The Richtersveld region stretches from Steinkopf and Port Nolloth in the south up to the Orange River, and from Alexander Bay to Vioolsdrif. The Richtersveld National Park is a small part of this, in the loop of the Orange River. This park is the most undeveloped and inaccessible wilderness area in South Africa.
The Diamond Fields
The picture shows Jocelyn waving in triumph: On the right of the picture one can see the large bay formed by the Orange River, and to the left you can just see the white tops of the ocean waves of the Atlantic. If you look carefully, just behind Jocelyn, you will see what look like a couple of hills on the horizon. These are the dumps of the real diamond fields in Oranjemund, across the river in Namibia. These belong to Namdeb, the joint operation between de Beers and the Namibian government.
Here you see the intrepid explorers gazing out to the Atlantic after their great travels!
This is a view of the 'beach' at Alexander Bay, looking south: Strewn with driftwood from the annual floods down the Orange River, and with enormous piles of gravel which have been excavated in the search for diamonds.
The Richtersveld National Park
Suddenly the road comes to an end... There is no gate into the park, no guards limiting admission... But the road becomes a narrow track and almost immediately you have to change down into low-range and start climbing over rocks, humps, boulders and make your way up a dry river bed! The road alternates between rocky tracks and sandy river beds. The picture above shows one of the typical sandy sections, while that on the left shows us climbing out of a river bed and starting a long, rocky climb through the mountains.
Of course, being on our first visit we did not really know what to expect: All the guide books dealt with the heat, the dryness and the desert. However, at this time of the year we are coming to the end of the winter rainfall season, and the park was full of greenery between the rocks and stones - As you will see later on, the flowers in some sections of the park were absolutely amazing. But it is completely different later in summer, when the whole park turns into a desert.
The picture on the right shows the top of one of the many passes through the mountains, with many shrubs and bushes in their spring foliage.
Here is a view which gives an idea of how desolate this region can be - Just imagine temperatures in the 40's or even 50's in summer!
(That's degrees Celsius for you Americans: 40 Celsius = 104 Fahrenheit)
De Hoop Camp
There are no facilities whatsoever. We drove downstream for a few kilometres to find a nice spot to camp. By unspoken agreement, all campers were far apart - not from being unfriendly, but in order to enjoy the feeling of being completely on one's own. Here you see our tent and vehicle, with Jocelyn enjoying breakfast in bed!
The view at right shows the view towards the west, showing the flood plain sands and undergrowth, and the awe-inspiring mountains in the morning light.
Another view looking downstream. It must look somewhat different in summer when the river is in flood.
When we were leaving De Hoop I climbed up a rise to get a better view, and discovered these graves, dug out of the rocky hillside. Who were these people? There must be a story here, but no information was available.
On the opposite slope one can see a flat area marked out by painted rocks. On our way out we realised that this was probably the 'official' camping area - I'm sure no-one uses it, except possibly when the river is in flood!
the way out of the park
Here is an excellent example of the Botterblom, Tylecodon Paniculatus.
this picture you can see a lot of greenery in the foreground, but the
area highlighted by the sunlight breaking through the clouds shows just
how sparse the vegetation can be.
|Another view from one of the steep mountain passes, showing the flat sandy areas between the hills and mountains.|
|This is very typical of the tracks through the mountains.|
|An easier road on the way out of the Park!|
|Another view showing the wealth of spring flowers.|
Telephone poles or electricity pylons? Neither! These are Kokerbooms, Aloe Dichotoma. This view was taken just outside the Park, after exiting at Helskloof gate.
|Here is a close-up of one of these strange trees, showing its size in relation to everything else. You can see the rocky terrain, with shrubs showing spring greenery... But not for long - By mid-summer all these shrubs will be dry as bones, until the next winter rains and the following spring.|
Land of contrasts
These two pictures were taken less than 5 kms apart, on the road South to Eksteenfontein. The only difference between these two areas was rain: While most of the region had rain at some time during the winter, there were patches which had obviously missed out ... And you can see what a difference a little bit of water at the right time can make! I imagine that the whole region looks like that on the right in late summer.
Throughout the Richtersveld we noticed these derelict windmills and reservoirs. Every so many kilometres we came across a windmill, a reservoir and a concrete drinking trough. No longer in working order, these must have been built to ease the way of herdsmen trekking along the north-south route with their goats or sheep.
In this picture you can see ground water, the result of the rains. But for the greater part of the year this area is hot, dry desert, and these windmills would have been the only source of water.
Who built them, and who maintained them? And why did they stop maintaining and using them?
page - The Richtersveld (continued)
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