Africa trips

Richtersveld - 2006

Overlanding Trips

We left Pretoria on 31 March 2006. Normally we would have taken the Krugersdorp highway, then to Ventersdorp, Coligny, Biesiesvlei, etc. But now that the new platinum toll road to Rustenburg is completed it is much easier to get on the N4 and then turn left towards Koster just after Rustenburg. You will get Koster, then Lichtenburg and connect with the normal old road at Biesiesvlei. I normally prevent Ventersdorp because for some reason I ALWAYS get a speeding fine there. Even now that I know they catch you, I start driving 100Km/h 15Km before the time, but religiously I get my fine in the post for doing 124 in a 100 zone. Personally I think they are committing fraud big time. So prevent Ventersdorp.

Our first stop was at Augrabies falls. We camped there for the evening. From Pretoria to Augrabies is about 9 hours drive(or more if you drive a landy). So you have to leave early. The falls was quite spectacular after the good rains. Because the next days drive was only about 600Km we went for a walk the next morning in the park. The colours of the rocks are beautiful just after sunrise.

Mc Douggles Bay
We left Augrabies only at about 10h00. Filled up again at Pofadder. We visited Pella. This is a must, it is only a 30Km drive out there. Some people stay on some of the guest farms in the Pella area when they travel to the Richtersveld. It is a beautiful area but personally I think that makes the trip on the day you go to the park to long. So we stayed in an old asbestos house of a friend in McDougall's Bay, just next to Port Nolloth. There is a very nice camping site in McDougall's. It is right on the sea. So the next time I would rather camp there than staying in a house.
Alexander Bay
The next day on our way to Sendelingsdrift, we stopped at Alexander Bay to go to the area where the Orange River flows into the sea. I photographed these old mining structures there. The town is nothing for the eye and it heart breaking to see how they kill our nature only to get hold of a couple of silly shiny rocks.
After Alexander Bay you will travel on a fairly good gravel road all the way to Sendelingsdrift. There are fuel pumps available, so we filled up just for incase. After we booked in and started moving out to Potjiespram, our 10 year old commented "This does not actually look like a holiday place". The first part of the park is a mine. Ugly and worst of all you drive on a graded road for the first 4 Km. These people make a joke of the word "conservation". So after 4Km of badly corrugated road we turn left towards Potjiespram and things started to look better. WARNING: Do not be mislead by the surrounding towns' temperatures. It was 30 on Port Nolloth, 32 in Alexander Bay and only 45 Degrees Celsius in the Richtersveld park.
Richtersveld Park
The Potjiespram camping site is next to the river. The safest place to swim is if you drive back from where you came from until you reach the bend where you will turn left to go out of Potjiespram. There on the right hand side is a nice hole where you can swim.
Oranje Rivier
The orange river was very full after the rains. The current was flowing very strong and one could only swim on the side.
Potjiespram Richtersveld
The mountain next to the river.
Richtersveld Ablution
Ablution facilities at potjiespram
Orange River
Swimming at Potjiespram
The next day we left Potjiespram for De Hoop. You go back the same way as you came in and then at the fork in the road turn left. Although the mountains are bare with almost no vegetation, it is still beautiful. On this route you will find a lot of "Halfmens". They normally grow on the Soutern slopes of the mountains. Apparently you will see more plants and flowers in September.
Nissan Terrano
The worst roads in the park are the graded roads. I think they are there for the mining activities. They are heavily corrugated and it is almost better to travel next to the road. Luckily after Oena the graded road stop and you start on a 2 wheel track which you travelled 1500Km far to get on. This is what you were looking for. After the Oena turn-off you will go through a small mountain pass. At last a small challenge. It is not that steep, even with the trailer we went up and down without any hassles.
Waiting for the traffic to clear before we decent.
You will regulary find these sharp rocks. It seems as if they shattered from the heat.
Sharp rocks from closer. These are the buggers which will ruin the side walls of your tyres. They are rasor sharp.
On the other side of the little pass the area is mostly flat.
In the cool 42 degrees of the days we stopped under one of the five trees for some tea
It is not all bare landscapes. In the river beds are more vegtation. A large number of the roads run in the dry river beds, thus a lot of sand driving.
Nissan Terrano
De Hoop Richtersveld
