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Richtersveld Long Trip Away

22 September 2019 - Alida Timberlake
It started as a dream for a 20 year-reunion of a Richtersveld trip Malcolm went on in 1999. I was unable to join him then, as the dates did not fall in the school holidays, and he enlisted a co-driver (a story for another day …).

I am familiar with Namibia, but really didn’t know what to expect this side of the border. Malcolm is very thorough in his research and planning and everyone commented on this throughout the trip, but (as is usual on most of our family trips) I found out the details of the route only as we started out and I began to read the travel log and ask questions along the way.

What an amazing experience it turned out to be! Long before the actual trip our team started sharing progress notes of their preparations on a WhatsApp group, making for much hilarity as questions and comments (and silly memes) were posted daily - like Alex announcing that he had successfully tested his shower unit in his driveway! In this way we started getting to know each other even before some of us had even met.

Sadly, two families were forced to back down, due to unforeseen circumstances (Alex’s hopes of Anneri providing home-cooked meals for him were summarily dashed and the poor man had to make do with peanut butter and jam samies!) Mike and Nancy Eager were able to fill the spot for the first week’s travel but would not continue with us into the Ais Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and we parted ways in Port Nolloth. So, six vehicles (and one trailer) were expected on the trip. Three vehicles, Malcolm and Alida Timberlake, Steve and Fiona Du Plessis and Alex Zanella set out on 23 August. We met Mike and Nancy at Witsand where they had already set up camp and were joined the next morning by Andy and Mary Stuart whose departure had been delayed due to work pressure (and house renovations) – so much so that they arrived with most of their kit appearing to have been shoved into shopping bags post haste. To our amusement (not theirs), they spent most of their time at the next few camp sites trying to create order out of the apparent chaos, and, to their credit, eventually seemed to get it together!

At Augrabies we met up with Des and Liz Smith, all the way from Oudtshoorn, driving a long wheel base home on wheels with an endless supply of rusks which were generously offered around and seemed to last right until on the last day when we parted (unless she was secretly baking them on the Kelly?!). They seemed relieved that we were all reasonably mature, as they had not been sure (from our silliness on the WhatsApp group) what the age group was of the team they had blindly joined! Our party was complete. And made up of an interesting range of vehicles: two Disco 3’s, three long wheel base Defenders and one Shorty driven by Alex who was the only one in the party who did not have a driving companion.

And so, we began to get to know each other a little better: Steve, stand up comic, always with a trick up his sleeve and with a joke story for every situation, Fiona, master of  computations (enough to baffle statistically challenged people like myself), Andy, the rock master, Des the Kelly king (watch out for our article in the Magazine for more on this phenomenon!) and Mary the fashionista who appeared each morning in a new, glamorously put together outfit – lipstick freshly applied!

On a more serious note, one hears about the gravel roads that eat tyres, and sure enough, the two Discos each had a turn to change a tyre along the way. Worse than that, however, was the reality of the corrugated roads. With regularity we lamented that long stretches of technical 4x4 tracks would be preferable to the denture-defying shake rattle (and not so much roll) of the corrugations! These took their toll on the rear door of Andy’s Defender, but the bush mechanics among us expertly repaired it on-site with Steve’s array of tools which included a few surprising items one would not normally carry! In fact, Steve and Alex did a better job on it than Land Rover, and it’s now been declared a permanent and very professional fix.

Two weeks of touring, experiencing stunning wild camp sites and breathtaking vistas along the way, deserves a full-length Magazine article and space for numerous photographs - and that is the plan, but suffice it to say, anyone who has not yet experienced this amazing area should add it to their bucket list. Although incredibly, (heartbreakingly) dry, the vegetation in the Richtersveld Conservancy is surprising and, at times, unbelievable. Not in the sense of the Northern Cape Flower Kingdom displays that one sees in travel brochures, but in terms of the incredible array of succulents – a testimony to God’s great creation. I brought home a rock collection which I thought to be quite impressive, but which now looks insignificant in comparison to the natural ‘rock gardens’ along the way…

A final word – no Land Roving trip is complete without drama, and we had that too. Despite the meticulous planning, we found ourselves with vehicle issues and on a mountain top trail from hell (summed up by Liz in the famous words of a recent Namibian YouTube sensation, Marlize …), but with the spirit that is so evident amongst Land Rover Owners (and Steve’s travelling workshop consisting of everything except a concrete mixer!) everyone pulled together to save the day - and we beat that mountain without the need for a single recovery!




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