Northern Cape Tour - Part 1





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  1. #1
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    Default Northern Cape Tour - Part 1

    First leg: Montagu to Augrabies


    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.


    The website http://www.matjiesfontein.com/ offers some insight on the history of Matjiesfontein.


    It was founded in 1884 and became a Victorian health spa. The 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.



    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.



    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 Antony 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.



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


    The man in charge had a slight situation with a would be patron who wanted to join his friends already inside, but who was not welcome, apparently due to a well established history between the two of them. The patron was shown the board that indicated that admission is reserved. Instead of taking his cue as not being on the A-list, the would be patron was instead offended by the innuendo that he could not read. He nevertheless departed, albeit begrudgingly.


    Augrabies

    We then hit the road for the final stretch to Augrabies. It’s been a while since I have done such long distance travelling, but it has not lost its allure for me.


    Kenhardt was doing their Sunday afternoon nap when we passed through. Or maybe they just ignored us. It must be my family.


    I have difficulties getting the layout of Keimoes and Kakamas. You have a bit of dorp, but then it seems to just go on and on and on with small farming establishments or businesses next to the road.


    Especially once you pass through Kakamas you find these humongous warehouses / package storage, and massive pieces of covered citrus orchards and vineyards.


    After passing through Kakamas we turned right on the road heading to the Augrabies National Park. We went through Marchand, and a village with the name Augrabies. I was surprised. I thought the Falls carried the name Augrabies, but it would appear the whole area is Augrabies, with every second business sporting the prefix “Augrabies”.


    Eventually we got to our destination at the Augrabies Falls Lodge and Camp some 7 kilometers from the Park. The facilities were magnificent. As the name indicate, they also have a camping area with very nice lawn and trees. At that time there were no campers, but the next day some 7 identical canvas tents were pitched there, so I assume an overlander group made use of the facilities.


    Next: Visit to Augrabies en Riemvasmaak
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  2. #2
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    Default Northern Cape tour - Part 2

    Augrabies National Park

    Since we had been to the Augrabies falls some 11 years ago a number of new boardwalks and railed platforms had been erected, enabling you to see the waterfall from different angles.





    At some of these platforms we had to first shoo the dassies away to get on. They were reluctant to move. Which I understand. It was about 6 degrees Celsius, with a very chilly wind blowing.



    The waterfall is a 56 meters fall.



    According to the Sanparks website http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/augrabies/ 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.



    From there we went to mount Ararat.



    And 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.



    Boggom was up to no good at the camp, in spite of his relaxed look here. We saw him took a go at the window of a bungalow. We also saw the aftermath of his visit to a tent. He was not a popular chap.



    This hairy fairy will one day become a butterfly, I'm told. I mean now the one below.




    Quiver trees abound.




    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.

    Part 3 to follow: Riemvasmaak
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    PG Jonker
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  3. #3
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    Default Northern Cape tour - Part 3

    Riemvasmaak

    Having done and seen all we came for at the Augrabies National Park, we decided to go find Riemvasmaak. http://www.riemvasmaak.co.za/


    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 the Nama people to the old mission station – that is where we went. I understand the concept of righting a wrong, and of returning to the place of you birth, but I had difficulties in understanding why the people would have wanted to move back there.


    But the government invested heavily in the project. This is evident from the way the settlement had been developed. The last few kilometers before the town has even been tarred. But I could not spot any economic activity close by where the people of Riemvasmaak can go earn a living.


    However, it would seem that the 650 Riemvasmakers all share in a grape farm at Vredesvallei that the government bought for R28m plus an additional R12m in development grants. However, the whole project had been put under curatorship. By 2014 no Riemvasmakers derived any benefits from the farm. I don’t know what the current position is.


    Once through the settlement you hit a baddish gravel road.




    A few kilometers later we found the office for the hot spring where we had to register. We forgot to draw cash before we left Kakamas, but could get together just enough cash to get us into the springs camping area.


    Entering the area you look down into a valley where people were camping,

    and where rustic houses were built.




    Further man made additions such as (I assume) water tanks are camouflaged either with rocks stacked around them, or with read mats covering them.



    Descending down to the springs had me a bit concerned. It is rather steep going down, and I wondered whether my front wheel drive Tucson will make it back up again on its own. The road split in two. One for 4x4’s and the other for platkarre. The latter has cement slabs for improved traction.


    Some of the houses were occupied and some campers had their camp made near the springs.


    At the springs there is a small pool. Actually two pools.



    The water temperature felt slightly warmer than a gym pool on a good day.


    We met a Swiss gentleman who plays the pan flute. He gave us a short demonstration. The steep cliffs surrounding us seemed to make for good acoustics, and it was a rather splendid show we got to listen to. In fact, my daughter was so fired up by this that she also took the spot after everyone left and sang us a song. I was duly impressed.


    To my relief, the ascent back up turned out to not be a problem at all.

    Part 4: a touch of Karoo
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    PG Jonker
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  4. #4
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    Default Northern Cape tour - Part 4

    Kakamas

    Actually, the Pienk Padstal.



    Returning from Riemvasmaak we attended the Pienk Padstal.


    A rather interesting place.


