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Namaqualand Attractions, Northern Cape.
A place of rare and exquisite beauty, an unspoilt expanse of open spaces broken by ancient outcrops of granite. Bound by the Orange (Gariep) River in the north and the Atlantic in the west, its southern and eastern borders lie beyond Garies and Pofadder (Puffadder).
Once the domain of the San (Bushmen), the arid, semi-desert soil hides reservoirs of mineral wealth. It is a region where diamonds are more plentiful than rain. To this day, the pioneering spirit of 17th century prospectors watch over Springbok, the heart and capital of Namaqualand’s old Copper Trail. Namaqualand will entice you into exploring her innermost secrets. Let “Die Verdwaalwereld” (The World of Disappearing) in the northeast fill you with nature’s tranquillity. Gaze in wonder at Pella’s magnificent Catholic Cathedral, erected over seven years with faith, grim determination and an encyclopaedia to guide its builders.
A hiker and bikers paradise. Pella borders the 642-km Namakwa 4x4 route, an unforgettable journey towards South Africa’s last true wilderness – the Richtersveld. It is the largest proclaimed mountain desert in South Africa. The unforgiving moonscape is watched over by the tall willowy “halfmens” (half-human), Pachypodium namaquanum. Canoe or raft the Orange River to the sea where, on the Diamond Coast, the icy Benguela Current lashes the shore, pink flamingos wade and anglers strike it rich.
In spring, Namaqualand hosts the greatest flower show on earth. See the apparently barren earth explode into blazing carpets of colour. Wander dreamscapes of daisies, herbs, succulents, lilies and a myriad of other species in the 1000-Ha Skilpad Wildflower Reserve. All too soon the show is over and the harsh dry heat reclaims the parched land, baking it with a searing intensity.
The land of the Nama is nature’s playground, a kingdom of contracts where indescribable beauty and rigorous adventure create a natural wonderland. Places of interest include:
• Richtersveld National Park. Twisted and faulted, seared by the blistering sun, the crenellated lava mountains and sandy plains in the crook of the Orange River form South Africa’s largest mountain desert park. Surrealistically harsh, it nurtures 30% of all South Africa’s succulent species. With less than 50 mm of rain each year, it is home to leopards, lizards and adventurers. Explore it from the comfort of your 4x4 or paddle long stretches of the river. Contact +27 (27) 831 1506 telephone, +27 (27) 831 1175 fax.
• Goegap Nature Reserve. 15-km southeast of Springbok. This 15000-Ha reserve supports 600 indigenous flower species, 45 mammal species (including springbok, gemsbok and Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra), 94 bird species and several reptile and amphibian species. The Hester Malan Wild Flower Garden, a 4x4 trail and a three-day hiking and mountain biking (cycling) trail are additional features. Open daily from 08h00-16h00. Contact +27 (27) 712 1880 telephone, +27 (27) 718 1286 fax.
• Skilpad Section of the Namaqua National Park. This 1000-Ha reserve captures the grandeur of the flower season. It catches much of what little moisture blows in off the sea. As a result, Skilpad is magnificent in years when the surrounding areas are less than splendid. Open only during the flower season. Contact +27 (27) 672 1948 telephone, +27 (27) 672 1675 fax.
• Namaqua 4x4 Route. Starting at the Pella Mission Station, it follows the Orange River for 642-km to the sea – the 4x4 adventure of a lifetime. Cross the Namaqualand Brokenveld, False Succulent Karoo, Western Mountain Karoo and Arid Karoo, Succulent Karoo and Sandveld. Meet Namaqualand’s inhabitants on this 2-8 day route—mostly goatherds living in reed huts. Cross from the summer rainfall into the winter rainfall region and see magnificent geological formations. Contact the Regional Information Office, Springbok at +27 (27) 712 2011 telephone, +27 (27) 712 1421 fax.
• Springbok. In a narrow valley bisecting the granite domes of the Klein Koperberge (small copper mountains). It exists because of copper mining that took place after 1850, and a ready supply of water. In the late 1870’s, most Springbok residents moved to the new but drought-stricken claims at Okiep. The Regional Tourism Office is housed in the old Anglican Church (1921). Springbok’s first mine, the Blue Mine, includes a walking trail offering good views of the town. The smelting furnace, unused since 1871, is a national monument. East of Springbok, at Carolusberg, is the mineshaft that was sunk in 1685 at the instruction of Simon van der Stel. Buildings of note include the Dutch Reformed Church (Klipkerk) bult in 1921 and the Synagogue, completed in 1929 and now used as the Namaqualand Museum. Monument Koppie, a small hill in the centre of town, was wrested from the British by Boers during the Anglo-Boer War. Graves of mining pioneers dating back to 1860 lie in the Old Cemetery on the Kleinzee road. Spinning and weaving are on display at Komaggas, 50-km on the Kleinzee road. Get a rare taste of Nama life at Namastat. Stay in a traditional, dome shaped reed hut (matjieshuis).
• Aggenys. Off the N14. Aggenys (place of water) is a copper, zinc, lead and silver mining complex. In an oasis. Stop and enjoy a round of golf.
