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A hike in the Karoo desert


The Karoo seemed like just the right place - a semi-arid desert area that is situated in the lower middle of South Africa. An exotic river, the Orange River, the largest river in South Africa, meanders through this area. But I was interested in a particular area: where the Orange River dams up in the mighty, chocolate brown Gariep Dam.

My hike starts off somewhat disastrous. I'm supposed to meet the warden, Abraham Jantjies, at his hut. We greet and discuss a few matters. He asks me to look out for any corpses washed up against the banks. Sometimes weeks after a flood a body will be found in the Gariep Dam. I'm not thrilled at the idea of finding a corpse. He accompanies me for a short distance as he is on his way to go fishing. We walk along a dirt road. There are some rocks on my side of the road which I step on. Abraham is visibly upset. He explains that it is the grave of his great grandfather - they have been staying in this area for about a 100 years. I feel terrible and angry at myself. I know what those rocks meant the way it was laid out, but I was too ecstatic to have my wits about me.

At lunch time I have to pitch tent and I sit out a thunder storm. I move on after the worst is over, but I run into, or no, a vicious dust and wind storm runs into me. I can't even walk straight. I'm in any case now on a plain covered in the sticky Karoo bossies and rocks - I can't camp here. There's not even a tree in sight. Covered in dust, I eventually get to a dry riverbed - the first time I see soft, even sand for the past 12 km's or so. I look on the map and work out that the river's catchment area is about 4 km². Ominous clouds are still floating about, but I decide to take a chance. I can't face sleeping on rocks after a 26 km hike. Fire

The wind is blowing up dust and it takes me almost an hour to fry a simple egg on my gas stove. I have cold food and coffee. My rucksack's shoulder straps cut into my flesh - I only realise this fully when taking off my shirt. The sponge collapsed and the straps turned into little ropes.

I am determined to sleep lightly and to awake to the first ploff of a raindrop falling...

To read more adventures from Jurie Pieterse go to:
www.juriepieterse.com

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