Places with names like Kakamas, Keimoes, Pofadder and Upington seem to belong in another world and thankfully they do. They are part of a collective ‘secret hideaway’ where those seeking solitude, peacefulness and bright blue skies in the midst of winter, can escape to.
Upington is located along the Orange / Gariep river and is approximately 8 hours from Cape Town or Johannesburg. As one approaches the Orange river district, dust gives way to fertile valleys where wine and table grapes account for most agricultural activity. In fact the Orange River Cellars Co-operative is the second-largest in the world and in terms of table grape exports, this area accounts for most exported grapes from South Africa.
In terms of tourism activities the area offers much and within an hour’s drive from the centre of town, you reach the Augrabies Falls National Park. An immaculate property with friendly and super-efficient staff that do SanParks proud. The accommodation offered includes camping and chalets and the units are well maintained and spacious. Activities within the park include walks to the Falls, along a boardwalk which is wheelchair friendly, game drives to view Eland, Klipspringer, Zebra, Cape Hyrax (Dassies). The geology is fascinating with “pop-ups” occuring as a result of erosion.
Augrabies National Park and Upington are perfect overnight stops en route to the Kgaligadi Transfrontier Park. This park, formerly known as the Kalahari Gemsbok Park, is located within South Africa and Botswana and is unique due to the fact that previous fences have been taken down to allow the animals to move freely across the 3million hectare land, hence the naming, Transfrontier. The entry point from South Africa is at Twee Rivieren and a new border control facility is currently being built that will house SA and Botswana passport control officials.
Twee Rivieren takes it names from the two rivers, Auob and Nossob, that meet at the south-western tip of the park. The park offers accommodation, shop and petrol facilities and it is here that final preparations are to be made before heading inland. There are several wilderness camps such as Kielie Krankie, Bitterpan and Urikaruus and what makes them appealing is the fact that they are open camps i.e. no fencing so animals wander in at night. Add to this the lack of cellphone reception and you have natural bliss!
So what does Kgaligadi mean? It is the name of the first black tribe that entered the area in the 19th century and over time integrated with the San and Mier people. The first European colonists were the British soldiers sent in during the German occupation of the former German South West Africa. South African soldiers were also deployed to the area to create a buffer zone in the event of the Germans heading south /south east of Windhoek. The arrival of the soldiers led to the formation of a series of boreholes along the Auob river and subsequent allocation of farms after WWI. An interesting aspect of these boreholes is that the Blue Wildebeest in the area had a preference for the fresh water as opposed to the river water – a trait that exists today! Both the Nossob and Auob rivers are bone dry and water is pumped in. Best animal sightings are in both river beds.
In December 2007, the Mata Mata border post was opened to give access into Namibia. However, passage from South Africa into Namibia may only take place after a minimum stay of two nights in the park. While this may frustrate certain travellers, it ensures that the park is not turned into a race track and used merely as an access point. On the subject of travel, 4×4 vehicles are preferred from a conservation point of view, causing minimal damage to the roads and in terms of vehicle performance, reliability and wear and tear, they are a must.
A suggested travel tip is to take pencils, books and crayons to hand out to children within the remote areas – the smile on their faces is worth the extra baggage!
Bookings for Augrabies National Park and Kgaligadi Transfrontier Park may be done through Central Reservations: www.sanparks.com