Gannaga Pass

I love passes, mountain passes that is. Just recently we traveled up the Gannaga Pass which is on the eastern edge of the Tankwa Reserve.

It is a spectacular pass carved the Master Artist of Passes, Bains. The man had an eye for sweeping, spectacular lines and his passes show his skill. His dry walling is spectacular too. Join us on a trip up and down the Gannaga Pass.

The Guardian of the Pass. Looking like an escapee from a SciFi movie, this rock formation faces up the pass.

The pass sign board. You gotta have this picture to show you were there!

Botter Bos halfway up the pass which you can see sweeping down the right of the picture.

Life clinging to the rocks

Framing


Those Bains dry walls still standing.

Gannaga Lodge at the top with a nice storm cloud.

All the modcons

Looking back at the Lodge.

Looking down

Amanda at the top.

Verneuk Pan

Verneuk Pan is approximatel 100 km from Brandvlei, a small town in the middle of the Namaqualand semi-desert. Brandvlei is approximately 600 km from Cape Town and it looks like this:

Gardening is not a favourite pastime in Brandvlei. Well with soil like this, who wants to dig in the garden? Not much water either for that matter.

The local pub called is called Die Windpomp – directly translated the Wind Pump, more correctly The Windmill. It has a friendly atmosphere and a suitably cheerful and chatty owner.

You notice the fire in the fireplace? It gets achingly cold in Namaqualand. This is not the coldest I have seen the temperature on the Subaru.

But it does come close and, when you consider that I was baking in 40 degrees the day before, it has got to be the most extreme. It looked like this when the temperature was 6. And yes, you can see camera shake. At 6 degrees in a light jersey, you shake.

Anyway when a friend heard I was going to Verneuk Pan he insisted that I visit a small settlement called Granaatsboskolk. He gave me a GPS and the co-ordinates and sent me on my way rejoicing. Why, I hear you ask do you need co-ordinates? Well simple, look at the pictures and you decide how you know if you have found Granaatsboskolk.

And no, there isn’t a place called Lus 10. I couldn’t find it so I had to ask. It is the special cell phone station for the Sishen Saldhana Railway line. More of the line later. By the way, the locals didn’t ask why I needed a GPS, they just wanted to know why this mad englishman actually wanted to go to Granaatsboskolk.

Half way there I found a hill. Mind you in this type of country, a hill can be just a gentle rise in the road. This picture was taken from a rise that the road prudently went around. The hill was huge. At least 10 metres high and about 500 metres long.

That is the way back to Brandvlei.

And then I was there. Uhm, correction, I drove straight through the place and when the road curved which it hadn’t done much that day, I knew I had missed Granaatsboskolk. So I drove back. Checked the GPS and the road signage and decided where to stop. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is Granaatsboskolk. It is a cross roads, one clue that you have arrived.

Back to Brandvlei.

Off to Kakamas.

A Telkom installation.

The only dwelling in Granaatsboskolk.

And if you don’t have a GPS, how do you know you have made it?

Simple. The sign boards stop talking about it.

Actually there is some interesting geology on the way which I didn’t mention.

And now, the Sishen Saldhana Train. The train is well over a kilometre long.

And now, off to Verneuk Pan, but first a short history lesson. Malcolm Campbell was a man who specialised in breaking speed records. Verneuk Pan is flat and long. Two attributes that you need for a high speed race track. The race track takes a smallish portion of the Pan. The original racetrack, marked out by halfsunken car tyres is 19 km long and over its entire length drops 15 cm. Verneuk Pan is 53 kilometres long, so the race track fits easily. It is also covered in the finest dust I have ever experienced. About the only time I ever got dust into the car when it was sealed was at Verneuk Pan.

The Sooby at the starting point.

That glimmer on the horizon is not water. It is what gives the place its name. Verneuk Pan translates as the The Cheating Pan. Early travellers got out onto the flats of the pan.

The heat shimmer appears to be a kilometer away. It surrounds you and you end up in a circle of heat haze.

Everywhere you look is shimmer, as you advance toward it, the shimmer retreats, luring you on to your death from dehydration.

It is easy to go into the centre of the pan and then get lost. In places you cannot see the sides of the pan, just that heat shimmer.

I left the track and headed out into the unmarked pan to experience the unmarked pan.

When I turned around to find the track I must admit that I was glad that the GPS was still on and functioning.

The end of the race track and the end of the pan.

Did Malcolm Campbell succeed? No, he didn’t. You see that black line running across the pan?

There are thousands of those lines, mostly smaller than that one, made up of the local shale. It raises a lump about 2 or 3 cm high on the track. There is a cross line of shale every 200 metres or so. As the vehicle speed increases, so does the instability of the car. Each time you hit a lump, the car bounces slightly. The faster you are going, the higher you bounce and the sooner you hit the next one. At 185 km/h the Subaru was airborne longer than the wheels were on the ground. Very disconcerting, believe me. At the 400 km/h that Campbell was aiming at it would have been impossible to control the car.
Interestingly, the Sooby did not like accelerating on the dusty surface and the take off from the start was slow and sedate.

