Archive for July, 2009

From Brandkaros to Port Nolloth.

Yesterday was the day of my move to Port Nolloth or should I say to McDougall Bay 4 kilometres south of Port Nolloth . I was dreading the first 27 k’s as it was over the dirt road that had nearly shaken my poor old caravan to pieces 16 days earlier. I was told that it would be best to drive as fast as I could as it would smooth out the corrugations so, after saying my goodbyes to Apie and Analine du Toit, off I went.

It might be easy to drive at 80/90 kpm on a dirt road when not towing anything but with an old caravan behind you it ain’t so. The road did feel a bit smoother but I think more as a result of the rain a few days earlier than anything else. The only thing of interest that I saw on the first part of my trip was a jackal as it crossed the road just in front of me and ran off into the veld. To quick for me to try and get a photograph I’m afraid.

After what seemed hours I finally came to the end of the dirt road and onto the tar. I pulled over at the first opportunity to have a quick inspection inside and out. Horror of horrors the fridge door had come off again and there was a huge mess inside. I cleaned it all up, as best I could at the side of the road, got the fridge door back on, the goodies packed away and off I set.

On the road again!
On the road again!

The drive from Alexander Bay to Port Nolloth is about 80 k’s on a really good road. It was, however, difficult to pull over to stop and take photographs as the shoulder of the road is very narrow. I mostly took photographs out the window so they are not too great.

The straight and narrow
The straight and narrow
The contrasts are unbelievable
The contrasts are unbelievable

As you can see by those land dumps there is mining all along the coast line.

I wonder who on earth thinks up these names?
I wonder who on earth thinks up these names?
After the recent rains there are already patches of brightly coloured flowers.
After the recent rains there are already patches of brightly coloured flowers.
Ariva ariva!!
Welcome!

As you will see it was only about 15 minutes after the welcome sign that I thought I had made a big mistake.

If you have read one of my earlier posts you will know that I stopped overnight at McDougall Bay just over 2 weeks earlier. Wonderful setting, position wise, but basically the sites are just sea sand. Anyway I was told that it was in season and the price was a flat R123.00 per site per night. If I came back after the season it would be R99.00 less 30% discount for over 60’s so just under R70.00 per night.

When I arrived I was told the price I had been given was a mistake and it was in fact 30% off the high rate which works out to about R86.oo. I started jumping up and down and the manager phoned her boss to try and clarify what the correct price should be. (Just as an aside there were only 2 other campers  and there are 93 sites.  Go figure!!) After an hour I was eventually told that I could pay R70.00. I later met up with a couple from Cape Town who had stayed there during the HIGH season and the most campers on any night had been 4 and all stayed over for only 1 night. Wonder why??

My new base for a while.
My new base for a while.
The view and sounds are superb.
The view and sounds are superb.

I have been warned not to leave anything outside as people walk off the beach and steal.

As you can see it is going to be a batle to keep the sand at bay.
It is going to be a battle to keep the sand at bay.

Cool and misty.

Cool and misty. Compare to yesterdays shot.

I woke up this morning to find it cool with quite a heavy mist that will probably stick around the whole day as there is no wind. Have been into town to the Spar Shop which is very well stocked. They even have some vegetarian foods.

Once I have posted this I am going to take a long walk along the beach and then just relax for a while.

A last look at Brandkaros.

Today is my last day at Brandkaros camp-site. I leave for Port Nolloth tomorrow morning and will be setting up camp at nearby McDougalls Bay. I have now been here for 16 days and to be honest have really enjoyed my stay as it has given me the time to catch up with myself and also to get this blog started. Oh and it has also given me the opportunity to improve my Afrikaans which has gone from very poor to just poor.

The entrance to Brandkaros

The entrance to Brandkaros

Apart from going into Alexander Bay a few times to look around and meet some interesting people, I have spent most of my time walking,  fishing and just chilling out. (Not so sure “chilling” is the correct word to use as it has been sunny and hot most days.) The walks have been great and even though I only caught one small fish the fishing has been relaxing as well.

The people here, manager Analine and here husband Apie Du Toit,  have been incredibly friendly, kind and supportive. I have had bread baked, apples left at my door and my washing and ironing done by Analine and delivered by Apie to my door. They wont let me pay for any of that either.

The actual camp-site is difficult to show photographically as it is really spread out, has different sections and is shaded by lots of trees. I believe there are plans to spend quite a bit of money to upgrade the camp in the near future and personally I would recommend they start with the ablution facilities.

The area I was camped in.

The area I was camped in.

The camp-sites are not marked out so it’s first come first served.

