Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2016





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    Default Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2016

    Going solo? Not for everyone I know. Not only because it’s quite tough to get away without having the wife or friend/family along, but it’s quite a thing to be completely self-sufficient. If something goes wrong, it’s just you. For most of us it’s good to get some “me” time in, but there’s no mistaking that it’s also fun to have at least someone during the day to point stuff out to or at least have a conversation with. Recently I had the opportunity to unplug and couple a bucket list thing with a bit of solitude and the wilderness.

    I really didn’t have a plan for December until quite late in the game. I thought it might just be the normal getting on the bike/4x4 for a few quick sprints into the Karoo or West Coast. But due to a happy confluence of opportunities and an unfortunate withdrawal at the last minute by some poor soul, I had found space on the last trip for the year of a Faces of the Namib tour. The group I was going to be going with would be privileged to see the New Year in somewhere in the fabled Sperrgebiet. Being able to visit the world’s oldest desert that for a 100 years has been absolutely off limits has long been right at the top of my list of things I’ve wanted to do.

    My plan was simple and was sparsely formulated around; Leave Cape Town on the 21st, include some old and new to me places on the way up and back, be in Solitaire by the 28th to do the Faces and to return by 7:30am for my first client on Monday the 9th, (I am an executive coach and team effectiveness facilitator – Shameless plug… If you want to have a chat about your teams please get hold of me on [email protected]).

    I was also intending to use the time to reflect on the year and set some intent for 2017. I had a theme for the trip; Purpose, Meaning and Joy. The journey was both to experience and appreciate them whilst on the trip and to create some insights for 2017 about them.

    What is it about deserts that are so compelling to me? They are, of all the various geographies, the one that keeps calling me back. There’s something about being able to see the massive vistas of rocks and sand under the all the moods of the sun or carpets of stars that speaks loudly. They are the oceans of the land with many mysteries and rewards. They demand some preparation and a good serviceable vehicle because they are harsh, remote and unpopulated and without some care, are not to be trifled with. I admire anything that can make its living in them and that includes the people as much as the flora and fauna. If they were a movie character they’d be those old trees in Lord of the Rings. Massive, ancient, ever changing yet immovable, sensitive, mysterious, spiritual.

    To carry me through this inner and outer journey I was going alone with my diesel backpack. I have a 2006 Pajero SWB 3.2. Because I came to adventure trips from a biking background where space is at a huge premium even though this is a SWB, it was cavernous compared to what I was used to. However, having 10 times the carrying capacity, I like the approach of simple and adequate. The list of absolute necessities was a bit short;

    160l of diesel total.
    75l of water
    Tools
    Spade
    Compressor
    Meat.
    Binoculars
    Chair & Table
    Passport
    Ice cold beer.
    Popup tent
    Spare Spare
    Recovery bag

    If I had to rearrange that list to fit in with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I think ice cold beer should move up a ring or two?

    I had also invested in a new set of Wranglers. Jaco Kirsten, a friend and 4x4 editor had suggested that as a good mid to upper range dual purpose tire, the latest version was affordable and functional. (I like them!)

    I had, just days before leaving, managed to find a drawer system on Gumtree purpose built for the SWB. It is a thing of functional beauty. I also found that they are highly prized, 5 other guys pitched up cash in hand to the seller that morning, I just happened to be the first to reply that got me the drawers. I can now see why, its sole role in life is to reduce stress. Packing and unpacking is epically overrated and having a system that reduces this chore to a minimum adds years on to one’s life. I’m surprised you can’t claim for it from Discovery Health!

    Installing all the toys







    And so the time came for my adventure to start. On the 21st, after much stressing, servicing and faffing, my first stop was to aim for an evening on the West coast trail somewhere. The car was mostly packed the previous evening, just the few odd things out the home freezer and tie on the spare spare and I was outta here! So it was a lazy pack up and intentionally I wanted to start the trip slowly and then as I went along, gently taper off. You know, Relax, smell the ah, fynbos. It was late mid–morning, “ok, house locked, neighbour has key. Tally Ho!” The car refused to start??!!! It had never done this before?

