Archive | April 2011

Suikerbossie Guest Farm, Koue Bokkeveld, Western Cape

Place: Suikerbossie, Kouebokkeveld

Closest Town: Citrusdal (30km, but not easily), Ceres (90km)
Facilities: Rustic, eco-friendly ablutions, basic camps, some fully equipped
Water: Situated right on the a river
Surroundings: Spectacular Koue Bokkeveld
Turf: Mostly lush grass, sandy at Waterfall Camp and Kuil Camp
Distance from CT: 209 km
Privacy: Limited campsites, fairly close proximity to neighbours, but not destructively so
Highlight: The setting, peach-picking in March, lounging on tubes/butterflies/explorers on the river, the nibbling fish
Cost: Varies per camp (have requested rates for September 2011)
Contact: Karin 0229213537
GPS Coordinates: -32.657876, 19.256973

 
Walking on the Farm
Afternoon mission

Rustic shower with a brilliant view!

Ghoeboontjie Camp

Grass behind Ghoeboontjie Camp

View of the Koue Bokkeveld

Suikerbossie ‘Canyon’

Lounging on the river

Suikerbossie is spectacular! While it’s a slight mission to get to via Citrusdal without a decent set of wheels, the alternative 3 and a half hour drive via Ceres is well worth the effort, especially for a long weekend.
Picking Peaches
Not only is the setting beautiful, the campsites are varied and particularly well kept. Rustic shelters are provided at all sites, with some a little better equipped than others. The camp we stayed at, Ghoeboontjie, could be considered a slight cheat- it comes with a caravan and outdoor kitchen which is fully equipped. We did however still sleep in tents, so consider it facilitated camping. The advantage: forget that frantic packing.
The whole experience felt slightly surreal the first time a group of us visited. It was picture-perfect – a little like being on the set of a motivational lifestyle AV for a Nivea ad campaign or on the South African version of Dawson’s Creek. We spent hours innocently lounging on tubes or floating toys, playing cricket on the lush grass and telling ghost stories around the fire as the sun sank below the mountains.
Tarzan Swing
The second time we visited was slightly different. It was still cheesy and pretty and liberated, except that a couple new permanent camps had been erected, one of which was on our chosen camping spot from last time. Also, two camps down, a large and eccentric Gay and Lesbian army had settled, spilling out of their camp’s corner and taking over most of the riverfront and cricket pitch with parked cars and a dedicated shrine honouring  a horny adult version of a Ken doll. We had fun and quickly got over the shouted ratings  every time we launched ourselves off the Tarzan Swing into the water, joined in the festive late-night song singing and tolerated some very unashamed perving. Admittedly though, the campsite wasn’t quite as tranquil as it had been before.
To be honest, I’d limit the number of people per camp to maintain a very unique vibe, but all in all, I’d still go back. You know you’ve found a perfect spot when you head home and feel like you’ve been away for ages…even if you did spend Saturday night singing Mika’s Billy Brown as an initiation in to the neighbour’s Crazy Camp. 

Beaverlac, Grootfontein Farm/ Beaverlac Nature Reserve, Western Cape

Place: Beaverlac Nature Reserve, Grootfontein Farm, Olifants River Mountains
Closest Town: Porterville (24km)
Facilities: Basic, scattered ablutions with about 2 showers worth of hot water per day on a busy weekend, super-stocked shop
Water: A spectacular river (Olifants), and the Ratel river with many waterfalls and exquisite rock pools
Surroundings: Rugged rocks and mountains typical of the Western Cape
Turf: Relatively flat, attempted grass in places, sandy patches, increasingly shady (they keep planting trees)
Distance from CT: Roughly 170km
Privacy: Average. 1st come 1st serve. None over long weekends
Highlight: Scrambling up the Ratel River and its rock pools, and Olifants River Valley
Cost: R35 pppn and R10 vehicle fee, no bookings except for cottages
Contact: 022 931 2945 www.beaverlac.co.za
GPS Coordinates: –32.907262,19.067287

Olifants River
Ratel River rock pool

Ratel River

Main Pool

Campsite

“Secret Pool”

