NC Ep 5 – Springbok to Augrabies via a dozen padstals & Pofadder!

If you’ve ever watched the weather on TV, haven’t you had thoughts about visiting faraway places like Springbok and Pofadder? I have and so I was determined to stop in on these little towns en route from Namaqualand national park to Kgalagadi via Augrabies…

And by stop in I mean drive through or by… lol. If you blinked while driving through, you may miss them.

We set off early that morning, which meant we had to let ourselves out of the few gates leaving the park. I was so intent on stopping in Springbok that morning, primarily because I needed gas, that I almost missed the offramp and landed up in Namibia!

I course-corrected in the nick of town and found the main (only?) road into Springbok. I was spoilt for choice for gas stations and after filling up for the next leg of the journey (and get this, the petrol stations charge you to use their toilets, cheeky) I took the opportunity for a quick drive around town and my customary photo of the local church (see previous blog mention of my Platteland Pilgrimage).

There are some fine specimens around of the quiver tree, indigenous to the Northern Cape. The quiver tree gets its name from the San practice of hollowing out the tubular branches of Aloe dichotoma to form quivers for their arrows.

Talking of names, the early explorers didn’t spend too long thinking about what they should call a place and usually went with the most obviously name. So a spring with thousands of Springbok became Springbokfontein (shorted to Springbok in 1911 – not doubt because of writer’s cramp!)

This place used to be a copper mine haven, and mining began here in 1852. When word got out about the rich copper deposits, the town was overrun by fortune hunters. The town has not changed over the years and still pretty much resembles an old mining town.

Of interest is the NG stone church (klipkerk) built in 1921, the synagogue museum and monument koppie in the town centre which commemorates when the town was rescued from the British by Boer forces during the Anglo Boer war. The Goegap Nature reserve is also closeby and houses the country’s oldest mineshaft dug in 1685 by members of Simon van der Stel’s expedition to the Copper Mountains.

My curiosity sates we got back onto the N14 destined for Augrabies. A quick photostop in Pofadder and then we took the scenic turnoff to Augrabies and were pleasantly surprised to see lots of fertile, lush green vineyards interspersed with dry bushveld. This is because the Gariep river runs through this area.

The Gariep accelerates through a series of cataracts and then plunges headlong for 56 m into a pool about 130 m deep – and this majestic sight is non other than the famed Augrabies Falls. The 6th largest in the world, apparently it is even more spectacular when the river is in flood and 19 separate falls form. An urban legend says that there must be a fortune in alluvial diamonds in the bottom of the pool as the force of the water makes it impossible to enter the pool below. It’s a pretty sight to see with good wooden walkways along the falls and it’s right near the park reception and shop. My only regret- I should have bought ‘Die Mas van Kakamas’ famed liquor at the park shop!

After lunch at Augrabies park we hit the road for Upington, our overnight stop before Kgalagadi. No trip on that stretch is worth its rose quartz crystal without a stop at the Pienk Padstal! An hour later I left with a few kilos of rose quartz (they are like stones in this area – abundant), dates (ditto), jams, candy, souvenirs and lots of other stuff unique to this padstal!

Not much later we arrived in Upington and stopped at a lovely restaurant along the lush orange river. In fact, I’m pretty impressed bu the top class restaurants in Upington and can highly recommend Cafe Zest, where we had the best Karoo lamb shanks ever!

Upington is the main town of the Green Karoo and is much bigger than its neighboring dorps. It’s named after Sir Thomas Upington (an Attorney General of the Cape Colony) and originated in 1871. It owes its prosperity to agriculture and the irrigated land along the Orange River. Interesting fact – the airport with the longest runway in SA is in Upington. A convenient stopover to the Kgalagadi, we stocked up on food the next morning after breakfast and set off for the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park via the local salt mines in the area.

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