Namaqualand Never Gives Up
go! - South Africa|November 2019
Namaqualand Never Gives Up
The drought is taking a toll on the wildflowers of Namaqualand and you might be wondering if this region has anything else to offer. Of course it does! Take it slow and watch your step – beauty grows everywhere.
Sophia Van Taak

I ’ve never been this deep into the Kamiesberg before. I had no idea there were such beautiful granite koppies tucked away between the N7 and the flats of Bushmanland. And just look at all the quiver trees! But I shouldn’t get distracted – the other hikers are way ahead of me. Before I catch up, though, I’ll just duck behind that rock for a quick nature break… Cobra! Inky black, with its hood raised. I leap back onto the farm road. My hands are shaking from fright.

Now I’ve fallen even further behind. Thank goodness I can still see the orange bibs of the rest of the group in the distance. Most of my fellow hikers on this week-long walking tour of Namaqualand hail from Gauteng; two are from KZN and there are a handful from Cape Town. Frik Olwage and Luan Fourie are our guides. The third member of the support team, Karen de Wet, crawls along in the minibus.

Last night we arrived on the farm Pedroskloof, about 20 km east of Kamieskroon, and we’ll spend the next five days walking in different parts of the greater Namaqualand area – the Kamiesberg, Namaqua National Park, the Knersvlakte and the Olifants River Valley. Some days will be shorter, and a minibus will take us from one beautiful spot to the next; other days we’ll walk as far as 20 km.

The Kamiesberg

The tour kicks off with a 20 km day. This morning, Frik dropped us off on the Arakoop/ No Heep road near Kamieskroon, about 10 km east of the N7. From there, we’ll be walking almost directly south.

I’m not rushing to catch up with the rest of the group. It’s hot. A white Isuzu bakkie approaches from afar. The farmer pulls over and shakes my hand – Gert Beukes from the farm De Tuine. A few bags of cattle feed are on the back of his bakkie and I spy a loaf of store-bought bread in the footwell of the passenger seat. Clearly he went into town today. Gert asks where I’m going and I point to the orange bibs disappearing over the next ridge. He offers me a lift. It’s tempting, but I’m here to hike.

The landscape seems pristine – and ancient. The Khoi name for this region is Th’amies, which means “jumble”, and I can see why: If you wanted to disappear, this place of boulders and gorges could easily swallow you whole.

Namaqualand is usually in full bloom at this time of the year, but the ongoing drought has played havoc. There are only small pockets of wildflowers in the landscape. It doesn’t matter: It’s still incredibly scenic here, between Brandbergkop and Osplaat se Berg, with quiver trees dotted all around. I spot the odd perdebos with yellow flowers; bright purple Babiana dregei; the unmistakable broad leaves of a suikerkannetjie and the sheltered white cup of an uilblaar. Thin clouds are scribbled all over the sky. The only sound I can hear is the crunch of my shoes on the gravel surface of the road. A pair of Verreauxs’ eagles hover overhead. I stop and watch their spiraling flight for a while until one disappears behind a cliff. Its mate follows – they must have spotted a dassie.

I finally catch up to the others, but I keep to the back of the group to enjoy the silence a little longer. This morning, the thought of walking 20 km was disheartening – even scary – but now it feels like everyone has hit their stride and found a walking buddy. We’re making good progress.

About three-quarters of the way, Karen brings us to a halt next to the Anegas farmyard and unpacks lunch: pasta salad, fruit, cheese, crackers, and iced tea. We eat and talk and stretch. There’s a complaint about blisters, and Frik reties someone’s shoelaces. I can feel a sharp pain in my left hip. Carmen de Lange from Durban is a physiotherapist and promises to have a look later.

The long way around to Skilpad

A crowing rooster at Pedroskloof wakes me at about 4 am. Ah, good morning ITB, my old friend. Carmen gave me a once over last night and told me that the source of my pain was my iliotibial band (ITB), which stretches from the outside of the hip to the knee.

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November 2019