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Klipspringer Trail

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37km from Kakamas

-28.5936, 20.3377

40km

+27 12 428 9111 www.sanparks.org.za

Moderate to hard trail; Not suitable for children

About

This challenging hike is the best way to really appreciate the rugged wilderness of the Augrabies National Park. The central feature of the park is the Orange River, which has worn its way through the granite bedrock, creating a series of falls and a dramatic gorge, and the trail takes you to magnificent viewpoints over the canyons, and then along a section of river bed.

The 39,5-kilometre trail, which starts at the rest camp, takes three days to complete, overnighting in rustic huts, which have toilets but no showers and are equipped with bunk beds, mattresses, firewood and basic cooking and braai utensils. The route of day one (14 kilometres) initially hugs the edge of the Orange River gorge as it makes its way to Arrow Point, from where there are great views over the gorge, and to Twin Falls. The path then meanders through pink gneiss formations until, after passing four fairly deep river valleys, you reach the Ararat Viewpoint, which again offers awesome views of the gorge. About 30 minutes later, you come to a picnic site on the edge of the gorge and then it’s a short walk to the Visarendhut (Fish Eagle hut) at the northern edge of the Swartrante.

On day two (13,5 kilometres) you descend to the river, which you follow for three to four hours (seven kilometres) downstream past Echo Corner to Arendkrans. The terrain is initially rocky and then you encounter tiring stretches of sand. At Arendkrans, the trail leaves the river to wander down Diepkloof, a dry river course flanked by smooth rock banks, and then swings east following a drainage line. After about 30 minutes you head south along another drainage line until you reach Berghut, superbly located among a jumble of rocks.

On the final day (12 kilometres), the trail steadily ascends the slopes of the Swartrante and then winds down the eastern slopes before crossing a grassy plain dotted with quiver trees. Finally the trail joins the main tourist road, which takes you to Moon Rock and back through open veld to the rest camp.

The trail is open from April 1 to October 15 and must be booked in advance.

The Klipspringer Hiking Trail consists of three days of hiking. The first day is 14 kilometres long; the second day 13,5 kilometres; and the last day 12 kilometres. Though the first day is the longest, the second day is typically the most difficult regarding the heat, while the third day is the least demanding. As the hike is quite demanding, it’s necessary to plan for quite a rigorous trip.

The trail is marked with the directional signs and/or cairns (small, man-made rock piles).

Because this is a semi-arid area, the trail is sometimes difficult to follow without using the trail markers and cairns.

Day one starts at the reception area. Follow the signs to the campground. Continue along the main road through the campground to the northwestern corner. Look just beyond the building on the edge of the campground and you’ll see a big green sign that marks the beginning of the hiking trails. From here, the trail roughly follows along the rim of the gorge to the Visarend Hut (Fish Eagle Hut), which is about 1,5 kilometres from Oranjekom.

Day two begins with a short climb up the hill behind the hut before heading down a small valley into the gorge. It’s recommended to walk slightly above the Orange River for the first couple of kilometres in the gorge to avoid boulder-climbing along the water’s edge. The trail follows the Orange River for about 8 kilometres. Along the way, you’ll come across the Augrabies Falls National Park canoe put-in point. The sixth dry river bed you reach after the canoe put-in point is quite large, and this is the one that will lead you to the hut. At the confluence of three dry river beds, you take the river bed to the left. Follow this main river bed and when it takes a 90-degree turn to the right, you are only about one kilometre from the Berg Hut (Mountain Hut).

Continue following the river bed, but move to the left side just above the bank, where you’ll encounter a dirt road. While following the road, keep a close eye to your left: the hut is visible through a small saddle.

Day three follows the dirt road for a short while before heading towards the Swart Rante (Black Ridges). After crossing the Swart Rante, the trail follows along the road periodically until reaching Moon Rock. At Moon Rock, you have the option of climbing over the top of Moon Rock or walking along the base of it on the right-hand side. After Moon Rock, you meet up with the Dassie Interpretive Trail for about the last 2,5 kilometres before reaching the rest camp. When you encounter the low-water crossing, follow the trail to the left: it’s not necessary to take off your shoes and wade unless you want to cool off.

In case of emergencies, call 054 452 9200.

From http://www.sanparks.org/parks/augrabies/ Few sights are as awesome or a sound as deafening as water thundering down the 56-metre Augrabies Falls when the Orange River is in full flood.

The Khoi people called it “Aukoerebis”, or place of great noise, as this powerful flow of water is unleashed from rocky surroundings characterised by the 18-kilometre abyss of the Orange River gorge.

Picturesque names such as Moon Rock, Ararat and Echo Corner are descriptive of this rocky region. Klipspringer and kokerboom (quiver trees) stand in stark silhouette against the African sky, silent sentinels in a strangely unique environment, where only those that are able to adapt ultimately survive. The 55 383 hectares on both the northern and southern sides of the Orange River provide sanctuary to a diversity of species, from the very smallest succulents, birds and reptiles to springbok, gemsbok and giraffe.

