The first week consisted of a little scouting trip to unknown territory in search of the most interesting specimens of quiver trees for the 3D Time Lapse Tree Project.
On the advise of my friend Ernst van Jaarveld of SANBI, who is THE specialist for the Richtersveld and its flora, we went straight on the track starting from Eksteenfontein and ending at the springs at the base of the impressive and colourful Rosyntjieberg Mountains.
There was absolutely no soul there... nobody in a radius of at least 10 km... even the shepherds seem to have deserted the place. All windmills were broken... but there was clean fresh water in the man-made pond at the springs, unfortunately covered by invasive aquatic plants. That was amazing!
We spent the first few days relaxing and almost doing nothing. I did not even bother to take the camera out of the bag as I really needed a break.
A short break is good... but soon it was time to be active again... and so we decided to explore the surrounding mountains. The climbing of the rocky peaks was very rewarding. We found some nice plants adapted to the extreme conditions and the views from up there were breathtaking.
Although the Richtersveld looked almost flowerless like Namaqualand, we managed to find interesting species here and there... and that was a big satisfaction.
When I was younger, I always wanted to see more and further and with it the necessity of covering long distances. Now I appreciate even more to look closer and discover more and deeper, take the time to bond with the environment even if it looks lifeless. I really enjoy that approach. I feel in balance... then sometimes I managed to connect with my mind and my eyes seeing differently... a new door then opens to greater creativity.
My first student and friend, Alvaro, was joining me for the following 9 days. Although he studied Aloe for his phD, he never had the opportunity to visit this area which is home to many species.
Early morning around 5 am, we started climbing the Rooiberg mountain where very nice specimens of halfmen trees are sharing the rocky slopes with some aloe. We arrived at the top just when the sun appeared at the horizon. It was magic to see the early morning light spreading over the surrounding mountains.
Rooiberg guest house has all the facilities we needed and its keeper Johan is very welcoming.
The next day we drove the 30 km to the Orange river. The road is tough and it took us almost 2 hours, including a few stops for photos. That day was very hot and the swim in the Orange river was extremely refreshing! The return was much faster. My assistant Josiah understood that I was hungry... and Alvaro, although it was his first 4x4 experience and he was firmly holding his place in the car, did not complain too much as he was hungry too!
We explored the road through the mountains on the way to Koboes from Eksteenfontein... and that took ages but at last, we could see the shaft of an abandoned gold mine along the road. The heat was very high when we stopped for picnic at Tierpoert, where fortunately there was a bit of shade. This is exactly when I appreciate the most a cold Windhoek Lager from the fridge!
When we reached Koboes in the afternoon, the temperature was 45! Everybody was complaining...
This year, we did not mis Anniskop! This little hill is a nature reserve and the plant diversity is very impressive. Of course there were the famous Aloe pilansii looking down the valleys, and with the sun setting down, it was magic!
The little houses at Koboes are very well situated along the little stream. It is clean and the tiny houses are so cute.
Richtersveld is real wilderness and ones should plan for food provision in advance, especially for a stay of more than a week. The little shops in Koboes and Eksteenfontein are extremely basic, in fact even less than that. Petrol or diesel is nowhere except at the park office in Sendelingsdrift.
So we paid for the camping and accommodation in the park, fill-up the petrol and water tanks, and then we were on the road again to Helskloof, the southern park entrance. I love that road... very rough and rocky but the scenery is stunning. At the top of the pass, the mountains are covered by the reddish Aloe pearsonii which I would love to see with colorful yellow and orange flowers. The plants are not pretty but some dry stems and leaves are very photogenic.
Staying at Kokerboom camp is the best in my opinion. The scenery around the camp is very impressive and turns into a magical desert with big boulders and irresistible quiver trees at sunrise and sunset. Spending 3 full days here is a minimum for me. Alvaro could not have enough of it either. Every occasion was good to go for a walk and try to capture the best of the quiver trees in the valley. Many are unfortunately dying. It is apparently due to an insect that eats the inside of the fibrous bark. Scientists from Pretoria are looking at eliminating the cause by biological control. This time this phenomenon has nothing to do with climate change!
Neither Alvaro or me could stop taking photos of Aloe dichotoma, the true quiver trees... so we came back with hundreds of them... and some very good ones!
The climax of the expedition was the discovery of Tatasberg Wilderness camp. This is in fact a luxury wooden cabin on the bank of the Orange River. The area is very private as it is a few km away from the nearest camping site. It is so private that I could not resist to undress and swim across to the namibian side of the Orange river... and to my astonishment my friend was copying me. That was so good and the water was amazingly very warm!
Here we enjoyed home-made bread and an excellent beef fillet with petit legumes. This was pure decadence!
Already the feeling of the end of the photo safari was approaching. Nevertheless, on the way back from Tatasberg we challenged Alvaro to walk the shortcut and enjoy some photo opportunities while Josiah and I were fetching the aluminum tracks and dolly that we abandoned at Kokerboom camp in the hope of good clouds.
We indeed run a few time lapse but ironically we mis the best opportunity because of a stupid stud of wood blocking dolly's driving belt.
On the way I could not resist taking a short time lapse of a halfmen tree located on a steep rocky hill. Quite a challenge, even that we only used one 3 m rail directly on ground level and stabilized by big stones.
Now we are spending the last night in the Richtersveld, before driving west to stay the last day on the west coast at Port Nolloth. Sedelingsdrift chalet are also very nice, although it is not the same exceptional surroundings than Tatasberg Wilderness cabin.
Nevertheless, this is a good place for Josiah to change a wheel which has a slow puncture since 2 days!
It is restricted area, but today is sunday and there is nobody around... so we enter in the lichens fields which cover all the hills around the area almost as far as we can see to the east. On all fours, I am trying to capture these amazing living creatures which are not quite classified as plants.
With only one hour, it is difficult to capture the beauty of these lichens which are colonizing and invading all the plants which try to grow in the area. The red-brown-orange-green colours seem to be a challenge for the digital cameras; D3x, D300 and D700 are giving different results of white balance and colour restitutions.
We are speachless when we take possession of the key of the house we are renting in Port Nolloth. OK it is an old house and the lady is gently reminding us of that... but how much charming and along the road facing the see. With absolute full comfort, this house can sleep 7 adults. A must to recommend.