The road from Eksteenfontein down to the Orange River is a sandy track, in quite good condition, and passes through some exciting rocky passes. Once again, as the weather was cool this was an enjoyable drive... But when we stopped and examined the surroundings, we realised what it must be like in summer. There was very little vegetation, and what there was grew up against protective rocks. There had been less rain here, and very few of the spring flowers we had seen further west.
Here is one of the few plants which manage to survive this harsh climate .. There are many varieties of the Koker Boom, and they seem to thrive. However, we did not see any small plants, and propagation must be a rather rare event.
The Aloe Pillansii population is declining and this is regarded as a serious problem because this plant is a rare species, endemic to South Africa and listed as a Red Data List species. This succulent tree appears to be in trouble because there are numerous skeletons of dead adults in the veld and an absence of adequate seedlings. The decline of the species is due to a combination of factors, including climate change; domestic livestock; plant diseases; baboons; porcupines; etc.
A local newspaper described the Save the Aloe Pillansii
Project. The first phase consisted of a field survey,
conducted in September 2000. Between 325 and 400 individuals of
the Giant Quiver Tree were recorded in the Richtersveld, of which about
10% were seedlings. Schools have been enlisted in the project, to
raise awareness of these trees, and assist in protecting them.
Ironically, 45% of trees had all sorts of slogans carved on their stems.
This is a serious threat to the survival because these trees have a slow
growth rate, and they recover slowly from injuries.
|Here is a view of a dry river bed on the way down from Helskoof to the Orange River. It shows some of the lovely and imposing granite-topped mountains common in the area.|
|A view of the road after passing through the worst of Helskloof.|
Peace of Paradise
Suddenly you reach the Orange River, and once again the contrast between the dry desert and the luxuriant growth next to the river is amazing.
Following the river upstream to Vioolsdrif, you come across this oasis in the wilderness. An Eskom power line runs down the river, providing power to many farms taking advantage of the water supply, and the rich soil in the river's flood plain. And at the very end of the power line you come across this oasis, an up-market caravan and camping resort right on the banks of the river. The owner has planted trees and hedges, and has built walls of reeds to provide cool and shady camping sites, each with its own 'kitchen' area.which meanders around large outcrops
The camp is situated right across the river from this imposing mountain, where one can see the strata of various different kinds of rock, many showing sediments from the time when this was a large inland sea.
There is an enormous amount of development along this river. We saw fields full of tomatoes, green peppers, lettuce, cabbage and even tall hops, climbing up their regularly-spaced stringers. The road runs along the very edge of the flood plain, and many of the farmers have large signs requesting drivers to limit their speed, and hence the dust kicked up over all the vegetables!
And then suddenly you come across the bridge and border post at Vioolsdrif, and the main tarred road between the Cape and Namibia. After travelling in such remote areas, it is almost a disappointment to get back to civilization, with people, shops, cars and trucks all over the place.
|Here is one last view of the typical conditions before we braved the return to civilization!|
with all the travelling, Jocelyn didn't lose the opportunity to catch up on
a little reading at every stop!
Note the bottle of water nearby. Even though the weather was generally cool, it was extremely dry and we consumed large amounts of water.
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