    I service my own vehicles for the smaller stuff and only send it in for the more complex big stuff. What had I done wrong? After much buggering around and getting sweaty and dirty and finally changing the fuel filter and getting a jump start it roared into life never to do it again? However, it was mid-afternoon…. Hmmm, back to the neighbours for my key.

    22nd it’s going to be.

    Even with a whole day, I still got away a bit late due to a last minute visit to Makro and Midas. My minimalistic approach got some credit card flattening amendments; a pop up tent and 2 man kettle.



    OK, finally! Having fun?.... not yet!



    For me setting off and settling into a trip do not happen concurrently, I find it takes a few days to catch up with the trip proper. I find when setting off, I am too eager to get going and too stressed worrying about what I forgotten or if the plan is going to work. So with the previous days frustration and all the worries of life and business, I made the west coast above Lutzville as the sun was setting, just stopping at the first available sheltered spot. Not much to make mention of the place, other than I had been warned not to lose the instructions for folding up that instantly pop-upable tents. How hard can they be I wondered?



    Pretty tough so it turned out. I defy anyone to do it first time without instructions or having seen it done.



    Ahhh, coffee and morning. I could feel the city slipping off of me…





    The west coast eco trail is a fabulous track that winds its way up the fabled west coast and seldom strays far from a sea view. There are some sand sections that shouldn’t bother any 4x4, it’s relatively easy going with the typical west coast feeling. I always get the sense that being barefoot, speaking with a brggghey and listening to rugby on the radio is mandatory around those parts. I was going to aim for Hondeklipbai and then head off through the Karroo National Park and come out at Steinkopf.



    Yes, that’s coffee, I swear!



    Sadly, a few hours of winding my way up the coast with frequent stops for some bird spotting, I kept hearing what I thought was my front right shock giving notice. Crawling under to check at some point, nothing looked wrong with it but over on the left side, life wasn’t very good.



    The left front CV boot had a small hole that was giving up all the precious grease that’s supposed to live in there and spattering it around the various bits of the wheel well and suspension! All had been checked just a few days earlier when I had mounted a new set of Wranglers. I doubt any damage had been done, but this was going to be a serious problem if left unattended.

    ….Rewind a bit.

    I enjoy dune driving and here in the Cape there is ample opportunity to do that. Macassar has some good sand to practice in and late one weekday afternoon 15th November, coming back from Somerset West, I couldn’t help myself and went for a quick spin. It resulted in me spending the night in the dunes with a broken front left half shaft.



    After much head scratching at getting stuck in a place that I should have easily been able to get out of, it was very late when I finally climbed under the car to see this! Initially I thought that a fuse had blown – the car has electronically controlled traction control, or something had come loose. I like fixing stuff myself to wasn’t too worried and was sure I would be able to hunt the issue down. But, no fixing this….



    Prior to finding the break, I did call a friend who has a 4x4 and who offered to come out but I was sure I could get out myself. By the time I found the issue, it was pitch dark and I thought it would be easier just to spend the evening in the dunes and sort out the mess in the morning. I managed to self-recover early the next morning by winching from a strap around small dune to small dune like this…







    The end result of this whole escapade was that I had bought a second hand half shaft from a breaker and fitted it myself. Maybe I had damaged it when putting it in or it wasn’t 100% when I got it. But in any case, this was going to have to be seen to.

    Ahh, well, maybe it was a sign? I hoped not.
    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/04/27 at 08:36 PM.
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2016

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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Abandoning the route before the Groenrivier section was a bit of a downer so as to make Springbok via Garies. Even with the car up on the lift, the boot problem was obvious but the noise from the shocks couldn’t be confirmed, all seemed tight and well.





