Category Archives: Caravanning

Two Geckos at Guano Caves, Montagu

To follow our Gecko Weekend at Glen Oakes in The Hemel en Aarde district, Cathy thought it would be nice to extend our break-away with a visit to Guano Caves. We had never been there and neither had she and Alec but the reviews on the place were good. However, trying to book was not easy. Cathy phoned a few weeks before departure and was told to email. She did this and did not receive a reply. She phoned again and they said to wait 48 hours. She did but still no reply so again she telephoned and asked to speak to the owners. Only then did she manage to book! Because of this, we were worried that the place might not be all that it was cracked up to be but we were not disappointed.

We left Glen Oakes in slightly overcast weather on Monday morning and stopped at Ou Meul in Riviersonderend for breakfast. There was plenty of double parking for our two rigs. We ordered two teas, a cappuccino and an Americano. Cathy and Alec had bacon and cheese omelettes and the Earl and I had spinach and feta omelettes. They were served with sourdough toast and were very good. I also bought some croissants for the following day’s breakfast. It was a lovely place to stop.

Cogmanskloof pass

Check-in at Guano went well and we were assigned Sites 26 and 28 which are next to each other. The sites were big, even and shady. The ablutions were excellent but you need to bring your own toilet paper and soap. If you want a plug you need to pay a deposit of R50 at reception. I am sure this is because some campers walk off with them! The ablutions were clean and Cathy and I were quite satisfied with the ladies’ section. Hairdryers were available. There is a built-in tile bench in each spacious shower cubicle. There is also a long ledge on which to place your shampoo, shower gel, etc. The men told us theirs did not have that but they did have a bench.

Two Geckos at the Guano Gate
Spacious and shady campsites
Full-length mirror as you enter the bathrooms
Basins
Plenty of hot water in the showers

There are also several family bathrooms with baths and showers with double roses on the perimeter of the ablution block.

The camp kitchen only provides washup facilities. All cooking must be done at your campsite. There is a laundry but the washing machine was out of order.

Camp Wash-up Area

The facilities are lovely. There are two pool areas with crystal clear cold pools. In the main pool area, there is an enormous outdoor pool and supertube as well as a heated indoor pool made to look like a Roman Bath. Treatments are available at a spa too.

A beautiful arrangement of pools
A lovely bridge leading to the picnic area

The main pool and indoor Roman Bath are situated near reception, the shop and the restaurant. There are plenty of loungers and there is enough shade. We had a meal at the restaurant on Thursday and found the food very good.

Looking down on the main pool.

Guano Caves Resort has a petting farm and there are a variety of exotic animals to see. They also have rabbits in enclosures and birds in aviaries. I am not in favour of animals being kept like this but they were well cared for.

This poor swan was alone as its mate had died.
There were a variety of different ducks swimming on the ponds
Peacock
Camels enjoying the Karoo Environment
They do blend into the landscape

On Wednesday after enjoying Cathy’s delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and croissants we made our way to Montagu. Earl and I visited Leiwater Bird Hide in Barry Street. How surprising to find a bird hide on the pavement! It overlooks a lovely little dam where a variety of waterbirds nest. We did not see very much but what we saw was delightful.

Common Moorhen
Reed Cormorant
Egyptian Geese and Sacred Ibis

We then met up with Cathy and Alec at the Montagu Museum. There are two to visit and they had already done the first one. After enjoying the second we popped across the road and had coffee and cake at the Rambling Rose which was excellent. Afterward, C and A went to buy wine and we went to see the church museum. Both museums were very interesting and it cost R15 each to see both.

A young boy sitting at the table in his highchair
Sheep guarding the cake display
Cheesecake and apple strudel were delicious. Coffee was excellent

When we were done the Earl and I took a short drive and went to Cape Dried Fruit Packers where we bought some dried apricots, nuts and olives.

Our campsite attracted wild birds which kept us entertained.

