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The white sand dunes

The white sand dunes

The white sand dunes near Oilifantshoek are a place not far from Kathu. In Africaans they called Witsand Nature Reserve. What stands for the white sand nature reserve. It’s a trip of three hours to the west. First, driving from Kathu and following the national road N14 in direction Upington. Then the second part is an unpaved road. Short after the little town Oilifantshoek, a poster indicates to turn left from the main road into the Kalahari desert.

From there following the unpaved road until to the end. In some places, the road evolved into a big challenge. It’s good to have a 4 by 4 driven car. That makes the journey more easy and safe. However, the 70 km took me around two hours. Offroad and far off the next main road it was a really exciting bumpy ride. For sure it’s a great adventure.

The white sand dunes give a huge contrast to the red sand of the Kalahari desert. It’s an amazing look.

The white sands dunes are a nature reserve. To stay overnight is possible. A couple of cottages are available out there. Very simple furnished but good enough to stay for a night.

The dunes looking like a white island in a red ocean. Iron oxide enriched sand of the Kalahari desert makes that picture possible. As a matter of fact, there is only sand, more sand, and much more sand. It is a very dry, very hot remote place. There is nothing out there. But that makes the place so much interesting indeed.

Due to the remote location, it might be interesting to stay overnight for stargazing. However, the hot and arid climate makes it difficult to find animals during the daytime. But even then some antelope like springbok or kudu I could watch.

Sishen iren ore mine

Sishen iron ore mine

Sishen iron ore mine is a mine near the town Kathu in the Northern Cape province in South Africa. The iron ore mine opened in the 1950s. Kathu the town beside developed in parallel to the mine. In fact, Sishen iron ore mine is one of the biggest iron ore mines in the world. That’s why Kathu called also as Africa’s iron ore capital.

The iron ore mined in Sishen has a unique behavior. Correctly, the mineral called Magnetite. This iron ore is ferrimagnetic. So far, most iron ore mined in the world is nonmagnetic. However, the red-brown mineral gives the landscape around Kathu the typical rusty color. When the mineral crushed it has a graphite shiny surface.

Iron ore is Kathu’s mineral treasure, the camel thorn tree forest is the ecological treasure.

Sometimes on a windy day, a big red cloud of dust moves over the town. Then Kathu covered by a red veil. Moreover, many houses built with bricks made in the same rusty red-brown colour. After that, only the green of the vegetation shimmers as contrast out of the red iron ore dust

The iron ore loaded by huge excavators on heavy dump trucks. The wheels of the trucks have a diameter of around four meters. The trucks easily carry more than 200 tonnes of iron ore. The mineral proceeds further with heavy equipment. This equipment placed around the mine. All of this heavy stuff is already visible from far.

Finally, the iron ore loaded on trains and send to the Atlantic coast for shipping worldwide. The electrified connection between Kathu and the west coast is known as the Sishen–Saldanha railway line. On this line, kilometers long trains carry the minerals to South African’s Atlantik coast. These trains considered one of the longest trains in the world.

Augrabies waterfalls

Augrabies waterfalls

The Northern Cape has a couple of interesting places to visit. One of them is indeed the Augrabies waterfalls. Unfortunately, I haven’t so much learned about the Oranje River in the school. However, the most important thing was, that the river is the biggest in South Africa. Also, the river coming from Lesotho’s Drakenbergs and crossing South Africa from the east to the west.

The Augrabies Waterfalls locating in the Augrabies National Park in the northwest of South Africa close to the Namibian border. The Augrabies National Park is a game park and includes the Augrabies falls with its canyon. The Northern Cape is huge and the distances are far. It’s a three a half-hour ride by car via Upington to Augrabies from Kathu. The road leads sometimes along grape yards and the river banks in the Oranje valley.

The Augrabies park is an amazing place. It’s a wild landscape with the Oranje river gorge in-between. The gorge is a massive granite formation and shaped by the Oranje River since primeval times.

The main camp with reception, restaurant, and a little shop is the starting point. From here the adventure starts.  The well-signposted ways to platforms installed along the gorge are safe and easy to walk. It takes just a few minutes to walk and to get a breathtaking view. From the platforms, I got an overwhelming view over the gorge with its waterfalls and the rocky landscape around.

Well prepared and maintained facilities middle in the nowhere surprising. Actually, the waterfall is a cascade with several stages. That’s obviously during my visit. Because of the seasonal low water level of the Oranje River during the current dry season in the Northern Cape.

Anyway, the little water still seething and foaming and finally flows down the rocks into the gorge.