    Sorting out the boot problem was not going to an issue, but I would just have to stay overnight whilst parts came from Vanrynsdorp. They were positive that would get the boot changed in the morning and be off before lunch. If I wanted a new set of shocks, that would take a few days longer to get. I chose to keep what I had. Over the years I’ve had to use Springbok for various minor emergencies and spares and it has that rare quality where everyone has a bit of a “make a plan” attitude. Everything will be fixed somehow even though the next day was their last for the year before they closed!


    I was not in the greatest of moods and had not bargained on having to be in any form of town. I definitely wasn’t up for staying in the Springbok Campsites or B&B’s. A few k’s south of Springbok are some hills and after equiring at the farmer there, they were quite happy for me to free camp on a hill looking south…








    Washing done





    Sunset to consider





    Supper and bed








    Morning was pretty fresh but with promise





    Springbok rush hour





    The boot got changed in an hour or so, and so it was with a slight refill of food and beer, I was out of there by 10am – big ups to Autorama of Springbok!














    I had lost one and half days and worryingly, there was still that damn clunk I would hear from time to time.


    There was a bit of a dilemma. Up ahead was the very remote and pretty tough Richtersveld. I had wanted to follow tracks that climb into the mountains just to the North West of Steinkopf. One can go into this world along well travelled roads, or take the jeep tracks that wind their way through the mountains that overlook the successive valleys towards the Orange River. Here it is rugged, rocky, mountainous desert that is uninhabited except for the odd goat herder. I felt relieved that my CV boot was fixed, but what about the shocks?! I reasoned that even if one did go, I would still be able to limp out. Also, not quite as concerning but nonetheless one more issue to consider was that in the madness of packing, Though I had loaded my anticipated routes, I hadn’t pulled the Botswana maps off the GPS and Loaded the Namibian ones
    – I still have the old Garmin 60Csx that struggles with too many maps in it. Thus, without the tracks4africa paths loaded in, the routing wasn’t going to work.

    Long story short, I had no maps and no GPS of any use. I'd have to go by brail and feel my way.

    Hmmmm. What to do!? My end of year trip wasn’t panning out the way I had intended, there were some serious potential issues and I could get horribly lost. On the one hand, playing it safe and routing around it all might have been more sensible, but on the other, the unknown but potentially rewarding?



    The unknown won.

    If it all worked, I’d pop out at the Orange river just downstream from Noordoewer then downstream for a bit before heading back up a very remote dry riverbed to then get my next dose of civilisation at Eksteenfontein. I’ve been through there on a bike and 4x4 so it wasn’t too hard to find my way.

    A spring in the desert









    At last, my settling in was catching up to my trip



    Um, time to celebrate with a coffee



    At this point, I had taken a wrong turn and though I had a nagging feeling about the track, I was keen to see if I could make it to where I wanted to be. So I was going to try follow a very little used trail to try make it to a valley I knew was ahead.





    But, beautiful and remote as it was this is where that trail ended. Mountain bike or bike maybe, but car, nope!



    I had to return to a goat herd twice to get directions after this.

    In another story, I’ve been on this trail and had to walk out 35k’s when I flattened my battery. I’ve written about that little escape here.

    http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...eld?highlight=

    That camping point is just on from this picture





    For some reason, though I really loved the little spot that I had gotten stuck at, I chose to push on through to the river, another 35k’s away and rather camp there. This meant that I pushed on down the 4x4 trail popping out at the Orange River just as it was properly dark. It was a fabulous drive,





    but I did feel as if I had run from something. I had been a bit spooked.

    Anyway, I had found this in the pitch dark. It is just below the road that goes to Eksteenfontein as it turns away from the river.



    I used to be a river guide along here and know this part very well so that helped.



    Breakfast of champions



    Behind me was the direction I was to be taking

    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/05/04 at 11:19 PM.
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Great report. Is the water in that spring drinkable ?

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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by wdw View Post
    Great report. Is the water in that spring drinkable ?
    Yes, if you don't mind that sheep and goats water there regularly too.

    I didn't try it, but some buddies of mine on bikes who'd run out of water have.