Karoo Thrush
Cape Weavers
The ringneck doves called from the trees constantly and also came down when crumbs were available

Overall the visit to Guano Caves Resort was most enjoyable. The water for all the pools comes from a spring at a temperature of 24 degrees C. By the time it reaches the pools it has cooled down so the Roman Bath is heated to 35 degrees C. Unfortunately they were experiencing technical problems so we did not get the full benefit of the really hot water. The pool was, however, warm enough to enjoy a swim each day we were there.

The Roman Bath

It is a lovely venue and we will certainly visit again.

Nine Geckos and a dog visit Hemel en Aarde Valley

Thanks to the hard work and excellent organisation of Colin Henderson, nine Gecko caravans gathered together at Glen Oaks Farm in the beautiful Hemel and Aarde Valley. Nardus and Adelien brought their cute little poodle, Hayley, along too and she turned out to be a source of great entertainment and delight. Noone escaped having to throw the ball which she gleefully chased and then hid challenging her chosen victim to find it.

Gecko 109 and Gecko 81 setting off from Napier
A Camp full of Geckos

Nardus almost didn’t join us as he has injured his back but at the last minute, he decided he just could not miss out. With all the Gecko men volunteering to help him and Adelien they were set up in no time!

Many manne make light work

The facilities at Glen Oaks are rustic. There is no power and no camp kitchen. But there is a Lapa where we all gathered in the evenings to braai. On the first evening, it was very cold so we gathered in the inner section which had a roof but thereafter we sat around the pit fire outdoors. This fire was an excellent source of heat. The weather was fine during the day but a lot chillier at night. We were ever so grateful that it did not rain.

The inner Lapa
The braai masters at work

Gecko people are special people and it was the best experience to see so many of our twins parked together at the same venue. We enjoyed some lovely conversations, shared camping stories, joked a lot, and had many laughs.

Like when Francois dried Susan’s hair with a leaf blower! – “A Blow-job of note” quipped Cathy!

On Saturday we all set off to Stanford and took a river cruise down the Klein River. It was just the most awesome experience. Our guide on the Lady Stanford knew his birds and for those of us who were into bird-watching, this was an extra bonus. As we set off, a Purple Heron flew into a tree and posed, and that did for me straight away. I was in heaven.

Setting off on the cruise (Photo by Colin)
A good start to the cruise – Purple Heron
Susan and George
Diane, Hennie and Francis
Colin produced some sherry! Cheers!
Yellow-billed Ducks
Egyptian Geese
African Darter
Female Pied Kingfisher
The African Queen was also on the river
Colin on the top deck doing the Titanic Thing!
Alec called down to his wife, “I’m nuts over you!”
Karen and Johnnie
Naked Lady tanning on the jetty 🙂

After the two-hour cruise, we went to the Birkenhead Brewery for lunch. Pottie and Nida joined us there and it was great meeting them too. While we waited for lunch to be served we were taken on a short interesting tour to see how their craft beers were made. Afterward, some of us did a beer tasting. The Earl ordered a Pot Belly Pilsner which was delicious.

On the Brewery tour
Colin’s photo

Our food was served promptly and I heard no complaints. It certainly is a lovely venue and if you’re ever in the Stanford area this is a good place to stop for lunch.

Beer Tasting (Photo – Colin)

On Sunday, we all had a quiet day at camp and just enjoyed each others’ company and the glorious weather. My friend, Sonja, had baked two carrot cakes for me and insisted that I take them along to camp and give everybody there a slice. This I did on Sunday afternoon and all agreed that it was delicious.

Thank you Sonja
The outer Lapa and pit fire – Right side Standing -Johnnie Seated Mari, Francois, Cathy Alec
The outer Lapa -left to right, Louis, Rika, Diane, Colin, Nadus, Adeline

On Monday morning after a leisurely start, everybody started to pack up and by 11:30 Alec, Cathy, Earl and I had bidden everyone farewell. We stayed another day so as to avoid travelling on a public holiday. WIthout Colin to make the fires we decided to abandon braaing and went to the Plaas Kombuis for lunch. It was a good decision and we can highly recommend this as a place to go when you’re in the area.

