Modern-day Kakamas in the lower Orange River Valley is surrounded by green vineyards and lush fields of cotton and lucerne. This is a far cry from the town’s beginning as a worker’s colony for the poor on land owned by the Dutch Reformed Church. Until the church’s interests in the settlement were liquidated, the settlers in the area were not allowed to own the land on which they worked. The origin of the name Kakamas has many people guessing. Some believe that Kakamas refers to the Khoi word “gagamas” that means “brown”, referring to the red clay that the local woman rubbed into their faces. Others believe that “Kakamas” was derived from a Koranna word meaning “poor pasture” or “ vicious charging ox”. This explanation is based on a story about cattle that had to be moved from the area because of the poor grazing. The cattle were moody and unwilling and eventually turned on their owners. Hence – “vicious charging ox”.
Irrigation is the name of the game in the Orange River Valley and the considered and careful redistribution of water sustains an area that delivers agricultural products of world standards. Other Kakamas products are Collins peaches, which are excellent for canning, and table grapes that are exported all over the world.
Adventure and Sport
Adventure Trail: The !Garib 3-in-1 Adventure in the Augrabies National Park is not for the faint-hearted. This three-part adventure includes a 4 km rowing trip down the Orange River, a 4 km hike and a 12-km mountain bike trip back to camp. Enquiries and reservations for this adventure can be made at the park.
4×4: To the north of the Augrabies Falls, 4x4s can travel to a remote lunar landscape where the friendly Riemvasmaak people will welcome visitors to the delights of the Riemvasmaak Hot Springs.
Game drives: Night drives in the Augrabies Falls National Park are offered during peak holiday periods. Resident visitors to the park have access to three swimming pools.
Hiking: The Klipspringer hiking trail in the Augrabies National Park covers a particularly beautiful area of the stark, but arresting, landscape and can accommodate groups of up to 12 persons. It takes three days and two nights to complete the trail. Advance booking is essential. The trail is closed from October to March on account of the high summer temperatures. Carry lots and lots of water.
Hiking: The Augrabies National Park has several other nature trails, such as the Arrow Point, Potholes and Moon Rock trails, each of which takes approximately one hour to complete.
White river rafting: The starting point in the Augrabies Falls National Park is at Augrabies Rush (above the Augrabies Falls). Enthusiasts meet at the campsite in the Augrabies Falls National Park and are transported to the launch site. The rapids on the river-rafting route vary between grades two and three. Paddling is not at all strenuous and beginners are welcome to “have a go”. However, safety precautions are still advised and a life jacket is, of course, a must. The rapids below the Augrabies falls are renowned for their peaceful and scenic features. These rapids are also between grades two and three but this factor depends greatly on the water level. Children over the age of six can also do the trip, but should be accompanied by parents or responsible adults.
Orange River Wine Cooperative: Take home a few bottles of the excellent local wines to enjoy. Tours of the facility are also offered. Towns that are important for those who are interested in wine purchases are Groblershoop, Kakamas, Keimoes and Upington.
Riemvasmaak Community: The Riemvasmaak community lives in a remote area of the province, north of the Augrabies Falls. Their home is a mountain desert wilderness that was created by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago and their way of life is very much the same as that of their ancestors. The community is very friendly and its members welcome visitors to their homes. Make advance arrangements with the community, jump into your fully laden 4×4 and be off for a relaxing holiday with a delightfully different cultural slant.
Fauna and Flora
The Augrabies Falls National Park is a 28 000-ha national park, situated some 40 km north-west of Kakamas and 120 km west of Upington. The park is named after its natural wonder, the sixth largest waterfall in the world, the Augrabies Falls. The name is derived from the Khoi word Aukoerebis (“Place of the Great Noise”).
The park protects the Orange River Nama Karoo vegetation type and its most characteristic plant is the quiver tree or kokerboom (Aloe dichotoma). Over 55 species of mammals and 63 species of reptiles live in the park and many species of birds, including the black stork, black eagle, pygmy falcon, tractrac, pale chanting goshawk and Namaqua sandgrouse can be seen.
History and Architecture
Hydroelectric Power Station: The power station is designed in Egyptian style. Irrigation Tunnels: Cornish miners built the irrigation tunnels outside Kakamas. Waterwheels: Eleven of the waterwheels that were erected for the irrigation scheme are still in operation on the canals. Some of these can be seen in Voortrekker Street and others on the channels running through the fields.
Rockery Route: This gravel road goes from Neilersdrift to Kakamas via the Neuswier, providing access to a route along which miniature landscapes of other worlds appear to have been relocated. Rocky outcrops with camel-thorn- and quiver trees give way to lush vineyards and islands in the river.
Riemvasmaak Hot Springs: Even today, people still believe in the medicinal value of a dip in the hot springs. Riemvasmaak gets its name from the ancient practice of tying thongs together to lower oneself down the steep ravine into the spring. The spring is in a deep ravine, overshadowed by 80 m cliffs. Two swimming pools have also been built, one resembling a conversation pit.