We set our alarms for 5am but when we woke it was still pitch dark and we knew we couldn’t pack by candlelight without leaving something of value behind so we snoozed until 6 instead. We were on our way by 7:30 and made our way up the beautiful Gannaga Pass exiting Tankwa towards the north of the park heading towards Calvinia to refuel, post a letter to ourselves in the giant red postbox and restock on snacks for the pan. It was about a 7 hour drive through some of the most incredibly remote areas I have ever seen before and again, how people live out here still boggles my mind.
We headed out on the R27, which is an incredibly long stretch of straight, open road towards Kenhardt and one becomes so focused on the endless nothingness that it all starts to blend into one…
We used a combination of our map book and the geocaching GPS to guide us on the un-named roads towards Verneukpan. We reached a small one horse town (god I don’t even think there is a horse there) but again in the middle of nowhere, called Swartkop and had to stop and look around with our binoculars to even try and find a human to direct us to Louis’ farm. It was like the whole town had been abandoned? Eventually we spotted a woman and asked her directions and were glad to hear that we were on the right track all along. It was another 10km or so before we reached the old farm house where we met Louis and he gave us the key to ‘forever land’.
We drove through farm gate after farm gate before finally reaching the pan. It stretched on for as far as the eye could see and felt as though we were standing in a painting. It’s so unknown to what we see everyday that our minds can’t comprehend the reality of it all.
Lunch was in the Verneukpan campsite before having a ‘donkey-boiled’ shower and packing up the car to drive out into the middle of the pan and sleep out under the stars.
We chose a spot where we could see no other tyre tracks and unpacked the car. Our campsite was a roaring fire, stretchers and tin mugs full of Old Brown Sherry! The scenery out there is just incomprehensible . I want to to describe it so much. I want to be able to tell another human being what this is like without them having to actually come here for themselves but there are no words in the dictionary that can sum this experience up. If there’s one thing you have to do in your life, it’s to break free from society even if it’s just for a short time, explore untraveled paths (or at least the ones that not many dare to venture to), experience the majesty of this planet in places where there are no other people or just sit in a place where Heaven meets the Earth in a collision of unprecedented beauty and be inspired and stand in awe of what exists not too far from our front doorsteps. Journeys like this are good for your soul. They give your mind a peaceful place to disappear to in the rush hour traffic or the drone of constant office noise, the mundane routine of everyday life. This is what it’s all about!
We tried out some more star trails while we sat by the fire, not to mention the fact that because we’d left the cameras shutter open for 30 seconds at a time we had to sit completely still and Wayne’s leg hairs were starting to smell like burnt pork and I just couldn’t stop sipping on my R30 bottle of ‘Braai Red’ wine that I bought in Calvinia’s local bottle store and I eventually looked like a blurry ghost in the photo!
Afterwards we took a short walk away from the bonfire out onto the pan and lay on the cracked earth looking up at the stars and while I turned my head to the west watching the Orange sickle moon and Scorpio being swallowed by the horizon I then turned my head to the east and watched Orion’s Belt rising into the night sky. There wasn’t a breath of wind and all you could hear was the beating of your heart and the sound of your breathing as you exhaled into the chilly desert air. Eventually we snuggled into our sleeping bags and imprinted the last of the stars into our minds as we drifted off to sleep…