    It's here: 29° 3'12.75"S 17°28'41.11"E
    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/04/28 at 11:40 AM.
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    This is a short track section down the river to a place opposite a rock called Hammerkop. For the most part it is easy, but there are a few sections that require a lot of care and would have been easier with a spotter. It took me an hour to go 30 or 40 meters. Inching forward, getting out, checking the wheels, rinse repeat













    At one point, there is place that at low water would be a stunning camp that I stopped to go for a swim and give the car a wash








    Hammerkop





    I also unexpectedly met up with a river group there.

    I had this little corner of the world all to myself. I was doing a bit of quiet contemplation under an umbrella sitting half in the water when I started to faintly hear voices?? At first I thought I had gone a bit too introspective, or had I had too much coffee that morning. I couldn't work out where it was coming from or make out what was being said until they popped around the corner. Normally, people just paddle past but they headed over to me and asked,

    “Hello, are you going to be staying here for the evening, because we’d kind of aimed for this camp?”

    “You’re stopping here in the heat of the day and was wanting to make it your overnight too?”, I couldn’t work out why someone would sit on the banks of a river in the heat when they could just carry on floating down and staying cool.

    “The river is so low that we’re not going the full distance so if we go to the next spot, which it quite a long way still, we won’t have any meaningful distance left for the next 2 days.”

    “No, I wasn’t planning on staying, I’m sleeping up that riverbed this evening. So, sure, call your group over.” I couldn’t very well hog that whole long beach and space to myself, especially since I wasn’t going to be sleeping there.

    I was planning to sleep up one of the tributaries but wanted to wait for the sun to be a bit lower before I headed into the oven.




    I stayed for a few hours chatting to them before heading off. Some of them were eyeing my fridge longingly! I turned up the river bed there and headed off. It was Christmas eve and hopefully I would have this stunning canyon all to myself.















    There is something about these river beds that are really special. I slowly idled up in 1st or second, just taking in the view and loving the isolation.
    Ahhh,





    Christmas eve supper








    It’s the first time that I’ve been completely alone over this time. It was novel and I did wish that my family could have been there…. There’s a thought for another time!
    It sure tasted great!





    Morning was more of the same





    This was list of birds I got for that morning in the riverbed, Ostridge was later in the day.





    That Wheatear wasn’t happy with me. I have the Sasol App and it also has all the calls in it. The Wheatear is clearly a very territorial little bird!
    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/04/29 at 04:05 PM.
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Enjoying this so much thanks for taking that time and effort to do iit

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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    After an excellent morning I popped out at Eksteenfontein. All the people were in their finest, I was tempted to go in and get struck by lightning!



    It was a stunning 3 days, free camping under the carpet of stars and for the first time ever doing the 3 days over Christmas utterly alone, (well apart from bumping into a group of paddlers on the river who stopped to say hello). It was quite novel not to have a GPS. There is no debate that they are wonderful devices, however going back to the “old” ways of figuring out where to go was fun. Each fork in the track had to be considered and there were quite a few times I backtracked where the wrong track would peter out or start going in a direction that I knew wasn’t right.


    It was only here that I really started to settle in. There were still limitations and worries but they had become companions to be worked with rather than burdens to carry, as someone very wise and far further travelled than I once said, “The interruptions and tribulations are the journey”


    My shocks were holding but I could swear they were getting marginally worse by the day. It’s a funny thing what some solitude and desert can do; I’d made peace with the fact that if I didn’t find a solution by Solitaire, and in consultation with the trip guides, if the shocks weren’t good enough, I’d bail on the trip and find some routes slowly back home that were less adventurous, but nonetheless worthwhile. Before I left this would have been a disaster, now with some sand under my feet, I really was ok with that.


