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De Pakhuys Revisited

Okay, so I need to give a fair account of De Pakhuys. We came back. Admittedly out of convenience – we were looking at a farm on the south side of the Doring River. We had a number of options in the vicinity of this farm, but wanted something that we hadn’t experienced before or that wasn’t sickeningly commercial. As previously stated, we didn’t get a fair idea of De Pakhuys the last time and it claimed to have walks and a waterfall, so we were sold.

This time, I booked and paid a deposit online (a rare option for a rustic campsite in the Western Cape) so we felt assured that we could get past the electric gate after 9pm. I called a few days before and we were told to simply ring the bell at the office when we arrived- pity we didn’t know about or see this the last time…Anyway.
We searched the campsite for the best spot. There is one area that is the official campsite, but don’t stop there. It may be close to the ablutions (2 showers and 2 loos per sex), and it is the only spot with full-on shade because of its situation under a number of gum tress, but because of these things, it can get pretty cramped. There are also no official borders between sites, so nothing other than courtesy is stopping some neighbours from camping a little too close to you.
The rest of the campsite feels somewhat unofficial. There are a number of obvious sites along the bottom of one of the ‘koppies’/ rocky outcrops, but despite a bit of natural shade from Cederberg-style bushes or the shadow of the koppie at the right time of day, the sites are generally not level. I only sleep on flat ground. We ended up where we camped last- along the side of the road where you drive in and next to another rocky mound. Considering it hasn’t quite reached summer and the weather was due to be average, a bit of sun wasn’t too concerning.
There is no grass, which is not something one expects here anyway. The sites are pretty well spaced, but don’t let this fool you into believing tranquillity and quietness are a given. Sound travels like a demon here as we experienced from a group of drunken, music-loving and ipod-carrying European travellers camping about 50m away from us.
The interesting thing about this campsite is its noticeable lack of local campers. Most people are foreign and are there to appreciate the extensive bouldering opportunities the area has to offer. I also guess that a campsite over three hours away from Cape Town, despite what it has to offer, is generally a no-go for most local weekend travellers. That suits us. The quieter, the better. The more rustic too, the more rewarding our experience.
We went farm-hunting on the Saturday, but took a walk to the farm’s waterfall and gorge on Sunday morning. It’s a pretty easy walk and certainly is a rewarding one. There’s a bit of rock art scattered around the farm too, if you’re up for searching for it and respect what it represents.
I like De Pakhuys. The endless Michael Jackson and bad singing on Saturday night may not have been too welcome, but the farm is spectacular. This time we were not inconvenienced by a lack of water and the showers certainly had hot water. It does appear to fizzle out pretty quickly, but this is both a water- and gas-saving technique that we’re happy to respect.
Head here for a lazy weekend, but don’t expect to be completely alone, even in the middle of winter. 

This is my last entry.


Canon Road Campsite: a gem in southern Namibia

Place: Canon Road Campsite, Gondwana Canon Park, Namibia
Closest Town: Grunau (?km), 20 km from the Fish River Canyon
Facilities: Excellent ablutions including great showers with hot water- one for every two campsites. Restaurant, Self-catering accommodation also available
Water: It’s the desert, but they do boast a pool with a splendid view
Surroundings: Namibian desert-like conditions in the canyon lands
Turf: Sandy spots generally under large, much-needed trees
Distance from CT: roughly 886 km
Privacy: Sites have been laid out in twos, but because the campsite is very spaced out in general, lack of privacy is not really a problem
Highlight: A really rustic campsite that captures the essence of southern Namibia, the Fish river canyon (25km away), the selection of rusting, vintage cars on the property
Cost: N$ 120 per person (rates until October 2011)
Contact: Website

I’ll start off by apologising for the map. I’m pretty certain that it includes the area where Canon Road Campsite is situated, although I cannot be sure (which drives me nuts). And it’s a good 3 years since I visited this spot, so take the map lightly and forget about GPS coordinates- if you stay here, you’ll be emailed directions anyway. I know it’s not in South Africa, but it would be a pity to not to give this spot a mention.
So what’s this spot about? Pure, wholesome Namibian desert goodness, that’s what. We visited here as part of a trip to Augrabies Falls and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape of South Africa and had booked a site by pure chance after some very frustrating searching. I’m damn glad we did.
Some may argue that there’s not much to do, but my guess is that one generally visits this area to see the Fish River Canyon as one part of a more substantial trip. If you’re in the hood, stay here. It was super chilled, very quaint and kind of everything I’d hope a desert campsite to be.
The sites were brilliant and very cleverly ‘organised’ in twos, so you would never be too close to more than one other camping group. An additional bonus is that you only have to share your closest ablution block with those immediate neighbours and the facilities are probably the best and most modern I have seen to date. Most sites seem to have a massive tree in the centre with ample space for a number of tents to be pitched underneath, so shade in feisty desert conditions need not be your main concern. There’s also a pool, a restaurant and some vintage cars to keep you occupied if you’re not out sightseeing.
In my opinion, it’s one of the better campsites I’ve been to and I’d certainly advise a stopover even if you’re just passing through.
Our Campsite
The pool