The larger site

The larger site

Brandkaros is more of a transient rather than holiday camp-site. Convoys that have been to or are coming back from the Richtersveld Reserve pull in late afternoon and are gone again early next morning.

The rondawels

The rondawels

Some of the convoys coming through stay in the self contained rondawels rather than set up camp.

I supposed the thing that irked and annoyed me the most were the monkeys. A troop of about 30 come through the camp at least once a day and cause chaos, jumping all over the caravan and tent, overturning and scattering rubbish from the bins and just being a pain in the butt.

Catch me if you can.

Catch me if you can.

I am surprised he is not showing me the finger. They know you have not got a hope of doing anything to them.

The other thing that is annoying is that over weekends they allow day trippers to come in and braai. They make a lot of noise with their loud music and shouting and cause a major disturbance. Most camp-sites don’t allow this and now I understand why.

The ablution block

The ablution block

The ablution block is not great (still looking for a good one) but there is plenty of hot water.

The swimming pool is not bad and really nice in the hot weather.

The swimming pool is not bad and really nice in the hot weather.

As mentioned earlier I did do quite a bit of walking so will end off this post with a few pix that I took on my excursions in and around the camp.

Old and rusting farm equipment

Old and rusting farm equipment

Sad to see as not too many years ago this used to be a thriving citrus farm and has now gone to ruin.

View of Brandkaros from a nearby koppie.

Early morning view of Brandkaros from a nearby koppie.

As you can see an oasis in the desert. That large white building in the foreground used to house 45 full time employees on the farm and is now just falling apart. It had full ablutions, cooking facilities and dinning room.

Plant coming to life after the recent rains.

Plants coming to life after the recent rains.

I believe the flowers here and in the Namaqualand  are going to be spectacular this Spring

I will end off this post with my favourite shot taken on one of my early morning walks and have posted all photographs taken at Brankaros here.

Sunrise in the Richtersveld.

Sunrise in the Richtersveld.

Speak to you again from my next port of call Port Nolloth. First going to have to pull my poor old caravan over that 30 odd k’s of gravel road into Alexander Bay. Not looking forward to that.

The remotest B&B in S.A.?

Each time I have travelled from Brandkaros to Alexander Bay and back I have been intrigued by a sign at the side of the road, about 20 k’s from Alexander Bay, that advertises a B&B. On my way back from Alexander Bay on Wednesday I determined to stop and have a look around.

B&B in the desert

B&B in the desert

You can’t really miss it because of the brightly painted bits of scrap metal.

The B&B is managed by a mother and daughter team, Annemarie and Saome Reck, and is owned by someone living in Hong Kong. Annemarie started the B&B about 18 years ago and has managed it ever since under various owners. She is from the area as she and her husband used to farm nearby until he passed away.

Salome and Annemarie Reck

Salome and Annemarie Reck

There are 5 rooms, 3 inside and 2 outside, and also an extra house about a 100 meters away for when things get really get busy. Unfortunately it has not been too great recently as the pont at Sendelingsdrift is not working and people from Namibia can’t cross over there and as a result they have had many cancellations. ( The same thing has happened at Brandkaros and I have been the only one staying there for days now.)

Mother and daughter are very friendly and were more than happy to show me around and for me to take photographs. Again I will let the pix speak and just offer a few comments. All I can say is that Annemarie has tried to be as creative as possible, without much to work with, and in fact many passers-by stop and ask if the place is also a museum.

The main house

The main house

One of the rooms inside the house

One of the rooms inside the house

The 2 wendy house type rooms and ablutions.

The 2 wendy house type rooms and ablutions.

View from the front of the house.

View from the front of the house.

It really is a bit like an oasis in the middle of a desert. That is the Orange River in the distance and the dark area between the road and the river used to be an olive plantation.

The dinning area

The dinning area

The bath garden

The bath garden (My name for it)

The charge per person  per night is R250.00 and breakfast (R60.00) and dinner (R75.00) are extra. I reckon if one is passing through the area it would be a great and unique place to spend a night or two.

If you wish to see more photographs of the B&B please click on B&B photos

Alexander Bay revisited

Yesterday (15th) I drove to Alexander Bay  to buy a few things at Sentra Supermarket and decided to take photographs in the town itself to give you an idea of what is happening there.

The place is named after a prospector in the region from 1838 to 1848 named James Edward Alexander. Little did he know of the fabulous riches that he transported his goods over to be shipped from just south of the river mouth. The diamonds were only discovered in 1928 and it was proclaimed a State Alluvial Digging under the Department of mines with a work force of 45 whites under strict supervision.,

The outer perimeter of the  town was fenced off but had also been divided inside by fencing, the miners in the southern section and their families in the northern Section. The men were only allowed out every 150 days for 2 weeks. This inner fence only came down in 1974.