So we reached De Hoop at about 15h00. There were no water in the tanks so the ablutions were of no use. There was a very strong wind blowing which was a good thing because we could see where to put up the tent, sheltered from the wind. Part of the De Hoop camping site was flooded. The tree you see here is where people would normally camp. The Richtersberg camp was almost totally flooded so people who were booked to camp there also camped at De Hoop.
Camping in Richtersveld
We had a nice private spot next to the river. The spot was to close to the river for Elmi to sleep. She grew up in Upington and knows the Orange river. In the end her worries were quite relevant as the level of the river did rise significantly.
Gariep river in flood
The river was flowing very strong and here you can see the strong current.
Camping in Richtersveld
After a hot day and unfriendly wind we relaxed the evening next to the fire with only the noise of the river in our ears.
While walking in the area the afternoon we found this little scorpion. It was about 160mm long.
We were booked at Kokerboomkloof for the next evening. But because of the situation with flooded camps and limited camping space we decided to leave our camp at De Hoop and only travel to Kokerboomkloof and back for the day. The southern part of the park is the most beautifull to me.
View Richtersveld
Magnificent view on our way to Kokerboomkloof. It is a beauty you cannot describe and cannot capture on film.
Entrance to Kokerboomkloof site
The view from the Kokerboomkloof camping site. It is not next to the river so it will be absolutely quiet and undesturbed when you camp here. There are no trees, thus no shade.
Ablution facilities at Kokerboomkloof consist of a shower, basin and toilet. Only problem is that there are no water in the camp. I think somebody were very optimistic when they builded the camp and then only afterwards realised that there are no water. You will note when you get there that the water pipes at the back of the taps are neatly blocked off and there are no pipes running to the ground. So the idea was there but the water not.
On our way back we went to visit the Tattasberg camp and the Richtersberg camp. Above is the new fancy chalets at Tattasberg. On your way there you will drive through very thick sand.
Gariep river
The view over the river from Tattasberg camp. The Richtersberg camp is only about 3Km from Tattasberg. The next time I go go the the Richtersveld park I would stay in Richtersberg Camp and do day trips around the park.
Camping next to river
Packing up early in the morning. The water level raised through the night. Note the water level in the left bottom corner. The two heaps of rocks was the children's braai (on the left) and our braai (on the right) of the previous evening.
Quiver trees
There are parts that looks complete like small rockeries.
When we entered the park the staff informed us that we cannot exit the park at the Helskloof gate when driving alone. After three days we decided that our Terrano can go anywhere and we will take the risk. So we took the road to the Helskloof gate. I am very happy that we decided to do so. This road is absolutely the most beautiful road in the whole park. On this road you will find the most plant species and the most stunning views. It is a pitty that the De Koei camp was closed because we will actually need 2 or 3 days to do this stretch of road. There are so many plants to see.
Road to hell
There are two passes on your way to the gate. Here we are going down the first called Oomrogh Pass. You cannot go down any other way than low range first gear and helping with the brakes.
The Botterbome is a must see. As I said, if I were to photograph all the plants on this route it would take me 3 days. As we only had 1 day I could not stop every time when I saw a nice plant.
These vygies grow everywhere in the dry river beds. On the last day I decided to stop and photograph it. This plant is known as "kjennirpielietjies" in the area as Mac (Kagiso) who grew up in this area pointed out to me afterwards.
And that was our trip to the Richtersveld. AFter we left the Richtersveld we went back to the house in McDougall's. Of course we could not leave the area without proper cray fish and snoek for supper.
The next day we took the gravel road to Kleinsee. At Kliensee, which is a mining area of De Beers, we obtained a permit to travel through the Kleinsee area. I asked the Police Station commander for help and he phoned the head of security at De Beers' office. This is a tarred road which takes you all the way to Koiingnaas. From there we took the Hondeklipbaai, Wallekraal, Garries gravel road. The last 60Km before Garries is also a spectacular drive and an area where I would like to spend some time in the near future. Then we visited family and friends in St Helena, Langebaan, Cape Town, Hermanus, George and De Aar.

