‘Oh, oh, oh,
matchbox full of diamonds
pocket full of rain
I'm as happy as a hotel in the springtime
when the flowers bloom again’

David Kramer’s song about the Richtersveld starts on the road to Lekkersing: “O ja, vanaand stap ek alleen op die pad na lekka sing.”

It came bubbling into my brain the night we were briefed that we would be on the road to Lekkersing the next morning, deep in the Richtersveld, deep in diamond country, and it all seemed to make a new kind of sense. We were deep in diamond country indeed, but we were with the rock hounds from the Cape Town Gem Club, guests of the fledgling Richtersveld Rock Club, and it was day four, and our hosts were rapidly realising that these hounds aren’t much interested in a woman’s best friend. They were here for rocks of a different kind, and pleasing this bunch would take more than tales of diamonds.

We rendezvoused in Gariep on Friday morning, Woman’s Day. We were introduced to our hosts Sonja and Werner, their toddler Richter, and the local Namas, Rian and Pieter, who all spent the next week relentlessly tending to our every whim, both imparting knowledge and absorbing the wisdom on offer.

We made our way from Garies to Hondeklipbaai, a small coastal town that got its name from a rock that looked like a dog but has since been struck by lightning, an act of God perhaps, but an act that has nonetheless created new descriptive names for the area in the local vernacular. While the area is famous for its diamond mines, it is the people with their rich stories that have always fascinated me and David Kramer about the area. And then the succulents and flowers, and of course now, the rock. And the weather. The Richtersveld is not for sissies. It is a rugged and hard stretch of our country that displays itself on the features of the locals as much as it does on the landscape one drives through.

No more so than the first farmer we visited on the way to Hondeklipbaai. While we were clambering for jackets, beanies and gloves as we alighted from our vehicles, Rickie met us in his Judron shorts, a T-shirt and slops, undeterred by the Antarctic-style wind shoving the mercury well below ten degrees. He gave us access to two heaps of gravel, primarily for diamonds, but also rich in fossilised shark and musselcracker teeth, and other bits and bobs. After dragging the hounds off the heaps we visited a shipwreck in Hondeklipbaai, and made our way to our digs near Kleinsee where we camped at Houthoop, and allowed the fire, beer and red wine to weave its magical fibre of camaraderie through our group, and prepare us for the next week of rocking through the Richtersveld.

A 90 km drive to - wait for it - another diamond mine, “targeting garnets and other material” left a few of our more business-minded hounds scratching their heads as to the efficacy of Richtersveld garnet, but a digger’s breakfast seemed to placate the lot as much as the accompanying breakfast beer.

After two nights at Kleinsee we spent three in McDougalls Bay next to Port Nolloth, and a final two at Brandkaros, 30 kilometers east of Alexander Bay, situated on the Orange River. Various stops revealed dendritics, quartz crystals at Kristalberg, a smattering of agates, dolomite on the way to Brandkaros, and the various rocks that the hounds may still be identifying at home.


By the end we were invariably a tight bunch, and as ever it was both educational and heaps of fun and laughter. Any form of departure anxiety was mollified by the news that Malcolm was planning a similar trip at about the same time next year, and then we’ll rock again. And so, as we drove out of the Richtersveld on Friday, David Kramer sang through the car stereo, knowing we would be back:

‘For hours I’ve been walkin’
under a sky that never cries
but a matchbox in my pocket
a paints a rainbow in my eye’