Nes­tled at the foot of the moun­tains over­look­ing the Oli­fants River, only 4 km from Porterville, 22 Wa­ter­falls is a true camp­ing oa­sis.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents - Text and pho­tos Kyle Kock

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.

Getting there

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.

Out­door junkies

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...

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