The aggressive Cobra we saw

Canon Roadhouse

Beaverlac in Winter

Ratel River
Beaverlac Campsite

My last entry on Beaverlac was a tad critical, but for very good reason. As I said, the setting, the site’s subsequent popularity and the no-booking policy have resulted in a campsite that is uncomfortably full over holidays and long weekends, especially in summer (a friend of mine having said that his visit over a long weekend this year was his first and will be his last). It’s a pity because it is possibly the most tranquil and splendid farm I have encountered, especially now- ‘out of season’.

Proudly displaying a hand axe
Empty Farm

We visited Beaverlac the other day- in a season where most people tend to hibernate and become better acquainted with their couches. Besides a few people in the cottages that are available, we only saw one other group of campers. We basically had the whole enormous campsite to ourselves, hot water in the ablutions was ample, the weather was perfect (good enough for a mid-winter dip in the river), and the only sounds we heard we the hundreds of birds at the campsite or the sound of the river when we strolled across the farm for sundowners.

Empty Campsite
Brilliant view bar the caravan

I think people are missing something, but I’m not complaining. I quite like my favourite farm almost all to myself.

Easter Part 2: De Hoop, |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape

Closest (significant) Town: Alexander Bay? (roughly 120km)
Facilities: Riverbank with basic ablution facilities, cold water showers, no drinking water
Water: On the Orange (or !ariep) River
Surroundings: Rugged and dry Richtersveld Mountain Desert
Turf: Sandy, find-a-spot-on-the-river-bank-and –camp, First come first served trees for shade
Distance from CT: About 842km
Privacy: The river bank and apparent camping area is quite large, so if everyone honours their bookings, you should have no more than 11 other campsites in your vicinity. You can’t really hide though
Highlight: Uninterrupted mountain and river views, a fish sucking my bum, the river
Cost: R155 per campsite per night (includes 6 people), R45 per day conservation fee (2011)
GPS Coordinates: -28.175533,17.177811
Road to De Hoop
De Hoop Camp

View from above De Hoop
This is what I was looking for. A campsite that evoked all fond memories of my 2007 Orange River trip: disorganised, rustic camping, an extensive and open river bank, a semi-flooding river, pink landscapes at sunset, and the ability to eradicate all coherent thoughts in one’s head.
Admittedly, on arrival, I immediately felt distraught that we hadn’t pushed on through on the Thursday night at the start of Easter to camp in Springbok rather than settling down at Bulshoek Dam at 7pm. I regretted thinking our ‘shortcut’ through Eksteenfontein was a shortcut, and I was remorseful that we didn’t disobey the rules and drive the 3 hours to De Hoop at dusk the previous evening.
It’s one of those places where you try and get as far away from neighbours as possible. Because you can. Because you want to.
Our campsite on the Orange River
We found one of the few available trees, set up camp in a record time of like 15 minutes and sat. And stared. When we wanted a break from sitting and staring at the extravagant view, we sat and stared at all the late newcomers sending out a male contingent to scout for campsites, while the ladies fanned themselves and sat pondering the distance of their camp-to-be to the single rustic ablution block.
Good times 🙂

Orange River, Richtersveld
View from our campsite

The Richtersveld: |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

Richtersveld National Park
We decided to head north after leaving an Easter weekend booking a tad late and refusing to be part of the weekend camping masses closer to town at places still available. We managed to book camping for 5 nights across the Richtersveld National Park. We didn’t really have a choice of campsites and didn’t quite know what we were in for, so settled for a variety, which would require ample travelling in between.
The Richtersveld
The Richtersveld is splendid. Its dry ruggedness and rustic camping spots certainly wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea and it is only accessible to vehicles with a high ground clearance or off road capability. The benefit of this, however, is an escape guaranteed to be sparsely populated and that still retains a sense of forgotten-ness and isolation.
The drive from Cape Town was longer than we anticipated (12 hours getting there), considering our maps omitted a good 130km on dirt road before reaching the park, after spending too much time buying Hanne Louw’s Tamatie Blatjang and rusks in Garies and ice and over-priced wood in Springbok, and then deciding to take a short cut that wasn’t shorter and included several drives through the tiny town of Eksteenfontein to figure out which was the right dodgy-looking dirt road to go on.
De Hoop Camp, Richtersveld
We got there eventually, but without enough time to get to our first campsite, De Hoop, so we were obliged to stay at Potjiespram for the first night. The next few entries give a rundown of each campsite we visited.

