Arid land versus Orange River in the Northern Cape September 2020


On the 3 September we set out south towards Olifantsfontein and passed the massive Sishen mine set-up on the right.  An aerial shot (courtesy of Google Earth) shows just how big it is. Everything around the mine is dusted with red: the shrubs and grasses, the road barriers, tufts of grass, trucks … everything is covered is a brick red dust. We saw trains from the Sishen mine on the west Coast a few years back on a previous visit to the West Coast. They seem to be the longest freight trains in the world: up to 4 full minutes of waiting time for the whole train to pass. 


We turned off the N14 towards Witsand or Roaring Sands Nature Reserve. Unfortunately (and we presume due to Covid 19) it was closed. No explanation on website or even on the gate, but closed. We were only able to take photos from a distance. The road there however was beautiful and relaxing. It’s the first time we actually saw the massive nests of the social weaver birds packed around used and abandoned telephone poles along the gravel road.

We left the gravel road and turned right towards Groblers Hoop where we found a place for the night  at the Keish Riverside Lodge on the banks of the Orange River.

Upington and Kanoneiland

Next morning we had our first morning coffee on the banks of the Orange River and took the rest of the morning to do some more work on Trokkie before hitting the road again, direction Upington.

On our way out of Groblershoop, we saw some quirky and funny sights along the road, including a farm stall where we got us some more ‘padkos’.

Back on the N14 just outside of Upington we passed Khi Solar One,  the biggest solar installation in South Africa.  We had seen this weird, unbelievable bright light from quite a distance without knowing what it was. Another website called it “a second sun” and that’s about as appropriate a description you could find. When we returned from an inland detour 2 days later you could see the “sun” from more than 50km away. 

Too late for wine tasting the  cellar master of Bezalel estate referred us to Oranjerus camping for the night. We took a wrong turn off and ended up winding our way through the lush winelands of Kanon Eiland, one of the bigger islands between the various runs/arms of the Orange River. We found our way back to Oranjerus and wined and dined on the banks of the Orange River.

Upington and Kanoneiland

Next morning we took our time to leave Kanoneiland and stopped a few times on the bridges crossing the various arms of the Orange River to enjoy the morning stillness with the birds flitting over the water and a solitary crane patiently waiting for his breakfast fish.

We went back to Bezalel vineyards to stock up on wine and the cellar master was more than happy to tell us some more about the Kanoneiland history: some time in history the Brits wanted to get the Corana’s (local tribe of Khoi Khoi) off the islands in the Orange River because they kept on stealing livestock. Another local tribe (the Griekwa’s) were encouraged by the Brits to work with them against the Corana’s. End result: the Corana’s were wiped out (by canon fire), and the Brits and the Griekwa’s got it all. Seems that Kanoneiland is the island where the most canons were left behind. The young cellar master told there was one on display in his old school yard. You can’t visit a wine cellar without buying wine so that’s what we did … to support the local economy.

The Google Earth images give you a good idea about the green, fertile belt of the Orange River that snakes through the red, arid landscape of the Northern Cape. A close up of the Kanoneiland section shows the patchwork of vineyards between the different arms of the river.

We pushed on towards Kakamas to see the Augrabies Falls, passing a variety of iconic farm stalls and our first quiver tree.

2 thoughts on “Arid land versus Orange River in the Northern Cape September 2020”

    1. No, they sell homemade jams, honeys and other preserves, and they have a nice selection of calabashes decorated by the local community. Cool and funky.

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