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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.


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.