Plaas Kombuis
Excellent food

We left this morning and are now happily settled at Guano Caves Caravan Park where the weather is just stunning.

Two Geckos happily set up at the shady campsite of Guano Caves

A Little Breakaway to Warmwaterberg – Part Two – What fun we had.

Friday 25 February 2022

On Friday morning we awoke to a little bit of rain but it did not last long. We went for an early morning swim in both the hot and cold pools and then enjoyed an “Early Breakfast”. I am indeed lucky to have a man who loves to cook. He particularly enjoys using our nifty little Snappy Chef cooker and Smart Space pan.

Delicious scrambled eggs with bacon, tomato, banana, feta and mushrooms

After breakfast, we spent some more time in the pools. The hot waters of the spring are very relaxing and certainly help to ease any aches and pains you may have. The mineral-rich water once cooled is also very healthy to drink. Perhaps it even has some healing powers?

After swimming the Earl took a short nap while I sat in the shade of the canopy and read my book. All of a sudden I became aware of something moving near my feet. I looked down and got quite a fright at the giant that I saw. Was he aiming to chew my toes?

The angulate tortoise is common in The Karoo and is quite unafraid of human beings. No, being a vegetarian, he did not chew my toes but gobbled up the lettuce I gave him.

At midday, we decided to take a drive to Barrydale where we stopped in at Diesel and Creme for a Very Berry Smoothy. It sounds healthy but is actually quite decadent!

Lots of ice cream and berries

Diesel and Creme is a fascinating place to stop if just to stare at the interesting ancient memorabilia on display. It is deliberately shabby with very little chic. You can look back on my previous Warmwaterberg posts for more photos if you wish.

As I’ve mentioned before Route 62 is popular with motorcyclists and they frequently stop at Diesel and Creme for refreshment – old bikes in the foreground, new, visiting ones behind.

Perhaps the bikers like the place because many of them are ancient hippies themselves.

Part of the establishment is the Karoo Moon Motel

You can stay over in this hotel which was built in 1896 but has now been converted into two self-catering units. We have never had the pleasure of staying there but you can check it out here.

One wonders how those ladies’ legs got into the flower garden!

Later that afternoon our friends Carl and Yolandi arrived. Originally they were going to bring their tent but we were surprised and delighted to see they had borrowed a friend’s trailer. It didn’t take long to get perfectly set up.

Yolandi making the bed
All set up in a shady spot
Very excited to escape for a weekend.
After setting up we all went for a swim
Carl brought seed for the peacocks

It was Carl’s birthday last week so this evening we went to the restaurant for a celebratory dinner. We have always found Warmwaterberg’s restaurant to be awesome, not only because of the wonderful view but also for their excellent food.

Carl and Uncle enjoying a chat

The Earl, Yolandi and I ordered Bobotie and Carl had Schnitzel – well he is of German descent so it was to be expected!

Yolandi could not believe what was put before her
Yum!
View across the valley from the restaurant
The colours are awesome

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and after the relaxing warm waters, beautiful surroundings, good company and fantastic food we all slept beautifully.

Saturday 26 February 2022

What awesome weather we woke up to this morning. The sun was shining, the skies were clear and it was hot! I emerged from the Gecko at 07:15 and found Carl and Yolandi in the process of rising too. Before long we were all in the pool and found that many of the other guests had the same idea of getting in early.

When we returned to camp we found a kill in progress!

A Gecko of another kind finds some juicy prey

The Earl then cooked us one of his famous breakfasts and then we all piled into our car with Carl in the driver’s seat. Our mission – to visit Calitzdorp, 100km away. The Earl just didn’t feel like driving but was happy to be a passenger with his pal who calls him “Uncle” taking the wheel.

The mountain passes on Route 62 are legendary. The one we are featuring here today runs between Ladismith and Calizdorp and is just as picturesque as Tradouw Pass which I wrote about in the previous post.

