NEELS’ RALLY TENT
Neels van Heerden has identified a few overnight spots for caravanners on their long trek to their final destination, or at least places that could make for a good spot.
Every year thousands of families tow to the coast during long weekends and holidays. Resorts in KwaZulu-Natal are a leisurely day trip away from Gauteng with a caravan in tow. If you want to arrive early at Scottburgh, the Dolphin Resort or Mac Nicol’s, you have to leave the City of Gold just before midnight. The trip to the Eastern or Western Cape usually requires that you spend the night somewhere. I often see on social media that campers look for safe overnight spots that “won’t cost them an arm or a leg”. I believe that the minimum requirements for such overnight spots are safety, decent ablution facilities, the location, and the quality of the stands. Most caravans are quite cramped inside when you’re on the road – all the last-minute things that couldn’t fit into the towing vehicle is shoved into the caravan. So where will Grandma and the kids sleep then? That’s why people often stay over in chalets. Dad and the eldest son will typically sleep in the caravan to keep an eye on things. The demand is there, but what does the availability of safe and cheap overnight spots look like? A Petroport is an excellent spot to stretch your legs, refuel, and get something to eat. It’s a good idea to stop every 250 km and cast your eye over the towing combination – and to check if the caravan’s wheel nuts are still tight and all the lights are working. The existing business model for petroports is a combination of a specific fuel brand name and a specific fast-food restaurant as a franchise. Apparently, it’s never been part of the famous franchises’ vision to establish overnight facilities. I also haven’t been able to find any research conducted on the viability of overnight accommodation options at petroports. This past December holiday it was noticeable how facilities at an established petroport in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands have deteriorated. My concerned letter about this is already in the inbox of the brand manager of the company in question. Dilapidated buildings and facilities create a poor impression for any company – so much more when thousands of tourists visit your establishment every year. A new development between Warden and Villiers, 250 km from Pretoria on the right shoulder of the highway, is a place of interest where you can also stretch your legs. Negotiations are underway to create overnight spots for caravanners and especially motorhome owners. A similar development is also needed somewhere between Estcourt and Pietermaritzburg. Howick’s municipal campsite hasn’t been in operation for years, and the Midmar Dam is probably the only option near Pietermaritzburg. At Harrismith there are a number of privately owned campsites right next to the highway and within walking distance from quite a few restaurants. But what about the other routes? I checked out a road map and identified a few places where overnight spots already exist or places that would make a good spot for it. It only needs five stands. On the way to the Cape there’s a very cute place north of Britstown. In and around Bloemfontein and Beaufort West there’s a handful of possibilities, and between Jamestown and Queenstown there’s an option on a farm near the main road for those heading to East London. At the bottom of Schoemanskloof there’s a smallish filling station and shop complex that’s open 24 hours a day. You can create a few stands here for those looking for a place to stay en route to the Kruger. With regards to franchises… What about a brand name similar to that of the AA but for accommodation? My proposal is that approved overnight spots will have a sign that says something like “go! Drive and Camp-approved overnight accommodation”. I’m willing to compile the criteria along with other readers. Caravanners who stay in these places could write an anonymous, short report to ensure that the standards are maintained. What do you think about that idea?
My proposal is that approved overnight spots will have a sign that says something like go! Drive & Camp-approved.