The Witteberg Mountains in the Great Karoo

Matjiesfontein is in the Great Karoo, a seemingly endless expanse of silent, semi-arid veld under huge skies, with mountains near and far, and baking, shuddering heat in the summer. The vastness and the isolation is haunting; it draws you closer when you are there and stays with you when you leave, whispering in your mind.

We drove from Matjiesfontein up the N1 to Laingsburg, leaving the town again on the R323 into endlessness, and then turned back to Matjiesfontein on a dirt road parallel to the N1. The Google Earth map gives a good idea of the folding of the mountains.

I am not a geology fundi but I understand this area is part of the Cape Fold Mountains and were created by the movement of tectonic plates squeezing the earth into folds – rather like looking for wrinkles when you are testing jam. The Witteberg Mountains were laid down c.300 million years ago.

Looking towards the Swartberg Mountains from R323
Looking towards the Swartberg Mountains from R323 outside Laingsburg
A river bed alongside the R323
A river bed alongside the R323 – I think this is shale and sandstone
I think this is sandstone in the dry riverbed
I think this is sandstone in the dry riverbed
Rock outside Laingsburg
Sandstone?
Upright, folded ... shale?
Upright, folded … shale?

Upright, folded ... shale? Upright, folded ... shale?

The dirt road starts on a plateau before leading down into a valley between the Witteberg Mountains and a range of hills alongside the railway line and the N1.

The dirt road in the Witteberg ValleyHeading down into the Witteberg Valley

We saw a few isolated farms, but no people.

In the Witteberg Valley

In the Witteberg Valley

In the Witteberg Valley

The road went through one of the rock folds, towering over yet another dry river bed.

In the Witteberg Valley

In the Witteberg Valley

In the Witteberg ValleyIn the Witteberg Valley

Sandstone & quarzite?
Sandstone & quarzite?

I saw a lot of these yellow bushes in the Karoo but I can’t find the name.

Bushes in the river bed

And continuing down the valley…

IN the Witteberg Valley

In the Witteberg Valley

The N1 leading to Matjiesfontein
Up the N1 again

What a fabulously unforgettable day!

Further information
Rim of Africa Trail

The Cape Fold belt of mountains
The geology of South Africainteresting post with photographs
The Great Karoo

 

 

2 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s