Bushland in the Northern Cape

The Northern Cape province

The Northern Cape province is one of the nine provinces of South Africa. The province has a very low population. Hills and bushland dominate the landscape. Additionally, a huge area of the province is part of the Kalahari desert. While in the wintertime temperatures drop below zero, the summertime is hot. In fact, temperatures up to 40 degrees are possible.

Major cities are very rare. Small settlements appearing from time to time besides the road. The distances between cities are huge. Kimberly is the capital of the Northern Cape province. That is about three hours by car from Kathu. In the north locating Namibia and Botswana. Both sharing a long border with South Africa.

The Kalahari desert as a part of the province also called the green Kalahari. Actually, it’s a semidesert. The lush green river banks give a dramatic contrast to the rocky and dusty vast land. The camel thorn tree is typical for the Kalahari.

Iron ore, diamonds, and other mineral mining are some of the main economies in the Northern Cape. Kimberley is the diamonds capital and famous for the Big Hole. However, farming is another big business. Even grapes growing here. Also, there are some wineries around Upington. Tourism is a very important business.

The province is the home of many small game reserves. Moreover, even big national parks are here. For instance, the Augrabies Waterfalls with the 10 km canyon. Or the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park shared by South Africa and Namibia. My impression of the Oranje River is a little different from what I’ve learned in school. Even it’s the biggest river in South Africa it looks very tiny.

Anyway, the Northern Cape has endless straightaway roads with a lot of space around. That reminds me of my time in the Midwest of the US.

The golden hour in Kathu

Kathu the town under trees

Kathu is a small town in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The town locates on the south edge of the Kalahari desert. The nearby towns are Upington and Vryburg. The distances are huge to my surprise. More than 200 km in each direction. Founded in the late 1960s, Kathu is indeed a very young town. With a population of around 15000 inhabitants, the town is a mid-size town. It’s obvious that the city comes straight away from a drawing board because of the structured arrangement.

Only bushland and savannah dominate the surrounding countryside. The red sand and the dry vegetation gives the landscape a unique look. In contrast to the bushland, the town is the home of a camel thorn tree forest. It’s one of two forests in the world. Therefore, Kathu also called the “town under the trees”. So far, it’s not surprising to me that these trees are the town’s landmark. The Sishen golf course, one of South Africa’s top golf courts is part of the camel thorn tree forest.

The camel thorn trees with long and sharp thorns are under protection in South Africa. The trees are Kathu’s ecological treasure and creating a unique atmosphere for the town.

Even if the land around is flat nevertheless, the elevation of this area is 1100 m and more. Only a couple of hills are visible at some distance from the town. In the summertime, the temperature rises more than 30 degrees. While in the wintertime, the temperature drops far below 10 degrees. I had to defrost my car windscreen for many times.

It’s my first time in South Africa but my second time in Africa after Sudan. Obviously, things are very different here in the south.  Compared to what I saw before in the north of Africa.

The Nubian Desert Sudan's northern part

The Nubian Desert in Sudan

The north of Sudan including Sudan’s capital Khartoum is part of the Nubian Desert. The River Nile separates North Sudan into a west and east part. While west of River Nile the part called the Libyan Desert, east of Nile the part called the Nubian Desert. However, the north part of Sudan belonging to the Sahara desert.

The Nubian Desert has a very arid climate. The average annual rainfall is very low. The fluctuation in temperature is huge. Between day and night. The variation can be more than 30 degrees. The landscape is mostly flat and rocky. Hills of lava stone from early volcanic activities are visible.

The vegetation is very rare, only some trees and little grass that’s all. However, sometimes children playing around and obvious people living here. Donkeys, sheep and goats are the animals appearing from time to time beside the road.

Along the banks of the Nile River, a green belt spread out. It’s the habitat for humans and varieties of flora and fauna. For instance, palm trees, banana trees, watermelon and some more agriculture. Five of Nile’s cataracts locate in the Nubian Desert. Only the first cataract locates in Egypt.

Compare to the desert in Saudi Arabia, in Sudan are fewer sand dunes but more rocks and hills. While the sand in the Saudi Arabian Desert has a yellow colour, the sand in the Nubian Desert is red. The landscape looks like a picture from planet Mars.

The Nubian Desert is the home of the Pyramids of Meroe. Around 250 pyramids built from desert stone near the banks of Nile River. However, the size of the Meroe pyramids is smaller. They built around 800 years later than the last Egyptian pyramids. Meroe was the capital of the Kingdom of Kush for several centuries in ancient.

