The route begins at the Bundi River Rafters Camp and follows through to Aussenkehr. The guides gave informal names to many landmarks along the Orange River during their explorations. Here is the geological background of these landmarks.
The section of the Orange River we raft on was chosen because of its sheer magnificent natural wealth. This section that we raft is called the Richtersveld, which begins in Noordoewer and stretches towards the Fish River confluence.
Our base camp is 680km’s due north from Cape Town and 1300km’s from Johannesburg, worth every km! Click below to find out more about the driving directions to our base camp.
A sheer wall of Nama limestones rises out of the river, dwarfing even the Echo Krantzes. There is a vertical crack about halfway along Echo Cliffs, where displacement has occurred. 300 million years ago, this crack caused a break up of Gondwanaland, likely caused by an ancient earthquake.
Several of these faults led to the splitting of the continent and ultimately contributed to South America’s separation from Africa. The ocean now obscures all the major rift faults along the coast, so we have to hunt for their smaller associated fault breaks, which we can see extend quite far inland.
Just beyond Echo Cliffs and below Snail, the left bank plays host to most likely San rock paintings (Petroglyphs) that are preserved on the smooth flat faces of large Nama limestone blocks that have fallen from the ridges behind the left bank.
At the confluence of the Stinkfontein River, an imposing tower rises abruptly from the left bank. As a result of its floods, this river shifted the Orange to the right, washing out the boulder field. A dyke that runs along the Orange has been compared to the face of the movie monster due to the apparent joints and pits in its pattern. One favourite pastime at KK is camping on grassy terraces, while on the tower, one can get spectacular views of Richtersveld and Canyon Mountains.
From my understanding, the name derives from Proverbs, comparing Wisdom’s house as being built from seven pillars with the creation of a mine by the late Rudi Beneke. Also, the massive table mountain of quartzite that looms over the mine workings has a series of vertical fissures that give the appearance of several pillars. Diamonds have been recovered from ancient gravel terraces that are perched above the modern channel of the Orange River, attesting to a greater flow in the distant past. The river continues to cut down the canyon wall resulting in portions of these terraces remaining high above.
A fanciful comparison to the long pointed hats worn by these much maligned women, the Witches refer to a series of eroded quartzite towers that rise sheer from the Orange River canyon. In the Rosyntjieberg Canyon, the Orange turns almost to a right angle and then curves in a series of arcs. Quartzite ridges dominate the landscape along this slope, the first seen from afar over a spacious expanse of still water. A dense bed of quartzite makes up Witches Hat.
Some of the quartzite towers that border the Rosyntjieberg gorge contain sedimentary layers that reveal the origin of the hard grey rock. Initially laid down in shallow seas nearly 2000 million years ago as clean white sand, much like that seen on all the west coast beaches today. A deep burial and pressure caused the sediment to harden, which subsequently buckled under long-term earth movements. Due to erosion, these layers became tightly folded, resulting in steep lines and scratches in the canyon walls. Inter-bedded with the pale quartzite are thin bands of black rock full of the iron oxide mineral magnetite. The sharp contrast of black and white beds in close proximity probably highlights the vertical structures.
As the Orange River is surrounded by broad plains on both sides, it seems very sedate and resembles a huge lake that has virtually no current flowing through it. When paddling this section there is a lot of work involved, especially if there is a strong headwind (divorce straights), since inactivity will make you retrace your steps upstream. Both banks are thickly forested, the left masking the diamond workings, and the right bordering the vast irrigated plains of table grapevines and many other fruit and vegetable crops. Despite the weak flow of the river, the only sound is that of the pump siphoning water into reservoirs.
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