SASOL Tankwa Birding Bonanza

The Tankwa Reserve has intrigued me since the time I inadvertently drove the R355. How, you ask do you “inadvertently” drive the longest road between two towns in the whole of South Africa. Easy, is the answer, you just turn left just outside of Calvinia, looking for a quick road home after looking at the Spring Flowers. Simple really.

What I didn’t know was that the R355 has, to misquote the Eagles, “A nasty reputation as a cruel road.”

Problem is that there is this oil shale that litters the country thereabouts. From a distance it doesn’t look too bad. A bit black maybe, but not too bad.

Its when you get closer that it gets to look a bit more threatening.

Those shards are razor sharp and cut holes in tyres without much effort. To make things a bit more tense, the closest garage and petrol station is 150 km away. And to complete the picture, there is NO cell phone coverage. None of our national cell phone companies has got this area “covered’. Which can be a bit problematic if you slash your tyres in a place that looks like this:

And it gets awfully hot or awfully cold, depending on the time you happen to be there.
That is Skoorsteenberg in the distance and to quote Mike Lodge (who made some informed comments – thanx Mike) “It is the place where all the oil companies have been investigating fracking.” This will not be a fracking site, but has been part of intensive exploration by the oil companies.

This is picture of  Pramberg in spring. Picture supplied by Mike Lodge and taken by Carl Gerber. The spring flowers are, I am told superb and the picture gives some idea of the effect of the spring rains on this barren land.

Having thoroughly dissuaded you from visiting, let me change tack and insist that you MUST see this reserve. If you love drylands and what the Americans call “Big Sky Country” this is the place for you.

On the eastern edge of the reserve is the Gannaga Pass a beautiful, rugged Bains Pass and a must do if you are into mountain passes as I am.

The seer-oog flowers bloom in April and wait for the Spring rains in September for water.

Some more flower pictures

Hoodia. Nice to look at, but kinda smelly.

There are mammals in the Reserve and they are fairly easy to photograph.

And other critters.

The roads aside from having sharp tyre cutting shale are good and well kept and the country is photogenic beyond belief.

I even saw some humans.

Actually that is Amanda and our guide and mentor Johan, a voluntary ranger who showed us the Reserve with patience, courtesy and friendliness.

Here is Johan stalking Mountain Wheatears in the grass. And before you start wondering and worse still muttering, yes, I did play with the images. There has been some tampering. And to show my complete brazen cheek, a couple of art photos.

There are farmhouses and labourers cottages spotted all over the reserve. We stayed at Paulshoek.

Take a look in the SANParks website to get a better idea what the places are like. As with all SANParks accommodation, the place was clean, well stocked with equipment and comfortable. The next picture is not official accomodation, but it made a great hook for a landscape picture.

But we were there for the birds. And here are some of the pics we got.
Sparrows you will see aplenty.

Morning song

And art pic and a bird at once.

White backed mouse birds.

Rock Kestrel

Jackal Buzzard

Baby Martin

Sand grouse

Gabar Goshawk

And a moonrise to finish off.

Klipspringer Trail – Augrabies Falls National Park

Some friends and I walked the Klipspringer Hiking Trail in the Augrabies National Park. Rated as Moderate to Difficult, it is well worth the effort. A magnificent trail. Here are some photographs of the trail.
The sentinal, watching over the hikers

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IMG_3002The trail ahead.

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Flowers

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Wind erosion

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Arrow Point

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Arrow Point again

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Fish Eagle Hut – end of Day 1

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Cooking fire

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Day 2 — Down to the Orange River. Probably the hardest part of the trip, but certainly the most beautiful

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The trail ahead.

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And more trail ahead.

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The Orange / Gariep River in its gentle phase.

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Leopard foot print (spoor).

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Follow the river.

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Turning point. Turn away from the river and back into the heat.

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The hot river bed.

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Berghut and the end of the second day.

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Day Three
Looking back on the Swart Rante (Black Ridges)

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Quiver Tree and a sociable weavers nest.

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Moon Rock. Nearly the end of the trail.

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If you like trail and a challenge, this one is for you.

 

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The Petroglyphs of Kenhardt

On our way way to Augrabies we stopped off to visit a petroglyph site just outside Kenhardt. Amanda made contact with Elma a very enthusiastic woman who agreed to take us out to view the petraglyphs.

There had been a bit of rain and so the flowers of region had started to blossom. Especially beautiful were the Gouwsblomme.

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The petroglyphs were clustered on one side of a hill or kopie as it is known in Afrikaans. This is part of that kopie.

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What follows is a collection of the pictures I took of the pectroglyphs.
This one is fascinating in that there are seven toes on what looks like an animal footprint.

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