Visit the area that once belonged to the original Griquas and famous missionaries that included Robert Moffat, John Campbell and David Livingstone, who later become one of the colonial era’s top explorers through Africa. Included on this route is the exotically named stop of Putsonderwater ('well without water').

Did you know?

Apart from the Mary Moffat Museum, Griekwastad, or Griquatown, is also famous for its semi-precious stones, especially tiger's eye.

Ironically enough, we begin our journey along what could be dubbed the 'missionary route' between Kimberley and Upington in the Northern Cape with a drink at the Crown and Royal Hotel near the historic Magersfontein battle site.

This is where the British High Command was once stationed during the South African (Anglo-Boer) War, and from where world-famous war correspondents like Rudyard Kipling operated. After a visit to Magersfontein and an audio-visual presentation of the battle, we head into the Diamond City – Kimberley.

In Kimberley, we dine on excellent tandoori chicken salads and burgers at the Halfway House. The ‘Half’ was where mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes used to stop after work for a drink – not bothering to dismount, he sat astride his horse and quaffed his ale.

The following morning we head west on the N8, passing the tent village of Schmidtsdrift. This is where members of two San groups, the !Xun and Khwe, were moved from Namibia and Angola following Namibia's independence in 1990. The community has been relocated to permanent housing in Platfontein near Kimberley. For more than 12 years they lived in this little tent town – and even had their own radio station.

At Campbell, we stop to take photographs of a rare and old wind pump and a beautiful red-roofed church. This is known as Bartlett’s Church and was built in 1831. Legend has it that renowned missionaries Robert Moffat and David Livingstone once preached from its pulpit.

Campbell itself was named after a missionary, the Reverend John Campbell.

At Griekwastad we stop off at the Mary Moffat Museum. Mary Moffat, the daughter of Robert Moffat, was also the wife of Livingstone. This little settlement was initially the headquarters of the Griqua people, led by Andries Waterboer.

The road gets even more interesting as we close in on the N10 junction at Groblershoop, a pretty little town on the Orange River. We stay overnight in chalets overlooking the nearby Boegoeberg Dam. We’ve been driving in a semi-desert setting, and suddenly it’s water, water everywhere.

At last light we grab a sundowner, park out on the chalet porch and look out over the dam while the barbecue coals simmer away. Life seldom gets better than this.

Nearly 25km south on the N10 and 22km west on a signposted dirt road lies a railway siding that has become an icon in South African travel culture: Putsonderwater – well without water.

Today Putsonderwater is a ruined railway station, but you can see remnants of an old hotel, a general store, homes and offices. The name came about back in the 1880s when this spot was occupied by one David Ockhuis and his two sons. They had a strong well, but guarded it jealously. So when someone arrived with thirsty livestock and enquired about the well, Ockhuis would say: ‘It is a well. But it is a well without water.’

Well worth visiting, we say. And now we turn back and make our way to the river town of Upington and the Kalahari Desert, for a new round of adventures...

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Boegoeberg Dam Chalets
Contact Madelein Swanepoel
Mobile: +27 (0)83 257 4730

Upington Aerial Flights
Tel: +27 (0)54 331 1328

Sakkie se Arkie Orange River Cruises
Tel: +27 (0)82 564 5447

How to get here

Kimberley lies on the N12 between Warrenton and Hopetown in the Northern Cape.

Best time to visit

The area is best visited in spring (August to September) or autumn (April to May).

Around the area

Try a gyroplane flight over the Orange River, leaving from Upington Airport at agreed-upon times.

Tours to do

Recommended is one of the battlefield tours to the Magersfontein South African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War) battlefield, near Kimberley.

Get around

You can fly to Kimberley or take the Shosholoza Meyl or Premiere Classe train from either Cape Town or Johannesburg. Once there, the best option would be to hire a car and drive yourself around the area.

What will it cost

Accommodation costs on the 'missionary route' are among the lowest in rural South Africa, running from as little as R200 per person, per night in a self-catering establishment.

Length of stay

Set aside three days for your trip from Kimberley to Upington if you can.

What to pack

Pack seasonally, informally and remember to throw in your sunblock, hat, camera, extra memory cards and camera batteries. During the summer (November to April), the temperatures in this area can be searingly hot, though cool right down at night. In winter (May to August), nights can be bitterly cold, though days are usually warm and mild, so pack accordingly.Pack informally, seasonally and bring sun protection in its various forms: sunblock and hats.

Where to stay

Kimberley has lots of good accommodation options – check the listed website for choices. Recommended along the route are the Boegoeberg Dam Chalets. Upington, like Kimberley, also has very good accommodation.

What to eat

Try the biltong along the way, and the sweet table grapes of Upington.

What's happening

Check the listed websites for the dates of events in both Upington and Kimberley.

Best buys

Sweet wine from Upington is world-famous.

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