On one side there’s a barren, almost moon-like landscape; on the other, luscious green vineyards. A short drive away you find a roaring waterfall tumbling almost 60m into a rocky gorge below. If this is a description of the scenery unfolding around you, you're probably in the Kakamas area along the Quiver Tree Route in the Northern Cape.
Although the Northern Cape is well known for its Namaqualand region, which features colourful wild flowers that bloom around August each year, many people are unaware of what else it has to offer – such as this tourist route, one of six such routes in the province.
It’s not only South Africa’s Western Cape province that has earned bragging rights for its wine – the Northern Cape has produced some award-winning wine (and potstill brandy), too.
The Quiver Tree Route stretches west from Upington through Kanoneiland, Keimoes and Kakamas, and all the way up to the Augrabies Falls National Park and Riemvasmaak. The green strip of vineyards along the Orange River is in stark contrast with the drier surrounding areas and the Northern Cape’s quiver trees. This is best seen from the viewpoint on top of Tierberg hill in Keimoes.
The San people used the hollow branches of quiver trees as quivers for their arrows, hence the name.
A must-visit when in the area is the Augrabies Falls National Park, where the Orange River drops 56m into the gorge below, forming the famous Augrabies Falls. The falls derive their name from the Khoi word meaning “place of great noise”. Although they’re always worthwhile to see (and hear), it’s particularly spectacular when the river is in flood and you also feel a fine mist, formed as a result of the tumbling mass of water, landing on your skin.
If you’re the kind of person who likes being in the middle of nowhere and you’re not scared of winding gravel mountain passes, head to the hot springs at Riemvasmaak, located next to the dry Molopo River, about 60km from Kakamas.
Violent volcanic activity millions of years ago led to the formation of the 80m-high granite cliffs surrounding the hot springs. Here you can lie in the hot springs all day, test your driving skills on a challenging 4x4 trail or hike down the canyon.
For padkos, a South African term for food or snacks for your journey, stop at Die Pienk Padstal (Afrikaans for The Pink Farm Stall) in Kakamas, where you can buy dried fruit, nuts, fudge, candyfloss and other sweet treats that are likely to bring back a few road-trip memories from your childhood.
You can’t leave the Northern Cape without a taste of its wine and brandy. Make a day of it and visit Die Mas in Kakamas, Bezalel Wine & Brandy Estate on the N14 between Kakamas and Upington, and the Orange River Cellars tasting centre in Schröder Street, Upington.
They all offer wine tastings and food platters, while Bezalel’s Garden Cafe also has hearty meals like bobotie, chicken and lamb pot pies, and burgers (insider tip: the home-made patties are to die for) on its menu.
For enquiries or bookings on the Quiver Tree Route, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 (0)83 257 4736.
The Northern Cape has six official tourist routes. To find out more about the other routes, visit www.experiencenortherncape.com.