The Huisrivier pass runs between Ladismith and Calizdorp and is 13.4 km long. It is quite a twisty drive and you need to be alert while negotiating the bends. However, the scenery is just stunning. There are three river crossings during the course of the pass. As the geology of this pass is unstable, several pioneering engineering techniques were applied during its construction to ensure it would survive all weathers safely. The steepest gradient is 1:12. Rockfalls can occur but the catch walls are taking care of most of them.

Huisrivier Pass Scenery
Entering Calizdorp

Calitzdorp is a small town on the western side of The Little Karoo. It is built on the site of the farm Buffelsvallei. This farm was granted to Jacobus Johannes and Matthys Christiaan Calitz in 1831. In 1853 they donated some of their land to The Dutch Reformed Church so that a church could be built. The church then, in 1858 began to sell plots to members of their congregation.

In 1924 a railway line was opened and in 1937 electricity came to the town. A new cement road linking Calitzdorp to Oudschoorn was also built.

Calitzdorp experiences extreme weather from very hot in the summer months to very cold during winter. Often the mountaintops are covered in snow. The town is also susceptible to droughts and floods.

Vineyards
Typical Calizdorp Street

We went to do some gin and wine tasting at Boplaas Tasting Rooms. You can read about their history here.

Before we went in we noticed some standing rocks arranged in a circle and went to investigate.

This is the story behind the rocks
Earl and Yolandi look into the circle of stones.
Yolandi trying to decide
There was a lot to tempt us

After tasting a bit of this and a bit of that we each bought a bottle of citrus flavoured gin and Carl and Yolandi also got a bottle of red wine

By this time we were all getting a bit peckish so at the recommendation of one of the Boplaas staff we went to Cafe @ The Rose. What a good choice. Their cheesecake was delicious as were the iced coffees and the Americano which I chose. There were many delicious things on display and I ended up buying olive tapenade, olive and sundried tomato tapenade and two bags of Maria’s Camdeboo coffee. On the package, you can read Maria’s story which I quote here below.

“When I imagine the perfect cup of coffee, I think back to sitting our stoep with my dad enjoying a fresh cup lovingly prepared by my late mother, Maria. This treasured memory inspired ‘Maria’s’, a place where my family’s passion for coffee has been realised.”

Maria’s is a coffee shop in Graaff-Reinett, where we have been and had the most amazing meals as well as wonderful coffee. This little restaurant, Cafe @ The Rose, only serves Maria’s Coffee.

Cafe @ The Rose
Cafe @ The Rose
Cafe @ The Rose
Cafe @ The Rose
Some more vineyards
The Church
Calizdorp Side of Huisrivier Pass
Carl taking the selfie

Back at camp, we enjoyed the pools then took a nap. When we woke up we took to the waters again after which The Earl started the braai.

The Braai Master
Almost ready

On Sunday after swimming, we packed up and made our way to Diesl and Creme where we met up with Yolandi’s cousin. Desmond is working in Tulbach for a few months and rode up on his motorbike especially to see Yolandi.

Waiting for breakfast at Diesel and Creme. Lovely to meet Desmond
Gecko #81heading home after another awesome adventure

A Little Breakaway to Warmwaterberg Spa Part One – First Day and All the information

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.

Thursday

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.

Rolandale

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.

On our way to Suurbraak
Lovely old houses
Beautifully decorated

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.

Popular with motorcyclists
Tradouw RIver below
Some twisty 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.

Beautiful Barrydale Farmlands

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.

One of the many interesting shops in Barrydale

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.

Campsite 17C

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.

The Cold Pool in the foreground and the two Hot Pools beyond

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.

Mom with her chicks who are quite big already
Dad left her pretty much to do the child-rearing on her own
This ‘familiar’ bird came for a ‘chat’ (A Familiar Chat)
The Earl made us a lovely braai for dinner.

Watch this space for more about our weekend and a report on The Huisrivier Pass and Calizdorp.

Gecko goes to Addo – Day 3

Once again we woke to a beautiful day with just a bit of cloud cover and a slight nip in the air. We left camp at 7:30 and made our way to Carol’s Rest stopping along the way to look at various creatures.

