Kakamas, Northern Cape

A traditional water wheel, found mostly in Kakamas and Keimoes.
Kakamas is a Khoi term meaning ‘poor pasture’ or ‘raging cow’ or ‘brown’, depending on your source.

However, the town of Kakamas in the upper Northern Cape snuggles into a fast-flowing Orange River and is today a place of vast table grape vineyards and lucerne fields.

In fact, if you overfly Kakamas, you will see how verdant it is, lying in a riverside strip of Irish green. And then just a few kilometres out either side of the Orange, you see scrub desert lands.

So the real story of Kakamas, a very pleasant little stop-over on your journey into northern Namaqualand, is all about water and how it feeds the people who live here.

At the turn of the 20th Century, farmers were given riverside plots if they reciprocated by building a system of irrigation canals and tunnels. A locally-designed water wheel complex was built to bring the precious fluid to higher ground and pretty soon the breakfast tables of England and Europe were bedecked with grapes and peaches from Kakamas.

Kakamas also falls on the axis of Bushmanland and the Kalahari, and its Khoi founder was a river pirate who later reformed and became a devout Christian. Klaas Lucas, one of the “river people”, also founded neighbouring Keimoes, which means “mouse nest” in Khoi.

One of the major attractions in the area lies northwards, in the form of the Augrabies Falls National Park. This, in Khoi, means “the noisy one” and it’s a very apt name, as the Gariep River narrows at one point and cuts through granite with great force and thunder. Augrabies is full of interesting trails, the falls themselves must not be missed – just take care in rainy season.

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