From Diary 5
10/12. Early to bed means early up - I wake half a minute to six! Unfortunately, my co-traveller needs two hour sleep more and then a cosy breakfast. Once again, I misses the great morning light for photos. We have been sleeping under a huge peppertree, and the small huts along the river are cowered in blue flowered Ipomoea.
The plan for to day is to hit down the C13 to Noodoewer, and cross the border to South Africa. It is a cold morning, unlike last evening. Only 27C, and quite a wind. I feel cold, and have to find my fleece jacked. Boy, it is going to be hard to return to Denmark and it's frost!!!
There are only 50 kilometres to the border, and the landscape seems likely to be the same as we been driving through the last couple of days. Just before the border, we gas, and checkout of Namibia. Passes the Oranje river, and have to visit three offices to get stamped before we are released in South Africa.
First, we drive through huge, almost black mountains. Here are only little vegetation, and the sun have still not come out to play. We reaches the high plain, and it is an amassing succulent garden. We have little time because of a 100 kilometres de-tour to Springbok, to read some mail, and we push hard through this fascinating landscape.
We make only one stop to pack some things, and wander around only to find a "new" Sarcocaulon, and to my surprise, a giant Lavrnia marlothii, someone have ditched in the trash of the picnic stop. It is even a crassulated specimen! I plant it under a small succulent bush, and hope the best for it. It does not come from just around here.
It turns into waste, flat hills and then small rock mountains. They are covered in succulents, and even one special plant I recognises from my visit in 2005. It is a giant Aloe dichotoma, which is said to be the largest of it's kind. Sure hope to get some new shoots of this magnificent plant on the way back.
Springbok might be the large town around here, but it is not more than a sleepy colonial outpost. We find internet in a computer repair shop in a side alley, find a ATM and do a bit of shopping. Christmas is all over the place, and the tunes sound a lot familiar, although the Afrikaans are a bit hard to understand.
Back on N7, towards Namibia again. We make a fast stop at the giant Aloe. My travel companion is disappointed by the mount of succulents - finds only ten, of which eight is new. On the other hand had he only bothered to walk twenty metres, and not used the usual one to three hours on a stop!
In Steinkop, we turn out of a bad gravel road. It is the road to Port Nolorth, but we only follows it to the Eksteenfontein road. It turns even worth, but we finally makes it to the outpost. This is really South African out-back. Weird mix of colours, lots of dusty, barren soil and some spreader concrete huts. It is, after all, 90 kilometres from the nearest dirt road, and in the not used corner of South Africa.
We pay the fee to Richtersveld Community Conservation on the post office/tourist info/anything, but it turns out the road for the planned camp have been washed away, and the next is 45 kilometres away, but a almost non-existing gravel road.
We head that way, and meet a goat owner in his car with his sheppard and goats in front. Some distance out of town, we make a camp for our selves. What might being intended as a pool for thirsty sheep and goats makes a excellent cover for our car and tents, and it even provides some shelter for the cold wind. The temperature have dropped to a shivering 20C, and I feel just fine inside the parked car.
There seems to be a lot of bees in this area, and they all are thirsty. We have some spilled water in the back of the car, and soon, it is filled with bees. The all vanish with the coming of an other astonishing sunset. We are in what I believe must be the stronghold of Tylecodon paniculatus, and it will be interesting to explore the surroundings tomorrow.
11/12. It have been a freezing night. Temperature down to 10C with a fresh wind in not really what i was prepared for. On top of that have a heavy dew fallen, and inside my tent, condense water have wetted my pillow and foot end of the sleeping bag.
Although the surroundings still are slightly covered in mist, they seems really interesting. A huge amount of large flowering Tylecodon paniculatus stands tall among other succulents. After a fast and delightful cup of warm coffee, we head back through Eksteenfontaein to a small park around Rooibang and Black Face Mountains.
Waste areas are totally covered with a small, but eagerly flowering succulent with large, white flowers. We will see this beautiful plant the rest of the day, sometimes covering fields over one square kilometre.
One of the first things I see is a puffadder, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world! It is only a very young snake, and it is in a hurry to get away. Never the less, it is a warning: Here are quite a range of deathly animals around.
