Nestled at the foot of the mountains overlooking the Olifants River, only 4 km from Porterville, 22 Waterfalls is a true camping oasis.
When you want to escape the crippling drought and worsening water crisis in Cape Town, a campsite with not one, not two, but 22 waterfalls is pretty appealing for a weekend away. “Yes sir, here our water runs for 13 months a year,” jokes Joey Schoonraad at the front desk with a prospective camper who is also looking to get away from wherever it is they’re from. She’s jovial, but the booking system isn’t much fun. You cannot, for example, book on the website and you have to call ahead to ask about space. Once
management is satisfied with the information you’ve given them, you’re allowed to deposit the full amount or half – the latter with the understanding that you’ll pay in full when you arrive. Unfortunately, our stand was doublebooked and we had to be moved to another spot. That happened to at least two other groups of people who were camping here at the same time as us. The rest of the experience at 22 Waterfalls made up for the hiccup at reception. Joey explains the very simple no music policy, that pets aren’t allowed, and that the gate is locked at 9 pm on a Friday. Also, she advises that you familiarise yourself with emergency service numbers because the trails are a bit treacherous.
Porterville is just short of 160 km from Cape Town’s city centre. You make your way north on the N7 until you get to Piketberg, where you take the third exit at the circle onto the R44 towards Porterville, which is another 28 km away. At the T-junction turn right onto the R365 and you’ll be right on the edge of town. Just before you enter Porterville, however, take the first left onto a gravel road where the brown sign points in the direction of the Waterval Campsite and neighbouring Laatson farm. It’s not very well graded, and even though hatchbacks and sedans won’t have a problem coping on the road, it might be a good idea to slow down if you don’t want your head to bump against your car’s roof or all your gear to go flying around. You pass through an old gate that directs you to the campsite and then up at the T-junction you turn left. Just before you get to the reception area you pass >
The main camping stands are the most generous – spacious, with access to two ablution facilities, electricity and water.
the first of the farm’s two reservoirs on the right. This is the allocated fishing area at 22 Waterfalls, with freshwater bass the catch of the day. Right after the reservoir are the stables and then you’ll see the reception office between the barn and farmhouse up on the right. You’ll have to stop there first because you have to sign for an electronic tag that will allow you access to the camping area through the boom at the lower end of the reception forecourt. While at reception you might as well stock up on ice and wood, which are the only items for sale there. You can find the former in the large chest freezer in the office at R16 a bag, while you’ll have to fetch the latter – bags of rooikrans – in the barn at R40 each.
Spoilt for choice
The road splits at the boom, and it’s a 100metre walk from here to the nearest chalets on either side, with some of the camping stands a bit farther away depending on
where you choose to stay. The camping stands are grouped into six sections, all of which run adjacent to reception and parallel to the stream running down from the rock pools. Those farthest away are the 4x4 and Stomp camps, left as you go through the boom. On the way there you’ll pass between some of the farm animals, including goats, chickens and horses, and also cross some shallow water. There used to be an obstacle course for budding 4x4 enthusiasts to put themselves and their vehicles to the test, but according to Joey it fell into decay when people stopped using it. Now it’s overgrown and mostly used by those who have brought their mountain bikes or BMXes along. Between those two and the main campsite is the Lêbos section, which is well shaded no matter what time of day. The main campsite is numbered from 16– 34. These are generous in size considering their location, measuring about 10 paces across and 12 deep. It is also the only section at 22 Waterfalls that has access to electricity. Across the lawn, on the other side of the gravel path, are some of the chalets and little zinc houses, perfect for a romantic getaway. Further along are Die Eiland and Die Sirkel. If you choose to be as close to the waterfalls and many rock pools as possible you’ll camp here, slightly up the slope. There’s plenty of shade, but the units aren’t that big. There’s no electricity and there isn’t really any grass because the stands don’t get much sunshine – though the same could be said of all the other stands really. One vehicle and two two-man tents fill up the space here >
quickly. Apart from being on intimate terms with your neighbours, the other caveat that comes with camping at these stands is that you’re guaranteed to get plenty of traffic as people make their way up the hiking trail. Although there’s no grass to speak of, the stands mostly consist of soil firm enough to secure your tent pegs. Each stand has its own braai made of cement, rocks and bricks, and a bin. At the main campsites you share the electricity point – two domestic three-prong sockets – with your neighbour. Each stand is cleaned thoroughly prior to your arrival – the ground has been raked, the braai cleaned and the bin emptied.