House martin taken by Simon
Scrub Hare taken by Simon
Zebra Eye by Earl

Simon spotted the ellies marching to the pond first then called – hey – there’s also a rhino! We must have just missed it taking a drink as it was heading back to the thickets.

Black Rhinoceros
Aren’t the babies cute
There were red hartebeest about too (The Earl’s photo)
Simon’s Photo

When the elephants left we moved on and found many more decorating the landscape.

Baby sticking close to Mom
Oh my – A white elephant!
Protecting the little ones
And then there was a Buffalo crossing
Breakfasting together
Simon’s Photo

There were a few birds about but most refused to pose.

A very photogenic Crowned Lapwing
This ant-eating chat always obliges and makes an excellent model
There were plenty of speckled mousebirds
Bokmakieries were constantly dueting and finally one posed for a portrait
I think this is a Common Buzzard?

When we returned to camp at around 10 am it had warmed up quite a bit. We went to the Cattle Baron for breakfast. The Earl had an omelette, Simon had the Classic Breakfast – 2 eggs, bacon, mushrooms, pork sausage, rosti and toast and I had the Sunrise – 2 eggs, bacon, tomato and rosti. We also enjoyed their excellent Americanos and Cappuccinos. We then relaxed in camp till around 1 pm before going out again. There were lots of elephants dotted about the landscape but we were too late for the waterhole activities. We did not see anything new and decided not to drive around too much as tomorrow we will do the south of the park before exiting.

Oom Olifant was there to greet us
Lots of warthogs about

When we got back I took a walk and went to the camp waterhole and the bird hide. The waterhole was quiet except for a few birds. The blacksmith lapwing was still sitting on her nest.

There was a great deal of activity at the bird hide. It was alive with weavers and bishops building nests and chatting to each other. A bushbuck also made an appearance and spent quite a while drinking and nibbling the water plants.

Cape Weaver
Southern Masked Weaver
Red Bishop
A sweet little bushbuck enjoying a snack and a drink

In the evening we braaied and had Magnum ice creams for dessert then we took down the canopy and packed up as much as possible in readiness for tomorrow’s departure.

Breaking Free from Lockdown. Day 44. Kleinplaas to Home

The further south we travelled the colder it became. We were on our way back to winter! This morning at 06:00 it was 5 degrees C and it didn’t rise very much until midday.

We all felt that we’d come to the end of the lollipop and our hearts went plop! The road trip was over. This last leg of the journey was the shortest drive we had to do. We followed Route 62 and stopped at Barrydale’s Country Pumpkin for breakfast. The sun was shining and it was warmer to sit outdoors at a sunny table than inside where it was very cold. We ordered our coffees/teas and enjoyed the warming effect of the hot liquid. When the waitress took our breakfast order she informed us that as we were caravanners we got our first cup free! Good on you Country Pumpkin for being so nice to caravanners! I was the only one to order a second cup. We all had omelettes which were absolutely delicious . They were served with sweet potato crisps and a small pumpkin fritter.

Two Geckos parked outside The Country Pumpkin in Barrydale

From then on we travelled the picturesque Tradeaux pass and it was once again a pleasure not to play dodge the pothole! Western Cape roads are in good condition.

Finally we turned onto the homeward road.

When we got to Bredasdorp we stopped to say an emotional goodbye before splitting to go to our respective homes in Napier and Struisbaai. You really become close to your friends when you spend forty-four days together!

Other friends, Yolandi and Carl and their daughter, Lisa had been staying in our house while waiting to move into their new home in Napier. Yesterday Yolandi sent a cryptic message to the Earl, “Ollie and Benji can’t wait to meet you.” Who were Ollie and Benjy? Hint – The Earl is a bunny hugger!

Hello, We love your garden. Please can this be our new forever home? Benji in front Ollie behind

Of course the Earl was over the moon. I was less so – who would look after them when we travel? We have been assured that a bunny-sitter, living nearby has already been found.

We like it here!

What a lovely end to our adventure.

