Richtersveld Explored – Pooitjiespram to De Hoop

Having had a leisurely day the previous day, we had decided over dinner that today would be spent taking in the sites around the Richtersveld Park – or at least as much as we could fit in for a day. So, after a man sized breakfast of nice greasy food to alleviate the self induced toxic poisoning from the previous day, we set out from our camp at Pooitjiespram.

The plan was to drive from Pooitjiespram over the hills to rejoin the Orange river at De Hoop and see if we wanted to spend a night camping there. Along the way we would be taking in the – often unique – flora of the park itself. The Richtersveld contains the world’s richest desert flora – several brand new species actually being discovered earlier this year (2012).

Plants in the Richtersveld have developed the most extraordinary adaptation strategies to the harsh climate. Some store water in large ‘bladder’ cells on the surface of their leaves or swell quickly when there is moisture, others stay underground in the form of bulbs, and others develop white scales to reflect the sun rays or grow tiny sticky hair to trap sand grains as a protection against the wind.

The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld National Park is a very good example of one of the most interesting mega-ecosystems of the world, the succulent Karoo. There is no desert flora on our planet, possessing similar species richness and individuality of flora. On a surface area of one square kilometre more than 360 plant species of flowering plants (angiosperms) are found at a site with an average rainfall of only 68 mm per year.

One outstanding example of such unique life forms is the psammophorous plants, i.e. plant species that are fixing a layer of sand to their surface in order to build a protective shelter against the force of sand storms and the related sand blasting.

The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld is widely reckoned as one of the world’s richest succulent areas. A number of endemic plant species only occur in small colonies on the highest peaks. About 30% of the total floristic composition is endemic to the park.

There are four main landscape units: the Orange River and adjacent floodplains; gentle undulating plains (distributed in the summer/all year round rainfall area); rolling hills; and rugged mountains.

Along the way we stopped off to see “Hand of God”. The ‘print’ is a natural formation approximately 2m high.

Fortunately there were some nice ‘technical’ sections along the way in case all this ‘flowery’ stuff decided to suck the testosterone out of us…

We stopped for a short while at De Hoop with the Orange river flowing past. At this point we are up river from Pooitjiespram – the river making a long looping curve around the high ground of the Richtersveld mountains.

The only non domesticated mammal we saw for the entire day – humans excepted, of course.

On the way back, as we were descending the final pass back to camp, Kvet decided that cycling home was a good idea. Not ones to stand in any other man’s apparent foolishness, we offloaded a bike from the rack and left him in the hills,  As he was merrily cascading down the rough road he had to continually fend off well wishers who tried offering him a lift home! But he was having waaaay too much fun!

After a long and satisfying day exploring the wonderful flora of the park, we quietly settled down next to the river for a gentle sundowner. Another tough day in Africa complete.

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