching beat.



    Towards the afternoon it started to warm up. I was using about a litre per 10k’s. At the 20k mark, I could see the Eksteenfontein road in the distance. Getting to it would increase the chance of getting a lift.

    The umbrella had proved its worth.





    Aha! The river and a house





    There was a caretaker who took me to Oewerbos



    From there, as I have some friends in that part of the world they organised that I meet up with Adam Bleach of Bushwackers. The nicest guy who when we started the negotiation on how much my rescue would set me back, he only wanted diesel money. I soon set him straight about that, he got a lot more than a tank of diesel, but far less than if I had to get the AA there. The drive back with him was in the dark. It was a great chat and I didn’t remember it being so rough. Once back, after a few minutes, the truck started with no issues. I said my goodbyes at the river, got over the border post and into bed by 12:30am.

    The rescue Bunny, Adam Bleach




    The next day I was super stiff, but happy I didn’t have to do the rescue. I managed to get some of my work done before I headed back the following day.







    My buddy, organiser and long time ago business partner, Carlos owner of Provenance Camp, Felix Unite





    Some thoughts.

    I’m no expert in a 4x4. I’ve owned this vehicle for a month and it’s the first one that I can call my own. I have some 4x4 experience and a vast amount of off-road motorcycle experience for whatever that counts. I think my battery is just serviceable and I’ve subsequently found out it is 4 years old and not in peak condition. The vehicle has no issues other than that and ran like a top the whole trip.

    There is always a debate about solo trips. I had a lot of time to ponder this on my stroll. There is a line beyond where a solo trip can become not so much fun, expensive and/or lethal. That shouldn’t mean that one shouldn’t do them though. I was reasonably prepared and confident. That part of the world is serious and remote, this adds a level to the place. My slight back up should things have gone really wrong was the tracking app for my iphone. It uses the internal gps to track almost real time and then when in cell range uploads the data to a website that others can then follow. The last entry to those who were following would have been my turning off the knersvlakte. At the least, they knew I was heading for the Rallye route and had headed up that valley. But the alarm would’ve taken a few days to have been raised, and obviously even more before a rescue found me.

    However, I really enjoyed the experience, (not that I would want to do it again anytime soon), it was soul cleansing and it was good to have to be on my own, not rely on anyone and have some edge to the game.

    There were a lot of “if’s”, but I like to think, what if I hadn’t gone?
    Last edited by kamanya; 2014/09/25 at 08:42 AM.

  2. #2
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    Great yarn and pictures - it could so easily have gone pear-shaped and ended badly. Nice to see a pic of Carlos, good man that.

    We had a Richtersveld trip go badly wrong back in 1997 - I was doing a review of the (then brand new) Jeep Grand Cherokee for Out There magazine, when it died on us. Don't want to hijack your thread, but I think the two stories go quite well together - here it is:

    REVIEW OF THE JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE LIMITED

    THE ROAD TEST FROM HELL
    CHEROKEE SCALPS JOURNO


    WE STOPPED for lunch in the dry river bed of the Ganukouriep in the northern Richtersveld under the only two trees we had seen all day. It was the Cape school holidays and there was plenty of traffic. At least three cars a day.

    After lunch, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited resolutely refused to start. The engine turned and turned and would not fire. We opened the bonnet. On the left hand side, a computer stared at us. The rest was a maze of incomprehensible connections. The distributor looked like R2D2 in Star Wars.

    With us and the immobile R252 500 (Vat included) Jeep was my 75-year-old mother. The last time she drove in a Jeep was during World War Two. She was in Omdurman, in the Sudan, her 'plane had been forced down by engine trouble on a four day flight to Cairo. "That Jeep had two steel bucket seats and looked like a Meccano set, this Jeep reminds me of Christine, the man-eating car in the Stephen King novel."

    Christine is a far cry from the steel-seated old Willys: The seats are luxurious leather, the front two have bum-warming heaters, and can memorize 10 different seat adjustments so you can enter your own preferred position into its memory. There's an overhead computer that tells you average and spot fuel consumption, distance to empty, where north, north east, east and the other five points of the compass lie, the temperature, trip mileage and elapsed travelling time.

    But it couldn't tell us how to restart Christine.

    A party of three vehicles from Alexander Bay arrived in the late afternoon. We re-checked for spark, no spark. We re-checked for petrol, no fuel. Unanimous conclusion: The immobilizer had immobilized itself and we were stuck. We needed another computer to talk to our computer.

    So we gave the Alexandrians a list of numbers to call and they left. Near sunset, six hours after the drama began, my mom said "OK, everybody get positive, pray to whoever you want to pray, walk around the vehicle three times, face east, spit in the dust and try again."

    So we did all that. I turned the key, and Christine roared into throaty six cylinder, four litre life. That was Sunday, the last time she started for three days. We hared through to our idyllic camp site on the banks of the Orange River as night fell.

    Monday, I swam the yellow-fish infested Orange River to a Namibian diamond prospecting camp to use the phone. Our mates from Alexander Bay (my everlasting gratitude to Carel Wiggett and friends) had been very busy, and Chrysler had already set a rescue mission in motion.

    Steve Owen, Wheels Chrysler Jeep's Service Manager in Cape Town, drove a marathon journey and arrived in the midday heat three days after we broke down, the Chrysler Cavalry coming out of the dust. We could hear the bugles blowing. Steve plugged his DRB3 diagnostic computer into the port conveniently located below the adjustable, leather covered steering wheel with neatly placed cruise control buttons, and five minutes later he had the answer.

    "Two of the relays have packed up: The one controls the fuel pump, the other the Automatic Shutdown, which switches off all spark and the fuel injectors." It took him another minute to fix and Christine roared into life.

