The Arid Northwest

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t Wave-like patterns in the park’s unusual red sand, seen in the morning light

A Driving Tour

EXPERIENCE The Arid Northwest

Prior to European settlement, the Northern Cape’s harsh climate ensured it was one of the last places on earth to be inhabited by hunter-gatherers whose lifestyles differed little from those of our prehistoric forebears. Known collectively to outsiders by derogatory names such as Bushmen, these ancient cultures fell victim to a succession of genocidal incursions that took place over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. Those carrying out the raids included Khoi pastoralists and escaped “Baster” slaves bearing imported firearms, farmers with drought-resistant merino sheep, and fortune seekers bound for the copper mines of Springbok/ Okiep.

The provincial capital Kimberley was established in 1871 to exploit the world’s richest diamond vein, while the implementation of the ambitious Orange River Irrigation Scheme in the 1960s transformed Upington into a major centre of agriculture and wine production. Despite this, the Northern Cape remains very thinly populated, accounting for almost a third of the country’s surface area but only 2 per cent of the population.

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