10 January 2011 by Chris Marais

Rolling Down The River

Some say it’s a rather large dam. Others - like myself - think of this remarkable piece of water as a great lake called Gariep. It’s the biggest catchment of fresh water in South Africa and lies on our Mother River - the Orange.

Depending on the time of day you pass it by, Lake Gariep changes mood from sullen midday browns to the dark blues and coppers of dawn - and the molten silvers and golds of sunset. Karoo hills poke through it, appearing in soft light and morning mist like vapid Japanese islands.

It holds 6 000 million cubic litres of water in a vast space covering 374 sq km, irrigating more than 200 000 ha of land and providing 600 000 kilowatts of power. It feeds the Great Fish River, the Sundays River and the Orange River that heads west to Alexander Bay, traversing through South Africa’s desert lands.

But more than all that, for a South African living in a thirsty country, it’s a great comfort and joy to visit Lake Gariep and simply gaze in awe at its vast waters.

For visitors to South Africa who have spent some time driving through the arid Karoo, a delightful new tourism route running around Lake Gariep will reveal more than ‘big water’: historical sites, eccentric country types, a plush hotel, waterside herds of antelope and wide-angle landscapes to thrill the eye.

  • January’s nationwide rains brought on Gariep Dam levels of 120 percent, and sent massive gouts of water rushing down-river. Droves of travellers detoured to Gariep Dam just to see the pure power of our most precious asset: water.

Category: Culture & History

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