    At some point in a really desolate place away from the mountains and in barren open desert where the wind had picked up something ferocious, I found a young goat by the side of the road. He was clearly not having much fun and as I was gearing up for a bit of a chase, he walked unsteadily straight to the shade of the car. I could see he also had a sore eye. The temperature was in the high 40’s. There was not a blade of grass or trees to be seen. I think he must have fallen from a bakkie. He was weak and slurped down a litre or 2 of water. I couldn’t leave him there so meet Blinky. I put him on the front seat and headed off.





    He promptly curled up in the footwell with his head under the aircon. 100km later still no sign of a goat or a goat herd.


    Much later and 3 goat herders later, I found Gerhardus. The previous two wouldn't take him because they said he needed milk and none of their goats had lambs so were dry. Gerhardus had a very large flock and a few had milk, so was happy to take him. I marvel at people like him. In the little time I had with him and watching as he gave Blinky a once over, he seemed content, calm, confident, a caring lover of animals. He clearly is living in a very harsh part of the world and still he had a great aura around him. He’s doing something right!





    Blinky’s new buddies





    The Orange River had been experiencing exceptionally low flows – there were places that I could have easily have driven across as you can see in the previous video. In fact at Aussenkhere, just the week before, there were whole tracts of riverbed dry as a bone. This caused a happy dent in the plans as I aimed for Sendlingdrift but was turned around by the park official because it was too low for the pont to work. I would have to go and cross at Alexander Bay. I say happy accident because, previously when I been there and admittedly I didn’t cross over, I found the place to be depressing and the roads terrible. They get chewed up by the many mining trucks that use them. However, there is a new tar road between Alexander bay and Rosh Pina that is a work of art. The section goes through the Orange River section of the Sperrgebiet where there are a myriad of mines still operating. But, apart from this stunning highway, there has been a serious effort to make the eyesores that once were tailings from the mines back into something that looks a lot more natural. Coupled with that, there was plenty of game alongside the road. It really is a road of vistas!























    I found a spot next to the river just before Rosh Pina to camp for the evening. It wasn’t the best, but it worked.





    The next morning, I backtracked for a bit of a look around near Sendlingsdrift. I was reminded how sensitive people are around here about their diamonds. I was ontop of this tailing when a bakkie stopped and they guy earnestly said I should move along smartly as I’d get locked up for doing this. It seems a bit ridiculous.








    Those boulders down there are the size of a garage.








    They move millions of tons of sand and rocks to get to the bedrock and then hoover the stuff left to get sorted in massive mechanical factories. Firstly, like I know what I am looking for? I can’t tell the difference between quartz and diamonds and secondly, I have a shovel and a tire iron. I was thinking they should actually encourage tourists to come dig in certain areas and do a bit of education and marketing. Pay a fee and do a bit of scratching, take a tour and keep what you find! They do it elsewhere why not here?
    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/05/04 at 11:27 PM.
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Great reading , enjoying your laid back style of reporting and travelling. Looking forward to the next episode
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Rosh Pina was dealt with smartly, I've always wondered if the people who stay here go play in the huge dunes to the west on bikes or 4x4's? Thereafter, a bit of breakfast on the run…






    I am usually on a banting type lifestyle but something about this kind of travel demands this kind of food dammit!

    The next few days was a slow meander to Solitaire via Lüderitz. There was much to see. It was a huge privilege to be able to stop for half an hour just to watch a Martial eagle, or get stuck because I wanted to see the old steam train towers (all hail winches!). I was stopping where ever my fancy took me.





    Spooky sand on the way to Luderitz






    Trips, as is many things in life, are ruined by trying to squeeze too much in. In my case, it was like I had a long list of things I’ve always wanted to do but only 3 had been typed in. The rest were just waiting to be named as I did them. It was like opening my Christmas presents!























    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/04/29 at 08:37 PM.
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    If you ever got to Diaz Point, go into the newish coffe shop there and have a word with Tucker. He’s one of those chaps who is worth the time spent in his company. He needed to get back to Luderitz for something and asked for a lift. It turned into 3 hours of exploring and stories. He’s a beaut! He showed me around the place and gave a lot of the history of it too. I do wish him luck.




