Karoo Routes: Cape Town to Namibia

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Start of the trip: Cape Town’s Grand Parade at dawn.
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Along the way: heading up the N7 to the Namibian border.

Words and Photographs by Chris Marais

You could pack a hamper of road food, jump in a fast car and get from Cape Town to Namibia in eight hours or less – if you’re willing to risk a couple of speeding fines along the way.

Or you could drive this ancient 809km route over a leisurely space of five days and have one of the road trips of your life.

Seeing as how this is a Karoo journey, we’re going to leave the Mother City early and make a slow but steady drive for 298km to Vanrhynsdorp in southern Namaqualand.

We’ll pass on the Cape West Coast and all her marvellous offerings, opting instead for the open spaces that beckon. And, if we’re travelling in the late winter and spring months of August to October, there will be eye-popping sights of vast beds of flowers that have briefly occupied disturbed land.

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Vanrhynsdorp lies in the middle of succulent country.
At Vanrhynsdorp, you feel torn in many directions, tempted to venture into the nearby Cederberg range or head west to coastal spots like Lambert’s Bay or the lonely Doring Bay, with its mist-shrouded lighthouse. But we stay over in Vanryhynsdorp, check in at the local tourism offices for info on the Olifants River Valley and enjoy this botanic meeting place of fynbos and succulents.

As you venture north along the N7, there will be signs that this road has been travelled by many historic figures over the centuries. Explorers looking for routes to the interior and animals to hunt, prospectors looking for copper, missionaries looking for souls to bag and traders looking for business – they all left their mark here.

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The Namaqua National Park near Kamieskroon – a must-stop for travellers along the N7.
And suddenly, just more than 200km later, we’re checking into the Kamieskroon Hotel and getting ready for an afternoon with daisies, at the Namaqua National Park.

They run legendary photographic courses from the Kamieskroon Hotel, so it’s worthwhile to make enquiries and possibly book for a course sometime in the future.

The next day, we detour slightly to the coast and visit a mystical little seaside village called Hondeklip Bay – Dog Stone Bay. We’re going to spend the day with our toes in beach sand, chatting to the locals, feasting on seafood and generally making merry.

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Hondeklip Bay – a great place to simply dig your toes in the sand.
We’re sleeping at Die Honnehok in Hondeklip Bay, so there’s no driving today – which means you’re welcome to another glass of red wine.

Oops. It seems we all found bottomless glasses of red wine last night, because there’s a bit of suffering going on in the vehicle as we get back onto the N7 for the short hop up to Springbok.

No matter. The Springbok Lodge & Restaurant cures all ills. In no time, a bracing lunch has saved us and we drive out to Goegap Nature Reserve for the succulent garden and the wild flowers in the hills.

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Downtown Springbok – northern Namaqualand Flower Central.
We’re staying in a self-cater cottage in Springbok and cooking up a storm at home tonight. We’ll download all our flower photographs, compare notes and the brave ones in the company will open another bottle of red. Aah, life on the road.

The next day we’re going up the N7 and hooking a left at Steinkopf, crossing the Anenous Pass and going onto the flats before driving into Port Nolloth.

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Port Nolloth – you might be tempted to stay more than one night…
Our overnight stay is at one of the Bedrock Cottages right on the seafront. The Port Nolloth Museum is nearby and here we’ll meet more than one local crusty character who may or may not lead us astray.

Good morning. Are we ready to take on Namibia? We’ll be at the border in two hours. Get your Desert Cap on, as we continue riding the N7 into the land of Tafel beer, apple strudel, distant gemsbok, big skies and old desert castles.

Like this story? Visit the Karoo Space e-Bookstore for more.

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    The road to the north – Namibia awaits.
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    Cape Town to Namibia: map hand-drawn by Gil Vermaak.

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