I  read  a little pamphlet that tells of how things were round 1980 -” Alexander Bay is a modern mining village with all necessary amenities and facilities with attractive living quarters, vegetable gardens, lucerne fields and orchards”. It certainly is not that way now.

Even today there is a distinct North /  South feel to the town – mining area South and houses, shops, schools etc. in the North and the town is still fenced off and one has to sign in to gain entrance. Of course where they do the actual mining is still a high security section today.

Welcome to Alexander Bay.
Welcome to Alexander Bay.
The boom gate where one has to sign in.
The boom gate where one has to sign in.

Once through the boom you can only turn right as left takes you to the mining area which is high security.

I think I am going to let the images do the talking and just offer a few comments. The one thing I will say is that the town has the feel of everything going downward. Most places look dirty and unkempt although you can see where special efforts have been made to spruce things up.

Old diamond safe house
Old diamond safe house

They found over 2500 carats of diamonds under that stone stuck on the wall

Old church (I think NG) now used as a creche
Old church (I think NG) built in the 1930’s is now used as a crèche
The swimming pool
The swimming pool

I believe they are going to repair the pool and use it for diver training

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The Clinic

The Pharmacy

The Pharmacy

The clinic is used for consulting and has no beds and the Pharmacy is not open at all.

Interestingly I did bump into the newly appointed doctor for the area and he is from the US. He knew my fathers name. He too was a doctor, and we had a nice long chat in English.

Old derelect shop

Old derelict shop

Derelect building

Derelict building

The 9 hole golf course.

The 9 hole golf course.

The fairways and rough are the same and the greens and T boxes are not too great.

The sports field

The sports field

Looks fine from far but on closer inspection the stands are starting to fall apart.

The shopping centre

The library and shopping centre.

Because everything has to be brought in by road the prices of all goods is pretty horrendous.

In June last year over 200 of the employees were offered and took severance packages so about 1200 people have moved from Alexander Bay. There are huge fights going on in the community as to what has happened to all the millions of rands that have been pumped into the region and they are, according to the local newspaper, “Gat vol” with everything and are demanding answers.

Wild flowers near the golf course

Wild flowers near the golf course

May the above image be a sign of better things to come for the people of Alexander Bay

I have now consolidated all the pix taken in and around Alexander Bay at this link – Alexander Bay Pix

Rain in the desert

I awoke at about 6am yesterday to the sound of rain on the caravan, not very heavy, but it continued for about 2 hours or so. Later in the morning it started again, this time quite heavy, and rained on and off for the rest of the day.

Now compared to what was going on in Cape Town it was nothing, maybe 5 -10mm (I am guessing as nobody has an accurate measurement)  compared to  C.T.’s over 100mm, but it did cause quite a bit of chaos. Remember that the area round here is classed as desert and as such has a very low average rainfall of about 25mm per year.

The road to Alexander Bay became like a mud bath and very slippery with the result that quite a few cars either got stuck or went off the road completely. Those that made it through to Brandkaros were covered in mud to half way up the windows. Some of the roads that go past here toward the Richtersveld Park became impassable and 2 guys from Springbok had to stay over here in the rondavals.

The other problem that was caused, with all the damp, was a localised power failure. They get so little rain here that there is not a lot of maintenance done on all the outside light covers or in the camp site office. I had a look and found that water was dripping down exposed wiring in the toilet. Not very safe!!. None of the electrical boxes, that the campers plug into, even have earth leakage. Anyway they managed to get hold of an electrician from Alexander Bay to sort some of it out. He had a hell of a job getting here and said he nearly went off the road a couple of times but at least I had electricity and could keep nice and warm and the fridges going.

I had been wanting to go to Alexander Bay yesterday to get some fresh supplies of fruit, bread etc. but decided against it because of the road conditions. I was hoping that when I woke up this morning that the sun would be shinning and I would be able to go in this afternoon. Unfortunately it is still overcast and could even rain again later, so no go. Will just have to make do with what I have.

I did bump into Analine, who manages the camp site, and she had baked me an enormous loaf of brown bread. I have had a few slices and it is delicious.

Delicious home baked brown bread.

Delicious home baked brown bread.

I am sure that after all the rain it will be a bumper year for the Namaqualand Spring flowers. I hope that by the time I start my journey back to Cape Town, late August, that the flowers will have started to bloom. I remember 40 years back, when they had a bumper year of flowers, it was spectacular. Mile after mile of flowers for as far as you could see. If this is a really good year I would recommend, to all who can, to go into the Namaqualand for a week-end. It will be well worth it.

Namaqualand flowers - Photo from Google images

Namaqualand flowers - Photo from Google images

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