This time last year, we hopped into a 4×4 for a road trip adventure to explore the Northern Cape, while flower spotting at the Namaqua National Park and its surrounds. The whole area is rugged terrain and you need a 4 x 4 to travel through the area. Our trusted city hatch back would not quite manage. So, we borrowed my father in law’s jeep for a week of exploration.We explored sand dunes in a 4×4, lived on the wild side when the diesel at a stop we made before a long stretch was sold out and froze our bums off in a stone hut. All part of what makes road trips epic.
I wrote about part of our experience for an in-flight magazine earlier this year but also wanted to share more of our adventure here.
Our base for the first couple of nights was a place called Noup. Noup is hidden on the seemingly deserted space between the small mining towns of Kleinzee and Koingnaas. It is made up of sea facing ‘huts’ that used to be where diamond divers stayed in the mining heyday. When the diamonds dried up, the huts were used as facilities for tourists. For the most part, the original state of the huts remained the same. That is, they are uniquely built, basic stone huts with an indoor fire place and bathroom.
The things that I loved: I loved that the hut was right on the beach and you could hear the heaving of the ocean throughout the night. The staff were so friendly and helpful (shout out to them for telling me the best exact 4G hot spot) and also sorted out the dishes in the morning. It has all the items you would need for a decent meal prep and the interior decor is colourful and charming.
The things that irked me: We went in the early days of Spring which is still chilly. There were loads of blankets and hot water bottle provided which was great. I thought the fire would make the whole space cosy at night. It did not. No matter how much wood you used, the room felt like it remained just below warm and on a freezing cold night, that kind of sucks.
The doors are rather low, which didn’t actually bother me because I’m not that tall, but Steve scraped his head going through one of the doors. It looked very sore and needed a plaster. After that he hit his head two more times, I don’t know I guess he just wanted to make sure it was still low?
Although the website used the words basic, rustic and ‘untouched mystique,’ that turned out to be a bit much for me. As I watched the fire burn down, I discovered (well, I probably always knew this), that I likely don’t like rustic so much. I reckon, I am more a fan of “largely rustic or rustic chic.” Qualifiers are important, people!
On the second day of our road trip, we joined the Sand dunes and Shipwreck run Namaqua Coastal Expeditions and Rodville Adams. When I first called Rodville to enquire about the Shipwreck 4×4 tour, my main question was: “we’ve not really (ever) done that much (any) 4×4 driving, so how hectic is the route?” He said not to worry, it is a fairly easy route with only a few very sandy patches which he could talk us through. However, if you didn’t travel there in a 4×4, or are travelling to the Northern Cape alone, you can just meet him in town and do the tour in his one.
When the day came he armed us with some brief 101 tips, deflated our tyres and armed us with a walkie talkie. While testing the walkie talkie, I thought I would resist the temptation to sign off with “over” after each interaction. I did not. He laughed but I’m pretty sure he’s “over” guests cracking that joke!
The tour is about a 4 hour drive. Along the way we hear about the history of the area including abandoned buildings from when the mine was still open to a farm house and wells still standing from the 1920s. We jump out along the way to chat about the wildlife and sturdy vegetation. Then it takes us to various boat and shipwrecks that are reminders of how temperamental the ocean can be and it might not always want us there!
Although it was our first time driving in this type of terrain, we did quite well. Followed the basics which were “keep the momentum” and “Put your foot on the accelerator.” The drive was relatively easy, that is until it wasn’t.
At some point in the trip, Rodvilles’s voice crackles through the walkie talkie, “guys, this part is a little bit tricky, so wait there and I will guide you through.” We stop the jeep at the top of a dune. Ahead of us, the sandy trail we have been following takes a sudden plunge before quickly rising to the top of the next dune. Rodville appears at our window and provides some brief instructions of how to tackle this. I don’t remember all the instructions because I was giving Steve a look that said hey, you’re listening right? Don’t look for nothing! However, I also nodded with understanding, so we don’t seem too city slicker.
We take the plunge with a team of spectators watching our every move. Through the radio, I hear Rodville saying “put foot, Put foot.” In case Steve missed that I also start shouting “Put Foot.” But, as it turns out, shouting “put foot, put foot” won’t always get you to the top of the dune. The next thing I know, one of the guides is digging us out the sand with a spade. They then grab a rope and pull us out… backwards. So we need to do this again.
The second time around, I opted for rooting “go, go, go” until we were stuck again. We made it out the next try or it could have been the one after. It was fun and nerve wrecking at the same time. We message my father in law a picture with a picture of us chassis deep. He responded: “Oh, the shame.” Which we agreed with between raucous laughter. It’s all good though, the next time we will be intermediates.
Tour: Sand dunes and Shipwreck
Rodville Adams runs Namaqua Coastal Expeditions which organises local adventures tours such as surfing, hiking, shipwreck and sand dunes tours. You can book a seat in his vehicle or navigate the terrain behind him in your own 4×4.
Cost: At the time we went it was R250 per person.