Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Town named Springbok

After the Cedarberg, we drove up into the Northern Cape, the largest province (with the fewest people) in South Africa. Through the barren Knersvlakte (literally translated 'gnashplain') and the distinct rock hills scattered with Quiver trees (Kokerbome) of Namaqualand (a dry, rocky region of South Africa and Namibia about 440 000 square kilometers big) we were headed for Springbok, the biggest town in the area.

Early springtime every year, the brown plains of Namaqualand undergo a stunning transformation and the veld is covered in colors - everything from daisies to succulents flower and attract tourists from all over the world. We've witnessed this phenomenon on a previous vacation trip, however this time we saw what the area looks like most of the year: a semi-desert.

Arriving in Springbok, we camped at Springbok Caravan Park for a few days while looking for a place to stay for 3 weeks (until we go raft the Orange River April 20th). We enjoyed the camping despite a cold wind preventing us from doing school, and went on a few nice walks (the boys enjoyed exploring the veld a lot). We also went on a road trip to Port Nolloth (the nearest coastal town).

My explorations - experimenting with my new camera (thank you ouma and oupa Venter!). 

The road to Port Nolloth. 

Diamond-searching, giant-vacuum-cleaner boats at Port Nolloth. They are basically filtering sand and sediments coming from the Orange River, looking for any precious stones. 

When we finally found a place to rent, it was fully furnished and perfect for our situation. The only quirk was that the house is situated in Springbok's industrial area which turned out to be really safe, comfortable and quiet. To our surprise a truck arrived with mining equipment a week after we moved in, and since then we have been learning more about how to look for different types of stones.

It's amazing to see the variety of stones present in sample loads of soil taken from different farms around the area. 'Oom' Daniel, Ferdie and Dawie are working on sorting and processing the stones every day, and the boys have enjoyed helping them a lot. They even took dad and the boys to a Stock Car racing event that they (of course) thought was awesome. It also inspired new possibilities for the future.... Maarten and Theuns are already planning on the building of their future stock/pipe car (oh dear).

The squad. 

Sorting. Maarten is using a magnet to get the iron out. 

Waiting cars. Watch a video here

Pipe car. 

Springbok itself is not extremely interesting, but it is well located as a stop-over to Upington, Cape Town, the West Coast, the Richtersveld and Namibia. There is a nice church as well as the well-known Springbok Lodge, where a very big collection of rocks/stones/minerals (collected by the owner over 37 years) is permanently exhibited.

The sandstone church. 


We also discovered a monument where an old smelting furnace used to be.  

A noteworthy evening outing was a drive through the Goegap Nature Reserve, a very busy place during flower season, but rather bare the rest of the year. There are many kinds of beauty however, and we had a surprise encounter with a Gemsbok, when we drove around a corner and the creature was standing right next to the road.


A few faraway Gemsbok seeking shade beneath Quiver Trees. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Seven Days in the Cedarberg

After leaving Kruistementvlei Farm (see the previous post) in March, we drove to the stunningly situated Algeria campsite in the Cedarberg (sometimes spelled Cederberg) mountains for a week long retreat. The Cedarberg mountain range is named after an endangered tree found only in the area (the Clanwilliam Cedar), and the mountains are rather famous for strange, dramatic rock formations and San rock art. Our grandparents 'ouma' and 'oupa' Venter joined us for a few days as well, and on the 21st of March we celebrated mom's 45th birthday! Dad did some work, but thankfully we had no school to do so we just relaxed, read books, hiked some really cool trails, camped, and visited with ouma and oupa.

Exploring the mountain stream running through the campsite. 

Glued to the pencil. Gran taught the boys (especially Maarten) to draw 3D objects. Here, they are drawing the Land Rover. 

For mom's birthday, we hiked the 2-3 hour waterfall trail near a big crack ('skeur') in the mountains. With chocolate, mountain champagne, and then real champagne later, it was a fabulous way to celebrate for her and we really enjoyed it.

Imagine the forces which tore this mountain apart...

At the waterfall. Granted, there were more algae and plants than water, but oh well. 

Fascination with frogs and tadpoles never cease. 

We love you, mom. 

A longer but very impressive hike we did another day is the Wolfberg (literally, 'wolf mountain') Arch which took us about 6 hours. It was absolutely worth it, not just because of the Arch, but also because of the rocks and boulder formations along the way.

First sighting. 

Revived by lunch after 3 hours of walking. 

Smile! Not that anyone can see if you don't...

 Strange rocks.