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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

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: namapip@netactive.co.za, 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.

Gifberg Holiday Farm, unofficial river campsite, Western Cape

Place: Gifberg Holiday Farm, unofficial river campsite
Closest Town: Vanrhynsdorp (though let this not determine your judgement)
Facilities: Nature all the way, baby
Water: A flowing river- the Doring
Surroundings: Rugged rocks and mountains typical of the Northern Cederberg
Turf: Sandy river bank
Distance from CT: Roughly 300km
Privacy: this is where the word originated
Highlight: You realise that time is an invention
Cost: R80 pppn and R50 vehicle fee
Contact: www.gifberg.co.za 027 219 1555, email:gifberg@webmail.co.za
GPS Coordinates: -31.866478,18.820696

Doring River
Superior Chilling
Our Rustic Camp

Find a spot, and settle

Early Morning on the Doring
On the way down to the river





















The road to the river
This one’s slightly different. You don’t venture 4 hours out of Cape Town on a standard 2-day weekend, over a dramatic pass and eventually down a fairly taxing farm road and arrive at lush green pastures with scattered trees overlooking  a pretty river. And you don’t neatly unpack your camping gear and then have a hot shower before settling down in front of your campfire in its designated spot. No. 

It’s better.
Instead, it’s really what camping should be. It has nothing. Access is 4X4 only. It takes a few double trips down to the river from where you can park your car to offload your bits and pieces. It’s sandy. It lacks trees. It has no plug points. No ablutions. Nothing, really. And no one. Obviously, that’s the brilliance.
Unconventional hair wash
It’s just you, your company, the Doring River, and nothing else.

Admittedly, it’s quite a drive from Cape Town, but in a place where time is defied, worrying about and accounting for every minute of your planned weekend becomes irrelevant .

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.