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Tankwa Karoo May 2011

The planning for this weekend was to explore some of the Sutherland area to identify snow chasing routes and accommodation for the up comming snow season. I ended up in the Tankwa Karoo finding something very different I was looking for.

The Tankwa Karoo can be described as a barren low lying “death valley” between the Cedarberg mountains on the south, and the Sutherland escarpment on the north side.  Large parts of this area is basicaly a desert.

In the south are the Cedarberg mountains, seen here with a bit of zoom
Cedarberg from Tankwa

and turning 180 degrees to face north, are the Sutherland mountains.
Sutherland from Tankwa

Starting our weekend at Bizansgat on the Ceres – Sutherland road, we turned off on the Bo Wadrif road and followed the lower perimeter of the Sutherland mountains from east to west. This is where I was surprised and found the winter rain Karoo area I was looking for.  At 450 – 550m above sea level it is a bit more elevated than the barren south side and is covered with succulent vegitation. As a river runner my delight was in finding the road crossing hundreds of streans running down the mountain slopes. Ok, they were dry now but still had water from the cold front a few days ago. So, now waiting  for a strong cold front with rain stretching to here, and hopefully corresponds with a weekend.

Bo waddrif road

The level of the Oudebaskraal dam was very low. We spotted 6 Kudu close up from the dam wall in the thorn trees just below the wall. At the Tankwa Karoo National Park offices there is a selection of impressive pics taken when this dam overflows.
Oudebaskraal dam

I never miss the opportunity to drive a riverbed. Difficult to magine that water was flowing here only 4  days ago.
Tankwa river bed

Even the smaller rivers and streams make a good drive.
Minor stream bed Tankwa

Next morning watched the sun rise over the farm house we stayed in for the night. Very green and succulent vegitation.
Tankwa farm house.

I learned a lot a bout Hoodia (Ghaap – local name), a plant havested for appetite supressant qualities and exported to the USA. I was pleased to learn that it can be cultivated and not just ripped out of the veld.

Following a track to the cold face of the southern cliffs of the escarpment. We managed to reach 980m above sea level from the 490m at the farm house, and still needed to look up at the towering walls. The top gets capped with snow in winter we were told.
South face Sutherland

Spent some time exploring the vast open spaces of the Tankwa. This pic is like a scene from Namibia.  Big herds of Gemsbok, Eland, Rooi Hartebees and Springbok to be seen.
Tankwa grass plain

Dude, where is my car?
Tankwa pan

In places there are long stretches of slipery wet mud and a few times got a dark surprise when the windscreen just blanked out.
New paint worx

From the main Park offices took the track via Paulshoek to Ouberg Pass.  This is a very bumpy strech with hundreds of streams making ditches across the road. Got to get back here just after some rain. Here are some views from this road.

Paulshoek road

View from Paulshoek road

Ouberg Pass is impressive in that you climb from 500m above sea level to 1450m in less than 10km. It is not a very scenic pass imho, but offers vast vistas over the Tankwa towards the Cedarberg. On top of the pass we met a group of paragliders encouraging each other to launch in a very strong upflow of air from the bottom. Finally one took off and just started climbing  and climbing. We watched him for a while on his way to the moon and left wondering how he was ever going to come down again.
Paraglider on Ouberg pass

From here we followed the Bo Visrivier and came around the back to a sleepy (actually locked up) Sutherland. From Sutherland we went down the eastern escarpment on our way to Laingsburg to hit the tar back home.

Banksgate pass

This again an entirely different climate, more summer rain. Got to get back here again in future.

By Hannes



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