“almost Richtersveld• / Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park / Mabuasehube / Cederberg / Stellenbosch

Travel date 18/05 – 04/06/2006

Start/end of trip: Capetown


No. of vehicles : 1 Landrover Defender Td5

Drivers: Max Stocker (a lot) and Eliane Tschanz (a little)

Total distance traveled: 3992 km

Fuel consumption: 462 l Diesel, Best average: 10,8 km per liter, Worst average: 7,6 km per liter


Capetown – Vanrhynsdorp – Port Nolloth

The booked Toyota Hilux double cab a few months ago thru Bushlore was apparently in no condition to go on the road after a bad journey in the high grass in the CKGR by other clients. Instead we get a green 2004 Defender Td5. It’s the vehicle the gay couple drove during the episode in Botswana on the Amazing Race. – We get of course all the juicy details about the deal with the Amazing Race, the vehicles, the damages, etc.

The Landrover comes fully equipped with all the camping and recovery gear we had asked for. R.1500 worth of groceries, meat, drinks, fruits and veggies are already packed as ordered by e-mail in advance. I don’t believe my eyes, every single item asked for is there!


First two days we drive in pouring rain. On day one on the N7 from Capetown to Vanrhynsdorp, stopover at the Namaqua Lodge Hotel R.350 per room + BF, for dinner we must eat the 500grs T-bone Steak advertised by Amanda, the cook. Freezing cold at night. Next day Vanrhynsdorp to Port Nolloth, all day rain. Instead of pushing it to the camping at Alexander Bay , another 85km away, we decide to call it a day and stay in a very nice beach house in the dry at Mac Dougalls Bay , rented from Port Indigo for R.380. Incredible sunset, first time we see a spot of blue in the sky since flying into Capetown the day before from Buenos Aires . We relax in the cosy house and read about the diamand extraction and the crayfish.


Port Nolloth – “Almost Richtersveld•

After a lazy start we head for Alexander Bay but can’t make it beyond the bridge. Just as we get to the Holgat river the bridge starts to break into pieces within less than an hour due to the flood upstream and the dam accumulated at the bridge. Two local couples from Alex Bay on their way home in a Hilux suggest we go look for a suitable spot upriver to cross the water. They want to get home and play golf and we want to get to the Richtersveld National Park . We spend the rest of the day driving thru the incredible green virgin veld and at three different places we meet the river but it is too high and the current too strong. We eventually reach the hard road that leads from Lekkersing to Kuboes, but there the Holgat is still too deep. Carel walks it. The sun is setting and we just pull up and join the little fire that two stranded solitary Nama men have going at this spot. Their motor is wet. Max and I have all the gear to prepare a braai, the others share their fresh buurewurst and lamb chops that were meant for tomorrows braai at home. The Nama men who are stranded since last night enjoy the company and a hot meal. The night gets very cold, below zero, the two couples have no camping equipment whatsoever, nor the two Nama, they get really cold and spend an uncomfortable night cramped in the carseats. Next day Max fixes the Nama vehicle and the two guys turn around and speed off to Lekkersing on 3 cylinders. Carel walks the flooded part again, he is determined to get home today. Overnight the water level has dropped, but the flooded stretch is still about 1,5km long and in parts up to 1 meter deep. He marks the way with sticks carefully. And eventually they drive thru it. But Max and I have to turn around and look for an alternative plan, since the exit route from Sendelingsdrift over the Helskloof to Nordoewer is also impassable, the Richtersveld is out of the itinerary.


Holgat – Abiqua River Camp Namibia

It takes us all day to drive to Abiqua river camp. The gravel roads are all in a poor condition, this was a serious rain. We stock up firewood at Steinkopf. The sun is shining, the river camp is very tidy and worth R.100 per site. Hot showers and all. Very few other campers, quiet night.


