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Namaqua & Kgalagadi National Parks in two weeks: Part 1 Hot

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The end of 2011 saw us pack up and head for the bush, after a hectic year filled with hard work, travels and the occasional downer. We decided that a soul-cleansing trip to both the Namaqua National Park and the Kgalagadi Trans-frontier National Park’s were in order. Booked last minute for both!

We had packed everything the night before and were ready to leave early Friday morning, but of course, I insisted on attending the Science Faculty Graduation ceremony on that morning… As a result our trip only officially started at lunchtime- with Arne waiting (…not so patiently, I should add) for me in the packed Land Rover outside the Zoology Building at UCT.

Our drive from Cape Town took us due north along the N7 to a tiny town called Nuwerus where we would overnight.  Arne had booked a campsite for us at Hardeveld Lodge, a very neat, well kept spot with a single campsite, clean shower and toilet. This was the first official evening of our trip and we christened our pending adventure with traditional Purves Irish stew (green beans added as a consequence of my insistence on some greenery at least).

Hardeveld Lodge in Nuwerus

The following morning we got an early start and headed off towards the tiny town of Garies, feeling very excited to be officially on holiday.  In anticipation of our early morning breakfast drive, I bought a very ripe half melon in Cape Town and had it chilling in the fridge.  It was the perfect breakfast for our first morning on holiday.  While driving I carefully carved the melon on my lap and fed myself, and Arne large chunks of ice-cold sweet melon. Things couldn’t get any better. 

Arriving in Garies mid-morning, we filled up the Landy with diesel.  Both of us realized at the same time that we had forgotten our pillows! Oh no! Luckily for us there was a Chinese R5 store in the main road of Garies (…who would have thought!?) and we were able to buy two small pillows.  They were awful, sequenced with maroon, pink and gold, but they had to do and we vouched to sneak them into our tent every night so as not to let anyone else see them!

Back at the filling station I had the very proactive idea to keep the Land Rover neat and tidy and quickly whipped out all our already gathered rubbish and dumped it in a nearby bin.  At the time not realizing that Arne’s Leatherman (purchased in the States) was in fact still in the packet of melon cuttings… All was going so well and we set off in a westerly direction towards Groenrivier – the entry gate to coastal section of the Namaqua National Park!

The next five days were spent camped at “Varswater” in the Namaqua National Park, which is only one of the several coastal campsites that are situated along this stretch of coast in the park.  All campsites must be booked in advance of arrival through SANP.

Varswater Campsite in namaqua national park

“Varswater” is a beautiful campsite right on the beach, with no water or shower facilities, and it made a spectacular base from which to travel around the park. Early mornings and late evenings were the only options for being active as the heat of midday made chilling and snoozing in the afternoons compulsory (PS Dettol wipes came in handy !).

Our daily routine involved early morning and late evening drives to adjacent campsites providing access to the coast such as Koringkorrellbaai, Bamboeskamp, Skuinsklip and Skuinsbaai Noord.  Some highlights of our stay during that week were captured on camera by Arne and included:

Being camped right next to a den of Meerkats and seeing so many of these cute suricates in the park.

Visiting the large seal colony in the park where many females had recently given birth to pups.

Spending hours watching the endemic Heaviside’s Dolphins fishing, mating and playing in the breakers.

Coming across a beautiful Puffadder crossing the road!

Seeing the amazing colours of the Strandveld vegetation.

Walking over the spectacular shell beaches that tower meters above the sand.

Being amazed at the huge diversity of limpets and beautiful tidal pools in general.

On the 21st of December we packed up our camp in the Namaqua National Park and headed towards the northern exit gate of the coastal section of the park, north of the Spoegrivier and about 20kms from Hondeklipbaai.  Driving through the northern section of the park provided rather different scenery with sightings of Blesbok, Hartebeest and Bat Eared Fox, which we had not previously seen.

We took a short detour to Hondeklipbaai.  This tiny coastal town, apparently suffering from the closure of mines in the area, provided some interesting early morning sights. One in particular was an old coastal graveyard where fishermen who succumbed at sea have been buried since the 1800s. 

Hondeklipbaai Cemetery where the graves are adorned with limpet shells.

Gravestones sometimes reflected the names of entire crews of sunken ships. It was well worth the visit. After a desperate search for coffee in Hondeklipbaai yielded no success, we set off in an easterly direction, back through the Namaqua National Park towards Springbok.

Namaqua National Park looking back towards the West Coast part way up the pass.

As one heads inland through the Park the road cuts through and over two mountain passes.  Heading through the “Wildeperdehoek Pass” we came across an old trading post or missionary station in the river valley. 

The old "Trading Station" constructed out of stone.

This old establishment was enormous and rather unexpectedly beautiful.  We vouched to spend more time in this section of the park on our next visit.

We arrived at Springbok at about 11am, stopped for a bite to eat, filled up the Land Rover and did some food shopping for the next ten days at the Springbok Spar (an interesting experience in itself!).

All packed again we headed out of Springbok towards Kakamas our overnight spot.  The drive took us past the well-known towns of Poffadder and Aggenys and as we headed inland the temperature began to rise reminding us that we were heading towards the Kalahari Desert…in no uncertain terms!

Northern Cape gates!

The drive to Kakamas was rather long and uneventful, but we stopped several times to admire the changing landscapes. Initially kokerbooms and ‘koppies’ dotted the grassy landscape but were slowly replaced by red sands and vegetated dunes and eventually vineyards and fruit orchards, as we approached the Orange River. 

On the road to Upington - The wide open skies of the Northern Cape

Arriving in Kakamas late afternoon, we found a campsite at a riverside wine farm called “Die Mas”.  The campsite is situated on the banks of the Orange River and makes a very pretty spot from which to view the mighty Orange River.

On the morning of the 22nd we were up early to pack up our tent and take on the last 300km trek northwest towards Upington and then Tweerivieren, the main entrance gate to the Kgalagadi TFP. 

Read Part 2 for our adventures in the Kgalagadi National Park

Text by Cecile and Images By Arne

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Arne, dis die mooiste fotos van daardie area, en ek het al baie gesien, want ek het daar gewerk! Well done! Daardie 'Trading Post' dink ek net was 'n ou tronk (in 1800's). Dis die bandiete wat Messelklip pas gebou het, en daar is 'n wondelike spookstorie en regte storie daaroor. Commented bySuzaan Kritzinger-KlopperJanuary 05, 2012

Messelklip Pass

Arne, dis die mooiste fotos van daardie area, en ek het al baie gesien, want ek het daar gewerk! Well done! Daardie 'Trading Post' dink ek net was 'n ou tronk (in 1800's). Dis die bandiete wat Messelklip pas gebou het, en daar is 'n wondelike spookstorie en regte storie daaroor.

Owner's reply

Thanks Suzaan.

We could not find any info on the old builings. We were really intrigued by the old stone buildings, but now that you mention it, it did resemble a prison type structure. Did not spend too much time there so hopefully did not disturb the 'Spooks"

The coastal section of NNP is really an interesting place. Will definately be going back. It was great to witness the Heavisides Dolphins mating and have at least one almost clear day to photograph them. The wind and sea haze was kind to us for most of the week we were there.

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Arne Purves
Author: Arne PurvesWebsite: http://www.arnepurves.co.zaEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Arne's passion for the environment, wildlife and conservation was instilled from an early age, leading to a career in nature conservation, first as a game ranger in the Natal Parks Board, a conservation officer with CapeNature and today in the City of Cape Town's Environmental Compliance Department. Photography is his creative medium of choice.