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The Richtersveld: A place of nomads 

The Richtersveld: A place of nomads  By now we’d been on the road for more than 8000 kilos. It’s that part of every trip where you feel you are getting ready for your own bed, but at the same time you start appreciating every moment on the road a bit more. You try to ‘live […]

The Richtersveld: A place of nomads 

The Richtersveld: A place of nomads 

By now we’d been on the road for more than 8000 kilos. It’s that part of every trip where you feel you are getting ready for your own bed, but at the same time you start appreciating every moment on the road a bit more. You try to ‘live in the now’ and be ‘mindful’. You try to memorise every landscape and strange tree. Mostly you just try to push that image of your desk further back in your mind.

I’m glad this was my mental state by the time we got to the Richtersveld. This is a place where you have to appreciate the little things. I’m glad that I had been on the road for a few weeks, that my clothes were dirty, that I’d been freezing in tents in the Kalahari for the last few nights and mostly that I didn’t have time (or reception) to research the area. Mostly I’m glad we did this trip in a Subaru Forester. Not just because it’s spacious and sturdy, but at this stage of the trip it has almost become home.

We drive through the Northern Cape and pass the likes of Keimoes, Kakamas, Pofadder and Springbok. Afrikaners like to buy t-shirts with those names on them at Old Khaki. We push on to Eksteenfontein with no idea of what to expect. The tarred roads ended 50 k’s ago. Doubt we’ll go there and be able to get the t-shirt.

Subaru SA Travel Adventure

A farm on the road to Eksteenfontein

We get a patch of reception and I phone the only guest house in Eksteenfontein to let them know we’re en route and haven’t gotten stuck or lost (yet). When asking for directions, tannie Stienie on the other end of the very broken line says that it’s the only yellow house and she’ll meet us in the street. The street.

It didn’t take long for the news of our arrival to spread. This small town in the Richtersveld has about 800 inhabitants and they ALL know we are coming. People come out of their homes to wave at us as we drive past to find the guest house: Kom Rus ‘n Bietjie. Tannie Stienie makes sure we have everything we need and offers to sort out our laundry fiasco the next day. She could see we needed a bit of mothering.

Kom rus ‘n bietjie guesthouse

The next morning we meet one of the Richterveld’s own: Volenti van der Westhuizen. Volenti takes us into the veldt. The ancient and odd trees stand sentinel on the rocky outcrops. It’s a bit eerie to see your first strangely human ‘halfmens’ tree looking down from the rugged kloofs and mountains. The Richtersveld is a very different kind of place. The pace of life is slow. The plants grow slowly. The people have time.

Oom Gert who we met along the way

The veldt gently reveals itself and the further we walk, the more we start to notice that all the plants around us look very, very different. As we continue walking into the kloof Volenti points out the desert rose, the bushman’s candle, the melkbos and many other plants that the locals use in their every day lives. This region boasts the most succulent plant species in the world  – 4849, of which 1940 are endemic only to the Richtersveld.

The veldt gently reveals itself and the further we walk, the more we start to notice that all the plants around us look very, very different. As we continue walking into the kloof Volenti points out the desert rose, the bushman’s candle, the melkbos and many other plants that the locals use in their every day lives. This region boasts the most succulent plant species in the world  – 4849, of which 1940 are endemic only to the Richtersveld.

We head to Khubus and pass the road to Lekkersing –  now that should be a t-shirt.  This a road for more rugged vehicles. Sandy mountain passes, sheer cliffs with names that bear a warning – dead man’s pass is one we drive a bit slower. The Forester does just fine. A stray goat jumping out from behind a rock is saved a bump by the Subaru’s auto braking Eyesight tech.

 

Volenti making friends with a goat

It’s difficult to go to Khubus if Lekkersing is your other option

In Khubus we are greeted by Abe Koopman, the site manager of the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape World Heritage site. That’s a mouthful. Abe organized some  local kids to show us the Namastap – a traditional dance of the Nama people who live in these parts. It’s magical. These kids can move! The Nama people are incredibly proud of their heritage and are well known for story telling, poetry and of course, the Namastap. This school is the only place in the world that still teaches the Nama Language – and we get to hear some of it.

Kids doing the Namastap

Abe takes us into the veldt to meet Oom Paul Moos who currently lives on a ‘Veepos’ with his herd of goats a few kilometers out of town. Oom Paul tells us about the Nama people’s nomadic way of life, about spending months at a time away from home looking after the herd, and about the plants that he uses to survive. “Here kids only go to hospital for a quick check after being born”, he says. “After that the veldt looks after us.”

The veepos isn’t much. There’s a small tent to sleep and a little boma style fireplace with pots and pans hanging from a tree. Oom Paul says staying at home for too long gets to him. He misses the veldt and his veepos. It is a simple life at a slow pace.

It is amazing to see how all these people genuinely rely on the incredible biodiversity of the Richtersveld – for medicine, food, candles etc. Everything can be found here.

“We don’t have the internet and we don’t want it”.

Walking away I have a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. I can’t quite place it. It certainly isn’t jealousy. More like nostalgia. I’ve been living in tents for the last couple of weeks, but this guy does it for a life. I have to go back to a desk soon and Oom Paul will just stay here,  living his simple life in the place where he is happiest in the world – at his own pace. Walking away I know that I will somehow never be able to have the inner peace this kind of life requires. But I love knowing that it exists.

The simple life

We get into the Forester and drive back to Eksteenfontein. The sun is setting, the flowers are closing, and the day is coming to a slow, silent end.

I like this place a lot.