Northern Cape: Kilometers pass more quickly than miles

An index of the Northern Cape series appears at the first post.

July 8, 2016

Occasionally, geography dictates a quiet day for your vacation. We enjoyed our time around Keimoes, but it was time to head south to the Western Cape. We opted for a different route back than we had taken to come north. It would take us west on the N14 through Pofadder to Springbok and then south on the N7 through Vanrhynsdorp to Clanwilliam. What would we see during our traversal of Namaqualand?

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Map of our long driving day

Since we had a long day of travel ahead, we arose at 5 A.M. again. By six we had left Kemoies, heading west. After forty-five minutes, we passed the exit to Augrabies Falls and were in new territory. Almost immediately, the speed limit increased to 120 kph, and it was obvious why; the road was almost completely straight and level, and few cars shared it with us. Natasha dozed off while I chewed up the kilometers.

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The Strawberry enjoyed its fill-up, despite the dust.

After a total driving time of 90 minutes, we reached our first town. Pofadder is named after Korana chief Klaas Pofadder. Our approach from the east gave us an impressive view of the town from above it on a slope. A grain silo and radio tower rose above the northern half of the town, while a water tower dominated the south. The N14 took us directly to the Pofadder Auto, and we pulled in for gas. The lot for the gas station was simply dirt. When we stopped for a restroom break, we used a two Rand coin for access to the bathrooms while a young attendant filled the gas tank (self-service is not an option at South African gas stations).

When we returned to the road, Natasha pulled out a surprise! She had acquired a roll of Wilson’s XXX mints. I ate three. We had agreed to switch off drivers every two hours, but I felt a sense of adventure, so I continued driving.

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Kilometers and kilometers of gazing…

The landscape reminded me of Northern Colorado, to some extent. Natasha explained that we were traversing the Richtersveld; a veld is a scrub land. This area is particularly remarkable for having been returned to its original inhabitants, the Nama people, in 2007 by the South African government from Alexkor, a diamond mining parastatal.

I was a bit surprised to see more animals as we continued on this route. A gemsbok (“hhems-bock”) pointed its long face at us from the left, and shortly thereafter we spied a family of springbok on the right. We began to see more koppies along the way.

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Locally, we would call this small hill a “koppie.”

The hills became mountains as we reached Springbok. The city lies in a valley surrounded by mountains (I was reminded of Phoenix). We drove to an upper part of the city, next to a lovely NG (Dutch Reformed) gemeente Namakwaland (community of Namaqualand) church.

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Show me a remote South African town, and I will show you a beautiful church.

We decided to walk through the town to find a coffee shop.  We walked down to the main street (the R355 is also called “Voortrekker”) and turned north to walk into an area with a furniture store.  We turned east onto Luckhoff Street, where we found a an art framing shop / hair salon / coffee shop.  I enjoyed a hot chocolate while Natasha drank some tea.  I noticed the art on the walls; Natasha liked a couple renderings of quiver trees.

Soon, though, we left the shop and began retracing our steps.  I was behaving like a tourist, taking photos along the way.  As we got closer to Voortrekker, Natasha signaled me to put my camera away.  Later she explained that we had been followed by a street person who appeared to be high.  I was entirely clueless.

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By the end of this street, my camera was in potential peril.

Once we were back on the main street, we circumnavigated a koppie in the center of town. It was covered with plants from this semi-arid area. it was clear, though, that this site had once been some sort of memorial; a brick structure at the front walk appeared to have been stripped of two plaques. Instead, a single sign near the top of the mound simply read “Namaqualand Uprising, 1792-1799.”  We later learned that the stone work at the top represented a British fortification destroyed by J.C. Smuts.  The plaque points to an earlier event, a conflict that began when a group of Khoe attacked five farms in the area.  Several commandos (armed groups of Boers) soon fought a large force of Khoesan along the Buffels River, near present-day Springbok [from The Struggle for Liberation and Freedom in the Northern Cape (1850-1994), p. 18].

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This botanical treasure divides a major road in Springbok.

We had been in Springbok less than an hour, but the road was calling to us. Natasha slid behind the wheel, and we were soon headed south through a mountain pass on the N7. She definitely drew the short end of the stick for driving. We ran through approximately seven road maintenance areas. Since the highway had only one lane in each direction, the traffic in one direction was stopped while the queue of cars from the other direction was allowed to pass through the single open lane. We encountered several ten minute waits on the road south. The other factor came from the mountainous terrain south of Springbok. Because she was driving, Natasha experienced less road-sickness than might have been the case if I were steering!

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Once you pass out of the hills south of Springbok, you will see miles of scrub.

The N7 passed near towns on the way south, but in most cases the highway did not become a main road for those towns. We paused at a roadside stop to eat some lunch. The table featured a central mound of bird droppings, sadly. I took over driving after Natasha had invested three hours behind the wheel.  In the distance, we could see the edge of the escarpment we had ascended to enter the Northern Cape.  At Vanrhysdorp, we paused for gas, and then we cruised for the last 45 minutes to Clanwilliam.

We passed through Clanwilliam on our first travel day, but we planned another day to enjoy the town of 7600 inhabitants properly.  The name of the town is attributed to two different origins.  In one case, it was named after the endangered Clanwilliam Cypress.  In the other, the town is named after the father-in-law of governor Sir John Craddock.  As we climbed to the east of the small town, a lovely panorama presented itself to our eyes:

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To the left (South), we can see the township and new RDP homes. To the right, we can see the more formal parts of the city.

Our longest driving day was over!

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One thought on “Northern Cape: Kilometers pass more quickly than miles

  1. Pingback: Northern Cape: Climbing the Highveld | Picking Up The Tabb

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