In a round world, South Africa’s Northern Cape is home to the flattest place on earth and it is called Hakskeenpan. Find it at 26°46'15.71"S 20°13'35.15"E on Google Earth.
In September 2014 I spent 12 hours at the pan for Kalahari Speedweek, as part of South African World Tourism Day mega celebration.
That was long enough to hook me.
On first sighting the pan, my brain gasped. Only two colours registered, and my world comprised of blue sky and yellow sand. That’s it.
A 360 degree turn revealed a slight ridge of dunes, and on the opposite side of hint of a few reeds, trying to be green. Sound is non existent until you concentrate and the sand emits a combination of a whistle and a roar. Tune in a bit more and you might hear a bird, but nothing man made.
It made me want to whisper.
Black took on a whole new meaning when night fell, and as I could not see my feet walking was tricky so I lay on my back and looked at the stars. Where did all these “extra stars” come from, it is dizzying trying to take it all in.
The main event
This geographical phenomenon is going to put the Northern Cape in the spotlight of the world in the second half of 2015, when the Bloodhound Team aim to break the World Land Speed record by attempting to travel at over 1 600km/ph over a 20km track.
So how fast is that? A Boeing 747 flies at an average speed of 920km/ph. That is 600km/ph slower than what the Bloodhound will attempt on land!
For the ladies, the Bloodhound will reach a speed of 800km/ph in the time it takes to you to apply your lipstick. At full speed the Bloodhound will travel faster than a bullet fired from a 357 Magnum.
It all started in the United Kingdom in 2008 when the Bloodhound Project was officially announced.This project is the result of adventurous dreamers, engineers, scientists, speed freaks, communication experts and technical wizards working together to build an eco-friendly, seriously sexy vehicle to set new land speed records, and in doing so, to share the technology and information with the whole world.
In their words “The Bloodhound Project is a global Engineering Adventure, using a 1 000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt to inspire the next generation about science, technology, engineering and mathematics” and it will all be happening right here in South Africa
When travelling at over 1 000km/ph a tiny bump can be the equivalent of hitting a boulder, so an extremely flat area with no vegetation, and longer than 10miles had to be found to carry out the record attempt. A world wide search spanning a few years resulted in the finding, testing and accepting of Hakskeenpan as the best site in the world for this adventure.
Actual dates for the arrival of the car in South Africa will be released later in the year. It is expected to be some time in August, with the record attempt happening in September 2015.
The pan will be transformed into a self sustainable village for the duration of the World Land Speed Record Attempt
It will be divided into 2 sections, Trackside for the Bloodhound Team and Landside for the general public.
The public area will cater for thousands of people and include viewing stands, campsite sites, RV hook-ups, catering, ablution facilities, local merchandising and emergency services.
As the Bloodhound will not perform every day, on non-run days other activities will be on offer. These will include safaris, concerts, astronomy classes and guided tours of the technical area.
For those not wanting to stay on site, transportation services between Hakskeenpan, Upington and Rietfontein airstrip will be provided.
Keep an eye on the package deals to be announced by Northern Cape Tourism.
If all this talk of speed excites you, you can get involved via Speedweek Kalahari.
This is an annual event held at the pan that enables petrol heads and speed addicts to play with their toys without complaints from the neighbours. Planned for 19th – 26th September 2015, this is a great way to experience the magic of the pan, push your own vehicle to the max or just enjoy the spectacle.
Now that you have decided that you need to be there, here is all the information you need to persuade your family and friends to join you on an epic Northern Cape adventure.
Upington is the urban hub of the area and the Orange River flows right through the middle of the town. The weather is great and the wine is outstanding, as many of the best wines of South Africa are produced on the Orange River Wine Route, located between Augrabies and Upington.
The Augrabies National Park is 110km East of Upington. Obviously, this is where you can view the Augrabies Falls, but also consider a Hot Air Balloon trip, 4 x 4 trails , bird watching and game drives.
Sandboarding at Kakamas, or paragliding in Kuruman, recommended before you start the wine tasting. Take a look at the Quiver Tree Route for the best way to explore this region.
Hakskeenpan is 250km North of Upington and from the pan to Kalaghadi Transfrontier Nation Park is a piddly 116km.
To survive the desert, make a pit stop at Molopo Lodge for the best lunch and a swim.
Just up the road in Northern Cape terms you will find Kalahari Adventures, home of Prof Anna and the meerkats, those little cuties who inspired the TV show.
The Kalagadi Transfrontier park is the coldest I have ever been in a desert, but seeing a lion, birds, hyena and Bambi in the first 15 minutes of the game drive distracted me from my frozen state.
Take a look at the Red Dune Route from Upington to the Kgalagadi for a complete list of activities and accommodations http://experiencenortherncape.com/visitor/explore-the-northern-cape/routes/kalahari-red-dune-route
For comprehensive information on the Northern Cape Province click here.
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