The Richtersveld is a treacherous and inaccessible wilderness, and only suitable for 4x4ers. The Orange River – the longest in South Africa – winds its way through desert mountains, which shelter a diverse array of unique succulent plant species. It is without doubt one of South Africa’s most photogenic – and spiritual – places. Size: 162 445 hectares. Situated in the arid far north-west of South Africa on the border of Namibia.
Richtersveld National Park
I've been to the Richtersveld National Park a few times, but I never get tired of going. The scenery is unique in South Africa - desert mountains that surround massive sandy plains, and of course the Orange River (or Gariep, as it's known locally by the Nama) that flows through the gorge. If it wasn't for this river, then I imagine the Richtersveld would be almost impossible to visit in summer time. Park manager Nick de Goede says that his record high is 62 degrees Celsius.
My own record is 57 degrees Celsius, recorded in January a few years ago. Without the river to drink from and to cool off in, the heat is too intense otherwise, and the river makes human habitation possible (the local Nama community are allowed to graze their goats in the park - in fact, the park's land actually Read more »
The Richtersveld didn't want to let me and Gareth go. On our last morning here, we left at 5am, and tackled the Helskloof Pass in full moonlight. It took us 6 hours to do 60kms, but as always, it was worth it! It's a truly spectacular, rugged area of the Richtersveld, and our Ford Everest and Conqueror Conquest 4x4 trailer handled it really well, but we did go SO slowly. There really is no way you could rush it...
I'm never good at saying goodbye to the people I love...and I don't think I'm very good at saying goodbye to wild places like the Richtersveld. A strange melancholy comes over me. I've had some amazing wilderness experiences here, and just like the special people in my life, it will always hold a piece of my heart in its rugged mountainscape. Of course, my mood soon lifts, Read more »
Yesterday and today, we're on the banks of the Orange River at my favourite campsite in the Richtersveld, called De Hoop. And I can understand why it's called that. After a long, hot drive through some of the driest and starkest parts of the Richtersveld, this campsite on the river would restore the hope of anyone who has a parched throat, and a hot, sweaty body. I've been here before, once by myself for a week in the middle of summer, when I didn't see anyone...and again, I'm reminded why it's so special.
The first thing Gareth and I did before setting up camp was jump in the river...then, we walked up the hill behind the camp, and watched the sun set and the full moon rise over the mountains. The light on the river glowed and glistened. This part of the river has plenty of rapids, Read more »
The Richtersveld is usually a very dry and hot place...receiving on average less than 40mm of rain a year, much of which comes from the fog which rarely rolls in from the coast. Yesterday we saw this incredible spectacle...as we were driving south to hike into the Oemsberg mountains, where there is a huge amphitheatre, a massive fog bank crept up over the mountains.
The hike into the Oemsberg mountains took most of the day. We made our way along the Hakkiesdoring River, which was dry (of course), and for most of the way, we followed the tracks of a leopard...wonderful!
This part of the Richtersveld is so very different to the north. The hills were green, and there were even rock pools with some stagnant, but very clear water. If I was a leopard, I'd also hang around here!
At the Read more »
Today we spent exploring the area around Tatasberg Wilderness Camp, walking along the river and swimming. It was good not to have to drive anywhere today, even if our Ford Everest has been so comfortable on the rough 4x4 tracks...it's been a few hot days on the road - winter temperatures here exceed 30 degrees Celsius on most days!
At one point, Gareth said something, and we realized that we hadn’t said a word for at least an hour. But it didn’t seem to matter…we both agreed that time seems almost irrelevant here. We had to remind ourselves that it was a Wednesday, not a Tuesday. The Richtersveld does that to you….it’s an ancient place, both socially and geologically, while I also think it’s a wise place…let me explain.
The Richtersveld takes its name from Dr E. Richter, who was a Read more »
The camp where Gareth and I are staying takes its name from Tatasberg, a boulder-strewn mountain peak about 8 kilometres from the river. Park manager Nic de Goede told us last night that it takes about “an hour” to walk up.
“My laaitie, who’s only seven, made it easily the other day,” Nic said without blinking. “You two guys should be more than fine.”
Now, I’m not sure what Nic and his family have for dinner every night, but we’d like to try whatever it is they eat, because after four hours of sweat-drenched slogging up a mountain over boulders the size of houses, we finally summited the Tatasberg.
But it was truly worth every second and every drop of sweat and every curse. The views all the way up were simply amazing. A panorama of the stark, jagged mountains of the Richtersveld Read more »
Today was our first full day in the Richtersveld National Park. It was intense - physically and visually. We drove 80 kilometres the whole day on some tough 4x4 tracks, and saw one other vehicle. But we arrived safely at Tatasberg Wilderness Camp on the Orange River, with golden mountains to our left, right and centre.
It's hard to think it's a Monday evening. Conventional time seems irrelevant here. Geological time reigns. I am now writing this blog with the stars above me, and the half-moon sliding across the sky, and the sound of the river's rapids below. The Richtersveld is hypnotic...the mountains pull you into its embrace with an awesome fascination. But it's not a place to take lightly. It may be South Africa's most remote wilderness area. Our Ford Everest and Conqueror Trailer Read more »
I spoke to Dr. Graham Williamson on the phone yesterday, as I was preparing a few things for the upcoming two weeks in the Richtersveld National Park. He's now 80 years old, a dentist-turned-botanist who at one stage spent two years living in the national park, and ended up producing a book on the region's history, flora and fauna. It's a world-class book on a desert region which has the richest diversity of plant species on earth. (It has a foreword by Sir David Attenborough). It should be read by everyone who is going to travel through this corner of South Africa. It's called "Richtersveld - Enchanted Wilderness" and the new 2nd edition can be Read more »