    At the old whaling factory


    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/04/29 at 11:26 PM.
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    ust north of Aus, I was flagged down by a donkey cart with 5 or six young men making drinking motions as I went past. They were about 10k’s outside of Aus on a desolate gravel road in the blazing sun. I had nearly 70 litres in the back. On stopping, they said that they’d had a terrible day with two punctures and had run out of water, could I spare any. Of course! Not only could I give them water, but their donkeys/horses sucked down a good few litres too. Whilst they were watering their animals and hearing of their misfortunes, I noticed that the wheel nuts on the cart were loose. They’d not had many tools to do their repair so I lent them some spanners to complete their job.














    It was whilst standing there, for some reason I thought to test the roof rack nuts and would you know, all the ones on the driver’s side where loose or coming loose! I had found my shock absorber problem! Jeez, that was a really good feeling. I had this issue bugging me since the start. I thanked the donkey guys, much to their surprise as it was they who were keen on doing the thanking.


    Happyness and relief is on the inside, apparently!





    I have to recommend one of the places I camped that definitely became a tick box - http://www.tirool.com/index.php Out of the blue, just north of Aus, at the right time of day was the lovely camping site Tirool.

















    They have a nesting pair of Spotted Eagle Owls




    2 brand new ones for the day


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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2016

    Sudscribed
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2016

    Great read.
    Groot avontuur begin met ń idee, ń braai en ń lemonadetjie.

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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Thanks for posting!

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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    The nesting pair of Spotted Eagle Owls woke me the next morning sitting right above my bed with their gentle hooting. I had seen them the day before and the owners showed me the chick that was in the nest next to the water tower.

    In the early morning, long before the sun was up, but with just a hint of dawn, I’d heard them. I fired my Sasol Birds App up and got calling. Immediately, both silently flew over and perched right above me not much more than head height on the wooden fence. They too, are clearly very territorial and were quite ready to take on the trespasser, if only he’d man up and come out of my tent!



    The D707 is a magical road, I’ve been along it before. It never gets old.




    Iced Tea



    Talk about a fine office! I stopped to chat to the driver. He said that he had noticed a lot more animals that had died because of the prolonged dry spell.




    Clearly not enough iced tea?



    The first promise of the red dunes to come



    Got most of these before I had even finished my iced tea!



    I skipped past Sossus Vlei. I've been there before and at the garage, there were just so many tourists. And tour operators. And tour buses. I felt after the solitude and quietness a bit rude. Even the gravel from there to Solitaire is terrible. Just waaay too many people using it.

    Now Solitaire is a strange place. A few houses, a hotel and a garage is all that’s there. It’s claim to fame is apple pie? Other than that, that's really all there is to it.





    We were given instructions to be at the camp by 5pm on the 28th. I had some time to kill before I had to report for duty. And it was hot.



    I like people watching. It's a pastime that ties in with my profession. So, I thought let's have a beer in the shade of the boma of the hotel and do just that. I shouldn't have.



    If I had walked 5 meters into the shop next door, they were colder and nearly half the price I was ripped at the hotel. I don't mind paying a bit more for the venue and service, but, well, that's my travel tip if you're there.





    Offering to the Gods of gravel. You can see, either many people don't carry spare spare's, or they don't know how to change a tire. Actually later in the trip, I came across a Dutch family with a hire 4x4 and a puncture. They couldn't work out how to lower the spare from under the Bakkie, I helped them right, so I suppose this kind of abuse must happen a lot only because of ignorance.



    Funnily enough, heading off the camp that we all had to meet at was not all anticipation. I had grown accustomed to my own company. I wasn't quite ready to have to socialise. But, groups can be fun and I was very keen to get to know who was going to be my travel companions for the next 5 days. I too was once a guide and know only too well that being in a group that isn't much fun can be, well, not much fun.

    Turning into the camping part of the place to meet my fellow adventurers...




    I was fully packed with water, diesel and beer. Wars have been fought over beer that's not cold enough, so I wasn't going to take any chances and wrapped an old sleeping bag around the fridge!






