We’re not in the middle of nowhere but we can see it from here…
Frommer’s travel guide refers to the Northern Cape as ‘Thelma and Louise territory’, the perfect destination for acclaimed photographer and author Obie Oberholzer, who likes nothing better than to pack up his bakkie and head off on long roadtrips, past endless horizons with little sign of human habitation.
True, the Northern Cape is vast, by far our largest province. Slightly bigger than Germany and taking up nearly a third of South Africa’s land mass, its population is a mere 1.2 million, which certainly makes it the go-to place if you’re looking for some quiet. But there are many more reasons to travel north.
In the province, no less than five national parks Kgalagadi, |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld, Augrabies, Namakwa and Tankwa Karoo offer some of the greatest game viewing and getaways. Then there are the spring flowers that stretch for miles, the mighty Orange River that feeds lush vineyards and cotton fields, and the breathtaking Augrabies Falls. People also arrive from across the world to stargaze under the clearest skies on the planet.
What really grabs me are the enchanting names of towns like Lekkersing, Khuboes, Loeriesfontein, Keimoes, Noenieput, Kakamas and Hotazel. One I had never heard of, until Obie suggested it to me, is Mier, and I was not entirely sure if he was pulling my leg. Obie uses ‘map roulette’ to pinpoint obscure, out of the way places, which is how he discovered the existence of Mier, two settlements (Groot Mier and Klein) that ‘lie in a finger of land that borders the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Namibia and Botswana’.
The good Prof Google is a fount of info. Mier is a municipality bigger than the Free State, but with only about 8 000 people, and it includes the communities of Rietfontein, Philandersbron, Loubos, Klein Mier and Groot Mier, Welkom, Askham and Noenieput.
One of the world’s ancient tribes, the ‡Khomani San owns farms in the Mier area. The people are poor, mostly small-time stock farmers, and 90 per cent depend on government grants. But for all the hardship in these gramadoelas of the Northern Cape, it is here that Obie finds true humanity and love, which you can read about in his story
The Kingdom on page 22. of Mier
Leaving Mier behind, we hitch a ride with veteran journalist and roadtrip aficionado Chris Marais (an Isuzu bakkie is another thing he and Obie have in common) to the far-off vlaktes of Vosburg in the Bo-Karoo. It’s worth noting that the most direct route from Gauteng to flowering Namaqualand is via Vosburg, about 60 kilometres west of Britstown.
‘Come and enjoy our shady trees’, reads the sign that welcomes travellers (you have to love a town that celebrates its shade). Especially in the Karoo, where summers can top 50°C. Read Chris’ story
Shady Town, on page 30. Cool People
For those of you on your way to the Namaqualand flowers, the news is excellent. Good rain over the past weeks (and more downpours expected) promise a spectacle, something the area hasn’t seen for a while.