The Place of Great Noise | 280km

Augrabies Waterfall.

UPINGTON

...on the northern bank of the Gariep (Orange) River, is the gateway to the Kalahari and the linear oasis formed by the river. Guests on a South African holiday can visit this town, which developed around a mission station established by the Reverend Christiaan Schröder in 1871. Eight years later, the mission - named Olyvenhoutsdrift (fording place of the wild olive trees) - was visited by Sir Thomas Upington, the Attorney-General of the Cape, and was renamed in his honour. Today, Upington is an important commercial and agricultural centre serving the farms along the Gariep River.

The Oranjerivier Wine Cellars is the largest co-operative in the country and processes up to 110 000 tonnes of grapes each season, while the town is also the centre of the country's dried fruit industry. The factory at Upington is the second largest of its kind in the world and is especially known for its sultanas, produced from the sultanina grape which has been grown along the Lower Gariep River since 1918. Other crops produced in the area include cotton, lucerne, groundnuts, peas and lentils.

On your South African holiday, visit the prominent local landmark, the Palm Tree Avenue, which is leading to Die Eiland resort. Planted in 1934-35, the 1 041-m-long avenue has over 220 palms 2 and is the longest such avenue in the southern hemisphere. Upington also has two unique statues, one symbolising the contribution of the donkey to the development of the area, and the other serving as a reminder of the role of the camel during the early days of policing.

The Kalahari Oranje Museum is housed in the historic church built between 1873 and 1875 by the Reverend Schröder. Its theme is the history of Upington and the Lower Gariep River. The Spitskop Nature Reserve, 13 km north of the town, has a network of game-viewing roads and picnic spots. Game to be seen includes eland, gemsbok, springbok and red hartebeest.

KEIMOES

...lies on the northern bank of the Gariep (Orange) River in a contrasting setting of semi-desert and the lush green ribbon along the river. In the town's main street is a historic water mill 1 that is still used to irrigate the farmlands along the river. The town's Khoikhoi name is translated as 'large eye', a reference to the spring around which the town developed.

Tierberg Nature Reserve, 5 km southeast of the town, offers expansive views over the patchwork of irrigated fields along the Gariep River. Centred on a hill, the reserve protects a variety of succulents and a large population of the Orange River aloe, which usually flowers in July and August.

KAKAMAS

...was established at the end of the 1800s as an irrigation settlement for farmers who had been ruined first by a severe drought between 1895 and 1897 and then by the rinderpest epidemic of 1897. Its Khoikhoi name is said to mean 'place of drinking', a reference to its use as a watering place for stock. The town's name is synonymous with the Kakamas peach, the famous yellow cling peach (used in the canning industry) which was originally cultivated from a natural mutation found growing here.

An unusual historic site is the graves of German soldiers killed in action when a German force clashed with Union forces during World War I. Following the outbreak of war, about 6 000 Union soldiers had been assembled at Kakamas by January 1915 to invade what was then German South West Africa. On 4 February, the Union troops were attacked by a German force and a fierce battle ensued. The Germans were forced to retreat, losing seven dead, six wounded and 16 taken prisoner.

Also worth seeing during your South African holiday are the old Transformer Building, which resembles an Egyptian temple and supplied hydro-electricity to the town from 1912 to 1914, and nine original water wheels - known locally as bakkiespompe (bucket pumps). The first water wheels along the Gariep (Orange) River were made at Kakamas by the Craighill brothers at the end of the 1800s. Initially made from wood, these water wheels were later replaced by more durable metal ones.

MARCHAND

...was named after Reverend BPJ Marchand, a Dutch Reformed minister from Knysna in the Cape, who was an ardent campaigner for poor members of the Church. His campaign resulted in the establishment of nearby Kakamas in 1898.

AUGRABIES FALLS NATIONAL PARK

...is centred around one of the best examples in the world of a cataract waterfall. Here, the Gariep (Orange) River fans out into a network of islands, channels and cataracts, while the main falls plunge 56 m over a sheer granite cliff into a magnificent gorge. When the level of the river is high, there are no fewer than 19 falls, among them the Bridal Veil and Angel falls.

At the main falls, several viewpoints allow visitors to gaze over one of Africa's great natural wonders and to take in the sound which earned the falls the Khoikhoi name of Aukoerebis, 'the place of great noise'. Below the falls, the Gariep (Orange) River has cut an 18-km-long gorge through the rugged moonscape of granite domes and ridges. Covering 32 000 ha, the park lies on both banks of the river, with tourist facilities provided in the southern section.

Although the falls are undoubtedly the main attraction, visitors can follow a number of short nature trails to places of interest near the rest camp. The road network gives access to viewpoints along the gorge, and to the Moon Rock, a large gneiss dome that dominates the surrounding plains. There is also a three-day hiking trail. Night drives are conducted, and adventurous visitors can do a one-day excursion combining canoeing, hiking and mountain-biking.

Visitors on a South African holiday can see African wildlife such as springbok, klipspringer, baboon and vervet monkey, while the section to the north of the river has been stocked with black rhino. Rosyfaced lovebird, black eagle, Ludwig's bustard and a variety of larks are but a few of the 195 bird species that have been recorded.

KANONEILAND

With a length of about 14 km and a width of 3 km, the 2 500-ha Kanoneiland is the largest of several islands in the Gariep (Orange) River. The name of the island stems from an 1878 incident in which authorities bombarded it with cannon fire for six days during a campaign to dislodge the Korana, a northern Khoikhoi group who used the island as a hideaway. In the mid-1930s a group of 52 men, known as the Old 52, occupied the island and began cultivating crops.

As they had illegally seized state land, legislation had to be passed in 1939 to enable them to buy the land. Since then, a small settlement with its own school and church has developed on the island, which is intensively cultivated. A pont was used to cross to and from Kanoneiland until 1940, when a bridge was built to link the island to the southern bank of the Gariep River. The dual carriageway over the northern arm of the river was built in 1954.

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