    So what can I say about Christine? She is an awesome performer off-road. She climbed the Richtersveld rock passes like King Kong on speed. The power steering, criticized by some as being too mushy, comes into its own offroad, where it jiggles the Jeep through uncomfortably tight rock corners with elan.

    The ride is luxurious and rock steady, on and offroad. The automatic gearbox, which I dreaded, preferring to make my own decisions about the terrain ahead, was highly intelligent, making all the correct choices, and the Quadra-Trac permanent four wheel drive system automatically shifts power to the wheel where its needed most, so we never came even remotely close to bogging down, even in the deepest sand.

    OK, the bonnet's so big you end up guessing your way up steep ascents, and the ground clearance is a bit too tight for really rough terrain.

    The packing space is conservative, and we only managed to fit in all our gear by strapping the tents, tarps and sleeping gear onto the surfboard racks and by leaving the camp chairs at home. But Front Runner (available through the Safari Centre) make a customized roof rack, giving you plenty of internal space, especially if you fold flat the back seats (60-40 split).

    Still and all, this is not a vehicle I would take through Africa. I would hate to think what wading a deep river would do to all those computerized gizmos. If I were to head north in Christine, I would demand that the immobilizer never be enabled (a delivery option), that she be converted to leaded fuel (around R5 500 to unconvert the catalytic convertor and exhaust system), that the tubeless Goodyear Wranglers with two ply side walls and five ply treads be replaced with tubed eight ply road tyres, and that Steve Owen be on permanent standby with a long-range helicopter and his DRB3 computer.

    Then this would be one of the most perfect vehicles in the world.
    Tony Weaver

    1991 Land Rover 110 Hi-Line S/W 3.5l V8 carburettor
    Cooper Discoverer STT tyres, four sleeper Echo rooftop tent
    2012 Mitsubishi Outlander.

    Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.

  3. #3
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    Hallo Oom Tony... Just curious, why would you call this story a yarn?

    Definition of yarn: a long or rambling story, especially one that is implausible.

    Everybody needs to believe in something.... I believe I will have another Beer!

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    Hallo Kamanya, ek het gehoor van die man met die pap battery in die pajero, Adam is n goeie vriend van my. Ek ken daai wereld baie goed, jy behoort sein te gekry op die hoogste kop naby waar jy gestaan het. Ek het eendag n papwiel daar gekry en vind toe uitmy wielspanner le by die huis, kon darem n sms wegkry later. Die pad wat jy gestap het het ek toe in 1ste low gery, natuurlik een rim in sy glory in! Baiemooi fotos van n baie mooi wereld, ek ry sommer vrydag daarlangs see toe

  5. #5
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    Dankie vir die post. Ek het jou artikel in die Wegry gelees maar die fotos hier vertel die storie soveel beter
    VW Touareg V6 Tdi Escape
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  6. #6
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    Baie dankie vir die storie. Droom tog na rustigheid met bietjie ongemaklike opwinding daarby.
    Enige kans om die roete te ry self?

    Met dual battery sisteem was jy self geholpe, dit het my al uit die bollie uit gekry.

  7. #7
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    Ja Theuns jy kan self daar rondry, dit is staatsgrond so oop vir almal.

  8. #8
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    Awesome experience
    Buy Oriental and support the destruction of Whales, Dolphins & Rhinos

    Defender TD5

  9. #9
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    Dem lekker storie en dem lekker avontuur!!!
    * '03 Prado 120 3.0 diesel
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    Charging thing for...
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  10. #10
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    Nice experience of life Kamanya.
    Good gripping story and beautiful area.
    Common Sense is so rare it is like a Super Power.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by theunsb View Post
    Baie dankie vir die storie. Droom tog na rustigheid met bietjie ongemaklike opwinding daarby.
    Enige kans om die roete te ry self?

    Met dual battery sisteem was jy self geholpe, dit het my al uit die bollie uit gekry.
    I will be getting a second battery as I really don't want to have to do that again.

    I have attached the route. The bit I walked is not recorded but is marked as a route.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by superhansie View Post
    Hallo Kamanya, ek het gehoor van die man met die pap battery in die pajero, Adam is n goeie vriend van my. Ek ken daai wereld baie goed, jy behoort sein te gekry op die hoogste kop naby waar jy gestaan het. Ek het eendag n papwiel daar gekry en vind toe uitmy wielspanner le by die huis, kon darem n sms wegkry later. Die pad wat jy gestap het het ek toe in 1ste low gery, natuurlik een rim in sy glory in! Baiemooi fotos van n baie mooi wereld, ek ry sommer vrydag daarlangs see toe
    Hansie, send Adam my regards when you see him. Point him towards this thread.

    I stood on the highest bit i could find and didn't get a beep.

    I'm envious that you will be there soon.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by kamanya View Post
    Hansie, send Adam my regards when you see him. Point him towards this thread.

    I stood on the highest bit i could find and didn't get a beep.

    I'm envious that you will be there soon.
    I will do so.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papsak View Post
    Hallo Oom Tony... Just curious, why would you call this story a yarn?
    Definition of yarn: a long or rambling story, especially one that is implausible.
    Not in my dictionary - "a long story with a lot of exciting details" (Chambers). In my business (journalism) we routinely refer to exciting stories as "great yarns".

  15. #15
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    Great story, great pics, thanks for sharing

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    Not in my dictionary - "a long story with a lot of exciting details" (Chambers). In my business (journalism) we routinely refer to exciting stories as "great yarns".
    Aahh... Thx. So Google sometimes do lead us astray...
    Also (now only) checked in my Merriam-Webster..."a narrative of adventures"
    Everybody needs to believe in something.... I believe I will have another Beer!

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