• Alexander Bay. Famous since diamonds were discovered along the West Coast in 1925. The town is no longer a high security area. Today mine tours uncover the mystery of this gem. Booking is essential. Visit the Orange River Estuary, an internationally recognised RAMSAR site renowned for its prolific birdlife. More than 75 species of waterbird have been spotted. Excellent angling in the mouth of the Orange River. One of the world’s largest desert lichen fields, with 30 species, lies atop a hill east of town. A variety of watersports, including cycling, hiking and canoeing.
• Concordia. 22-km northeast of Springbok. Orbicule Koppie, west of Concordia, is the best example of orbicular diorite in the country. This rare rock type was previously found only in Scandinavia. The United Reformed Church is worth a visit.
• Garies. The Letterklip (letter stone) comprises several enormous boulders carrying the names of early Namaqualand travellers. British soldiers stationed here in 1901-1902 chiselled their regiment’s coat of arms into the rocks.
• Hondeklip Bay. A favourite holiday destination for the surrounding community. 104-km southwest of Springbok on a gravel road, the Messelpad Pass and Soebatsfontein, a quaint village next to a spring at the foot of the escarpment. Copper, brought here from Springbok, was shipped from the harbour. It now serves fishing and diamond boats. Dive for crayfish in season. The wreck of the Aristra, which ran aground in 1945, lies south of the town. Circular routes back to the N7 make for spectacular scenic drives during the flower season. Stay at De Honnehok Chalets:
+27 (27) 652 3041 telephone
+27 (27) 652 3022 fax
• Kamieskroon. On the N7 south of Springbok. Amidst huge granite masses and rock formations of the Kamieskroon Mountains. Site of an Anglo-Boer War Memorial. A hiker’s paradise, a guide is available for unmarked trails. A celebrated photographer conducts workshops here in September, October, March and April.
• Kleinzee/Koingnaas. Closed to those without permits. Namaqualand’s Diamond Coast. 4x4 routes, unspoilt beaches and a restaurant. Permits must be arranged 5 days in advance and can be obtained from Diamond Coast Tours, +27 (27) 877 0313 telephone and fax.
• Leliefontein. Set you watch to a sundial given to its 19th century founder, Reverend Barnabas Shaw. At the Leliefontein Mission Station. Cycle the mountain biking trails. The Methodist Church and Parsonage are national monuments. Beautiful wildflowers can be seen at Kharkams, a settlement south of Leliefontein. A Cultural Camp in Paulshoek, in the heart of the Kamiesberge, offers tourists an opportunity to enjoy traditional meals and stay in traditional Nama (matjies) huts. Southeast of Kamieskroon.
• Nababeep. Home of the Okiep Copper Company and the region’s largest copper mining town. A Mining Museum charts the history of the copper boom. Clara, a narrow-gauge steam locomotive that hauled copper ore to Port Nolloth, is on display. Open Monday to Friday from 10h00 to 13h00 and 14h00 to 17h00 and Saturdays from 10h00 to 13h00.
• Okiep. From the Nama word U-gieb (great brackish spring). Until production ceased in 1919, Okiep was the world’s richest copper mine. The Cornish Beam Pump, used from 1882 to pump water from the mine, is the centre of attraction. Fort Shelton, on the road between Okiep and Concordia, was the main fortification of the Home Guard during the siege of Okiep in May 1902. The United Reformed Church, built in 1875, is worth a visit.
• Pella. Founded by the London Missionary Society in 1814. Named after a village that provided refuge to Christians in Macedonia in biblical times. Date farming on a large scale. The cathedral took two monks seven years to build with only the aid of an encyclopaedia. Enjoy the hospitality of the coffee bar or spend a night in a traditional Nama Hut.
• Port Nolloth (Portnolloth). Established as small vessel harbour and railway junction in 1854. Its shallow, narrow entrance makes it unsuitable for ore carriers. The centre of the diamond and crayfishing industries and the only holiday resort on the Diamond Coast. Dredgers and fishing trawlers etched against spectacular sunsets, clean beaches, calm seas and the antics of occasional seals as well as good line fishing and crayfish aplenty. Purchase fish and crayfish from the factory in season. See also the historical cemetery, museum and oyster farm. Good examples of Nama culture at Lekkersing, north of Port Nolloth. A cluster of seaside cottages, houses and camping sites at the popular boating, fishing and crayfishing resort of McDougall’s Bay, south of Port Nolloth.
• Richtersveld. Four communities living in the Richtersveld are excellent examples of Nama culture. Ecksteenfontein hosts a community guesthouse and serves traditional meals. Sanddrift, on the banks of the Gariep River, offers good angling opportunities. Khubus houses a museum. Experience Nama hospitality at Lekkersing.
• Steinkopf. The Dutch reformed Church has been renovated and hosts artworks from famous artists. Good examples of semi-precious stones can be found in the area.
• Vioolsdrift. The official border post with Namibia. Several camps in the area where one can camp, swim and hire canoes. Petroglyphs are located 23-km from the border towards the Richtersveld. AVNamaqualand
Contct: Namaqualand Tourism Information offices
Box 5 Springbok 8240
+27 (27) 712 2011 telephone
+27 (27) 712 1421 fax
4937/5%Last update: 2014-02-28 15:53
Author: Alan McIver
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