09 Nov Valley of Desolations, a breathtaking experience
The Valley of Desolation in the Eastern Cape South Africa is a geological phenomenon; a sheer cliff face, declared a national monument that lies within the Camdeboo National Park. The gate of the park is reached 5km out of Graaff-Reinet on the R63 to Murraysburg. The Valley of Desolation, also known as cathedral of the mountains’ for its piled dolerite columns that stand like sentries against the plains of the Groot Karoo. A product of erosion and volcanic forces, the views from amongst these knobbly pillars extend over the town of Graaff-Reinet and the plains of the Camdeboo and is a unique Karoo landscape and ecosystem that surrounds the town, creating a type of oasis in the midst of the aridness of the Karoo.
The vertical cliffs and columns of dolerite that stagger precariously 120 metres above the valley floor are breathtaking. This unusual feature is the product of volcanic and erosive forces that have taken 100 million years to form. They stand guard over a valley – huge isolated hobgoblins of nature, forcing those who view them to dangle in time, if only for a moment, to contemplate the force and beauty of nature.
Even getting there takes your breath away, winding for almost 9km’s to the viewpoint. You then have to walk for about 200meters to get to this magnificent view. The diversity of the fauna and flora is incredible and attracts 220 species of bird, 336 plants and 43 types of mammal. The Valley of Desolation invites one to stay awhile or to traverse its features and there are walking trails that range from an hour to overnight hikes, as well as picnic sites for those who simply want to gaze at the majestic precipices.
The Karoo has become one of my favourite destinations and Graaff-Reinet is without doubt worth a visit just for the charmingly restored Karoo-style homes and the historical buildings; and the little hamlet of Nieu-Bethesda lures even the most cynical tourist to the Owl House – the tours never fail to impress and the camel yard to enchant.