    Now, where's these fellow travellers?....
    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/05/03 at 02:10 AM.
    Andrew to all.

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  25. #17
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Ok, a little background first.... The Sperrgebiet!


    I’m still a little overwhelmed by the experience 4 months later. A track of land running parallel to the coast for nearly 400 kilometres and at times nearly 200km wide. It’s in part of the Namib Desert, a desert that has been around longer than any other and because of this, has eco systems with endemic fauna and flora of a diversity like no other. That desert starts just north of Cape Town and goes halfway up Angola,




    yet the Namibian section and in particualar, the Sperrgebiet is arguably the more iconic and the one most associated with it.



    I doubt there are many reading this who’ve not heard of the place or of the 4x4 routes tours that one can do. There are two options, I did the Faces of the Namib one that makes its way through the dunes fields from Solitaire to the coast, then after a southern loop heads to Walvis. As opposed to the one that comes along the coast from Lüderitz, this one I heard had a bit more diversity of experience – plains, riverbed canyons, huge dunes and the sea. But really, either is not just bucket list stuff, but maybe, bucket, shovel and front end loader!

    For many years, ever since I’ve heard of the place, the Sperrgebiet seemed well out of reach to me. The reason, as with so many places like this around the world - wealth!... In the form of diamonds!

    Due to a happy accident of geology; the land Diamonds from enourmous reserves of them located in central South Africa (think Kimberly and such) over milleninea were washed into the Orange River and flushed out to the west coast of Southern Africa. From there, wave action and global currents saw fit to deposit them along the coast in the nooks and crannies of the bedrock or just laid bare on the beaches. Diamonds though exctremely hard, are brittle, so only the very highest grade ones would be strong enough to make the river trip and the subsequent beach gind. This meant that the kings ransoms that can still be found today have the highest concentration of quality aluvial diamonds in the world.

    It wasn't till the late 1800's that the first one was found creating a monster diamond rush. There was a serious problem - the place is practically unihabitable. Incessant wind, serious deserts, no water and treacherous dune fields made actually just getting beer delivered, never mind cold ones, impossible. This was not a place for sisies! Successive governments – German, South African and now Namibian saw fit to keep the rabble out and tip a not so subtle balance of the global supply and demand scales for diamonds in their favour.

    But, luckily for us, the Namibian government has allowed a very small, highly regulated and closely supervised trickle of tourists through this magnificent area. It is only available to low range 4x4 vehicles with fuel for about 600k’s of sand and most importantly, a good operating fridge stocked with beer! They give you a fairly comprehensive list of what to bring. The one thing that caught my eye was the requirement to provide proof that your insurer knows where you are going and that if you do something stupid or break something, they are going to be presented with an astronomical recovery bill.
    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/05/03 at 02:32 PM.
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  26. #18
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Anyway, the trip officially started at 5pm on the 28th at a camp 7k's from Solitaire, apropriately and inventively named Solitaire Desert Farm. As most guided trips that have groups of strangers meeting for the first time, there is that awkward, “Hi, I’m Andrew, and you are?”... "ahh, pleased to meet you!" ritual that has to be repeated numerous times. And then again over the next few days to top up the memory banks.


    I could tell I was vewied with some interest; I was the only one travelling solo and I was the only Soutie.... I was drawing imaginary bubbles over their heads as the introductions flowed, "WDF?! Hy's seeker gay, of teminster fokkin suspect!". But, as is with the way of all Afrikaaners, they were all unfailingly polite and welcoming.


    Meeting and greeting



    Our group was larger than normal, I suppose something to do with being a New Year trip. Mostly it is limited to 10 vehicles. We were 12.