Besides from that, here are the usual fat Sarcocaulon, a Commiphora we probably have seen before, Tylecodon pearsonii, a Cucurbitaceae with egg shaped and spiky fruits, a few Pachypodium namaquanum, two "new" Avonias, one is Avonia herreana the smooth, white one , a "new" fat Hoodia with small, yellow flowers.
After 30 kilometres on tiny wheel tracks, crossing several small, dry rivers, we head back through Eksteenfontaien and out of the back road, north west to Sanddrift. It is a challenge for the car, but the succulent covered hills are a reward for us.
The area seems a bit more green, and the succulent are giving way for less fat plants. Before we hit the open plain, we find two "new" Stapelia and we see again the lovely Tylecodon wallichii, this time with plenty of yellow flowers. Some small, multi branched Aloes are rarely seen, while the large Aloes can be seen on most ridges.
One stop reveals two large owls, which have been sleeping under a bust. Guess we have scared each other the same! We take a long detour cross a farmers fields on his watering trail. It brings us closer to some hills, but not to any interesting succulents, but a blue lizard.
It is six o'clock, and we find us selves in an unknown territory without map, plan or ides. Spends the next two and a half hour chasing ghost mine towns on bad gravel roads, only to camp in a ravine next to a dried-up river. Luckily, the wind slows down after some time. The moon is full, and it seems like we once again are in interesting landscape, but without bath.
12/12. It turns out to be a great spot we have found in the dark. The tents are relatively protected from the wind in a narrow ravine, and we are almost invincible from the road. The temperature have dropped, but only to 17C, and I have slept most of the night.
Just before we leave, I check the premises for interesting plants. Only one I find is huge colonies of black lichens. We head out to the Alexanderbaai-Sendelingsdrift road, which is a line of mines. Some fore minerals, some for diamonds. Common for them are their fences and warnings about crossing the line. Luckily, there are some farmlands in-between, and we can explore the rocky hills.
The first stop reveals a great variation over the succulent plant, growing in rocks covered in sand dunes. Here we find Othonna clavifolia in flower and a more bushy Othonna, two Tylecodons, Bulbine frutescens, the usual fat, spiny Sarcocaulon, Lavrnia marlothii, some small Conophytoms, a real fat Euphorbia, two flowering Pelargoniums and a lot of leave succulents. The sun have not penetrated the clouds which comes from the sea, but almost.
We reaches some flat hills, and I remain in the car while my co-explorer searches for a specific plant; Monsonia multifida. We stop at most hills on the way, and do some de-tours down the farmers watering roads, but without much luck.
There are a cold wind blowing from the sea, and I have seen all the plants I guess can be found here, both on this tour, and on my 2005 tour. I have gotten a Harry Potter book on CD, and remains in the car, listening to this catching story. Have to get out to check some rocks at one point, where they are sandblasted.
We finally makes to Alexanderbaai/Alexander Bay and fill up the car. We had planned to do a bit of shopping before the weekend, but it seems like this big town belongs to one company. The entrance is just like a border crossing, except there is only one. Passport and documents to fill out, but we get in.
The mall is in the other end of the rather large town, containing several social activities like a golf course and a lot of rather nice concrete houses with nice gardens. The supermarket look like something from the '60-ties with no design at all and half empty shelves. The girl at the counter does not bother to take her feet down. It is not one of the big chains, and there are n competition. It is just a necessarity for the workers.
Anyway, we almost gets what we were searching for, and head back to the Alexanderbaai-Sendelingsdrift road in search for the legendary/legend Sarcocaulon. At five, he have found some small plants, and while stopping to look for more and have a nice view over Oranje River, we head back to Brandkaros ant a campsite.
We can find the nice lawns, some restored bungalows and some caravans, but no office or people at all. No problem for me, here are showers with warm water, and I'm satisfied. Later, some big families with a lot of children arrivals, and it seems like will have more noise than last night. On top of that, the temperature drops drastic after dark.
13/12. Sleep well, even though the evening was a bit noisy due to our neighbours. A group of black faced vervet monkeys are roaming the campsite, but they seems to avoid us. Two spectacle birds takes a special interest in my co-traveller's bread, but are scared away.
