|Namaqua 4x4, Package 1 (Pofadder to Vioolsdrift), Amam 4x4 Dune trail and
greater Richtersveld - 28 June 2003 to 6 July 2003
Written by Eddie Lambrechts
Having grown up in the
Northern Cape (I was born and bred in a town called Nababeep) and spent many a fantastic
trip with my folks there (in my fathers 1963 1300cc Combi and later a 1968 1600cc),
I have a particular fondness of and love for Namaqualand, Bushmanland and the Richtersveld
These areas have their
own unique beauty and I would hardly miss an opportunity to go there. Previous years I
undertook trips to Namaqualand and the Richtersveld on my own. This year I joined friends
to do a section of our trip with a bigger group and then a couple of days on our own to
explore and tackle some less well known tracks.
On Saturday, 28 June,
six of us in 2 vehicles, Braham van Zyls 2.4 Toyota HiLux and my Terrano, left for
Klein Pella, just outside Pofadder from where we started on the first section of the
Namaqua 4x4 trail. Braham is quite involved in tourism and adventure and a walking
encyclopedia who I can recommend. I was one of the first members to join Braham on 4x2
trails, before I upgraded to 4x4.
On Sunday, we set off
on the first leg of the Namaqua 4x4 trail, about 50 kms. A word of warning: we were
provided with a 7-page document with directions and distances (kms) similar to those
used for rallies. Whether the compilers used different vehicles or what, I do not know,
but in some instances distances were so far out, that one often had to go by intuition.
The first lap was
fairly easy going, accessible for 4x2s and soft-roader 4x4s (those one
buys to visit the Big Five, i.e. Cavendish Square, Waterfront, Canal Walk, N1 City and
Tygervalley Centre). This section took us to the Orange (Gariep) River and then back to
Klein Pella. On Sunday five other vehicles joined us at Klein Pella for the remainder of
the Namaqua 4x4 route to Vioolsdrift and also the Amam 4x4 Dune trail.
Monday morning we
tackled the second leg of the Namaqua trail, from Klein Pella to the Groot Melkboom (big
Milk tree) from where we diverted to the Amam 4x4 trail. En route we visited the date
plantations at Klein Pella.
This section of the
Namaqua route was also fairly easy-going, however I would caution some of the soft-roaders
and 4x2s to be careful at the Groot Melkboom; it will not take much to get stuck in
the sand there.
On the way to the
Groot Melkboom we passed the old Abassas homestead which I visited often in my younger
days. We also camped at the Groot Melkboom in those years. For many years this tree was
reckoned to be the second largest tree in South Africa. Where the main branches split from
the trunk, it formed a sort of platform where we used to sleep. It was a disgrace to see
how both Abassas and the Groot Melkboom have deteriorated.
It was with great
sadness that I wondered how it is that we have managed to either let such beauty go bad or
willfully damage it.
On Monday evening we
arrived at Amam (correctly pronounced by the bushmen as Xam Xam with a proper click or two
with the tongue), named after a wild grass bush growing in the Bushmanland region.
Amam is north of
Aggeneys and can be reached via the Springbok to Pofadder road, turning off at
Varsputs/Beenbreek. Here we were entertained by Gerrie and Karen Compion, who really made
us feel welcome.
The camping setup is
quite interesting, with a lapa and ablution facilities (and a lekker hot shower after a
day in the dunes with Gerrie).
There are two trails.
On Tuesday we did the 30km trail with Gerrie, with an interesting introductory talk about
the vegetation and geology of the area. It was clear that the area and its sensitivity is
something that he really cares about. In my book he has earned a couple of points.
The trail itself was a
sheer pleasure and challenge. Just watch out for Gerries diesel
Landcruiser with some super-duper 7 liter Chevy engine.
The saying goes that
every picture tells a story, a video even more. I was fortunate to be the first vehicle
behind Gerrie and had a camera-assistant on the back of his Landcruiser recording most of
There were more than
enough challenges up and down the dunes, sometimes sliding downhill without a wheel
turning! Also lots of uneven, irregular deep holes resulting in some interesting
body-roles and twisting.
Then there was the BIG
challenge, THAT dune, to get from the bottom to the top. Some of us had to take a long
sprint to build up speed and MOMENTUM (my diesel turbo sounded like a jet on the video).
In some instances it seemed as if some of us were looking for a runway to take off from.
And then there was the
debate about low range vs high range. In my opinion, for diesels and weaker
petrol vehicles, low range was better, whilst for the six cylinder petrol engines (3 liter
and higher) high range worked well. I was more than happy with my Terranos
The vehicle that
surprised most of us was one of the new Suzuki Vitaras. A powerful 3 liter
6-cylinder engine with a light body, really performed excellent. However, its ground
clearance is a bit too low for my liking It would have really suffered a couple of nasty
knocks if it stayed with us on the latter part of our trip.
