Cape Town  - Upington

Upington the largest town
in the Northern Cape


Dutch Reformed Church Steeple in Upington

This week we move on through the Northern Cape and visit the town of Upington. It is the largest town in the Northern Cape and was established in 1870. Since its inception it has grown rapidly and is now the agricultural, commercial and educational centre of the Gordonia district.


Orange River flowing past Upington

Like most of the larger towns in the Northern Cape it is built on the banks of the Orange River and gets its water from the river. The land surrounding Upington is arid and dry but but the soil itself is very fertile and it is for this reason that the area is farmed. The main agricultural crop is grapes of which a million tons are exported annually by air from the Upington airport.

The airport is situated a few kilometres outside the town and has three runways, the longest one being 4900 metres of tarred surface and the longest in the southern hemisphere. Because of its length it is used to train pilots learning to fly large aircraft such as the Boeings.


The hardworking donkey of yesteryear

Way back in 1875 the Reverend Schroder built a church and a mission station in Upington close to the banks of the Orange river. The mission buildings are still there but are today used as the home of the Kalahari Oranje Museum. This museum houses a unique life size bronze donkey which was sculpted by Hennie Potgieter. The sculpture symbolises the unselfish contribution made by the lowly donkey in the development of the Lower Orange River valley.

People might ask but why were donkeys used in the area instead of horses. The Kalahari is a dry desert region and because of this food is scarce. Donkeys can survive on a lot less food than horses and also have a better digestive system than horses do which allows them to digest less nutritious foods than horses could not eat.

The donkey statue is not the only strange statue in Upington. They also have the camel and rider statue which can be found outside the local police station. This statue commemorates the work of the mounted police (Mounties) in the vast arid desert regions surrounding Upington.


Bungalows at The Eiland Resort


Broken bottles and rubbish under a tree at the Eiland


Vervet monkeys in the Eiland Resort

As to attractions in the area , the main place is the Eiland which is a large island in the middle of the Orange River. This island has been turned into a holiday resort with lawns, beautiful trees, large swimming pool and bungalows for hire. There is also place for tents and caravaners.


Date palm lane leading to the Eiland

The resort is reached by crossing the river and driving down a date palm avenue. The palms were planted in 1935 by officials from the then Department of Lands. The palm trees and the lane have been declared a National Monument. What makes the lane unique is that it is the longest lane of date palms at 1041 metres in South Africa and consists of 200 date palms planted nine metres apart.

Unfortunately the local authorities in Upington have shot themselves in the foot as The Eiland was in a filthy condition when we visited. Wherever we went in the resort there were heaps of broken bottles, beer tins and papers. Their excuse for the mess was that they had had a large gathering of people over the weekend and were still cleaning up. This I do not believe as the party ended on Sunday and we were there on the following Wednesday and it was still a mess.


Dirt on empty plot in Upington

 Tours in Cape Town

Dirt piled up in drains in Upington

Even if I give them the benefit of the doubt with regards to the Eiland, the approach road ( N 14) from the Keimoes side was just as bad, with broken glass and South Africa's national flower the plastic shopping bag blowing around.

The town itself was very busy and has a Pick 'n Pay Shopping Mall which carries everything you would find in a Cape Town store. The difference however if you are comparing the shopping malls are the rest rooms.Although adequate and clean one cannot gain access to them as they are locked closed by a wire mesh door and if you are not lucky enough to find someone leaving you may not even be able to get in.

There is most probably a good reason for keeping the doors locked but how will visitors find their way in without a key. Unfortunately Upington is not the only place where I have come across this type of door. The smaller shopping malls in Vredenburg on the west coast also use the same system.

Although I have made an issue of the dirt it appears that Upington has in fact noticed it themselves and have taken some action to stop illegal dumping in and around their town.

The following notice appears on the town's website and has hopefully been distributed and placed in and around the town.

Alle vullis wat op onontwikkelde gebiede gestort word, wat afwaai of afval tydens die vervoer daarvan en of uit n motor gegooi word, word in die lig van die wet gesien as onwettige storting en sal in die toekoms dien ooreenkomstig beboet word. Translated it reads as follows

All refuse dumped in undeveloped areas, or which falls off during transportation or is thrown from a car will be seen as illegal dumping in the eyes of the law and the perpetrators caught dumping will in future be fined.

A good move which I hope the authorities will be able to police.

If the town can get its act together and clean up the area and especially The Eiland it will once again become a sought after holiday resort.

I wish them luck in their efforts.

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