We leave the campsite well over sunrise, and visit the neighbour hill to the one we saw the day before yesterday morning. Here are still no Monsonia multifida, and besides from some purple rocks and a single skinny Asparagaceae, nothing else of interest.
We take a de-tour to Sanddrift, a little coloured community along the Oranje River. Not to see the town, but by mistake. Back on track, we head for Sendelingsdrift. Make a few "Monsonia multifida stops", but still no luck. We reaches Richtersveld National Park, but because "There are nothing of interest", we go straight to the border crossing.
Fill out some papers, answer some questions, and we are off to "the two car cable ferry" at high noon. Life west on, and we crosses the 25 meter Oranje River, and are back in Namibia. We drive straight to Rosh Pinah to do another Monsonia multifida search on the neighbour hill we didn't find anything on last time we were here.
This time, it turns out to be just as fruits less as last time. Not even the rocks are interesting! This range will from now on stand in my memory as Mount Boring. Spend some time running a lizard tiered while waiting, and start a needed - but not efficient - corrector on my writings. It is only 40C in the car, which provide the only shadow around here.
It is three o'clock, and I'm told we need four or five hours to do a walk in the back of our camp, and that will be tomorrow.. We spend the waiting time drive to the other side of town, which contains as boring hills as the other side. Could have been cool to spend that time in Richtersveld National Park!
The fourteen kilometres drive to the camp by a succulent garden brings a "new" medium sized Aloe, which I have seen plenty of in the south of South Africa and an explanation of, what the read columns on the hills is. That is an other Aloe.
Reaches the camp in good time to do a bit of washing, and try to finish the diary and photos before the mosquito attack.
14/12. We start early , and leave the camp on foot. It is a cold morning after a cold night, and we are hidden behind the mountains, which make the sun is delayed. Heading around the mountain on a hiking trail, which leads over the pan and a bit up the foothills. It turns out to be short trail, leading to the camps borehole. We look up the steep but vegetation covered mountain side, and decides to go for the summit.
First interesting plant we find is a parasite, growing on the roots of Euphorbias. It is only the rotten meat smelling flower who makes to the surface, and we are a day too early for this one. Never he less, it is still interesting to see this bizarre flower of Hydnora africana.
We push upwards on the 30-50% steep mountain side, and try to find new or better looking plants. Here are a lot of those we have seen lately, and some giant bulbs, the size of a head. It is a succulent rock garden we walks through, and we see, among others, giant Pachypodium namaquanum, the Aloe from yesterday, some "new" Conophytums, A heavy thorny Aloe, and a lot of flowering plants in general.
Here are a few larger animals too. One of the usual rabbits takes off a meter from me, a dense bush hisses at me - and I leave it alone, a couple of klipspringes runs scared away on the other side of the gorge, and I almost steps on an other little puffadder.
We reaches the summit after three hours of intense climbing. It is only 550 meters above the camp, but it felt like 1500 metres! There are a magnificent view over the nearby mountains and walleyes and even the city, fifteen kilometres away.
We decides to try another way down, and even though I spot a easy one, I chooses the very steep one. This leads me bye some of the red Aloe columns, which strangely enough seems to have either bright red or yellow flowers, right next to each other. Further more, I find several groups of the huge bulbs, which sadly enough are dormant at present time.
Back at the camp, it is time for shower and coffee. We leave at one o'clock, and makes a 25 milometer de-tour to make a photo of one of the hills we visit yesterday. Back to Rosh Pinah to buy airtime for a cell phone, and them up C13 to meet D463.
This nice gravel road is a road leading from farm to farm. We follows it to D459 - just the same - until Goageb. 177 kilometres, meeting three cars. The landscape is astonishing. Huge, yellow fields, green rivers, black mountains and endless savannah. We cut a corner of Ai-Ais&Fish River Canyon, and close bye, we first scares a group of zebras and then a little group of kudos.
We reaches Goageb in perfect time to find a camp - but it is only four houses and a closed gas station. We head back D459 and find a nice spot in the road side, just before dusk. A bit of wind, but the temperature is on the right side of 25C, and will remain over 20C during the night.
And now to Diary 7