Monday, November 10, 2014

Dwarsberg Trout Haven

O.K. we had planned to go for a week to Plettenberg Bay and stay in the Keurbooms Lagoon Caravan Park for a week. This has pleasant memories for me and Colleen as we spent a week there camping in a tent when we first knew each other in the late 1970's. It is right on the waters edge at the Keurbooms Lagoon and part of the plan this time was to take our kayak's and do some fishing. (O.K. a LOT of fishing). But a few days before our departure, I checked the weather forecast out and things changed rapidly. There was torrential rain and possible flooding forecast. Even after the rain, fishing would not have been any good with the lagoon in flood after the rain, so we decided to put this off till a later date.

I then started to do a bit of research, mostly via google, to look for an alternative. I had seen Dwarsberg's site before and decided to give it a try. They have a totally different concept of a campsite to the norm. They have 9 sites and you book the whole site, each of which can accommodate 20 people. It does not matter if there are only 2 of you, the site is yours and yours alone. Each site has its own ablutions. Of course, this is pricey but I saw that they have adjusted their prices for weekday visitors to make it feasable if there only 2 of you. Anyway I booked for a couple of nights, mainly to try it out and see what it was like. Mirna, at reception gave us site No 6 and said it had plenty of shade and, as all the sites, right on the river.

We arrived there just before lunch time. The last 5km of the access road was gravel and the last 1km of this was quite exciting. Very narrow as it cut into the mountain and quite high up off the valley floor. It was however, in very good condition, having recently been scraped. We suddenly came across this oasis on the river with high mountains all around. Very much like being in the Cederberg, but only 100km from Cape Town. We set up our trailer right next to the river on a level piece of lush green grass with plenty of shade nearby.  Absolutley stunning location. Mirna mentioned that they are completely booked over weekends for the next 6 months.

It would be quite a mission to travel back to the nearest shop, so advisable to take everything you may need with you. I had seen on their website, a few nice pics of the river, so I threw in our inflatable standup paddleboards at the last minute. This was just in case the river was suitable for these. Anyway after setting up our tent, I immeadiatley inflated the boards as it was a paradise for this pastime. Right in front of where we were camping, there was a 500 meter stretch of crystal clear and calm water.

Many hours were spent paddling up and down. Absolute bliss and great exercise.

6.15am cruise

Early morning paddle

We had two friends come down and join us for our last night. We will be back again soon as this place is definitely on our list of favourite campsites.

A few more pics.

Click on any pic to see the larger version.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ebb and Flow - Wilderness

I have not updated this blog for a few months now. The reason for that is not because we have not been doing any camping but simply that we have been re-visiting some of the places we have been to in previous blog posts.

However we recently attended a blues music festival weekend at the Far Hills hotel between George and the Wilderness and decided to haul our trailer with us and find a campsite in the area to stay on an extra few days to camp afterwards. On the Saturday we investigated a few camp sites in the area and chose to go to the Ebb and Flow campsite, which is part of the Wilderness National Park on Sunday when our festival was over. It is sitauted on the banks of the Touw River, which is one of the reasons that we chose it as we had taken our Standup Paddle Boards with us.

Skipper Tenttrailer

As far as campsites go, this was one of the nicest we have visited, A newly paved access road off the N2, friendly reception staff, nice level grassed sites with stainless steel braais with grids, most with some shade, new electrical points and very clean and upmarket ablutions. There are double canoes for hire. The braai's and dustbins are cleaned daily.

A few negatives are the sparse number of water taps and dustbins. As I said, the ablutions are great but the location of the main ablution block is definitely not. It is miles away from the main campsite, on the far side of the self catering "Forest Cabin" cottages. Thank heavens we have a Porta Potti for No 1 or otherwise with the amount of beer and wine I consume, it would have been equivalent to running a half marathon by the end of the day! There is another very small and cramped ablution block (2 showers and 2 toilets per side) at the far end of the campsite and I showered there on the first day. It was such a traumatic experience that I opted to do the Groot Trek to the main block after that.

A few more pics of the campsite.

As far as leisure activites go, there are several hiking trails, the most popular being the waterfall trail which can be hiked from the start just oustide the campsite or partly by canoe on the river. The latter option seems very popular. We had our SUP's and also paddled up the river as far as we could. If you take your own canoe, kayak, SUP etc it does need a permit but this is issued free of charge at either the reception or Rangers office.

There is no shop on site, but it is only 3km to Wilderness village where there is a very good Kwikspar for your daily needs. There are several excellent restaurants in the area. Try Joplins at Pirates Creek for steaks!

We will definitely return sometime, despite the trek to the showers and toilets.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A week in Prince Albert

Our camping activities in the first half of this year underwent a few difficulties.zOur camping trips for the first half of this year ahve been hampered 

Firstly I was ill at the beginning of the year with Septicemia and in hospital in January. When I was discharged, my recovery was fairly slow and we just managed a few short trips to Langebaan and Mountain Breeze in Stellenbosch as per my previous post. We also stayed for the long weekend in March at Ganzekraal with the Trekkers Outdoor Club.