Sabaloka gorge or the Sixth Nile Cataract

Sabaloka gorge or cataract number six

Al Sabalouga or also called Sabaloka gorge in English is the cataract number six of River Nile. The location is downstream approximately 100 km northwest of Khartoum near Meroe. Meroe was the capital of the Kingdom of Kush for several centuries in ancient. The River Nile has six cataracts.

While only one cataract locates in Egypt the other five cataracts locate in Sudan. Today, cataract number five doesn’t exist anymore. It had flooded by the Meroe dam. Al Sabalouga is actually the name of the village nearby the gorge.

All the way from Khartoum was desert but then a green stripe along the river Nile. Palm trees, banana trees and other agriculture suddenly appear out of the desert.

Coming from Khartoum it takes roughly three hours to cross the Nubian desert to reach the sixth cataract on River Nile. However, the first part is an easy trip on the main road from Khartoum to the north. After that, somewhere on the desert highway the driver turned left and went off-road.

It’s hot and dry but still villages with stone houses appearing. Goats and donkeys take a rest in the shade of rare trees. However, in the far, some hills come closer and closer and the desert changes into rocky and hilly terrain.

The landscape around Sabaloka gorge is a rocky island out of the flat and dusty Nubian Desert. Early volcanic activities shaped the rocks. Anyway, today there is no more volcanic activity. In this place, the Nile breaks through the mountains. Above all, the banks are rocky and sloping down.

Sabaloka is a famous destination for weekend trips for people from Khartoum. Families fully equipped with each and everything come to this place to stay overnight. Locals offer shelters, fireplaces, and boats to rent. Fishermen catching fish for BBQ.

Khartoum the elephant trunk

Khartoum the elephant trunk

Khartoum is the capital of Sudan. The country shapes the Northeast part of the African continent. In the West and North is desert. But in the East, has Sudan a long coastline on the Red Sea. Here join the West African, Central African and Arabic cultures together.

Compared with other cities in this region Khartoum is a very young city. Since found in 1821 the city grows very quick from a local military outpost to the capital of Sudan today. However, the city surrounded by deserts. In the east locates the Nubian desert and in the west the Libyan desert. Both are part of the Sahara desert. The confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile to River Nile locates in Khartoum.

The common meaning of Khartoum is “Elephant Trunk” because of the shape of the Blue Nile, locals told me. Indeed, the confluence has a deep impact on the city. The rivers divide the city into three parts.

Hot, dry and sometimes sandstorm because of the desert around Khartoum. The region has a hot and extremely arid desert climate. Sometimes the wind blows fine red dust picked in the desert into the city.

On such days the sky becomes cloudy. The colour of the daylight changes to orange or dark yellow. Such sand or dust storms aren’t pleasant. These days are strange because of the everywhere fine red dust. The dust finds always away to come from each gap into the house.

Desert, Nile and a mix of African Arabic culture give its own vibes to the city. Sudanese excellent hospitality is a great experience. However, the mix of African and Arabic culture the lovely Sudanese people shape a unique atmosphere. The fascinating Arabic bazaars and the hustle and bustle of the city have their own rhythm indeed.

The confluence of River Nile

The confluence of the River Nile is one of the most interesting things to know about Khartoum. Actually, the River Nile merged from the White Nile and from the Blue Nile. The source of the White Nile locates in Uganda. While the source of the Blue Nile is in Ethiopia. The confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile to River Nile locates in Khartoum. From this point in Khartoum, the river called River Nile or Great Nile..  and flows now in the north direction.

After a long way across the Nubian Desert, the river passing the famous Nile cataracts. Then River Nile left Sudan and cross through Egypt. Finally, the Nile discharges into the Mediterranean Sea in North Egypt.

The common meaning of Khartoum is “elephant trunk” because of the shape of the Blue Nile locals told us. Indeed the confluence has a deep impact on the city. The rivers divide the city into three parts.

In the west locates Omdurman and Khartoum city in the south-east. While in the north, of course, Khartoum North or Bahri locates. Omdurman is the biggest city of all, while Bahri is the industrial centre. Above all Khartoum is the capital.

In the middle of the confluence, the Blue Nile shapes Tuti Island. Actually, the island is the home of a village. The island mainly used for agriculture by the villagers. A brand new built bridge spans over the Blue Nile and connects Khartoum with Tuti island. However, there is a plan to develop Tuti island for tourists.

The Nile Road is a famous road in Khartoum. The road winds along the south bank of the Blue Nile and gives a fantastic view of the river. A lot of facilities locating along the Nile road. For instance, restaurants, churches, museum and gardens.