27 May 2012 by Chris Marais

Kalahari retail therapy

Get the taste of the quirky side of the Kalahari on a 300-km road trip from Kimberley to Groblershoop in the Northern Cape: the R64, also known as the Missionary Road.

Slim pickings at the Kalahari Shopping Centre

For a number of very good reasons, I have to make an impassioned case for driving along the R64 between Kimberley and Groblershoop en route to Upington in the Northern Cape.

It’s about 300 km heading west, and your first natural sign of being in the Kalahari comes in the form of red sand dunes with feisty little scraggle-plants sticking out from the ridges.

One of your first man-made Kalahari signs is that of the Kalahari Shopping Centre on your right as you near Groblershoop. I have been driving past this ‘shopping centre’ for 10 years and have yet to see anyone buying or selling from this spot – or even parking near it. Every couple of seasons the Kalahari Shopping Centre – an uninhabited shell – gets a new paint job. Which means someone around here has a long-standing sense of humour.

Speaking of which, you may have noticed all the stop-go’s on the country’s roads of late. Of course, this is wonderful because it means something is being done about the potholes and such. But you might have to hang onto your sense of humour every time you have to interrupt your journey for up to 30 minutes at these construction stops.

I find Jimi Hendrix works. Try All Along the Watchtower, followed by Voodoo Chile, Hey Joe and Purple Haze. If that doesn’t work for you, it means you haven’t turned the volume up loud enough.

Every couple of seasons the Kalahari Shopping Centre gets a new paint job. Which means someone around here has a long-standing sense of humour.

You might, however, like the Beastie Boys, Mozart, Beyonce or Adele – perhaps some country music could do the trick for you. The point is, you can make a stop-go work for you by getting out, stretching those legs, playing your favourite music too loud and drinking in the absolute wide-angle wonders of the Kalahari.

You’re on the Missionary Road here, with all kinds of remembrances of David Livingstone and his wife, Mary Moffat, in settlements like Griqua Town and Campbell, where there is also a venerable and rare old Dandy windmill flapping in the northern breeze.

And when you finally reach Groblershoop, stop at the bridge and admire our Mother River: the Orange, or Gariep. The sight of the Orange/Gariep in full flow is worth all the stop-go’s in the world...


Category: Routes & Trails

comments powered by Disqus