See also Encounter Magazine's comprehensive guide on 4x4 adventures
in South Africa.
The Vioolsdrif trail follows the Orange River to the eastern boundary of the Richtersveld National Park, hence the similarities in vegetation and wildlife found in the park and on the trail.
The off-road section begins on an old mining path that meanders down into the Orange River valley, crowned by brilliantly coloured cliffs scarred by years of erosion and peppered with mica.
Some of the abandoned mines are still visible, and their lonely slagheaps are excellent sources of fossil material. The scenery is spectacular and the empty silence is broken only by the cry of the fish eagles.
Visitors can decide which routes to follow but the final decision always lies with the Satour-registered convoy guide who will select tracks that suit the collective driving ability of the visitors.
All guides are qualified first-aiders and are always at hand to coach newcomers on driving technique, navigation, tyre repair and packing and equipping a vehicle. Booking is essential. Trails are self-catering, although catering can be organised by arrangement.
A strict "tread lightly" ecological policy is enforced - their campsites show few signs of humans, unlike some trails where toilet paper blowing in the wind has become a depressing norm.
Don't miss River rafting and canoeing on the Orange, collecting fossils, the Richtersveld National Park and Namaqualand spring flowers.
The Richtersveld is one of the smallest parks in our country, yet, undoubtedly the most different and the most beautiful. The area, classified as a mountain desert, has a very harsh and dry climate with temperatures as high as 53ºC in summer and night temperatures cool to chilly in winter.
The area is breathtakingly beautiful and a new scene meets the eye at every turn. The grotesque shapes and sizes of the mountains, hills and rocks bear witness to great volcanic activity millions of years ago.
WILDLIFE AND VEGETATION
In spring the area is covered with flowers. In summer the spectacular "halfmens" (also known as the elephant trunk tree) changes shape and really looks like an elephant trunk lifted questingly towards the sky.
But in winter the tree boasts a head of branches and leaves that uncanningly resembles a human-like figure standing like a sentinel on the ridges. The western mountainous region falls mainly in the winter rainfall area which also receives the life-giving mists, called the ``Malmokkie" or ``Huries" by the Nama, from the sea. On this side of the mountain range the veld is green.
Plants with evocative names like the like the Koekemakranka, the Cancer bush, Honnepisbos (dog urine bush - freely translated) where the dassie-rat makes its nest and the Bushman's candle a waxy succulent which will burn even in wet weather abound here. On the other side, which receives its rain in summer, the veld is sparsely covered and extremely rocky.
1. An extra spare wheel, topi; spares.
2. Extra water containers there is no water at all in the park.
3. Enough films for the camera.
4. Tents and stretchers are essential. It is advisable not to sleep an the ground this is SCORPION habitat.
5. Insect repellent in summer.
6. Firewood and kindling or gas cookers.
A three bedroomed guest house is available at the Park Warden's office. Camping sites in the park are clearly marked.
Tel: (027) 831 1506
Fax: (027) 831 1175
Box 406, Alexander Bay 8290