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Friday, June 19, 2020

Quivers of the Richtersveld NationalPark



I am hot and irritated, we have been driving for hours, and the going is slow. We have passed Eksteenfontein and negotiating our way along a dry riverbed, with the sun starting to dip on the horizon, we wonder if we will make our destination at Kuboes before nightfall.

Richtersveld, South Africa's only mountainous desert will be our final destination, situated in the Northern Cape and on the Namibian border. This harsh, rocky and somewhat forgotten location has us in awe as we appreciate these ancient rugged mountains and magnificent tree aloes that dominate the baron landscape.

Stopping to record these remarkable giants of the desert, appreciating their struggle for survival and contrasting beauty this is what has drawn us to this extravagant landscape (Aloe pillansii-Bastard Quiver tree / Aloidendron dichotomum-Quiver Tree).


| Please enjoy the two videos in this article, covering the reality of this trip |


(Aloe Pillansii at Dragon's Black Mountain near Eksteenfontein)
We noticed these remarkable giant tree aloes, but did not imagine just how colossal they would be, our first on the trip and now etched in our minds forever.

(Aloe Pillansii at Dragon's Black Mountain near Eksteenfontein 
Scale is everything, and this image provides an accurate account of how enormous this majestic beast is, Juanita enjoying the company of the giant of the desert.


(Aloidendron dichotomum - Quiver Tree)

A welcome sentinel standing guard over the Springbok Vlakte, another remarkable specimen, its limbs finished off with delicate succulent leaves that make this tree so unique, an architectural masterpiece.

It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of this majestic sentinel over the Springbok Vlakte, the end of an era for this champion of the mountain desert. The road to Kokeboom Kloof will never be the same again, well not in our lifetime.

The video below shares some insight into the images that were captured in this article.


( Golden flakes of the Aloe Pillansii )

Flakes of gold and shimmering in the intense heat of the day, contrasting its elegance against the cobalt blue backdrop, this ancient dinosaur had the scars to prove it.


(After travelling for miles this was a welcome sight that we had arrived at the Richtersveld Transfrontier Tark )
Vast and remote, endless corrugated roads that rattle and shake our vehicle to the point of destruction. It was worth every bump and bruise. The Richtersveld is the only mountain desert in South Africa and home to the Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world. We were travelling to these remote, distant shores to experience and appreciate a landscape of desolate plains and endless rugged mountains.


(Flowering in winter - what a spectacle it must be? We visited in summer, long after, but their beauty remains )
Twisting and contorted as if to reminds us of the struggle for survival in this parched, lifeless ocean of sand and rock.


(The Dragon's Black Mountain A.Pillansii outside Eksteenfontein, a remarkable tree)
The scenery was extravagant, rugged mountains providing the dramatic surrounding, a lone aloe breaks the skyline to complete the scene. Three of the five species of aloe tree that occur in South Africa grow in the Richtersveld - the quiver tree (Aloidendron dichotomum), Pillan's quiver tree (A.pillansii), generally known as the 'baster kokerboom', and the maidens quiver tree(A.ramosissima).

Here an ancient Aloe pillansii stands tall and proud at Dragon's Black Mountain near Eksteenfontein.

(It's landscaping like these that entice the adventurous traveller, isolated and remote, the silence is deafening)
Our trusty steed for the trip provides a Sense of scale (bottom right) mountainous terrain, and ancient rocks offer companionship to these iconic aloes that stand guard over the wilderness.


(A GPS is critical it this tormented and vast wilderness, one wrong turn and you can find yourself in another world. The approach to the Tatasberg Pluton "Die Toon" ).
Before entering the enchanted forest of a thousand or more quivers, scattered amongst the arid desert landscape, you need to negotiate with the gatekeeper at Die Toon; we were escorted through these gates by dying and deceased Dichotomous. This scientific name has recently been changed to Aloidendron dichotomum, sounding more like the ancient dinosaurs that roamed these lands millions of years ago, somehow it seems befitting.


Video: Day 3 in the Richtersveld.
(Leaving Richtersberg Camp Site, visiting Kokerboomkloof and Helshoogte Pass)





(A lone aloe breaks the scenery, majestic and proud, perfectly at home in a baron landscape)
Not the largest or the most handsome, but strategically placed in the rocky environment made for yet another great encounter


(A hostile environment, isolated and desolate "We went searching for nowhere and we were happy when we found nothing" )
After days of endless poor roads we got to stretch our legs a little, Namibian roads were by definition butter smooth, a welcome change and our chariot showed its appreciation.

(Another perfect Dichotomum comfortable and at home amongst the rocky desert environment )
Perfectly sculptured by nature, isolated in a boulder-strewn veld, pleading with us to stop and admire its presence, how could we drive past. We have visited the aloe tree forests of kokeboom's in the Richtersveld as well as Ganabos near Niewouldville, but Keetmanshoop remains on our list to enchant us.

(Stopping to admire this gigantic tree aloe as it towers over the boulder-strewn surroundings, appreciating the adversity and struggle for survival in this harsh environment )
The image above was taken with a 400 mm zoom lens, I regret the decision not to have trekked across the moonscape terrain to introduce myself.  

(Dusty dry road from Eksteenfontein, providing a gateway to this unique world known as the Richtersveld )
Have you taken the lonely, dusty road through Eksteenfontein and on to Kuboes, and then towards the Richtersveld?
Please share your experience with us the post below.

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