Olifants River Valley

Ratel River rock pool

Olifants River

The Campsite

Besides the fact that I have voted Beaverlac my favourite farm in the Western Cape so far, and the fact that the setting is undeniably on par with my preference, this is objectively a true gem- its increasing popularity indicative of this.
What works: It is conveniently close to Cape Town- an easy 2 hour drive, except for the last farm road part (in a normal car). I like that you don’t have to book, a true compliment to spontaneity. I like that the farm and camping site are huge and that it has no defined borders between campsites. I appreciate that a large percentage of the folk who go there are lazy, preferring to lounge in their camping chairs or wallow in the Waterslangetjie-inhabited Main Pool, leaving the rest of the farm and rock pools relatively people-sparse. I love it in winter when nobody but a few cabin dwellers exist, and I love the fact that it is rock art rich, most of which likely remains undiscovered and hidden. The rivers and rock pools speak for themselves.
What is working against it: The no booking policy means that there isn’t necessarily a limit on the number of people who may decide to visit on a particular weekend and because the farmer seems to have cleared some new land for camping, it has opened up his farm even more to the long-weekend masses, totalling around 4000 people (excluding dogs). Spontaneous long weekends or holidays are no longer an option if you wish to truly appreciate everything the farm has to offer and if you find hearing your neighbour’s every move, snore or child-slap a little disturbing.
It’s a catch 22. Get rid of a great no-booking system or give up certain weekends and holidays in favour of other spots that are often more commercial and organised?
That aside, I love it- it’s a great default and certainly a camping destination of choice.

Jamaka Organic Farm, Cederberg, Western Cape

Place: Jamaka Organic Farm, Cederberg, Western Cape

Closest Town: Clan William (about 25km)
Facilities: One basic ablution a little far from most sites, and very far from the end ones
Water: Nicely situated on the Rondegat River
Surroundings: Cederberg
Turf: Beach-sandy, some more grassy, shady
Distance from CT: 224km
Privacy: Great! (A rare thing when camping)
Highlight: The River
Cost: R120 per campiste per night (includes 4 people), R30 pp extra
Contact: http://nieuwoudt-farm.com/, 027 482 2801, 082 466 4331, jamaka@agrizone.co.za
GPS Coordinates: -32.320794,19.014587

Campsite on the Rondegat River
Road to Jamaka Farm

Finding a hike

River pool at the older campsite

Newer campsite

Our spot 

My first impression of the Jamaka campsite was a good one. It seemed that someone finally got the design of a campsite right. The entire campsite is essentially separated into two parts and the part we camped at felt a little more private and less resorty than the other (I believe it is the newer part of the campiste). Almost all the sites are situated on the Rondegat River (with direct access to it), they’re generously spaced out, but purposefully separated by trees and bushes that work well to keep out views of the neighbours and the sounds of their accompanying conversations. There’s also a big field in the middle of the campsite where camping is restricted, which enhances the feeling of privacy.
There are two main problems though. First, the only ablution block on our part of the campsite was small and is situated on the other side of the field- stupidly far from the sites further down the river. Second, there is little to do in general, but be lazy. The river is better suited to kids and the walks on the farm are short and fairly disappointing, which resulted in a bumpy 45 minute drive south to Sanddrif to climb up to The Cracks.
If you want a place to lounge around and drink beer with a bunch of mates or a place where your kids can roam free, it’s a great spot. Personally, I wouldn’t rush back. 

Augrabies Falls, Augrabies National Park, Northern Cape

Place: Augrabies Falls, Northern Cape

Closest Town: Pofadder (152km)
Facilities: Excellent- SANParks at their best (suspect wine in the shop though)
Water: Orange River and Augrabies Falls, but not the swimmable kind
Surroundings: Northern Cape Camelman
Turf: Shady, not ideal for blow-up mattresses, gravelly, well-organised
Distance from CT: Roughly 800km
Privacy: Great job at trying to keep campsites separate or with ample space in between
Highlight: The Falls, the area
Cost: March 2011- (see www.SANParks.org for updated fees)
GPS Coordinates: -28.536275,20.319214