Green Kalahari

Northern Cape

About

The Green Kalahari embraces a large tract of undulating red dunes, mountain desert, and grasslands in the far north of the Northern Cape Province bordering Namibia and Botswana. In the extreme north it is home to the popular Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park where the black-maned lion is king, while in the west lies the Augrabies Falls National Park.

Upington, which straddles the banks of the Orange River where the N10 and N14 intersect, is the region’s main town. Further down river the other important regional towns of Keimoes and Kakamas bask amongst the vineyards. 

Many may consider ’green’ a little optimistic where the Kalahari is concerned. However, the ‘Green’, in this case, is in reference to the extensive vineyards that flank the Orange River as it curves through the region. In summer they trace a lush, verdant line against an otherwise arid backdrop of hills and plains cloaked in autumnal colours for most of the year. The vineyards follow the river for 350km and cover over 17 000 hectares making it one of the most intensively farmed areas in South Africa. 

From here table grapes are exported to Europe, while some cultivars are turned into award-winning wines by Orange River Wine Cellars. This five-cellar co-operative, which produces around 30 different wines, is the largest in the country. 

Paradoxically, for a region considered by many to be a desert, there are plenty of water-based activities, all of which are centred on the Orange River - at 2200km it’s South Africa’s longest River. Great river-rafting opportunities can be enjoyed along the stretch between Kakamas and the Augrabies falls.

There’s also fishing, ‘twitching’ along the banks, and in Upington, an evening cruise while supping a few cold beverages to watch the sunset.

Then there’s the varied desert wilderness to explore, from the rocky environs around Augrabies Falls and Riemvasmaak, through the rolling red sand dunes further north, to the vast flat pans in the Mier area. Amidst all this rugged scenery Camelthorn trees dot the landscapes and the large thatched nests of the busy sociable weavers crown both trees and telephone poles alike. 

Game viewing in the Green Kalahari is somehow more rewarding than in areas more flush with rainfall. Perhaps it’s the amazement at the variety in an arid land. 

The prime spot is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, but there’s also Augrabies Falls National Park, isolated areas like Spitskop Nature Reserve near Upington, and a host of game farms.

Birdwatchers, and especially those into raptors, are likely to suffer whiplash from swinging the binos around at the variety, especially in the far north. From the mighty martial eagle to the diminutive pygmy falcon, the region is a birders’ paradise. Wine-tasting, recreation and adventure sports, game-viewing, and bird-watching… and the area is well-known for its dried-fruit production. 

In essence a visit to the region is all about discovery, where visitors can shun the ordinary and expect the unusual. It’s not just an aimless wander through a barren desert, but rather an odyssey across a new frontier far removed from the tourist crowds. Above all, welcomes are as warm as the weather, the hospitality is superb, and the food – especially the meat – is excellent and plentiful.

Look out for

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - in the far north of the region is a vast wilderness of red dunes, dry savannah, and majestic camel thorn trees along the Auob and Nossob Rivers. It’s a birders’ paradise and there are plenty of antelope and their associated predators, including the black-maned Kalahari lion. The park has 264 bird species, including two thirds of the raptors found in South Africa, however, this list includes many vagrants so numbers vary throughout the year. There is an abundance of smaller wildlife, from mammals to rodents, reptiles, and insects that will keep nature-lovers enthralled for hours. The three traditional camps are Twee Rivieren, Nossob, and Mata Mata, which offer accommodation in both chalets and campsites, and they have shops and sell fuel. However, there are also a number of wilderness camps - some accessible only in a 4x4.

Augrabies Falls National Park - the principal attraction here is the 6th largest waterfall in the world. Other highlights include Moon Rock, a massive granite monolith, and Ararat viewpoint which overlooks some of the 18km gorge below the falls. Although it is primarily a scenic park, wildlife includes giraffe and several antelope species, and 180+ bird species have been recorded. A drive along the network of gravel roads or a walk on one of the trails will reveal some of the region’s sublime mountain desert scenery. Accommodation is in chalets, bungalows, or camp and caravan sites, and there’s a licensed à-la-carte restaurant, a coffee shop, and a shop with basic foodstuffs and curios. Day visitors are welcome.

Orange River Wine Cellars - the cellars at the towns of Upington, Kakamas, Keimoes, Groblershoop, and also at Grootdrink (alongside the N10 between Upington and Groblershoop) offer wine tastings and sales.

Riemvasmaak Hot Springs - 56km north-west of Kakamas, is situated in a deep ravine surrounded by a mountain desert landscape. The 75 000ha wilderness near Augrabies Falls offers visitors a chance to relax in the soothing waters of the hot springs, take up the challenge of three 4x4 trails, break out on foot along three hiking trails, or enjoy other adventure activities. They have basic self-catering accommodation.

River rafting on the Orange - for specialised 4-day canoe safaris and shorter river trips around the Augrabies Falls call Kalahari Outventures. They also do 5-day back road trips through the Kalahari. Khamkirri Private Game Reserve, 30km from Kakamas, is a one-stop activity centre, excellent for those who get bored of routine. They offer game drives, river rafting, angling, horse riding, abseiling, tours to local attractions, 4x4 routes, and bird watching. They also have a range of accommodation.

Dried Fruit - there’s an unbelievable variety of dried fruit that can be bought at farm stalls throughout the region.

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