Vioolsdrif to Richtersveld

Another perfect morning, not a breath of wind and the temperature a balmy 12C with only the bird calls adding to the background sounds of water passing over rocks.  A hearty meal and tired bodies had made for a (relatively) quiet evening the previous night so the general feeling around camp was one of anticipation for the drive out from the Orange valley, through the hills around Eksteenfontein and down to the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.

We set off after breakfast with a stop along the way to view the artwork left by eons of previous inhabitants that had transversed the area.

The rock in this photo was covered in ancient San petroglyphs of animals, people and their gods stretching back for thousands of years.

Compared this to the current practise of creating ones own “castle” of balancing rocks as left by the modern day travellers (below). Personally, I quite like this form of leaving ones imprint. It is not particularly invasive (e.g. no spray painted slogans) and nature will, at her own pace, re-arrange these as she wishes, when she wishes.

A short while later, the “eagle eye of Erik” spotted this traveller scuttling across the road. We took the opportunity for a quick liquid refreshment break while we shot a few pics of him as he calmly continued his trip across the track and into the scrubby bush alongside. No doubt lunch/supper/breakfast loitered nearby, blissfully unaware of their impending status as gourmet meal.

We slowly climbed out of the valley and up into the higher ground surrounding the Orange river as it cut its way down to the coast.

Of course, there was wildlife other than the scorpion seen that day. Alongside you will see a picture of the Lesser Spotted Sharpie. This land based mammal has a high pitched giggle (similar to a hyena going through puberty) and is known for its penchant for chasing goats while imitating their bleating. It is not, however, known for its intelligence… As you can see in the photo, the animal has also not quite mastered the art of utilising its opposing thumb yet and its strange bowlegged gait as it bounds over the rocks makes for a comical and ungainly sight.

Once we broke through the hills the scrub became denser and more varied with various muted colours starting to show in the foliage.

The downside of the higher ground was the colder temperatures and when we slipped into Eksteenfontein we gratefully pounced on the local bottle store and procured their stocks of Old Brown Sherry to help fortify us against the chill. The proprietor waved us goodbye with a bemused smile on his weather lined face as we  disappeared with his entire stock of OB’s. He was probably wondering how he was going to explain to clientele that a troop of crazy looking, grizzled and unshaved men slid to a stop in a cloud of dust, decamped from their vehicles, emptied his shelves of OB’s, paid, saddled up and disappeared over the hills before he could fully account for what was happening!

After Eksteenfontein, the trail dropped back down towards the Richtersveld Park with more and more flowers starting to show themselves. Unfortunately, we had missed the flower season of the Namaqualand (the main area is further south from this point) but we were still treated to a some remnants of the seasons showing.

Finally we reached the park entrance in the late afternoon. The picture below shows the view down the entrance road from the main gate. The Orange river lies nestled in amongst the hills below and we would be re-united with it once more the next morning.

Not having pre-booked, we settled for spending the night at the Sendlingsdrift camp. More to follow on how good a decision that was!

An interesting fact about this park – due to historical reasons, the park not only houses a vast store of unique flora, it is also home to a diamond mine and the local indiginous inhabitants are also allowed to graze their traditional herds of sheep in the hills. It is the last place where the traditional way of life of the KhoiKhoi (of whom the Nama are the surviving clan), who once occupied the entire south-western part of Africa, survives to any great extent.

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