Springbok to Upington – the Orange River route
Did you know?
In the Koranna language, Kakamas means either a place of poor grazing, or ‘vicious, charging ox’.
The glorious, panoramic N14 road between the Northern Cape towns of Springbok and Upington stretches for more than 420km.
On this road, you will be tempted to pull over, stop and take landscape photographs, often of nothing but wide-open spaces. But slow down, because you're going to stop over in some very interesting spots.
Our first stop is the mission village of Pella, about 30km this side of Pofadder. It’s a poor community with Khoisan roots, but at the centre of this date oasis is one of the most remarkable cathedrals in South Africa.
The Roman Catholic missionaries who designed and constructed this cathedral were not master architects or genius church builders. They were just practical men with access to a very good encyclopaedia and faith in their work. The men belonged to the Order of St Francis de Sales, who is also the patron saint of writers.
After photographing the cathedral and going on a guided tour with one of the sisters of the order, we drive off to the nearby Klein Pella Guest Farm, where we are staying overnight. It's one of the largest date farms in the world and well worth a tour if you have time.
The next morning we drive on and arrive in Pofadder in time for tea at the local hotel. The town was not named after the venemous puffadder snake – it takes its name from a local Koranna chief and suspected cattle rustler called Klaas Pofadder, who died in a skirmish with local farmers more than a century ago.
Just more than 120km eastwards, we turn north to the Augrabies Falls National Park, where we’ll be staying overnight in chalets.
Our first outing after checking in and dropping our luggage is a walk down to the main falls, which cascade nearly 60m down to the base of the Orange River. Nama legend believes that one of the river snakes of the Orange River lives down there, and possesses eyes of diamonds.
As we walk over the lunar landscape, we come across ‘critters’ like the Augrabies (Broadley’s) flat lizard and dassies (hyraxes or rock rabbits) sunning themselves. Look skywards and you might spot a couple of Verreaux’s (black) eagles swooping down to hunt the dassies before they can scuttle to safety.
The next morning the road beckons, and pretty soon we’re in the Orange River town of Kakamas, with its satellite villages and vast vineyards.
We photograph the unusual water wheels of Kakamas and watch them slowly pumping water down the furrows to the vines. In the town stands an odd building of distinctly Egyptian design – it was once the local power station. It is said it produced so much electricity that the excess was offered to nearby Upington.
We divert from the N14 for the rest of the journey and drive along an interesting dirt road that runs parallel to the river, all the way to town of Upington. En route we stop and look at the quiver trees and drink coffee at one of the shops in Keimoes, an interesting island settlement.
In no time we’re in Upington, the gateway to the Kalahari, where we end our trip with a sundowner in sight of the Mother River...
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Augrabies Falls National Park
Tel: +27 (0)54 452 9200
Tel: +27(0)54 933 0063?
//Khara Hais Tourism Centre (Upington)
Tel: +27 (0)54 338 7151
How to get here
Springbok lies approx. 560km north of Cape Town on the N7 highway to Namibia.
Best time to visit
The best times to visit this area are in spring (August to September) and autumn (April to May).
Around the area
You might want to drive up to Riemvasmaak Canyon for the day from your base in Augrabies.
Tours to do
There are many tours through this region – check the listed Green Kalahari and Northern Cape Tourism websites for choices.
You will need to hire a sedan car for your journey through Bushmanland.
What will it cost
Apart from your stay in a national park (where chalets cost approx. R900 per unit), most accommodation along this route is in the R250 pp per night self-catering category.
Length of stay
Set aside at least 4 days and 3 nights for this journey.
What to pack
Pack comfortable, seasonal clothes for long-distance travel, and outdoor gear for the occasional hike or walk.
Where to stay
Klein Pella Guest Farm, the Pofadder Hotel, Augrabies Falls National Park or Upington, which has many accommodation choices.
What to eat
Hearty meals involving lots of meat are on the menu all the way from Springbok to Upington.
Check the listed websites for any festival dates in the places you are passing through.
Locally produced wine from one of the Upington cellars.