Dave Hawes

I was lucky to be able to go on the trip that the club recently organised to the Richtersveld but unfortunately unable to attend the report back a few months later.

As I have been able to visit the area on numerous occasions, for a variety of reasons, since my first visit in the early 1980s I thought that I could share some of my experiences with the club.

While I had visited Namaqualand as a typical tourist to see the flowers, my first serious visit in the early 1980s was to deliver some much needed provisions to some desperately poor people on the Steinkop community reserve. During this visit I was fortunate to be introduced to Peter Strachan, at the time employed by George Swanson as a geologist. Peter having done some mineral surveying in the Richterveld was passionate about the area and it was not long before he invited me to join him on a trip into the southern part of the area.

Those were the days before the national park and the declaration of the southern area as a community conservancy. The roads were then the responsibility of the Dept of Coloured Affairs and the main roads between Eksteenfontein, Lekkersing and Khubus were in much better condition than they are today, however once off the main roads they were generally horrendous. This was serious 4x4 country although few if any of the locals could afford those and in fact most of my early trips were in normal cars, it just took time to rebuild the road, or make a new one, as one went along. It was also the time that white people were not particularly welcome. On the road from the Port Nolloth turn-off to Eksteenfontein there was a gate as one left the white farming area, which was always closed and had a notice which effectively said that white people needed a pass to enter, only obtainable from the magistrate in Eksteenfontein. As at the time there was no phone service, no phone number was given anyway and in any case there never was a magistrate in the village - it was just the locals way of saying this is our area, go away. The gate posts still exist but the gate has long since gone

On my first trip into the Richtersveld proper I was introduced to Dirkie Uys, at the time the teacher at the local church school, later a political representative in the area after 1994. Dirkie had been moved soon after 1948 as a child with his parents to the village when the Group Areas Act was established. He had hence grown up there and as an inquisitive youngster, and later a teacher, he had walked the area from north to south and east to west. He was a mine of information not only about the minerals, but also the many unique plants the area is famous for, the birds and also the local culture and mythology.

Dirkie became a great friend and took me to many out of the way places and introduced me to many local characters including Cornelius, a shepherd who came into the village only once or twice a year to sell off the excess goats from his flock and to pass over his small leather bag of gold nuggets to a confidant who banked the proceeds for him. Cornelius naturally spoke Nama and was I believe the only person other than Jan De Vries (the white farmer who lived in the Richtersveld many years earlier) who found gold in the area and is considered to be the only successful gold prospector in the Richtersveld.

On to the rocks: The Richtersveld has a fairly complex geology with many mineral deposits, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, few are found in economically minable quantities except diamonds. By the time the local community had access to them only the difficult to extract ones were left.

There are a number of old small scale mines which were mined years ago, but most are now inactive. I was lucky to visit the fluorite mine in Fluorspar Valley many years ago where nice specimens could be collected - difficult to access then and quite possibly impossible to get to now. There are a number of old copper workings which are now closed and there are some stunning quartz deposits where the crystals are water clear. There is also the well-known francolite deposit at the Wondergat near Khubus. I was able to collect a large specimen there in the days before it was protected

More accessible it is still possible to find nice dendrites at the old Diamond Quartzite mine near Lekkersing if you know where to look.

Photos below include several that I picked up on the recent trip and I was surprised that nobody seems to know where to find desert roses in the vicinity of Port Nolloth. This information I have passed on to Werner and Sonja at the new club.

From some old publications I have been able to locate 16 old mine sites and 13 prospects which could be interesting but probably not very productive from a collecting point of view, but a few nights sleeping under the stars in remote parts of the Richtersveld is fun anyway.

There are many other interesting stories of the Richtersveld, the Halfmens Forest on the back of Black Face mountain (a long hard climb), eating Hoodia to slake one’s thirst before it was recognised as a medicinal plant and commercialised (not recommended - it is terribly bitter), how to deal with multiple punctures when you run out of spares, the occasional plague of koringkriek (every bit as bad as locusts) the petroglyphs along the Orange River and many more, but they are not about rocks.

Desert Roses from near Port Nolloth

Fluorite from Fluorspar Valley

Desert Roses from near Port Nolloth

Francolite from the Wondergat

Dendrites from Lekkersing