Thank you all for following our adventure. I hope those of you who have never been to KNP feel the urge to put this wonderful reserve on your bucket list. Should you wish to find out more about booking a Sanparks Holiday, see my tips here.

Dankie aan al die Gecko Familielede wat elke dag saam met ons gery het. Dankie vir die pragitge kommentare op WhatsApp en FaceBook. Ek hoop dat die inligting wat ek ingesluit het, nuttig is.

Tot volgende keer – Totsiens.

PS A fellow blogger, Bushboy, from Australia asked what Bobotie (which I ate for dinner last night) is, so for my non-South African readers here is a brief explanation.

Bobotie is a curried mince dish with a milk and egg custard poured over and baked in the oven. It was imported from Indonesia in the seventeenth century then adapted by the Cape Malay community whose origins are from Indonesia and Malaysia. Click on the caption for a recipe.

Recipe for Bobotie

Breaking Free from Lockdown. Day 43. Gariep to Kleinplaas

We left Forever Resort, Gariep Dam at 07:30.

Goodbye Gariep
On the road again

Our route took us through the towns of Colesberg, Middleberg, Graaff-Reinet and Willowmore to Oudtshoorn where we are spending the night at Kleinplaas Caravan Park. The roads were amazing and we did not have to play Dodge the Pothole or Pass the Truck.

We filled up with fuel at Caltex Colesberg, found their restaurant and shop closed so continued to Shell Ultra City for breakfast at their Steers. The further south we travelled the cooler the weather became. It was lunchtime when we arrived at Willowmore where we filled up at Engen and then went to a quaint little coffee shop called Kapoet. Some of these small town have the loveliest ideas when decorating their shops. This coffee shop sold a variety of crafts, beauty products, confectionery and jams etc. The Earl and Alec went straight over to the confectionery section to see what was on offer. There were so many wonderful things in the shop that the Earl ended up spending more money than he intended on some specialty meats. Finally we sat down to tea/coffee and pancakes – cinnamon for Cathy and Alec and Spinach and Feta for the Earl and me. If you’re travelling through Willowmore with a caravan there is enough room to park in the street outside and Kapoet is well worth a visit.

Kapoet is an Afrikaans word which loosely translated means finished, at the end of your tether, defeated, So here you can refresh yourself
Lots of tempting products on offer
A wonderful place to stop and relax and enjoy a snack

We arrived at Kleinplaas at 16:00. Kleinplaas has lovely well-laid out, shady campsites. At reception they suggested we share a campsite so it cost half of what it would have. You are given a key to the ablution block and they are pristine. Kleinplaas is highly recommended as a stopover place in Oudtshoorn.

It was a little drizzly and cool so we decided not to order pizza and sit outside to eat as we did the last time we stayed here. Instead we went to Nostalgie. Alec was not feeling well so he did not accompany us. Cathy had the lamb shank – delicious. Earl had an ostrich fillet burger – divine and I had the best bobotie I’ve ever eaten. The restaurant is an old 80 year old converted house consisting of different rooms so when one is full they open another. The service was friendly, quick and efficient and you felt you were being entertained in somebody’s home. We just loved it.

Old hats decorating the walls of the room we had at Nostalgie

Tomorrow will be the last leg of our long, wonderful holiday.

Breaking Free from Lockdown. Day 42. Moreson to Forever Resort – Gariep

Sorry everyone but I got the name of the place we stayed at wrong in my post yesterday. It is not Sonop but Moreson which is 10 km outside the town of Vrede in the Free State. I have made the corrections.

As I stepped out of the caravan this morning, I spotted a little scrub hare hopping across the path and into the bush. It was a lovely start to the day.

The Earl got a lovely shot of the sunrise

We were on the road by 07:15 and once again rattled over the awful road until we joined the R34 then R103 to Warden. From there we travelled the R714 to Bethlehem before turning onto the N5 to Senekal and on to Winberg where we took the N1 to Gariep. On all of the R roads we played Dodge the Pothole, a dangerous game that was no fun at all. But we survived and changed the game to Follow the Truck and Pass When You Can which was frustrating as you simply couldn’t win but it was a tad less dangerous than the previous game.

