It was another of our spur-of-the-moment decisions to pack up the caravan and head to Warmwaterberg Spa for a few days. We mentioned our plans to our friends Carl and Yolandi just before we booked and they decided that they would join us.
The Earl and I left on Thursday 24 February and they joined us the following Friday leaving after Yolandi finished school for the weekend.
Warmwaterberg is on the Cape Tourist Route 62 which starts in Cape Town and includes Oudtshoorn, the Langkloof and Port Elizabeth. It would be the scenic route that tourists would take instead of following the N2 Highway. It is also very popular with motorcyclists.
Our route took us from Struisbaai, through Bredasdorp and Swellendam and then onto the R62 to Barrydale and Warmwaterberg Spa. The scenery along the way was amazing with its magnificent mountains and ravines through the Tradouw Pass which then contrasted with the arid landscape of The Little Karoo.
We left just Struisbaai just after 08h00 and after dropping off a parcel for our young friend at Bredasdorp Primary School we went to fill up at Caltex Petrol Station. There, a couple approached us and said, “We saw you passing our house with your Gecko caravan and we’re interested in buying one. We followed you here. Please can you show us yours!”
I can just picture the scene – “Darling – look there goes a Gecko – quick jump in the car – let’s follow them.” And without even stopping to lock their front door they hop in the car and race after the disappearing caravan, fortunately finding it stopped at the petrol station so they didn’t have to overtake and wave it down.
Of course, we were only too delighted to oblige. The Gecko Offroad Caravan is the best in the country and the waiting list to get one is getting longer! The couple will probably be putting their order in very soon.
At 10 o’clock we stopped at Rolandale for breakfast. This is a delightful farmstall/restaurant that not only serves wholesome meals but sells crafts, homemade preserves and confectionery too. It is really worth a stop even if it’s just for a cup of their excellent coffee.
Before turning off towards the Tradouw Pass we went through Suurbraak a settlement that was established in 1812 when the London Missionary Society started a mission station to serve the Attaqua Khoikhoi. It is such a picturesque little village and I always enjoy travelling through it. Some of the residents grow vegetables on small plots and they still use horse-drawn ploughs to till the soil. They sell their harvest to an organic restaurant or at the Swellendam markets.
The Tradouw Pass was built by a gang of prisoners under the guidance of Thomas Bain. It was completed in 1873. It is a magnificent drive that follows the course of the Tradouw River in the gorge below. At times the sandstone precipices loom very close to your car window and towing a caravan can be a tad scary around those sharp bends.
As you leave the pass you turn toward Barrydale whose history goes back to the early eighteenth century. Farmers moved into the area in search of fertile arable land and water. The town finally came into being in 1878. In 1940 the Barrydale Kooperatiewe Wynkelder was formed and a distillery was established. Joseph Barry Brandy was produced locally and in 2003 was voted the best brandy in the world.
The town now has about 4000 permanent residents and is a great tourist attraction because of the interesting arts and crafts shops which have amazing textiles, jewelry and African souvenirs. The restaurants are also novel and serve good food. It is certainly a town with a difference.
The Earl and I visit Warmwaterberg Spar three or four times a year, sometimes as a stopover to more distant places and sometimes just to take the waters and to have a few days of relaxation. My regular readers will have read about our previous visits to this blog site.
Warmwaterberg is between Barrydale and Ladismith. It has both self-catering accommodation and caravan and camping sites. Some of the accommodation is very basic and the ablution facilities could do with an upgrade. Bath House 3 and 4 are awesome. They are new and have their own enormous bath, big enough for two, a lovely kitchen area and a separate loo and shower just outside the room.
We prefer to camp. Our favourite caravan site is 17 C next to the pool. Site 17 A and B are also good. The rest of the caravan/camping sites are further away but are in a shady environment and quite acceptable if you don’t mind a bit of a walk to the pools. They are also near the ablution block and the wash-up facility. If you camp on sites 17 A, B and C you need to use the pool showers and loos. We don’t need the wash-up facility as we have our own with the caravan.
The hot water spring is 44 degrees C at its source and has a very high iron content making the water brown in colour. The water in the pool comes from the artesian spring and is untreated and each hot pool is emptied and cleaned on alternate days. There is also a cold pool.
We arrived at midday and set up in the shadiest part of the site. It gets hot in The Karoo, especially in summer. Rain was predicted but we only got a spit and a spot the following morning. For the rest of the weekend, it was clear skies and sunshine. The Peacocks were there to greet us.
Watch this space for more about our weekend and a report on The Huisrivier Pass and Calizdorp.