Vanwyksvlei, Upper Karoo

The only thing remotely marshy or wet about the tiny town of Vanwyksvlei, which means Van Wyk's marsh, is its position close to the dam that goes by the same name, built way back in 1882.

The inadequacy of its name becomes all the more obvious when you consider that Vanwyksvlei lies in what must be the driest, and hottest, region in the country, better known as Dorsland, or thirsty land, 100 km north of Carnarvon.

And that all roads that lead here are gravel and dusty as a result.

Calling it the 'middle of nowhere' is no misnomer. Vanwyksvlei truly is one of several 'lost' towns of the Northern Cape; the equivalent to the abandoned ghost town in the John Wayne movies on the Wild West. One can only imagine that back when the dam was built the town was a lot more vibrant. Anecdotal tributes, from those who once lived here, refer to times when there was a cricket academy with a boys and girls hostel.

All that remains today, is a smattering of homes, a pretty NG church, a co-op, a kafee, a butchery and the Van Wyksvlei Hotel in Hoof Street.

On closer examination Vanwyksvlei's name is not as far off the mark as it appears. Just south of town is Van Wyksvlei pan, one of several salt pans in the area. Another lies 35 km west of here, just off the R367 towards Brandvlei, known as Holpan. The large Verneukpan lies just northwest of here, between Swartkop and Diemansput, whilst Flaminksvlei and Ysterdoringspan, often connected after heavy rains, lie towards Brandvlei.

Van Wyksvlei Dam, whilst not particularly full, still has a lovely earthen wall, beautiful views and flamingos that have begun to frequent the shallows.

In the area: view San rock art, or visit Kenhardt, Putsonderwater and Prieska.

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