Appropriately for a Monday, I woke up at 5am, packed up, and checked all my nuts and bolts. The gear lever incident of the day before made me more vigilant. Most of them had quite a bit of room to tighten, and also one bolt was completely gone. Luckily I had thrown in a few spare bolts on the last minute. And they actually fit! So up I saddled and off I went. But before I hit the long road, I had to get my sticker for Springbok.
I found some at Springbok Lodge which opened at 7am. Then I hit the long road. Anton, from Springbok Caravan Park warned me that after Aggeneys, the mountains retreat and its just one very long piece of dead road. I was worried about dying of boredom. I was also worried that I wouldn’t have enough fuel to get to Pofadder where Anton knew for sure there was a petrol station (he wasn’t so sure about Aggeneys), so I took an extra 5 liter on my back.
Its not so good riding with fuel in a backpack. It felt like I was riding with an ice block on myback. When I got to the Aggeneys turnoff, I saw there was a sign for a petrol pump in the town. But the town was 8 km down the road, so I was relieved that I didn’t have to go there. Some more km down the N14, I threw in the 5 liters and then on to Pofadder, stopping of course a few times more. Shoo, I don’t know how the Voortrekkers managed with their oxwagons on those gravel roads, and no shock absorbers accross the Kalahari. I can see it now, the Voortrekkers trekking accross the vast plains of Kalahari gravel and bossies (bushes) in ‘n ossewa (an oxwagon), no shocks or nothing. They must have been (had) tough cookies, want my hol brand op ‘n teer pad (because my bum was burning from riding on a tar road). Luckily, my back was ok. Much better than my first local road trip with my Honda VFR 400.
I was lucky that it was overcast, so it wasn’t very hot and other than a sore bum, it was comfortable. It turns out that this long of road of nothingness was quite a novel experience for me so it was quite nice. Every now and then there was a few kilometers of these hills/mountains spotted with Kalahari bushes, looking like stone heaps that were just plonked down there. Apparantly these mountains are rich in minerals, from iron ore to platinum. So says Anton. I do believe its true. There’s lots of mining going on here. All the mountains have chunks out of them that have been blasted to hell. The road is straight and very long.
Pofadder finally came, and as Anton said, the road widens into two lanes just at this section of the N14 that runs through Pofadder. Classic. Pofadder was so quiet! One would never say it was a Monday morning. I asked the petrol attendent why it was so quiet. He says, that by Friday the town starts Woeling (becoming lively), and the partying picks up, maar by Maandag, is die dorp weer mooi rustig (but by Monday the town is nice and quiet again).
I crossed over the road to the Petrol station on the other side, to get a sticker and to see this Ox-wagon at Pofadder Autos. True as god, as Anton said, there’s an ox-wagon in the shop. Its no longer a car dealer though. There’s all kinds of oddments being sold there now.
Then came a good enough time to get back on the road again. The next petrol stop was many many kilometers away in Kakamas.
The landscape changes quite a bit as one nears Kakamas as the wine farms start springing up on the sides of the roads in stark contrast to the desert vegetation. I saw the turn to Augrabies, which is before Kakamas. So I stopped to ask a guy on the side of the road where the nearest petrol station was. He said “baie naby” (very near), “by die robot op die links” (left of the next traffic light). His “baie naby” was 10 km later! I had a lunch at the petrol station, filled up, and turned back towards Augrabies which was 10km back down the N14, and then right onto the R359 for about 30 km.
I found a sign along the road for Augrabies backpackers unexpectedly after about 20 km, and was relieved to realize that there was a budget option. The actual backpackers turned out to be a twisty kilometer or so down a piece of dirt road. Its nice and isolated from the main road and quiet-ish. On the property, there were lots of blooming fruit trees, and decent rooms. They also had free wi-fi (with in reason-told to me by Cade the youngster running the place). They are not in the current coast to coast, but they are in the alternative route.
After settling in and asking the Cade about what there was to do in Augrabies, he explained to me how to get to the Augrabies Falls National Park and that anything can be arranged from there. So I went, and booked a game drive and then went to see the waterfall. They call it Augrabies after the bushman word for “place of great noise”. And it IS a place of great noise of the nicest kind. Staring down from one of the lookouts at the thundering waterfall, I imagined what it must be like to fall into it. You’ll be smashed to smithereens and whipped to a frothy pink pulp. This waterfall was definitely one of the most beautiful natural things I’ve seen in my life.
Later, the game drive didn’t disappoint. It was hard to see animals, we saw a few from a distance, a little giraffe, a few kudu, and Eland, a couple of very cute haasies (hares), klipspringers a spotted owl, and what the ranger said seemed to be a little fox. What fascinated me the most was the landscape! You can see it on pictures, you can see it on tv, but to be in it is surreal. The desert is so so so so beautiful. There are no words to describe how I felt to be inside it. The red gravel sand not completely covered by green, red and yellow bushes, and the golden bushes dressing the black rock pile hills. The smell rising up from the yellow kalahari bushes after a gentle drizzle. I will have to go back there again, when the season is open for it, to do a 3 day hike through the Kalahari. Its too hot now and Cade told me that the season for hiking probably just closed.
The game drive was at night. If I did it again, I’d rather do it in the morning. At night, they shine spotlights on the animals which makes the animals run away. They also allow people to do a certain part of the game drive in their own cars. Motorbikes are not allowed unfortunately. Riding back in the dark was a bit daunting, especially since there signage to the backpacker was not so good, but I managed, one km at a time, going slowly. Once back, I played a couple of game of pool with Cade and then went to bed. He was soul alone there. I was the only person staying there at the time.