Our highlights:
·         An ostrich chasing a springbok for almost a kilometre
·         What sounded like a roaming Hyaena not far from our campsite at potjiespram
·         The African Wild Cat at our campsite in Kokerboomkloof
·         Incredible, ancient and vast landscapes
·         De Hoop campsite on the river
·         Watching people ponder and scout for the best campsites
·         A pretty relaxed camping policy
What to watch out for:
·         If your first night isn’t spent at Sendelingsdrif or Potjiespram, then aim to arrive at least 3 hours before dark, so you’re allowed to travel on to the camps further away (Kokerboomkloof closer to 4 hours)
·         Bring plenty water
·         It’s survival of the fittest- the earlier you leave, the earlier you get to a camp for a better choice
·         The loud people from Joburg we encountered at Sendelingsdrif
·         The Pontoon for entry into Namibia may not be open at Sendelingsdrif if the river has been flooding- check this if needed
I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

Kokerboomkloof, Richtersveld

To find out more about the park visit: SANParks
To find out more about the area and the local inhabitants, visit: Explore the Richtersveld

Bulshoek Dam Resort, Bulshoek Dam, Western Cape

Place: Bulshoek Dam Resort, Bulshoek Dam, Western Cape

Closest Town: Clanwilliam (19.4km)
Facilities: First come first served campsites, fully equipped single ablution block with hot water
Water: On the Bulshoek Dam
Surroundings: Dam, small Cederberg Mountains
Turf: Ample shade. Mostly grass, unless you decide to avoid the masses like us and head for the only quiet spot under a tree, which happened to be sandy
Distance from CT: 247km
Privacy: Granted it was the start of Easter weekend, but this looked more like a music festival
Highlight: Being told we don’t have to pay because of arriving late and leaving early
Cost: It’s hard to say, really (didn’t give us a price on the phone either)
Contact: Website, Landline: 027 482 2635 Cell: 072 124 7747, Email
GPS Coordinates: –32.036675,18.820267

Bulshoek Dam Resort Campsite
Bulshoek Dam Resort Campsite

Our site

Resort = Caravan = Prejudice

I have to be honest, it’s difficult to give an accurate account of this campsite when the criteria for camping here was straightforward. As an overnight stop before heading to the Richtersveld, we needed a spot close to the N7 that was a decent distance out of Cape Town.
Next, I have a confession: I find that the word, resort, immediately makes me prejudice. Resort connotes all sorts of terrifying things that one really doesn’t want to have to confront while camping.
Easter Weekend Campers

I also have a newish policy: never go camping close-ish to town over Easter weekend. Everybody else does. And Bulshoek Dam Resort was no exception. Unfortunately, we had little choice and didn’t want to waste money at some random B&B or dodgy hotel in one of those strange towns after Vanrhynsdorp. On Thursday night at 7pm, Bulshoek Dam Resort was already packed and buzzing to the sounds of mattress and boat pumps, children screaming, peg hammering and caravan reversing…and to the sight of blindening spotlights, family wagons, trailers, blow-up water toys and a city of tents all competing for territory closest to the dam.

Our semi-secluded spot
Luckily instinct had suggested we turn left to find a deserted spot under a tree- a spot away from the dam and holiday fest, but ironically, the closest to the ablutions.  For what it was, it was perfect.

I’d likely not return, particularly on a long weekend. Admittedly though, I can imagine this would be a great spot on a normal weekend if you wanted a pleasant grassy campsite and some shade near a dam, especially if you have a boat.
Besides a brilliant shower, I guess the highlight would have to be having the farmer refuse our payment because of our fleeting stay.

Kromrivier, Cederberg Conservancy, Western Cape

Place: Kromrivier, Cederberg Conservancy
Closest Town: Towns are not close (Op-die-Berg, 74km)
Facilities: Standard fully equipped ablutions (toilets could cope better on an Easter weekend), cottages available
Water: On a trickling, stagnant river (end of summer), a little dam
Surroundings: Slight mountain plateau, typical rugged Cederberg scenery
Turf: Few shady spots, dry grass
Distance from CT: Roughly 210km
Privacy: Limited campsites, but fairly close proximity to neighbours
Highlight: the area, rather than the campsite
Contact: Rinda, E-mail:, Tel/ Fax: (0)27 482 2807
GPS Coordinates: -32.536683,19.285984

Our campsite
Sunset on Kromrivier Farm

Sunset on the farm

Walk to Disa Pool

Disa Pool

The Kromrivier campsite left little impression on me except for the super-powered homemade farm bread, the fact that a resident cat had recently produced a proud litter of kittens and the owners fully support the Cape Leopard Trust. We found that there wasn’t too much to do around the actual campsite, the river was stagnant and suffering from summer dehydration and the dam just didn’t quite invite us for those swims that other flowing and moving bodies of water in the mountains so often do.

The recommendation: Get out of the campsite. It’s in reasonably close proximity to the highlights of the Cederberg Wilderness Area (Stadsaal Caves, Wolberg Cracks, Wolfberg Arch), which are certainly worth a visit. Also, it’s the base for a great walk to the pleasant Disa Pool along a very comfortable path for those with an aversion to too much effort.