In April there were school holidays then Easter and then a few more public holidays enabling people to take long weekends. All of these are times when I do not go camping because of the crowds.

Colleen and I discussed where to go for a decent break away and decided on Prince Albert in the Karoo. We have stayed there several times over the years and know it vey well. We had always stayed in various self catering establishments before but decided this time to camp as we now have the Skipper and it is very well set up with our "own stuff".

We have just come back from a wonderful week there and were joined by Colleen's brother, Robert and his wife, Cynthia in their lovely 1989 model Gypsey 3 caravan. They bought this new and it is still in immaculate condition. 

The campsite is on a working olive farm on the outskirts of the town and has received very good reviews from other campers who had stayed there. It is very well maintained. The ablutions are fairly old but spotlessly clean and I can heartily recommend the campsite.
Wendy, the manager is always around, very friendly and helpful.
All set up.

View over the olive groves from the processing/tasting/sales centre

B+W version of the view over the olive groves

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Prince Albert is a typical Karoo dorpie with many attractions. I will try and list some of them. Firstly there is Gay's Dairy who supplies wonderful Guernsey milk and cheeses. Their cheese's are served on the Blue Train and have won many awards. The Prince Albert Regal was my favourite as it a sharp well matured cheddar. The Parma Prince is also outstanding.  It is vacuum packed and they assure me will last for around 5 months if kept refrigerated, so bought lots home. The Lazy Lizard coffee shop also bcame a favourite of ours during the week. Karroo lamb pie and vegetables for R65.00. Lovely meal! They sell freshly baked bread and rolls and have a great selection and jams and chutneys etc, all locally produced for sale.

We went for a "wine tour" one day, starting at Soet Karoo Wines in the main street of the town. They have a vineyard in their back garden and produce really good Port style wines in a converted garage behind their house. Very interesting people and part of the Perold family that first cultivated the Pinotage grape. We went on to Fernkloof and then Bergwater, who supplied the wine for Prince Albert of Monaco's wedding, both situated in the Prince Albert valley towards Meiringspoort. Stocked up with wine at all of them.

Bergwater Wine Estate.

The local butcher, Karoo Slaghuis has excellent meat and takes great pride in what he does. Firstly, I am extremely scathing of the quality of the boerewors that one gets in the Cape and his was without doubt the very best boerewors I have had for very many years. We even just had a boerewors braai one night and bought a few kilo's home with us. Lamb chump chops and very tender and tasy T-Bones were also braaied during the week. Lamb knuckle potjie also went down well.

We went for a hike along the koppie next to the town and it was pretty easy going with nice views.

View over the Karoo from the Koppie

Same view just a bit closer up

View of the town from the koppie

We also spent time just walking around the town itself. There are a lot of old houses and buildings from the Victorian era. There is also nothing to beat that Karoo atmosphere. 

Newly restored Theatre.

Fransie Pienaar Museum

Sunrise over an olive grove


Friday, February 7, 2014

Mountain Breeze Caravan Park Stellenbosch

The Trekkers Outdoor Recreation Club, Laarger 8 went to Mountain Breeze Caravan Park near Stellenbosch last week end and we went along. We had a great weekend with a lovely crowd of people, although the temperature when we arrived on Friday afternoon was 37 degrees. It was not fun setting up the Skipper in that heat but we managed, followed by a swim and then a cold shower as the temperture of the water in the very nice pool was around 28 degrees and did not really cool one down.
Mountain Breeze Caravan Park Pool Area

The campsite itself is set in a Pine forest and while this gives a good amount of shade, nothing grows underneath the trees so the sites are very hard gravel. Take a large mallet and sharp pegs. The sites are well marked and spacious and the one we chose was pretty level. The ablutions are old but well maintained and spotlessly clean with the most spacious showers that I have ever come across.

 Mountain Breeze Caravan Park 

To me the biggest negative of the campsite is that there is a busy dirt road running up it's windward (South East) side and this causes huge amounts of dust to blow over you. They did send a water truck late on Friday afternoon to spray the road and this helped a lot. However on Sunday the wind was blowing from the South East again and the dust returned.

The big positive of the campsite is its location. It is situated around half way between Stellenbosch and Somerset West and in the heart  of the Stellenbosch Wine Route. There is a market on Saturdays and Sundays at Audacia Wine Estate, which is almost next door with some great stuff and lovely foods. Sweetwell farm butchery is a few kilometers further away and we bought some lovely meat there for our Saturday night braai. There are some top wine Estates in the area and on Saturday we went to Waterford wine estate for a wine tasting. It was superb and definitely one of the nicest estates I have ever been to.

Waterford Wine Estate
Here are a few more photo's taken in and around the campsite.

Dave Brown. Chairman of Laarger 8.

 Now for the big question. Would I go back there?

Hmmm.... Probably yes if the weather forecast is for no South Easterly wind, which is not likely in the summer months. April and May are probably good months.