Richtersveld

This wild, arid, lonely region ....bounded in the north and east by the great loop of the lower Gariep (Orange) River.... is intimidating in its vast emptiness, its northern parts distinguished by jagged mountain ranges and weird, wind-sculpted rock formations that combine to create landscapes of haunting beauty.

We obtain permits at Sendelingsdrift, before venturing into this vast wilderness... as horizons are far, routes ill-defined, and the tracks are only suitable for our high-clearance 4x4 vehicles, and tours into the area are only allowed because of our experienced tour guides.

Despite its bleakness, the Richtersveld is astonishingly rich, its sandy soil sustains about a third of all known mesembryanthemum species. Also among its more common plants, many of them highly specialised succulents, is the bizarre desert-adapted halfmens (‘half-person’) or elephant-trunk tree, the kokerboom, and the mainden’s quivertree. There’s not much to see in the way of wildlife, although you may see an occasional klipspringer, grey rhebok, kudu and Hartmann’s mountain zebra in this wild, untamed vista.

The area is an avid 4x4 Adventurers dream and a photographers absolute pleasure, with its constantly changing scenery and unspoilt beauty. The park, covering 162 000 ha, belongs to a new generation of southern African sanctuaries. More of a community developmental enterprise than a classic wilderness reserve, and was established in 1991 as a ‘contractual park’ after marathon long negotiations that spanned 18 years, between the government and the local Nama pastoralists. Today the Nama continue to live and graze their cattle, sheep and goats on the land, however the S A National Parks manages the environment. The Nama also benefit directly from the jobs created and the inflow of tourist funds.

There are 200 km of 4x4 trails that have been established, only rivalled by the canoe and formal hiking trails. There is even great angling in certain parts of the Gariep (Orange) River, especially for giant catfish (or barbel, which can weigh up to 25 kg) and for large-mouth yellowfish.


ITINERARY

Day 1

When you reach Springbok, remember it will be your last chance to stock up on biltong or anything you may have forgotten to bring, especially a spade (which is vital for ablutions).... there is a general co-operation nearby, from which you can purchase any sundry items. After which there is a short drive to Steinkopf, a small settlement bordering the national road - which is one of the many beneficiaries of the revenue generated from the Richtersveld National Park. From there you turn off the national road and head for Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay, which will be your last chance to refuel. From Alexander Bay you continue along the road, which soon changes to various stages of gravel, and out past an old lonesome airport. Although there are a number of roads branching off the main route, to various diamond mine operations, there will be sign posts indicating the entry gates into the Richtersveld National Park at Sendlingsdrift. Make sure you are on time and in the Park before the gates close. Sign in and then it’s just a short drive to the campsite on the banks of the Orange River. There are NO ablutions, therefore you have to bring your own bathroom and will definitely need your spade. We will camp here for the night.

Day 2 & 3

After breakfast we leave for the next campsite. The trail to this campsite becomes steep and rocky, although you can take time to stop and leave your vehicle to explore and admire the unusual plant life clinging for survival on the rocky cliffs. With the vehicles turned off, you will also enjoy the absolute stillness and the ‘sound’ of silence. The descent into De Hoop requires concentration as you negotiate your vehicle over massive boulders.... these obstacles impose a threat to engine sumps and running boards, and the drive requires ample patience and careful navigation and driving. On arrival at De Hoop we set-up camp next to the river. Nearby, an interesting old kraal hides the riverside route which is an alternative exit route, to the rocky ascending route out of De Hoop when we leave - a sobering consideration for some of the drivers in the tour party. As the sun sets, we sit around the camp fire, relaxing and enjoying the sounds of nature and the gentle flowing river.... the night sky on this tour is simply amazing, with an abundance of stars viewable against the ‘blackdrop’ of darkness.

Day 4

We enjoy a leisurely breakfast and allow for bird watching and exploration of the surrounding fauna and flora.... many of the interesting plants are unique to the area.... and if we are lucky enough while exploring the scenery we may even catch a glimpse of small predators like silver backed jackals, hyenas, leopards and caracals. Other species such as klipspringers, steenbok, grey rhebuck and duiker can also be seen in the area. For those who thought the access road to De Hoop was a test of man, vehicle and marriage, the alternative, optional route from this campsite along the banks of the Orange River will present its own unique challenges. Along this route can be seen the scattered remains of the diamond prospector’s heavy equipment... standing forlornly at open cast diggings. One such tombstone is the solitary white fridge casing standing out in the middle of nowhere, abandoned.... and bearing testimony to man’s dogged determination, and thirst in search of those shiny little stones. We may not remove anything from these sites. Be prepared for very soft sand along this section.... What looks like hard earth can be powder soft silt, waiting to bog down machinery.... and our vehicles. For some it’s a relief to reach our next campsite, for other’s a sharing in the excitement of the day.... and a renewing of the exhilaration experienced.

Day 5

Wake up in our own time.... and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. After breakfast, we break-up camp and start our journey home.

You Will Need

4x4 Vehicle, Camping equipment and your own beverages. If it is a cross border 4x4 tour then you will also need: passports for all in your party, ID documents, drivers license, insurance consent letter, bank consent letter, third party insurance (for most countries), and if needed - malaria tablets. Please also consult with your General Practitioner and advise them of the country you will be visiting, and follow the necessary malaria precautions and take all necessary medications. Please note that each country has different malaria precautions, some require you have the injections and others that you take the tablets etc.

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