    There was…

    Ruben, Willem, Elana and Chane – Fortuner D4D



    Bennie and Alma – Fortuner V6



    Werner, Ryno, Virnette & Jeane - Hilux Double Cab



    Nerina & Martin – Pajero Sport, Salma & Neels – Jeep Sahara and Nelia & Theo - Patrol



    Anton and Wilna – Toureg V6



    Heleen and Andre - Nissan Navara



    Magda and Flip – Cruiser, straight 6



    Thuens and Carina – Cruiser V6 & Willem, Debbie and Nolan – Isuzu



    The guys who made it all look so easy, Johnny, Speedy and Penrich (Pule for short)



    And of course head guide Paul



    Anticipation!



    With high anticipation, we listened eagerly to the guide Paul lay out the trip and answer the deluge of questions. They have this practiced, good natured, respectful informative patter that is very funny. It was impressive that even before they had met us, they had walked around the camp and taken stock of all the vehicles in the group, even down to noting that one of the cars was a month away from its licence expiring!







    It was an earlyish night. One more sleep to go!
    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/05/04 at 10:40 PM.
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  27. #19
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Waiting in the morning to get going. The anticipation!





    This big camp cat leads a charmed life!



    We were told to get the last minute things at the shops and be ready to roll by 9 sharp!





    Just before we all headed out, Paul and his team had fitted out each car with a radio wired into the power socket. Such a great idea - it helps keeps things safe and informed.

    We headed off and were soon into the park. Paul laid down some rules, almost all of which were some variation of “Stay in the Tracks!” or “Take all your #### with you”.

    So what’s it like this little meander through a forbidden desert?

    Well to begin with, I felt like the most privileged human being allowed to be there. These forbidden vistas that had been kept far out reach for decades and now open to a few was really just a bit much. I been in many places where the words “pristine” or “untouched” have been used. This truly was that. More, for all its massiveness and harshness, it’s very apparent just how fragile it is too; tracks from 50 years ago are still plainly visible on some of the fossilised gravel plains. I used every opportunity to wander off up a mountain or dune during the stops and camps. Because of the utter remoteness, the variable routes that the guides have to take to navigate the ever changing dunes and the restrictions that have been in place, the sense that you may have been the only one to have ever stood on that spot is strong.

    I was settling in nicely!

    A quick word whilst we're here about the photographs. Every single one that I took was with an Iphone6. It is utterly amazing that these days one can take photo's of this quality with a phone. I wrote the condensed version of this article for WEG and the phone was good enough for a double page spread that features in here later.

    There are however, going forward, photo's taken by others on the trip and they have kindly lent me them to share with you;

    Carina Moller
    Debbie van den Heever
    Nerina Myberg
    And Alma Vermeulen














    In grassier times, there was a small problem… Clearly not enough iced tea again?





    Most of the first day was single-track getting to the desert proper. Nothing was that difficult but all of it was impressive and heavy with promise.





    The dark is the land to the north of the Kuiseb River





    Heading down into it













    Thuens and Carina in their kitted Cruiser. This thing is a beast! AND it has TWO Fridges. Civilized!





    I wasn’t expecting a riverbed drive. It seems bone dry but apparently there is enough flow under the sand to cater for all of Walvisbaai’s water needs!





    The day ended up a small tributary where a semi-permanent camp had been erected. By camp I mean a small toilet and a cement fire pit.



    Carina and Debbie, 2 long time friends who'd gone off to solve the worlds problems, and have some iced tea. They had printed a new t-shirt for every day.





    There wasn't anything particualrly difficult but the anticipation of getting into the dunes proper over the follwing days was there.

    The evening was more friend making but bed was calling, especially after I’d fallen asleep in my chair. This was to become a regular thing. I’m lucky not to have lost an eyebrow!
    Last edited by kamanya; 2017/05/04 at 07:31 AM.
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  28. #20
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    Default Re: Sperrgebiet and Richtersveld Solo December 2017

    Day 2 (Day 8 for me)

    My morning stoep



    Evidence from last night.



    Tough life this guiding thing!



    Ok, for the tire nerds amongst you. The next morning I took a wander around to see what the rest of the vehicles were shod with. Extra marks if you can name the vehicle they come with?






























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