Text and photography: Greg van der Reis
In 1866, 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs discovered a small, shiny pebble on the banks of the Orange River.
Erasmus didn’t realise it at the time, but he had found a diamond. And his discovery would forever alter the Northern Cape’s future.
Within a few years thousands of fortune seekers would flock to the area. Most of these prospectors would come to search for diamonds, but many would also try their luck at finding other treasures, such as gold and copper.
I have often visited the sites where early prospectors laboured, and the area’s history has always fascinated me. Countless individuals came to the region to find their fortune, but few ever did.
Most prospectors struggled to eke out a living. Only one man, Jan de Vries, is said to have found gold. According to legend, De Vries moved to the Northern Cape in 1921 and found substantial amounts of gold somewhere in the area. Where? Nobody knows.
Because of this interesting story, I recently decided to embark on an adventure trip that would follow the route that early prospectors had taken as they headed steadily north in their search for diamonds and gold.
Unlike the prospectors, though, my aim was not to find shiny baubles and precious metals. I simply wanted to enjoy the spectacular landscape.
And to make the most of the trip, I needed some good company. Normally I travel with a maximum of three vehicles, but this time I decided to share the experience with a few more 4×4 enthusiasts.
After a careful selection process, I assembled an expedition team that consisted of a handful of 4×4 Off-road Adventure Club and the Cape Land Rover Club members. All were Land Rover owners.
We arranged to meet just north of Springbok on a Saturday. A few of us travelled to Springbok on the preceding Friday evening and met up with expedition members Kevin and Buzzy just after midnight.
When they left earlier in the day, Kevin and Buzzy promised that warm coffee and a large fire would welcome us when we arrived.
This didn’t happen. They were both fast asleep when we arrived!