Abiqua – Fish River Canyon – Grünau

We decide to drive a detour to the Main Look Out Point at the Fish River Canyon . It’s terribly windy, short pic nic and we drive on to Grünau. 45km after Grünau we pull in at the Savanna Guest Farm and rent a nice self catering unit for R.350. We make a braai and eat it inside, it’s bloody cold. Next day the little water ponds and the moisture on the vehicle are frozen.


Grünau – Twee Rivieren

Beautiful morning drive in the warm light up north towards the turnoff to Aroab and Rietfontein border. Plenty of Kokerboom in flower. We reach the border at noon , fill up diesel in Aroab, it’s cheaper in Namibia than in SA. At the Namibian border control the officers make us unload 4 big bundles of firewood. They claim it to be illegal to import firewood into SA. “So it’s their problem not yours• we argue, but as we have 5 angry uniformed armed men around us we consider it not worth the argument and unload the wood. 100 meters away on the other side we enquire about this strange law and are informed that “we in SA do not confiscate firewood anymore•. What a scam they have going between the two border posts in order to get free firewood for the bleeding cold nights we think. Ok, then we walk back to the Namibian officers and claim our wood back. (We leave the car on the SA side just in case they come up with a new idea and search us for who knows what!). Very badly corrugated road at first, last leg to Molopo Lodge tarred. Access road to Twee Rivieren still under construction and badly corrugated. 61km = 1h30m. Alternative road from Bokspits on the Botswana to Two Rivers side is very good but you can’t take any meat in due to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.


Twee Rivieren – Polentswa

Horrible road up to Nossob and Polentswa, 200km of ear-braking noise. It takes us all day. Such a pity, it spoils the experience of a quiet serene game viewing drive. Hot shower and fill up diesel at Nossob. Polentswa campsite no. 1 is located right at the edge of the pan, the view, the stillness and the total privacy is overwhelming. Only one other of the seven campsites is occupied. The people come over to warn us about 3 playful female lions who have been stealing their kettle, chewing on chairs and their ground tent during the past three nights. “Pack everything into your car when you go to sleep•. We are in anticipation of action, but we have a quiet night, the lionesses are elsewhere tonight.


Polentswa – Motopi

55kms backtracking to Nossob after a nice breakfast and from there we take the access road to Mabuasehube. No more corrugated roads, but a sandy track, easy going at around 30km/h, up and down the dunes for the first 30km then flat. Almost no game at all except for a few gemsbok. Melons and cucumbers and flowers everywhere. Lots of birds. We see a Cape Cobra in a bush, what colors! Very quiet campsite at Motopi, except for one car we haven’t seen anybody today on this road.


Motopi – Mabuasehube

Between the two campsites Motopi 1 and 2 there is a small pan, we see bat eared foxes and springbok and gemsbok and a few ostriches, plus the occasional black backed jackal. At noon we get to Bosobogolo Pan and make a nice pic nic stop with a view. Circle the pan and get to Mabuasehube early. Today we have met not one single car. We heat up water and open the hair salon. Ground squirrel and hornbills abound. At around 4 p.m. a full grown blackmaned male lion, a young male and two female lions walk towards the pan but lay down for a nap about 200m away from our campsite. They stay there for the rest of the day. We get the fire going and wonder if we should braai or not. We do. We make a circle of light and have a quiet dinner, no sounds from the lions. We pack everything away and climb into the roof top tent. 10 minutes later the male is calling out into the night from what seems on the other side of the canvas walls. The young male replies from further away. This calling forth and back goes on the whole night every 30 or 40 minutes. Every time I fall asleep the ground shaking thunder noise wakes me up again. Sleep depravation by lions! In the morning the tracks are plenty all over the camp. As I climb out of the tent the male walks by about 50 meters away, he couldn’t care less.


