This volume contains journals of journeys to the Orange River [Gariep] undertaken by three different people. The first was in 1778 and 1779 by Hendrik Jacob Wikar, the first European who is known to have journeyed along the river. The second, in 1760, was by Jacobus Coetsé Jansz, who was the first known European to have crossed the river into Namibia in search of elephants, and the third by Willem Van Reenen, who crossed the river in search of copper in 1791.

Wikar’s Journal

Hendrik Jacob Wikar was a Swede born in Gothenburg, who entered the service of the Dutch East India Company at Amsterdam and arrived in the Cape in 1773 as a soldier. He took to gambling and card playing and became indebted to various of his friends to the extent of 300 Gulden while he was earning only 9 Gulden per month. He was overcome by shame when he was publicly insulted about his debt in the street and became so desperate that he deserted from the Company’s service in April 1775. He knew that no deserter was safe from the long arm of the Company and fled north, beyond the settled districts of the Kammiesberg. We know nothing about Wikar’s adventures between April 1775 and September 1778 when his journal starts, but he was near Gádaos or Goedous (Goodhouse), on the southern banks of the Orange River [Gariep], as shown on his map.

Part of Wikar’s map of his journey

At some time before Wikar set out on his second journey in April 1779 he had sent a petition (“smeekbrief”) to the Cape Governor. He entrusted it to some of the Khoi to give to the nearest European farmer. In his petition he asked humbly for pardon and forgiveness for his desertion. He told the Governor that “he had made a collection of natural objects and rarities” and that during his wanderings he had kept a journal which contained notes of the ceremonies, customs and beliefs of three hitherto unknown tribes. When he returned to his “house” from his approximately 300 mile journey along the river as far as Koegas, which lies between today’s Upington and Prieska, he received the Governor’s permit authorizing his return to the Cape.

On his return he was assisted by Landdrost de Wet to produce, for the Governor’s perusal, an ‘improved’ edition of his diary dated 18 September 1779, which forms the substance of this book. A week later he was pardoned and reinstated in the Company’s service at his former wage by a resolution of the Council of Policy.

Section of Robert Gordon’s Map of the Cape (1777- 95)

The Relaas of Jacobus Coetsé Jansz 1760

Jacobus Coetzee (Coetsé) received the rights of occupation at “Klipfontein at the corner of the Picquet bergen” in 1758. This farm is now the site of the village Aurora. Coetzee could not write and the story of his journey was written by the Secretary of the Council of Policy.

In 1776 Coetzee obtained permission from the Governor to travel ‘inland’ to hunt for elephants. He left Klipfontein on 14 July 1776 with two wagons and accompanied by twelve Khoi servants. He crossed the Orange River [Gariep], (which according to him “has never before been crossed by a member of any European Nation”) and continued his journey northwards along the Leeuwen River (today called the Homs River), a tributary of the Orange [Gariep].

Map of the confluence of the Homs and Orange rivers in Namibia

Van Reenen’s Journey 1793

Willem Van Reenen lived in Rondebosch and also had a farm called Seekoevlei near the present Graafwater. He and his brothers were well known affluent figures at the Cape towards the end of the eighteenth century. Van Reenen accompanied the botanist William Patterson during the latter’s journeys in the Cape from 1777 to 1780 to collect plants. After these journeys there were rumours at the Cape that gold in vast quantities was to be found in today’s Namibia. In 1793 Van Reenen, at his own expense, but with the permission of the authorities, made a journey which lasted for nine months, from the Cape across the Orange River, to a mountain or mountain range in Damaraland and back. Near this mountain, which he named Rheniusberg, was a hot spring near which there was a copper mine (this is the well-known hot spring at Rehoboth where the first gold discoveries in Namibia took place in later years). Van Reenen brought back ore which proved to contain copper but no gold.


[…] vast. De kinders zitten nu agter een boom of bos, en loeren als de voogels gaan zitten, wanneer zy hard toe-loopen om te vangen. Den tortelduyf is de grootste voogel die zy hier met deeze kunst vangen.

Zo als de kinders der Eynikkoas kunnen loopen word haar een boogje en peyltjes gegeeven, dat ze al vroeg haare excercitie leeren; nu klijn zijnde jagten zy klyne hagadisse die ze doodsdhieten, braden en opeeten, ook vinke en meer klyne voogels schieten de kinderen, en zijn hierin zeer eergierig want alle de velle van de klyne voogels die zy doodgeschooten hebben, worden aan haare kop gehangen, dat voor haar een groote eer is; dat is voor de ouders ook een groote blijdschap; voor ‘t overige zijn ze zeer slegt in haare kindertugt, want hoe grooter brakke dat de kinderen zijn, om te bakkeleyen, vegten etc., hoe liever voor de ouders, en door die beuzelagtigheeden der kinderen, koomen de oude ook veeltijds aan malkander, dat hierdoor wel moord en doodslag geschied. Een moeder zelfs verdraag geduldig dat ze met stokken en steenen gegoeyd word, voor een eer en geluk agtende, dat ze zo een quaadaardige held tot zoon heeft; als de kinderen 6 of 8 jaar oud zijn, word voor haar scherpe stokken, op de manier van assagaye van dawee of sapreyhout gesneeden; nu […]

[…] their feet on the glued rushes, and, when they want to fly away, usually the tips of their wings adhere to the sticky rushes. Meanwhile the children are sitting behind a tree or a bush, watching for the birds to settle, and then they rush out to catch them. The turtledove is the largest of the birds they catch by means of this device.

As soon as the children of the Eynikkoas can walk they are given a miniature bow and small arrows so that at an early age they learn to use them. While they are small they hunt little lizards which they shoot, roast and eat. The children also shoot finches and other small birds, and in this they are most ambitious, as all the skins of the little birds they have shot are hung round their heads; which is a great honour for them and also a great joy to their parents. For the rest the Eynikkoas are very slack in disciplining their children, since the greater scamps the children are (quarrelling and fighting, etc.) the more delight the parents take in them, and the older people also are often at loggerheads because of this petty quarrelling among the children, so that even murder and manslaughter result from it. Even a mother will patiently submit to having sticks and stones hurled at her, considering it an honour and good fortune that she has such a vicious hero for a son. When the children are six or eight years old, sharp sticks are cut for them and shaped after the fashion of an assegaai, from “dawee” or “saprey” wood. […]


Wikar’s Journey

Modern Map indicating the journeys of Coetzee, Van Reenen and Hop

Portion Jacob Gordon’s Map 1777-95

The entire map of Jacob Gordon is in the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam and can die viewed on THEIR WEBSITE