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The Place of Great Noise - Augrabies National Park, Northern Cape

If you love deserts, then this region in the unexplored Northern Cape Province should be on your bucket list.

                                                                                            – Photographs & Copy: Jacques Marais

Local Buzz:

This arid landscape – resplendent with ochre dunes, Van Gogh fields of flowers during spring and quiver trees skylines – makes the town of Augrabies (and Marchand next door) a must-see. But as the old Afrikaans saying goes, a trip here will be for the collar rather than the dog.

It is the landscape surrounding the dusty selection of houses and shops that draws the visitors, who come here for the lunar rock formations, weird flora and expansive skies. The dorp itself borders the eponymous national park, which means that tourists seldom stop here, but rather head straight into the arid swathe of wilderness beckoning 10km beyond the town.

Established as a conservation area in 1966, the centrepiece of the park undoubtedly remains the impressive Augrabies Falls, and even the locals will agree that this grand natural spectacle offers way more on the wow-scale than anything in their main street. Below the falls, a colossal gorge gashes for a good 18km through the granite-gneiss bedrock.

Augrabies lies north of Kakamas upon the very edge of the Kalahari Desert, an endless sand basin stretching all the way from the Gariep River to Angola. Most uncharacteristically, the town itself is surrounded by flourishing orchards and vineyards, with most of the inhabitants working at Orange River Wine Cellars, (the second-largest co-operative wine cellar in the world).

The Routes

Mount up and get spaced out in a place where kokerbome and lunar rockscapes rear up from plains as old as the continent itself. This is Planet Aukoerebis, but, even though this means ‘Place of Great Noise’ in Khoi, chances are you’ll hear little else besides the slash of gravel below your bike tyres.

Crank off from Main Camp along this undulating dirt ride, taking care when pedalling across the low-water crossing just over a kilometre out of camp as it is covered in a generous slather of slippery moss! A few gentle climbs will bring you to the turn-off to Moon Rock – turn right to explore this magnificent magma mound shrugging up from the arid scrub.

Scan the camelthorn gullies for kudu and eland, pedalling back to the main road and on to the Ararat viewpoint.  Don’t miss this: a slip-n-slide dirt chute bangs you down onto the precipitous edge of the Augrabies Gorge, from where an end-of-the-world view lurches along the chaotic rock canyon. The return climb links you onto a dogleg right towards Oranjekom for a swashbuckling free-ride and another spectacular panorama –take a breather, take in the view and revel in the hard rock splendour of this amazing place.

Once you’re back on the main road, turn right and spin along for 2.3km – here the road forks left towards the Fonteintjie Lookout and right towards Echo Corner.  Do the Fonteintjie Lookout first, cruising the sandy flats to fully synch into desert mode.  Then it’s onto the piece de resistance; the rollicking ruckus of a run down into Echo Corner. Howl to your heart’s content into the vastness of the surrounding plutonic rock or tune into the immense sounds of silence.  By now, the sun will be well into the big noon-day burn, so heed the call of the swimming pool and head back to camp.

Best Time of Year to Visit
You’re basically headed into semi-desert, so expect summer days to cook, especially between November and March. Plan your rides so that you leave camp at dawn and get back by 11h00. Autumn to early spring makes for a more amiable outdoor experience, although the nights and early mornings will freeze your butt off.

 

FAST FACTS BLOCK

GRADING: Easy
DURATION: 2-3 hours
CONFIGURATION: A return ride with various side road options; 30-40km
START POINT: Augrabies Main Camp
COORDINATES:
28° 35′ 35.4″ South / 20° 20′ 14.6″ East
TERRAIN: Gravel roads with good surfaces; sandy en route to Fonteintjie
MAP: Available on from Reception or the Main Gate
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:
Regular Park fees apply
FACILITIES:
Main Camp has it all – accommodation, swimming pool, restaurant, shop, pub etc.
CELL RECEPTION:
At Main Camp and along most of the route
BEWARE: Extreme temperatures, dehydration and snakes
WEBSITE: www.sanparks.org/parks/augrabies/
MORE INFORMATION:
Neither gradient nor road surface will push your skills, so get ready for a speedy and lekker crank suited to all levels of riders

Getting There

The Augrabies Falls National Park lies 120km west of Upington. Stay on the N14 past Keimoes on the road to Kakamas, then turn north after 8km onto the R359. Continue through Augrabies Town (25km) to the park.

 

 

 

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