To book a camp in the park and for more info, go to:

Tips for the Richtersveld trip:

  1. First of all do not mis judge the temperature and your water usage. You have to take you own water. We were 3 adults and 1 child. I took 60 litres of drinking water. I estimated that it will be 20 litres per day which is 5 liter per person per day. We only used it for drinking and cooking. We used river water for washing and dishes. The last day I realized that the water was almost finished and started to limit the usage. We returned home with only 5 litres of water in the tank. So 5 litres per person per day would have been just enough, but might not be enough if you got stuck or had a broken down vehicle.
  2. Remember that you have to take your own wood. Some of the locals do sell wood but you do not regularly see them and the wood I bought was crap.
  3. There are no control in the park. We left the helskloof gate without anybody knowing. If you get stuck on your way to a camp, nobody will know that you did not reach your destination and you will sit there for days. I like traveling on my own, but if you are not an experienced overlander, always travel in pairs.

    The good thing is that if the park are fully booked, book space at any camp as long as you book a space somewhere for the days. Then go to your favorite camp and stay there for the duration of your bookings. Nobody will know if you stay 2 or 3 days on the same spot. They booked us at kokerboomkloof for one night and afterwards we learned that people are not even permitted to camp there anymore due to the lack of water and working toilets. The same went for Richtersberg, the camp was fully booked but almost fully under water. So those people had no option than to camp at De Hoop.
  4. The Richtersveld Park is not everybody scene. I might be back there in September but I can imagine some of my Yuppie friends' faces if they travel 1500Km to get to a place where there are not even plants, drinking water an average daily temperature of 42 degrees Celsius. Make sure that this is what you like before you go there. If you are a succulent fanatic this the place to go. If you want to get the modern wimp type of children away from the TV and let them experience nature in its bare state, this is the place to go.
  5. Mind the sharp rocks. I do not think that you will easily get a puncture, but those sharp rocks can cut the sidewall of your tyre like a warm knife through butter. Do not even think of going without two spare wheels.
  6. Fill up at Sendelingsdrif and take at least one Jerry can of extra fuel. I thought that I will have enough fuel because everything is about 40Km from each other. The problem is that it takes you 9 hours to travel that 40 Km. And after your trip in the park you have 90Km of gravel road to travel to Alexanderbay. If you go for three days, travel 40Km per day and nothing goes wrong, you will just make it on one tank. But if you have to take a detour or something you might be in trouble.
  7. Remember to take out what you take in. You are responsible for your own garbage. I could not belief my eyes on the last two days when I saw empty Windhoek Lager bottles next to the road on a regular interval. The bottles were still fresh. So one of the so called "nature lovers" who visited the park in the same time as us dumped his empties as he was driving through the park.
  8. Inside the park the surface you drive on change from sand to hard soil to rocks twenty times a day. The gurus on the 4x4 courses teach you that you must deflate your tyres to 0.8 bar for sand, 1.6 for rocks and 1.8 for dirt road. You will spend more time inflating and deflating your tyres than anything else. I deflated the tyres to 1.8 bar after the first kilometer of very bad sinkplaat road which helped a lot. Inside the park I decided to keep it on 1.8 bar until I get stuck in the sand. That never happened and we did the whole trip on 1.8 bar. We never got stuck, never had a flat or any other problem. The thick sand in the riverbeds is rather big particles. The only fine sand we found was on the 3km between the Richtersberg camp and the Tattasberg camp but even there we had no problem on 1.8 bar.

The Richtersveld Park is something different and the area grows on you. You will enjoy the quietness and being away from everything. It is definitely worth the cost going there.

Botterboom in Richtersveld




This trip report was compiled by:
Pieter Pretorius