Pixel Foragers, Northern Cape

Written by Jacques Marais
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There is an Oom in the Noord-Kaap that knows the otherworldly landscape unfolding upon the edge of the icy Atlantic like the back of his proverbial hand. From the tiniest conophytum and highest dune, to every rusted iron shipwreck dashed onto the voracious rocks scattered along these tempestuous shores. His name is Dudley Bruce Wessels, and he is a damn good Oom to know if you’re chasing bliss (and pixel perfection) within the desolate heart of this shape-shifting land.

Oom Dudley leads groups into the Richtersveld, Namaqua National Park and Northern Cape Tourism Region’s semi-desert interior, but one of his top day outings is his #DiamondCoast Shipwreck Tour. Best of all is that he has access to areas which are generally off-limits to the public, and this meant the Beyond Expeditions Team could experience the lore and legend left behind by the ancient seafarers who navigated South Africa’s treacherous coastline.

First & foremost, our #BeyondLockdown expeditions will always be about boosting the #localtravel industry after the slump following the 2020 Lockdown. The idea is to do this through (1) creating awareness of off-the-grid, rural destinations; (2) generating free-use content for these grass-roots operators and (3) then promoting them through our various print and #SM media channels. So far, it has been hugely successful.

The plan this year was to take this initiative one step further by including knowledge and skills transfers between the various generations. Once again, we had Densen Magaisa joining us on the adventure, and this offered a perfect opportunity … Peter Van Kets would take him on a 12-hour endurance night hike to teach him navigation & resilience, while I focused on further mentoring him in the ‘dark arts’ of #astrophotography. The idea was for me and Densen to venture out to a wreck in the dead of night, and to each capture our ‘prototypical’ photograph.

Thanks to Oom Dudley and his encyclopaedic Noord-Kaap knowledge, we managed to get permission to wild camp on the coast near the #Piratiny, a Brazilian steamship that ran aground here near Hondeklip Bay in 1943 (ironically, on her last voyage, nogal). Soaking up the darkness and drama amidst the eerie remains of the vessel – with a billion stars glittering above us – provided the quintessential photographic opportunity. And at the very touchstone of this pixel-chasing exercise I have discovered one immutable fact: I learn as much from him as he does from me, and an incredible energy transfer lies at the heart of these interactions. Know the rules. Show the rules. Break the rules. Make the rules …

These are two of my images: one is a stack of a 120x timed exposures capturing the rotation of uncountably many stars, while the other freeze-frames 30sec of astronomical whizz-pop-bang … I cannot wait to see what Densen will be sharing. As always, massive kudo goes to Isuzu South Africa and Dunlop Tyres SA: their support made this soul journey onto the desolate and dramatic Diamond Coast a reality. Thank you so much for helping us document all the insane #satourism opportunities which abound throughout the whole of #southafrica. There is no need to fly thousands of kms to get your #holiday fix, because your next getaway awaits you just beyond your backyard gate, so go #StayLocal and #PlayLocal

Click here to view the pics

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