Big Hole to Big Falls

Our plan for the next day, having spent a very relaxing and interesting time in Kimberley, was to drive to Upington and discover some of that town before driving on to Augrabies. The attraction of the area is the Augrabies Falls which were originally given the name “Ankoerebis” by the KhoiKhoi . The meaning of this name is “the place of big noises” but when Afrikaner farmers settled there in the 19th Century they coined the name “Augrabies” and so it has remained until today.

As we drove west towards Upington the land became more and more desert like even though the rainy season had passed just weeks earlier. The animals on the farms in this area were sheep and goats which can graze on the scrub and thorny plants.

Upington has a grand entrance to the town, a line of towering palms lining each side of the road and a large waterwheel on one side. A stark reminder that this is desert country and water had to be pumped to town previously. The town is a normal type of small farming town but surprisingly has an international airport with one of the longest runways in the world. This came about due to the elevation of the town itself, the very high summer temperatures and the need for a Boeing 747 to land there. There are also a number of other interesting and surprising facts about this airport in a town in the middle of a desert . This is one of the kind of interesting things that we can learn about our own country which we often ignore or think that will always be time for that.

It is the last town in South Africa before the border with Namibia. As we wandered around Upington for a couple of hours we never imagined we would actually spend a night there some years later on our way to visit our daughter who had moved to Namibia.

We found a different route out of the town through the smaller ‘Coloured’ township and along the canals which irrigated the winelands. It was wonderful to see the canals full of water while we were in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. The grapes were hanging heavily on the vines, ripening and getting ready for harvesting within the next couple of weeks. The grapes grown in this valley are for table as opposed to those grown in the Western Cape which are cultivated for wine.

Another interesting sight which was new to us were the enormous Social Weaver bird nests built on telephone poles. Each pair of birds has its own entrance to the inner depths of the nest but is also a wonderful place for snakes, generally puffadders, find eggs or babies for nourishment. The road is long and flat, not a corner for miles on end and almost every pole has a nest on it.

We arrived at our lodgings around 4pm and immediately walked the short distance to the falls. As there had been good rains along the Orange River the falls were full flow. After flooding the falls have recorded up to 7800 cubic metres of water every second, 3 times the average high season flow rate of Niagara Falls. The gorge at Augrabies through which the water flows is 18kms (10mi) long and up to 240m (800 ft) deep. A truly impressive sight and sound.

What is also truly wonderful to see in that area is the night sky. With no artificial city lighting the Milky Way and millions of stars are an incredible sight to see. We sat outside in awe for a couple of hours not wanting to miss anything of this splendour but, knowing we had a long drive to Langebaan the next day, we went to bed.

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About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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