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South Africa

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Riemvasmaak Community Conservancy and Hot Springs

Near the Augrabies Falls is a red desert wilderness and community conservancy that still whispers of its volcanic past in Hot Springs and amazing red granite and sand.

The 74000ha Riemvasmaak Community Conservancy was post Apartheid South Africa’s first land restitution project. It belongs to the local Nama tribes, and some Xhosa and other ‘coloured’ people – descendants of the people forcibly removed from their land to Namibia in 1974 by the Apartheid government who took their land for military use during the Guerilla war with Namibian forces in the 1970’s.

Most of these people live around a mission station, and they are renowned for their friendliness. Poverty is rife, but some agricultural projects are on the go on arable land on the banks of the Molopo River which flows through Riemvasmaak, and through an impressive 80m gorge. These centre on vines for raisin and sultana production, for which the climate and soil is perfectly suited.

Under the earth there is rose quartz and the prized green flourite crystals for which the area has been known since 2006 – still being mined, but not so valuable now due to its abundance. The low tech mines will probably close up the same way the rose quartz ones did as the mineral loses value and mining costs rise. Keep your eyes peeled for crystals on hikes…

This is a beautiful, often stark and at first glance the mostly barren landscape that could be a Mars-scape, but there could be few better settings for a soak in one of Nature’s natural mineral pools. The skies are huge and blue, and if you look you will see much small wildlife – from lizards to rock hyraxes. Small game are found in the green bush areas around the river, and the cliffs of the gorge are a breeding area for Raptors such as the Black Eagle and Fish Eagle – also easy to spot circling on the thermals, looking for prey.

A number of activities are available from mountain biking trails to hiking, abseiling and 4×4 trails. Accommodation is available in chalets at the hot springs, and guides for the various trails can be hired among the local community. This last option will help you find the ancient rock art dotted around this area as well as give you insight into how people lived off such a landscape, animal lore and plant knowledge.

It’s hot and dry here with very little to no infrastructure, so requirements for a foray into this red and rocky wilderness include 4 litres of drinking water per person per day, hats, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen, insect repellant, medical kit, sleeping bags, extra fuel and all food as well as everything you’d take on a backpacking hike. Don’t forget cooler boxes with drinks and ICE! Lots!

Don’t leave home without your 4X4…

Riemvasmaak is located 60kms from the town of Kakamas.


More info on the quaint town of Upington More info on the Green Kalahari area


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