Stan, the owner of the
Suzuki won the laurel for the day, but be warned, that laurel presented by Gerrie and
Karen brings one right down to earth!
For bookings Gerrie and
Karen can be contacted at 027 752 5733.
I also had my first
flat tyre ever, halfway through the trail. I always have at least two spare tubes as part
of my emergency repair kit, as well as tyre levers, tyre repair kit and a heavy hammer.
Some will recomend the petrol trick to get a tubeless tyre back onto the rim, but I am not
too fond of it. Thus I prefer putting in a tube.
Wednesday we left Amam
to continue with the Namaqua 4x4 trail. It was a trickier section than the earlier parts,
specifically the 13km section down the Oernoep river (dry riverbed with some interesting
rock obstacles). We camped at the Kamgab site on the Orange river bank. In our party were
two 4x2 bakkies. With a bit of help and coaching they were able to come through unscathed.
I would be a little cautious to do this section with a 4x2 without a 4x4 to assist, or
without the necessary equipment to get one out of trouble in case one does get stuck.
Thursday we tackled
the section back up the Oernoep river and then completed the section to Vioolsdrift.
Except for one steep climb after we completed the Oernoep river section, it was a fairly
easy section to do.
At Vioolsdrift we
camped at Fiddlers Creek, quite nice and comfortable, except we had to compete with
five Overlander trucks full of tourists.Only the owner of Fiddlers Creek will know why the
patch of lawn where we had to camp that evening was flooded before we got there. The
dampness together with a cool night stiffened the joints a bit.
On Friday, most of the
other vehicles left for home or another holiday destination. Braham, Jaco van Vuuren and I
then tackled the greater Richtersveld area. The intent of these couple of days was to do
some exploration and do trails that are marked on some maps as old jeep
tracks (we have learned from reliable sources that these areas are to be closed off
for public access in the near future and that this was most likely a last opportunity to
visit these areas). One then requires somebody like Braham that can really read and
understand a map to know where the heck one is going (he was also mad enough to hike in
this area about 13 years ago).
Well, to say the least,
I know now what Alfie Cox must feel like after a couple of sections of the Dakar rally.
The first route we
tackled was an old route through the Rooiberg Mountain range, through to Eksteensfontein.
No, it was not the Helskloof road. That would have been liked a tarred road, corrugation
On this section we
measured our speed in meters/hour since we had a choice: either get through a terrible
section of rocky outcrops and sand, approximately 200 meters plus, or return and take the
Helskloof road. We had to build the road as we went along. My lower vehicle
was in the lead and I had a number of assistants running around dragging and placing large
rocks as I inched forward, slowly, often balancing on a couple of rocks, waiting for the
next section of theroad to be completed.
After a grueling 9
hours, we reached Tierhoek, north of Eksteensfontein, where we camped that evening. That
day we did 53 km in more than 9 hours. It took us about one hour to cover the 200 meters
plus of road building. Well, that was why we there for - to do these trails,
so I should not complain.
At Tierhoek I had my
second puncture, same wheel, different place.
On Saturday morning,
Jaco left us as his wife was not well, and the remaining two vehicles continued in a
northerly direction into the mountains. Poepstof, twisting and turning,
body-rolls, riverbeds, steep climbs and descents; well we had it all - 35 km of it, taking
us over 3 hours, only to get to a gate in the middle of nowhere, locked with a heck of a
cable and a NO ENTRY sign.
The only choice was to
turn back and tackle the 35 km like a Giniel de Villiers. This was terrible. The dust was
so bad that it often completely surrounded the vehicle (this was at a speed of
approximately 10 to 15 km/h). We were forced to stop and wait for it to settle as we had
no idea where we were going or where the road was leading to. Needless to say what the
inside of the vehicles and the air filters looked like with all the dust and sand.
As we planned to stay
over at MacDougalls Bay near Port Nolloth that evening, once we eventually reached
the gravel highway via Lekkersing to Port Nolloth, it was like driving on a cloud!
It was a group of very
weary and tired men that eventually reached MacDougalls Bay camp site. We planned
another days travel down the coast, but with aching backs and kidneys, (and another
excuse, the Namaqualand easterly wind started blowing that night), a bit of motion
sickness (sitting in my camping chair it still felt as if I was moving up and down and
swinging sideways), we decided to call it a day. We achieved what we wanted to, and headed
back home on Sunday.
Watching the video of the trip, it was a
most memorable trip in the company of very good friends. Yes, the 4x4 driving was a
challenge, but at the same time being able to appreciate nature with a group of friends
who also appreciated it, made it so much more enjoyable.