A highlight of the trip, though, was our stop at Senekal Padstal. It is right on the N5 and has plenty of parking for caravans. The men were delighted to find a variety of confectionery on sale and indulged a few packets of crunchies, ginger snaps and soet koekies. Our breakfast was fluffy scrambled eggs, delicious pork sausages, bacon, tomato and toast at a very reasonable R60 per person including large mugs of excellent coffee.

It was indeed a long walk to the toilets
A lovely spot with a shop selling confectionary and crafts
A relaxing place to chill and have a meal after a long drive

At Winberg a fellow Gecko owner who was not towing his caravan passed us and posted a message on the Gecko Family Whatsapp Group. The Earl noticed that a Ford Ranger with a CCC registration had zapped past us. He is observant that way! Nice to meet you Charl and Tillie. Hope you found a lovely place to stay over.

We arrived at Forever Gariep at 15:00, checked in and found two level caravan sites near the wonderful ablutions for which this camp is famous.

Two Geckos at Gariep
Gariep Dam

In the evening we went to the restaurant for dinner. The service was a little slow but the food was fine. The Earl had rooibok shank, Alec had chicken schnitzel and Cathy and I had Chicken Breast de la Casa. All were served with chips and salad.

Gariep Forever Resort is highly recommended as a stopover or a holiday destination. The facilities are great and there are many activities on offer for adults and children.

Breaking Free from Lockdown. Day 41. Berge-en-Dal to Moreson Ranch

Sadly today we left Kruger National Park and started on the first leg of our journey back to Struisbaai and Napier. The Earl and I were ready by 07:00 and left slightly ahead of Alec and Cathy. We drove slowly along the S110. My favourite creatures were there to bid us farewell.

See you next year

Just before we were due to turn off onto the H3 which would take us to the Malelane Gate we saw a line of cars moving very slowly toward us. But who were they following? The king and queen of Kruger.

What are all these cars doing on my road?
Stick close to me, darling.

But instead she broke away from him and passed right by my open window,

Goodbye Your Majesty – see you next time!

It was a heart stopping moment and a wonderful way to end our visit.

Alec and Cathy were slightly delayed by the giraffe crossing the road and they too saw the lions but by then they’d left the road and were wandering off into the bush.

We waited just outside the exit gate for them to catch up and then drove in tandem the rest of the way. We tried to find a place for breakfast in Carolina but there was nothing suitable so we pushed on to Chrissiesmeer. The restaurants we passed looked a bit dodgy until we found Lake Chrissie Lodge. Outside a sign announced that the pub was open. I went in to ask if they did breakfast and the barman went in search of somebody in charge of the kitchen. A charming young lady emerged and said they would cook breakfast for us. I summoned the others and she showed us to a lovely dining room, brought in some coffee and within 15 minutes presented us with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and chips. We were the only patrons and it was really kind of them to accommodate us. The breakfast was lovely.

The roads we travelled were mostly good until we got to Standerton and travelled the R546 to Vrede. We had to play ‘dodge the pothole’ all the way and then turned onto the most horrific road to get to Moreson Ranch. Before booking Cathy had asked what the road condition was like and the reply had been, “It’s fine. It’s a tar road.” Well it might once have been but now it’s a corrugated mess which shook us up and rattled our vehicles and caravans in the most unpleasant way. To add injury to insult we found the campsite less than satisfactory. We were the only caravanners there. Our sites had not been raked or cleaned of buck droppings and the private ablutions had not been cleaned. The electricity also tripped because of the hot water geyser not functioning properly. Cathy reported the problems to reception and after a while the farm manager, Peter, arrived to sort everything out. Two young women came to clean the ablutions and later Peter himself came with a bucket and mop to clean another ablution that we had to use because the hot water problem could not be fixed.

Our campsite has a lovely view across the valley but is spoiled by a full on view of the lions they have in captivity. This farm breeds lions, a practice that I just don’t approve of. I find it upsetting to see these lovely wild beasts living in enclosures, never being able to roam and hunt or do things that lions should do.