Mabuasehube – Motopi

We add a few loops to other pans and get back to the access road that leads to the Nossob Valley . We should stay at Mpayathuthlwa tonight, but this lion business has us a bit worried. It was great for one night, but somehow the behavior of those lions does not seem normal to us. It is not normal to me that they “chew• at a tent while people are inside. Later in Nossob we met other people and everybody had a story to tell. The lion who stole the toiletry bag and carried it away. The lion who chewed on any nylon material he could find. Lions who walk between the camping table and car while the family is having breakfast, etc. A lion, male or female, is 180-230kg of sheer power and I just hope that nothing bad happens in the Mabuasehube Area between humans and felines. Despite that we are not on their menu, I do have a bad feeling. But hey, it was an amazing experience. I have taped the sounds at night.


Motopi – Nossob – Bitterpan – Kalahari Tented camp

The next four days we spend very leisurely between rest camps and wilderness camps and enjoy them all very much. We see more lions and also cheetahs. With one young lioness we stay for some time while she tries to ambush a springbok. The camp attendant at Bitterpan shows us how to find Kalahari truffles and we prepare them with butter and salt on the braai, they are delicious. Cottage at Nossob R.380, Bitterpan R. 575, Kalahari Tented Camp R.660 per night.


Mata Mata – Upington

A good leg with time for game viewing and a pic nic stop at Twee Rivieren. The Auab riverbed is more appealing to me than the Nossob, there is also much more game here. It is nice to have sometimes the choice between driving on the left or the right side of the riverbed, for photographers this is great. Road maintenance guys are scraping the road by pulling 3 truck tires tied together behind a tractor, to my surprise it does the job, at least for a few days. The Kalahari streches on right to the doorsteps of Upington and beyond. We have no accommodation booked and find a nice B&B in Upington called Chateau and rent a self catering unit for R.260 it has a view on the Orange River, a private terrace with braai and a garden with swimming pool and safe parking – we reach it just as the sun sets.


Upington – Calvinia - Cederberg

The drive south to Calvinia is very scenic and the desert seems endless, only some vineyards along the Orange River break up the landscape. Calvinia itself merits a visit. The historical museum has many rooms filled with incredible artifacts, furniture, tools, clothing, toys, books etc brought by the early settlers. It also hosts a very didactic exhibition on sheep farming. Many of the old buildings and homes in town have been restored. We take the gravel road to the Botterkloof Pass in the Cederberg mountians and marvel at the ever changing landscape. After the Bushmanskloof Reserve we reach a small settlement and see a sign “Travellers Rest• The Strauss Family has remodeled old workers houses and offers unique accommodation in several stonehouses on their farm in the middle of those incredible formations of the Cederberg. Mrs. Strauss says: “Daisy is open, drive 3km uphill on the track, if you like it you stay there and tomorrow you come back and pay•. Said and done. On their property is also the Sevilla Rock Art Trail . We wanted to walk it the next morning but during the night yet another heavy rainstorm converts the soil into mud. Instead we read the book about the ancient Sanpaintings in front of a log fire inside the cottage. We paid R.120 per person.


Cederberg – Stellenbosch

At first we were tempted to go to Wuppertal and from there on the 4x4 track towards Ceres, but it was cloudy and drizzling, not the best day to do a scenic drive, and who knows how much it had rained over there. So we told ourselves that we could do some wine tasting in Stellenbosch instead. Got there just after noon and checked out a few B&B’s with self catering. We asked a man who was washing his car in front of his house for directions, and it turned out that they offer accommodation in their own house, it’s a super flat with top modern equipment, really fancy for two smoky dirty campers, and goes for R.350 and is called Ikeya. We then took a drive thru the vineyards and sipped some good pinotage at Kanonkop, so good that we had to buy a bottle for dinner.


Stellenbosch – Capetown

Yet another beautiful drive to Somerset West and then a shocking drive to Capetown: 15km long shanty town along the N2. How many people must be living there? We return the vehicle and spend the rest of this sunny Saturday afternoon visiting the sights on foot and do some shopping at the Waterfront.


A great trip, and taking it real easy on the way back was a very good idea, instead of a long drive we had another three very different days which added to this fantastic trip. We still have the Richtersveld on our list of must sees, and we also have new friends in Alexander Bay who will prepare us some nice crayfish some day!



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