10-Apr-2004 -- Starting out from a superb guest house named Karbonaatjeskraal on the N1 near Touwsrivier, we made our way north on the R355 toward Calvinia. This area is one of the most arid regions of South Africa, a stunning semi-desert plain with the dramatic Cedarberg to the West and the foreboding presence of the Roggeveld escarpment far to the East.
Turning off the R355 at about 32º 40'S we entered the Tanqua Karoo National Park, one of only 2 biodiversity hotspots designated by Conservation International in South Africa. This starkly beautiful landscape known as the Succulent Karoo should not be missed by any travellers to this region. With its 18 endemic species, the Tanqua is also well known as a birder's paradise. Passing through the Park, we climbed the Roggeveld escarpment up the spectacular Gannaga Pass, which ascends 700 m in little more than 6 km in a series of dramatic switchbacks with superb views of the great basin of the Tanqua Karoo below.
On to Middelpos, the first village on the escarpment (and, purportedly the smallest village in SA) to fill up with gas before heading West toward the confluence point. According to our 1:50,000 maps, the Confluence is on the eastern slope of a 1619 m peak on the edge of the escarpment of the Roggeveld range, at an altitude of just over 1500 m. The closest occupied farm named "Bo-tuin" (or "Upper Garden") is a beautifully lush homestead in this otherwise semi-arid landscape of the Roggeveld.
We approached the landowner, armed with our letter of introduction, and, in our rudimentary Afrikaans (the local vernacular language), managed to explain what we were doing there. The farmer's wife, a charming Mrs Steenkamp, expressed great interest and very kindly allowed us access to the upper farm named "Aasvoëlhoek" (roughly translated as "Vulture's Corner"), where the Confluence is located, although she did warn us that the jeep and sheep tracks may be impassable due to the heavy rains of the days before.
We were hoping to reach the upper tracks shown on the map in our vehicle, but could only get to within about 1.8 km of the Confluence and still some 200 m below it. Being quite late in the afternoon, we decided to hike the rest of the distance. At approximately 15:48 h we reached a rocky ledge where the GPS confirmed our position to a 6 m accuracy. Looking around and taking the pictures, we were so awed by this 'big sky' country and ancient landscape, that it was difficult to leave.
A quick hike back to the car saw us on the road through the sunset to Sutherland, the home of the South African Astronomical Observatory. On down the escarpment via the Verlatekloof Pass to Matjiesfontein on the N1 and a quick drive back to the guest house ended a memorable day.