We went to the restaurant for dinner and all four of us had rump steaks with mushroom sauce, chips and salad. The food was good.

Peter told us that he has just taken over the managing of this establishment. He knows there is a lot wrong and he intends to sort out all the problems as soon as he can. It’s a matter of putting to rights the things that have been neglected due to past bad management. He is a lovely young man and we wish him luck but it’s doubtful that we will ever come down that dreadful road again so we will never see the progress.

Breaking Free from Lockdown. Day 40 – Last Day in KNP

It was very hot in Kruger today the maximum reaching 39 degrees C. Summer is definitely on the way! Kruger National Park winters are short and even then the days are warm while the early mornings and evenings are cool. We have really enjoyed the August weather having only had very few cold days.

On this our last day we first did a short drive to the waterhole and back, made breakfast, did a few chores and then went out for a longer drive at 11:00 and returning at 15:00. Cathy and Alec did a longer morning drive and did not go out in the afternoon. The middle of the day is not the best time to be driving in the park but it was good to be in an a air-conditioned vehicle and we had a few nice sightings.

The visit to the waterhole at the end of S114 produced flocks of grey headed sparrows, yellow-fronted canaries, quelea and golden-breasted bunting coming down to the water’s edge to drink.

Yellow-fronted Canaries
Golden-breasted bunting
White-fronted bee-eaters were flying around too
And along the road a brown-crowned tchagra posed beautifully

On S110 just before the turnoff to the H3 we found a honeymoon couple. The bride did not show herself properly but the groom did.

On his way to where she lay.
Did the Earth move for you too, darling?

We wanted to go to Gardenia hide but the elephants had other ideas for us.

The shade here and we’re not moving off this road so that you can pass!

Two other vehicles were waiting patiently. There was a narrow route past the big mamma and the Earl wanted to risk passing by. But I said, “No, I am not yet ready to die.” Fortunately he listened to me and turned around. You never know what these creatures might do if they feel their young are threatened.

There had been nothing at Wimpies Waterhole but on the way back we found buffalo having a swim.

There were lots of giraffe around too.

Goodbye giraffe, see you next year.

It has been wonderful as always to visit Kruger National Park. It is always the highlight of my year and I hope to be able to make many more trips while the Earl and I are fit and healthy enough to do so. Having our new Power Touch caravan movers is a great help and will probably mean we can caravan for longer than might otherwise be possible. It has been encouraging seeing a number of people still camping/caravanning well into their eighties.

Berg-en-Dal is without doubt a great place to camp but there are a few problems. One would think that with so many caravans having Porta Potties there would be a facility for their disposal but there isn’t. This is the only camp we have been to where there isn’t one and using the toilets for this purpose is just wrong.

The ablutions are clean but are in need of an upgrade. The taps at the basin don’t work properly. The shower cubicles are a bit small and there is a need for a rack for your shampoo and soap etc. They do not have mixer taps which makes getting the temperature right a bit tricky.

Many people use their own caravan bathrooms which is great but some do not manage their grey water correctly and instead of collecting run off water in a bucket they let it out under the caravan leaving a scummy mess for the camper who comes after them. Park management needs to make a rule about how people manage their water disposal.

We love the park but this year we have noticed that litter has become a bit of a problem. Never before have we seen toilet paper blowing about or hanging on a bush, but this year it was glaring. There are plenty of picnic sites with toilet facilities so it is seldom necessary to risk getting out of your car in the bush when there is an urgent call of nature. But if you have to why would you leave your loo paper behind. How difficult would it be for offenders to put a Zip-lock bag in the center of the cardboard roll for holding their disposed paper. Who do they think will clean up after them?

In spite of these small problems the park is still a wonderful place to be. The staff are cheerful and friendly and will go out of their way to help. Each main camp has a swimming pool, restaurant, shop, laundrette and petrol station. Just remember if you wish to visit the park, book well in advance especially if you wish to visit during school holidays.

Our Berg-en-Dal Campsite