Prozac for the soul. That’s what I called the chapter about the Richtersveld in my book A Walk in the Park. Five visits later, it’s still a place to rest and reconnect with your soul. Tag along as we visit Gannakouriep camp for the first time, a place to find ‘nothing’ and love it.
Some people get high on life by bar-hopping in the Big City. We get high on the great outdoors, being on a back road far from civilisation and steeped in nature. If that’s your thing, the Ai/Ais-Richtersveld is like a quadruple shot of gin to an alcoholic – easy to get drunk and hooked on. Hard not to crave another ‘hit’.
Like last time, we sat on the deck and peered into Namibia, watching the river flood with pink as the sun set and the air cooled. A wind was blowing, the camp’s small turbine whirring busily. Luckily, we’d come prepared with lights and torches because the solar power flickered and drained away just as we were getting ready to go to bed.
Gannakouriep Wilderness Camp
Next morning we drove a virgin route (at least to us) to Gannakouriep Wilderness Camp further south in the dry interior, where we hoped the outlook would be just as soulful as at Tatasberg though completely different.
When we arrived at Gannakouriep at 13:00 the place was deserted and our cottage locked.
A domed matjieshuis is made entirely of reed mats. The stems shrink, allowing the wind to blow through the gaps and cool the structure down. They’re quick and easy to dismantle and put up again – perfect for Nama shepherds who have to follow their goats to where they can find some food.
Best of all, we had the entire camp to ourselves, just us and the familiar chats, the Cape buntings and sun-basking lizards. This kind of ‘nothing’ is my idea of heaven.
We took Domrogh Pass back to Sendelingsdrift the next morning. It carried us past zebra-striped mountains, rock formations and intriguing little plants, then twisted steeply uphill to give wonderful views down into the valleys below. At the top we switched off our engine, opened the windows and listened to that special Richtersveld silence, filling our souls with it until our next visit.
Some swallowtailed bee-eaters, a dusky sunbird, a sprinkling of botterboom plants and aloes punctuated our drive. We spotted a few spiny-stemmed halfmens succulents that grow only here in the lower Orange River Valley of South Africa and Namibia. Research is currently investigating whether halfmens numbers are diminishing, and pondering the role played by illegal seed collection, insect parasites, grazing and climate change.
- The quickest way to the entrance gate of the South African side of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is via Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay, just 90km away. If you aren’t in a hurry, a more scenic route is through the small settlements of Eksteenfontein, Lekkersing and Kuboes, where you can stop over to meet the locals.
- You need a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle.
- Whether you’re camping or staying in wilderness cottages at Tatasberg or Gannakouriep, you must be self-sufficient with food, medical supplies and recovery equipment. Bring your own firewood and drinking water.
- Invest in a good map and take a GPS loaded with good map software.
- It’s a good idea to hire a satellite phone in case of emergencies because there’s no cellphone reception beyond Sendelingsdrift. Write down the number of the duty manager at Sendelingsdrift before you leave on your adventure into the remote regions of the park.
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