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.