 Augrabies National Park
Orange River, Augrabies 


The infamous Pofadder

On our way up north……

Northern Cape Landscape

Overlooking the Orange River

Augrabies Falls
SANParks has a formula that works. You accept that their parks/reserves are more frequented that your neighbourhood farmer’s rustic river campsite, but then you also appreciate the efficiency of how they work because you’re usually there on holiday after a long drive through and past meaninglessness. That’s partly a lie. That comment is in particular reference to the Northern Cape and its tendency to be quite repetitive when it comes to the scenery outside the vicinity of the Orange River. It was also mildly influenced by Pofadder, which was the last town we drove through and stupidly relied on for some supplies before arriving at Augrabies.
You go to Augrabies to see the falls. They are everything they are meant to be, but hours of contemplation seems like overkill, so you opt for a game drive instead. If you are as lucky as we were, you’ll spot one lone giraffe in the blurred distance and will settle for a couple of hours contemplating an illegal swim at a viewpoint overlooking the river. The view is spectacular, despite the lack of swim.
The actual campsites are great. Pretty private and spread out, but not ideal for blow-up mattress die-hards who choose to ignore the logistics of camping under Fever or Camel Thorn trees. I didn’t have that problem, so was quite content until I stocked up with the regions finest, Oranjerivier Cellars, for sundowners…and almost choked.

Sanddrif, Cederberg Conservancy, Western Cape

Place: Sanddrif, Cederberg Conservancy

Closest Town: Towns are not close
Facilities: Great ablutions, cottages, kids area
Water: On the Dwars River
Surroundings: Slight mountain plateau, typical rugged Cederberg scenery
Turf: Shady, grass patches along the slightly bushy banks of the river
Distance from CT: Roughly 200km
Privacy: Limited campsites, but close proximity to neighbours if you do have one
Highlight: Full moon on a sandy patch of the river bank, The Wolfberg Cracks
Cost: Roughly R160 per campsite per night (last visited in 2008)
Contact: www.cederbergwine.co.za, +27 (0)27 482 2825
GPS Coordinates: S 32° 30’ 14’’, E 19° 15’ 28’’


Sunset at Stadsaal Caves
Dwarsrivier, Sanddrif

Stadsaal Caves

View from Stadsaal Caves

View of Central Cederberg

Stadsaal Caves

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&t=h&hl=en&msa=0&msid=206881733232532953189.0004a0260d9d642cea74b&ll=-32.433295,19.124451&spn=0.405678,0.583649&z=10&output=embed
View Sanddrif, Cederberg Conservancy, Western Cape in a larger map

My experience of Sanddrif was slightly tainted by the Easter weekend that coincided with my visit. I am admittedly a slight snob at these times, but purely because it seems like some campers crawl out the woodwork over long weekends…those folk that come armed with their enormous 5-roomed tents, security spotlights that get strategically scattered along the borders of their territory, washing lines, kitchenettes, cupboard systems, couches, deep freezers (no lies), a soda stream machine, and a trailer of beer, brandy and bullshit.
It was one of those weekends. The three of us arrived unfashionably late on Good Friday morning. It didn’t feel very good. We were confronted with a colony. A settlement. A laager of modern day ox wagons. And a sea of disapproving stares. We crept onto our site wedged between at least ten people on either side in giant temporary homes, unfolded our chairs, sat down and stared at each other. One wise person went to find beer. And wine. While we contemplated whether we were ready for Easter in what felt like the camping East Rand.

If I try and see beyond the spotlight and hear myself think on the other side of the Soda stream farts, inappropriate jokes and loud bellows, Sanddrif is a great campsite and arguably one of the most pleasant out of “season.” A short walk takes you to a brilliant rock pool (where tons of silly people jump off high ledges) with a splendid view downstream. The Wolfberg Cracks are on its doorstep, roughly an hour uphill over a few boulders, and it’s close to sundowner paradise, the Stadsaal Caves.
I’d go back, but on a normal weekend. Working against this is the fairly long drive from Cape Town, but then again the mission to get there works in favour of a quiet and beautiful camping spot in the heart of the Cederberg.