NAMAKWA-4X4 ECO TRAIL (4)


SEPTEMBER 2020

DAY 3

We were looking forward visiting the Richtersveld National Park again. Though, I should mention that in 2003, the Richtersveld National Park was combined with the Namibian Ai-Ais Hot Springs Game Park and is now named the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.

We will enter the park at Sendelingsdrift, which is about 90km from Alexander Bay – on a gravel road that are at some places badly corrugated due to heavy mining vehicles that also make use of this road.

Before we left Alexander Bay, we made one last stop at the petrol station. We were now 3 vehicles together – always a good idea to travel with friends when you plan to go off-roading in extreme places.

The first 30km of the road was pretty bad – mostly corrugated with huge pot holes. At some places, loose sand covered the road surface and we had to drive this stretch quite carefully.

More corrugated road! In front of us, was the Orange River with the Namib Desert in the background

At the main gate of the park, everyone had to get out of their vehicles for the officials to take our temperatures (Covid-19 regulations) and to fill in some paperwork. They informed us that the park is filled with tourists – it is evident the outdoor lovers took fully advantage of the new Covid-19 levels that now allows leisure travel!

The last 20km to Sendelingsdrift was again on a corrugated road and unexpected pot holes … we were relieved when we’ve reached Sendelingsdrift!

We’ve arrived at Sendelingsdrift and the Ai-Ais Ricthersveld Transfrontier Park
The reception building of the park at Sendelingsdrift (Credit: Fiela Basson)

The climate here is harsh and dry, and although the average daily temperatures are pretty mild, it often gets extremely hot. In the peak summer time (December/January), temperatures may rise over 40ºC in the afternoon.

At Sendelingsdrift the old pont has been restored to ferry people and their vehicles across the Orange River to the Namibian side of the park.

We’ve visited the park’s small garden centre to see an exhibition of the plants that we will find inside the park. It was beautifully displayed and great to walk through.

But I was particularly saddened to see a couple of “halfmense” (it’s a tree-like plant, translated as “Half Human” in English) standing at one side. You could see that these plants were taken out of the ground …

The stolen “half mense” that was recovered by authorities (Credit: Fiela Basson)

One of the workers told us that these “halfmense” were illegally removed by visitors inside the park and found inside their vehicles at a roadblock held by authorities.

History on the “halfmens”:

Besides, that no plants are allowed to be picked/removed, the “halfmens” are internationally protected and classified as highly endangered. This strange plant is one of the few tall plants able to survive through the seasons in this desert climate. It grows extremely slow, is rather rare and not easily seen in its environment.

It is extremely upsetting to see that people are removing these plants from their natural habitat for whatever use! They are basically wiping out the “halfmens” in nature – what a sad, sad thought 😢. I hope that these people will be brought to justice!

Time to get into the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (Credit: Fiela Basson)

We’ve entered the park just before lunch and drove slowly through this harsh land. This area consists of rugged kloofs and high mountains. And then suddenly, as you go over a hill or through a mountainous area, the vast desert flat landscape appears in front of your eyes – such dramatic landscapes in just a few kilometers.

It’s difficult to describe the beauty of this place … although it is dry and not particularly green, there are elements of nature that you won’t see anywhere else. I’ve read on an information leaflet that in one square kilometer there are more than 360 different plant species that can be found here – in a place where there is hardly any rainfall!

Such beautiful landscapes

From our photo’s, you will see how this landscape keeps on changing and showing its true beauty.

Our first stop was about 14km from the main entrance at the “Hand of God” … a rock formation supposedly created when God pressed a mighty hand into the rock.

We had our lunch here that Estelle prepared for us back home – jaffles filled with curry mince (almost like a toastie, but prepared in a sandwich press with patterns). It was yummy and just what we’ve needed to fill that empty spot in our stomachs!

Me and Fiela enjoying our jaffles next to the Hand of God

Shortly after we’ve left here, we came to the first pass we had to cross – the “Akkedis Pass” (means Lizard Pass in English). It is probably not a difficult pass to drive, but it may be tricky at some points.

Getting ready to drive through the Akkedis Pass (Credit: Carel Wiggett)

I’ve heard of some locals driving this pass with their normal 2×4 bakkies, but I suppose you want to make sure your vehicle has a high ground clearance for those rocky patches.

Carel (in front) and Frans at the back, driving through the Akkedis Pass

We had time to stop on the pass to appreciate the views and also the different species of plants next to the road … and those ever-present tiny flowers!

These tiny flowers grow in this dry desert area – amazing!

The pass is about 6km long with magnificent scenery along the entire pass. The mountains and rock formations are unbelievably beautiful!

We (in the Jimny) at the front, with Carel following us – this pass was spectacular to drive! (Credit: Fiela Basson)

And then, as we came to the end of the pass, the flat openness of the desert lies in front of us … with the big blue mountains in the distance (that we will have to cross in two days’ time).

A flat landscape awaits us after the Akkedis Pass

We were now turning our vehicles towards our camp spot for the next two nights, namely De Hoop. This is one of the most popular camping sites in the park and is next to the Orange River.

As wet got closer to the river, the scenery changed from dry and barren to bushy and green (Credit: Fiela Basson)

There were many campers at De Hoop, but we’ve managed to find a great spot on the edge of the Orange River.

Who would not like to camp here?

We’ve set up our tents and soon got our chairs out to appreciate the wonderful views around us. There are well-maintained ablution facilities at the camp sites in the park (though only cold-water showers), but we were a bit further away which mean we had to drive to get there 😄.

Getting our tents ready to stay on the river bank for the next two days

It was a wonderful day driving through this beautiful park. The silence and beauty of this place is an experience I will never forget – I do understand why people keep coming back here.

We’ve once again prepared dinner on the fire – tonight we will have curried pork chops, with onion and sweet potato wrapped in foil that will be cooked under the coals together with (more) curried pasta salad that Berto prepared the previous evening in Alexander Bay … a meal fit for a king (and queen) 😊.

A fire next to the Orange River – this is the best life!

Categories: Namakwa-4x4 Eco Trail

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