Namaqua National Park → Alexander Bay

It was a bit overcast when we got on the road again this morning – this mean we might not see a lot of flowers today. But it was still a great day to drive through the park.

Most of the time the road was quite nice to drive. There were a few thick and soft sandy stretches where you definitely needed a 4×4 vehicle to find your way – that was fun to drive! But then there were badly corrugated sections – fortunately everything in (and on top) of our car were strapped and boxed in, so nothing could get loose! 

On the soft sand, a 4×4 vehicle is required
The corrugated sections made driving a bit uncomfortable

As mentioned in yesterday’s post – Namakwa-4×4 Eco Trail (2) – this area received more rain than in previous years. The field were definitely greener and when we’ve stopped next to road to have a closer look, we could see little flowers almost everywhere.

Namaqua National Park is situated in a water scarce environment, but we could see the recent rainfall had a positive impact on the field

During our drive through the Namaqua National Park, we had to stop a couple of times to open a gate (and close it again) to continue driving. We made use of these opportunities to take more photo’s of the tiny flowers next to the road.

Remember to close the gate behind you!

Towards the exit of the Namaqua National Park, the road became more corrugated … it was at times so bad, that the wipers of our car went on automatically 😝!

More corrugated road – time to take a break (Credit: Fiela Basson)

At the park exit, we’ve turned left towards Hondeklip Bay (a coastal village in the Namaqua district). Just a few kilometers before Hondeklip Bay, we’ve turned right and drove towards Koingnaas.

Koingnaas was established in 1970 and was once a flourishing diamond-mining town, but after the De Beers Group (an international company that specialises in diamond mining) departed, the population has fallen rapidly from its peak of about 1000 people.

In Koingnaas, Frans wanted to inflated his vehicle’s tyres at the garage station to drive better on the tarred road that was ahead of us. But we came to a closed garage station – it was after all Sunday, but it was also clear that Koingnaas is now almost a deserted town.

The garage station in Koingnaas was closed – fortunately we only wanted to inflated the tyers (and not for petrol) … we will travel to the next town …

We kept driving along the coast for about 45km, until we got to Kleinzee. This too, was a diamond mine town, but the De Beers Group also closed their mining operations here. Kleinzee is now a public town and we drove through the earlier “checkpoints” without being stopped by any security. Here we found a shop that sell literally everything – from groceries to camping equipment and clothes!

In Kleinzee, we saw this bicycle on a pole next to the shop

We bought some stuff that we will need for the next leg of our trip (and some interesting sweets 😊), before we got on the road again.

Just outside Kleinzee, we’ve stopped at a local church next to the road. This is the Dutch Reformed Church of Grootmist … the church where Berto was baptized as baby about 50 years ago!

The church where Berto was baptised as a baby
There is something very special about this photo: Many years after Berto was baptised here, he was now sitting as a 50-year old man in front of the very same church (the notice reads: Dutch Reformed Church, Grootmist, Sundays, 10h00)

The last 90km of today’s drive was on a tarred road. We’ve stopped one last time in Port Nolloth to refuel our vehicles before we continued to our final destination for the day, namely Alexander Bay.

The last 90km of today’s journey was on a tarred road (with endless views)

We’ve arrived late afternoon in Alexander Bay. We will overnight here at our friends’ house … with a real shower and a real bed 😁 … no camping for us tonight!

Since we all lived in Alexander Bay in earlier years, Carel took us in his vehicle on a tour through the town.

History on Alexander Bay:

Alexander Bay is in the extreme north-west of South Africa. It is located on the southern bank of the Orange River mouth. The town evolved after the discovery of alluvial diamonds in 1925 by Dr. Hans Merensky. Alexander Bay became one of the richest mining towns along the Namaqualand and Northern Cape’s border.

Unfortunately, like the other mining towns, Alexander Bay became just a shadow of its previous glory. Mining activity is still active, but on a very small scale.

Carel showed us some farming fields close to the Orange River where the owners are doing a great job – it was beautiful to see the green fields and that it was being taken care of.

Beautiful green fields on the banks of the Orange River – the bridge in the background connects South Africa with Namibia (Credit: Fiela Basson)

The wetlands close to the mouth of the Orange River is home to a variety of migratory birds. Unfortunately, this wetland is currently under major threat from several sources – like reduced flow and desertification. I wish they could restore this area to its former glory …

The wetlands almost changed into a desert. A mining building can be seen in the background where they used to sort diamonds in earlier years (Credit: Fiela Basson)

Our last stop was at the church where Carel is a pastor. Though the town seems at places almost battered and deserted, this little church and garden is beautiful and well taken care of. I’ve once again realised, that if someone is taking ownership of something, you can make it work and be proud of it. I hope Carel’s mindset will encourage others to do the same … 

Carel and Estelle prepared a wonderful meal for us. We sat around their table and enjoyed a feast of roasted leg of lamb, vegetables and salad. To top it off, we had ice cream as dessert.

Tomorrow, our journey will take us into the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park – more off road riding and wild camping 😉.

To read about Day 3, click here

9 thoughts on “NAMAKWA-4X4 ECO TRAIL (3)

  1. What a fascinating read, yet again.

    I am guessing from my very rudimentary Dutch / Afrikaans that Grootmist means big miss or something like that. It must have been lovely to see the Church where he was baptised. Although I was baptised in a Christian church, I have not seen it for many decades. It is somehow strange that I am in the process of writing about a Dutch Reformed Church in Sri Lanka (Galle) at present. I think we often overlook the Dutch as a colonial power.

    I love that shop, just what was needed for all the silly little things you forgot to pack.

    You were so lucky to have a place to stay that night. Camping is great fun but it is hard to beat a proper bed. Isn’t it strange that the town is in serious decline but the church i still in pristine condition?

    It is great to see that even after de Beers left the locals have found another way to survive. Those look like some pretty healthy crops to me although I am no expert.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for going off road and wild camping with us, Fergy!

      The word “Grootmist” actually means “Big fog/mist” (like in foggy or misty conditions). This place is very close to the sea and is normally covered in fog during the mornings … there you go, my Afrikaans lesson for the day 😁. It’s sometimes difficult to explain Afrikaans words, because they are just so unique in meaning.

      I’ve actually had mixed emotions about Alexander Bay … it was sad to see how the town deteriorated over the years (I’ve lived there for 25 years and have only the most fond memories of my time there). And then, in another way, it warms my heart to see how some of the locals takes ownership and try to build and restore this little town to its former glory. That green fields/crops that you’ve seen in the photo, was recently planted and it already showed signs of a healthy harvest … we keep our fingers crossed!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oops, that is what I meant to type, I don’t know where “big miss” came from!

    It is nice that the locals have retained their sense of civic pride and not just all melted off to the big cities.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, how amazing for Berto to visit the church where he was baptized, and to visit the towns. The diamond mining interested me as my brother-in-law is a diver for environmental inspection of the diamond mines along that coast all the way into Namibia. I enjoyed reading. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes he worked for sea fisheries research mainly, but privately he got to do a yearly trip up through Namibia. Now he immigrated to New Zealand 18 months ago. He, his wife and two young children are looking to make a new life there but I think other than covid, he is supposed to still continue with the work.

        Liked by 1 person

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