- Northern Cape
Sir Thomas Upington, attorney-general of the Cape, was the man pricipally responsible for liquidating the business activities of the Orange River pirates and capturing their leader, Klaas Lucas. When the desperadoes were finally driven away in 1884, a town was founded in the area on the banks of the Orange River and named in honour of the pacifier of a very tumultuous part of the country.
Among the first pioneers were Oom Japie Lutz and missionary Christiaan Schroder who, in 1890, dug the first irrigation canal, erected a pump on the banks of the river and started a pontoon ferry here.
Upington is the principal town of the Northern Cape and lies on the north bank of the Orange River. The railway reaches the town by means of a bridge 1067 m long, second longest in Southern Africa. The town is the centre for a considerable industry in the production of lucerne, sultanas, raisins, dried fruits, cotton, peas, karakul sheep, goats and cattle. Scheelite and tungsten are mined in the area. Salt is produced from pans such as Loch Maree. Tourists use the town as a transit point on the way to the Augrabies Falls National Park or the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park.
The river is ideal for boating, swimming and fishing. One of the islands in the river, Olyvenhoutsdrift, has been developed into a park, with a caravan and camping ground, bungalows and sports fields. It is connected to the riverbanks by a bridge.
Dates grow well at Upington. The first palms are said to have originated during the Anglo-Boer War, when British soldiers received dates as part of their rations. The men pushed the date stones into the mud on the riverbanks and many thousands of palm trees grew. On Olyvenhout Island there is an avenue of date palms 1065 m long.
Upington has several hotels as well as its tourist resort on the island. It is a pleasant, modern town, with an international airport. Roads lead to all parts of the district, known as Gordonia, after Sir Gordon Sprigg, prime minister of the Cape at the time the river pirates were defeated.
The Spitskop Nature Reserve outside the town is open daily. In it the plants indigenous to the area can be seen.
In the local cemetery there is the grave of the famous Scotty Smith, highwayman, horse thief, rustler, bank robber, adventurer - one of the most celebrated of South African desperadoes.
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