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LLed by adventure sport specialists, the Kalahari Eco Ultra Pilgrimage Walk takes you on a 101km or 301km journey through the arid yet beautiful Kalahari Desert. Fortunately, your backpack is transported for you.
The Kalahari Eco Ultra Pilgrimage Walk is addictive. There's something unusually special about strapping on your hiking boots and walking across the Kalahari Desert.
Adventure tourism operator Frik Olwage, who started these annual 5- and 10-day walks 12 years ago, ascribes it to the 'spirit of the Kalahari'. He says that when you walk in this arid landscape and meet the people who live in it, it gets inside of you.
Participants need to be of average to good fitness. Each group is never larger than 8 to 12 people and Frik and his wife Lizette, who is the guide on the walks, look after all your needs.
The Olwages will meet you at the airport in Cape Town or Upington. Your backpack is transported for you in the support vehicle, while farmers and communities along the way provide accommodation and meals.
This Kalahari walk starts at the farm Daberas (meaning 'water that makes a noise' in the San language) – which is situated next to the Augrabies Falls National Park. From there the walk heads for the Riemvasmaak Wilderness Area and its healing hot springs – just the answer for aching muscles.
The local Riemvasmaak people entertain and cook for you – traditional bredies (stews) and roosterbrood (fire-baked bread). 'We always ask hikers to bring along pencils and books for the children or they can make a donation to the school,' says Lizette.
Next is the Green Kalahari along the Orange River where you visit a grape and herb farm, and a winery called Bezalel that produces pot brandies and mampoer (moonshine). 'Some aren't so keen to walk after that,' laughs Lizette.
The red dunes of the Kalahari follow, where you walk the 'streets' between the dunes and experience mirages on a 15km-wide saltpan. You will overnight at a farm here, and there is nothing quite like a braai (barbecue) on the saltpan at full moon.
The walk ends in Upington where you will receive a rose quartz trophy, handmade by Frik, for completing the challenge.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Lizette: +27 (0)82 883 0093
Frik: +27 (0)82 343 7853
How to get here
The organisers will either meet you at Cape Town International Airport and drive you to Upington, or you can meet them in Upington. You can fly to Upington from Cape Town or Johannesburg.
Tours to do
Eco Ventures offers a range of hikes, from shorter holiday tours to ultra-walks like this one.
The organisers have a vehicle that transports you to and from Upington, where the walk starts and ends. In between, it's all on foot.
What will it cost?
Rates vary depending on the length of walk you choose and number of people. The cost includes transport (excluding flights), all meals and accommodation. Enquire online.
Length of stay
Five or 10 days, plus 2 days travelling time.
What to pack
The organisers will provide you with a comprehensive list of what to bring when you make a booking.
Where to stay
All accommodation on the walk is included in the cost.
What to eat
All meals and snacks are provided. Simply inform the organisers when you book if you have any special dietary requirements.