River Daze


Words and pictures by Izak Gelderblom.

Reader report: Namaqua Eco-Route. Imagine sitting on your camp chair in the shade of your tent veranda, observing the troop of baboons across the river through your binoculars. You note their good physical condition, and you wonder how a troop of twenty baboons can survive in this arid and unforgiving landscape.

Then your eyes are drawn to a kingfisher that is fluttering in one spot in the air, and the next moment it dives down into the water a few metres from where you’re sitting. It disappears underwater for a second or two, then reappears with a small bright silver fish in its beak. Without any apparent effort, it flies from the water to a nearby rock, where it swallows its catch.

While you’re pondering these wonders of nature, an egret appears, to walk up and down the shallow pond that forms part of the river close to where you’re sitting. It snatches at insects or tries to stab small fish with its sharp beak. You look at it and marvel at its pure white body, pitch-black beak and legs, and yellow toes. No need to imagine, actually. Simply buy your permit for the Namaqua Eco-route from the Namaqua Tourism office and then visit this beautiful arid region in the Northern Cape yourself! You’ll be able to enjoy all of this, and more, when you camp at Kamgab next to the Gariep River.

To get to Kamgab, you will have to negotiate tracks and dirt roads, as well as drive about 13 kilometres along the dry Kamgab riverbed, dropping into low-range to negotiate rocks, rock ‘gates’ and occasional thick sand. On reaching Kamgab, you can pick your camping spot; but take note that there are no facilities so you’ll have to bring your own drinking water, firewood and toilet (unless you’re willing to squat over a hole you’ve dug).

My wife and I loved this camping spot next to the Gariep river. We loved the seclusion and the opportunity to observe nature in action. The beautiful bare-rock mountain range all along the river left us in awe, with vistas similar to the Richtersveld where the colours of the rocks change depending on the time of day.

The river flowing past the campsite created a calm, peaceful atmosphere and an opportunity to relax, read, and tend to the simple tasks that make camping such a relaxing activity. The route begins in the town of Pella. We left the small town of Pofadder during the morning, after we had filled up with petrol, including filling a 20-litre jerrycan. The first spot marked on the map for a stop is Pella, where you must visit the famous church. We then drove over Charlie’s Pass towards the Gariep River. Our first camping spot was in the Groot Melkhoutboom area next to the river. A strong wind that night caused the fine river sand to penetrate everything. The next morning we drove towards Goodhouse, along a track with beautiful views of the mountains; and from there we travelled to Kamgab.

It’s important to have a GPS with Tracks4Africa loaded, as one cannot rely only on the directions provided by Namaqua Tourism. Very often we were confronted by two or more roads to choose from, and without the GPS we would have been lost.

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