Bathrooms above board
There are four ablution blocks at 22 Waterfalls. The one closest to the waterfalls trail is the largest. The structure has been smartly put together from rocks in the area, with a painted scullery between the men’s and women’s sections. At the men’s end, as you walk through the door, you have three showers on the left and three toilets on the right. The showers here have a dry section with a little bench where you can sit and tie your laces, while bamboo lattice lets the steam out as you bathe. No matter what time you decide to clean up, there will always be hot water as the geysers are gas-heated and are switched on all day. Straight ahead from the door are three ceramic basins above which are mirrors smaller than the square tiles used in the bathrooms but adequate enough to neaten your hair. Between the basins are two ledges just large enough for your toothpaste and comb. The scullery section has two sinks for washing your dishes in and two work surfaces so you can clean a day’s worth of crockery and cutlery. This is also where you can collect your drinking water from because there aren’t any taps at the stands. The next ablution block is smaller, with a similar scullery setup but one less toilet and shower and has been constructed with a lot more bamboo. There’s no dry section for the showers and you’ll have to jump onto the runner to dry off. There’s also only a single basin here. The remaining two ablution blocks, in front of the Lêbos stands and at the 4x4 camp, are more Spartan, with two wash basins located on either side of the zinc units and unisex toilets and showers on either side of the scullery – with doors that open out facing the stands. The facilities are also cleaned every morning.
Some of the stands are located so close to the water it’s not uncommon on hot days to see campers with their chairs perched right in the stream, which at its deepest sections doesn’t even get up to the average person’s knees. Those seeking more adventure can head up to the main attraction: the plethora of waterfalls. The hiking trail starts next to
the main ablution block. The first three waterfalls and rock pools are where you’ll find the majority of your fellow campers because you have to be fairly fit and a bit gutsy to continue to the rest. There are sections that require climbing up old wooden planks, balancing along rusty old metal ledges and finding fingerand footholds on the rock faces. It’s worth going a little further than the third waterfall if you’re able to because there are some more secluded spots and rock pools that are very picturesque and a lot more private. It will take about four hours to get to the top and back down, so be sure to take sufficient hydration with you. You can always stop and cool off in one of the many little pools along the trail as well. Don’t leave your hike too late though – 95% of the route is shaded and the darkness under the canopy of trees can make you miss the crucial yellow-painted checkpoints. It would be difficult to find your way up or down in the dark. As a rule of thumb the further you are from the water the more in trouble you’re likely to be. And be wary of baboons because they also seem to be fond of finding their way onto the trail. Remember to bring your bikes because you can cycle freely around the campsite. There are three trails you can choose from, graded by the green, orange and red markings respectively. The starting point is just outside the campsite, on the other side of the barn. The green trail takes you on a fairly flat ride in the direction of Porterville before cutting back. The red trail is the big daddy and requires serious cycling fitness. This one has technical sections, fairly fast downhills and even takes you past a waterfall. If you’re not into crowds that much, you can also swim in the reservoir that overlooks the campsite, or simply take your rod, snack and drinks with you to the dam next to the stables and wait for bass to bite to pass the time in peace.
Johan van Niekerk and Deon Pieterse from Durbanville came to camp here for the first time after camping at a different spot in the area for a few years.
NO WATER SHORTAGE. The dam used for fishing (above) is large, as you would expect. You have to leave the campsite to get to it. There’s a smaller reservoir that overlooks the campsite and is just behind the first two ablution blocks.
The Christians, Johnstons, Bresendales and Van Wyks from Strandfontein brought the kids along.
QUAINT (FROM TOP). The stands in the main camp are terraced, with the stream flowing just below. The second ablution block is simple and kept clean, but there’s just one basin so you need to get there early to brush your teeth.
UNOBSTRUCTED (CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT). From the campsite you can see as far as Piketberg in the distance. The zinc camp houses are perfect for couples. There are three mountain bike trails to explore and challenge yourself on. The waterfalls are the...
Dawie Geustyn and Emma Besaans from Milnerton are definitely coming back after camping here for the first time. VIEW TO A THRILL. The higher you’re willing to climb, the better the view gets. The waterfalls that are more difficult to get to run into...