A River Runs Through It - Vioolsdrift
As we sat on the bank of the Orange River in Vioolsdrift, I was once again struck by the absolute beauty in the stark contrast experienced here: the water of the Orange River clashing with the Richtersveld Desert. If you look at it from above, it is as if the desert was shocked by the arrogance of the water flowing here and pulled back on both sides, forming mountains and in this way trying to prevent further contamination with the water.
We had time for a quick visit to this corner of the Northern Cape. After spending some time in Alexander Bay, we had booked a few days on the banks of the Orange river at Fiddler’s Creek. The “homeless” had found a place to call home for a couple of days.
Each morning we would walk up Geelkrans, a very steep hill just outside Vioolsdrift on the way to Eksteensfontein. I hoped that this would be the start of our journey to Everest Base Camp later this year. While climbing this “monster” (similar to the road we take to THE HILL, although with much less traffic and pollution), my angel made the comment that if God would do a sand painting, it would probably look similar to this landscape. The sun was rising over the hills, rocks were being painted gold and the sky was being lit up with blues, reds , purples and greys while the desert canyons were still covered in shades. At this time of the morning we could still relish the coolness that was soon to evaporate before the Namaqua sun.
Since my first time rafting here in 1998, I’ve been intrigued by the uniqueness of this special part of South Africa. The temperatures ranging mostly above 40 degrees in summer call for some very special people to live here. The plants that are able to survive this extremely hostile environment are not only unique but also very often overlooked or undiscovered. A visit to the Richtersveld National Park should therefore be high on your list of things to do and places to see in South Africa. I promise you there is nothing remotely similar in our country to what you will experience and see hear.
The campsite at Fiddler’s Creek is perfectly situated to accommodate the many overlanding trucks and people crossing the South Africa-Namibia border. It is, however, probably most well-known for the many adrenaline seekers rafting from Vioolsdrift with white water rafting companies such as Bushwacked. You can choose to navigate your way among the rocky desert hills on the Orange river for anything from one to four days. The sheer beauty and seclusion combined with the adrenaline of the fairly calm rapids make it possible for the whole family – from young to old – to join in the adventure. We once undertook a rafting trip over the New Year’s holiday, which was a bit hot. I learned to balance myself on a chair in the river with a drink in my hand and only the top half of my face showing above the water.
The different accommodation options at Fiddler’s Creek vary from basic camp sites to glamping in their tented lodge. Our tent even had proper beds! The communal bathrooms are cleaned daily and kitchen facilities are available to all. Visitors are perfectly positioned to start their Richtersveld route from here, later entering the Richtersveld National Park at Sendelingsdrift. This can also form part of a flower route expedition during August and September, when the temperatures are much more bearable. If you are a fisherman, the opportunity to seek out some small and big mouth yellow fish should not be missed. The area from here to Alexander Bay has arguably provided some of the best fishing experiences I have ever had. You can choose to wade in the water or fish from a kayak. The results on our labour once astounded even my angel, who tried to count the fish we caught without success.
A very unexpected bonus at Fiddler’s’ Creek is the many mango trees planted here. Ask one of the locals to make you a mango smoothie if you’re ever here in summer. It will probably blow your taste buds to smithereens.
Our adventure literally deflated on the 100 kilometre journey back to Springbok. Thankfully we were eagerly assisted by some very friendly people willing to go the extra mile to help a lost guy without a jack struggling to change his tyre. Thank you, Vioolsdrift! We hope to see you again for some more fun in the sun.
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