    Kakamas wind chimes keep bad spirits away.


    So that you can do shopping inside mos.




    Even the ablution turned out to be something to observe. Or at least, the men’s side. I did not attend the ladies’. In the men’s there is a picture of a scantily clad beautiful lady sitting ugly. With a notice next to it reading that management had been advised that this picture promotes pornography that may lead to nasty things. So they implore the visitors to behave themselves. And for gents not to flatter themselves and to rather stand closer to the urinal than they think is advisable. My wife threatened me with unspeakable harm if I post the picture here, though.


    Kakamas itself looks like a biggish town. With a population of some 9500 it is about as big as Calvinia. It would appear as if the businesses are doing better than the Municipality.


    Passing the local high school I did not spot the not well marked speed bump until I took off in the direction of Jupiter. The lift off was hampered by gravity, though, which caused a swift and bumpy return to mother earth.


    A touch of Karoo


    The last leg of our tour entailed a visit to a Karoo farm. Now picture this. You live on a farm. Your closest town is 75km’s away (population 3400). Second closest town 80km’s away (population 2800), and your actual town (population 9700) is 135km’s away. Imagine the school run. Or the run to the shopping mall. Or rather, don’t bother. It does not exist.


    Ok, so how to get there?


    “You go past the Granaatboskolk turnoff.”

    “There’s a place called Granaatboskolk?”

    “Ja, but ignore the turnoff. You look out for where you get the crossing to Breekbeenkolk and Tontelbos.”

    “You’re making this up, right?”

    “What, haven’t you heard of these places before?”

    “Is that a trick question?”

    “Sakrivierstation?”

    “Huh?”

    “Kooktjieskolk?”

    “****-off!”

    “OK, do you know where Calvinia is?”

    “Yes, yes, yes! I know where Calvinia is!”

    “Ok, good. It’s not near Calvinia.”

    Sigh.

    I’m telling you, the people who make a living here not only have hair on their teeth. They shave the hair on their teeth.


    Eskom? Who’s that? But please meet Mr. Lister.


    The Lister is started as it had been done for the past sixty plus years. By hand. You (well, the farmer actually) cranks the handle, and then you get this chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-katak-katak-katakatakataka and off goes the one cylinder engine leaving you under a cloud of smoke which clears after a while.


    And then there is light.


    OK, in this instance the farmer went somewhat further with solar power and a battery pack. So the Lister is just the back-up.


    Electricity is self supplied. Water is self supplied. You make your own roads. If you want a dam, you have to build it yourself. All you need to do is to afterwards pay the government tax for the privilege of collecting water in your dam (no seriously, I kid you not). If something goes seriously wrong here, it’s a 20 km drive just to get to the tar road. Then you still need to get to town. That the government can levy tax on farms such as this just beats me. But sorry, I digress.


    Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the sixty year old Fairy anthracite driven oven (next to the gas stove) serves as a donkey for the sink hot water, and to bake bread in.


    The Americans call biltong beef jerky. And that is defined as dead dried meat, to be eaten “in times of hardship”. Of course, in South Africa it is a delicatessen. Go figure.


    But on this farm it’s part of the staple food. You begin your day with carved biltong in your krummelpap. Which goes along nicely with the yoghurt that the farmer’s wife made herself. And of course, a Karoo lamb tjoppie here and there is all par for the course. Eat your heart out, Cape Town!


    The Karoo plains give new meaning to the word verlatenheid.



    But the people here are the salt of the earth, I’m telling you. We left there rejuvenated. No, really. I mean, the kids got to do things they would never dream of at home.




    On the way back home we passed through Calvinia. I feel quite triumphant about the town. This time I managed to find the time to take a picture of the slightly oversized post box in Calvinia, unlike the previous times I passed through.



    So there. Been there, dunnit. Calvinia conquered.


    And a nice little tour under our belts.
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  5. #5
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    Thanks for posting!

    I did enjoy your report!

    “Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

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    Great report. These types of reports inspire me to "slow down" and enjoy rural SA instead of always wanting to get to our destination a sap. Thanks.

  7. #7
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    Dankie PG.

    Jou reisverslae (en ander stories) is altyd 'n bron van goeie vermaak.

    Groete
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vlakvarkie View Post
    Dankie PG.

    Jou reisverslae (en ander stories) is altyd 'n bron van goeie vermaak.

    Groete
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    There are actually 3 pools at Riemvasmaak... If you follow the path further down from the 2 main pools there is an awesome rock pool and this is the coolest of the pools

  10. #10
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    Well done, dit was "great" ! Doen dit weer asseblief, very entertaining and now I just want to get into my vehicle and travel. A 4x4 is unnecessary 99% of the distance to be traveled, but it is reassuring to have one if the going gets difficult.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wilfwalk View Post
    Well done, dit was "great" ! Doen dit weer asseblief, very entertaining and now I just want to get into my vehicle and travel. A 4x4 is unnecessary 99% of the distance to be traveled, but it is reassuring to have one if the going gets difficult.
    Unnecessary ! ! Really...??!!
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    Great report and photos.

    Thanks for sharing.
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    Mooi Boet, I suspect you and Herman Charles Bosman have a nodding acquaintance.
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