The decent campsites in the Parys area are becoming increasingly popular with each passing day and you have to act quickly if you want to snag a spot.
Parys isn’t your average rural town. There might not be much happening from Monday to Thursday, but during the weekends this picturesque town is bursting at the seams with visitors. The town is less than two hours’ drive from Gauteng, making it an ideal spot for a day or a weekend. You’ll be astounded by the amount of tourists you see on the streets and in shops and restaurants on a Saturday. Add the antique shops, art galleries and other attractions as well as the idyllic Vaal River nearby and you can understand why it’s so popular. To top it all, you’re not even 20 km from Vredefort and the giant crater that was created 2 000 million years ago when a meteorite as big as a mountain crashed into Earth at a speed of 36 000 km/h. Of course, these parts are also ever-popular with campers, and it’s especially those who like to fish and partake in other water sports that flock here. There are few places where you can camp so close, and so peacefully, next to the river. We checked in at two established campsites and one new one during a rainy weekend. >
You won’t find supertubes and games rooms here. This is the kind of place where you come to experience the tranquillity of nature.
EASTCO PARYS Come relax
This piece of earth with its 30-odd stands on the banks of the river is one of those places where you can really unwind. Here, on the North West side of the Vaal, the sounds of the city are a distant memory. It’s just you and your people and the river that flows by peacefully. Remember to bring your binoculars and a bird book to help you search for feathered creatures such as the white heron and blacksmith lapwing. You won’t find supertubes and games rooms here. This is the kind of place where you come to experience the tranquillity of nature. That’s not to say Eastco isn’t family-friendly. But it’s rather a place where you reconnect as a family. You camp in a biggish campsite with stands that are laid out adjacent to the riverbank. The stands in front are first prize and when you phone to book, try to put your name next to numbers 17–20. These stands are to the right of the campsite and closest to the water. If these four are taken (and it’s a strong possibility because the resort is very popular), go for numbers 5–10. They are also in front but a little bit further from the water’s edge. The rest of Eastco’s 32 stands lie behind the first row and if you camp here you will unfortunately be looking at the campers in front of you when you sit underneath your rally tent. Each stand has a cement slab where you can park your caravan and most of them have a steel frame with shade netting over it. This shade frame is tall enough for an Exclusive to fit underneath and there is enough space for both a full tent and a car on your stand. You also get your own power supply with a threepronged socket. The electricity box has your stand’s number on it. Some of the boxes, especially those on stands 17–19, are low on the ground and don’t have a weather-proof lid. You need to go down on your knees if you want to plug in an extension cord. You also get your own tap and built-in steel braai with a coal tray and a grid that you can lift or lower. Not all the stands have a fixed braai, but there are portable steel braais that you may use. The shade netting is a bonus, but even if you don’t get one there are huge shade trees on the stands, especially those on the riverbank. The campsite is painfully neat. It’s covered in lawns, there’s ample space between you and your neighbour, and the resort staff have already dug out a furrow to divert water when it rains. Just make sure you know exactly where those furrows are because if you step into one you can very easily sprain an ankle. Susan Steenkamp, the resort manager, checks in often to see if everything is in order and if you need anything.
There is one ablution block with separate facilities for men and women when it’s time to shower or bath. Inside, the face-brick building is tiled from floor to ceiling.
Eastco Parys offers excellent value for money, especially because it’s just the two of us. The view from your stand is spectacular with the water rippling over the rocks and the large hill in the background rounding things off nicely. There are also quite a few campers who come here regularly and during holidays and long weekends most of the people know each other.
On the right-hand side is a washroom with three dishwashing sinks and one clothes basin. There is also a twin-tub and a top-loader as well as a tumble dryer. These don’t work with tokens. You can also put your meat and ice in the fridge/freezer if you don’t have these facilities on your stand. There are six basins in the bathroom, three on each side of the door and all with mirrors. Only the two middle basins have long mirrors. If you end up at one of the other four you’ll have to bend down to see what you’re doing when you shave. Behind the basins are two shelves and hand soap. There are four shower rooms. They are big, clean and neat. The shower sits in the farthest point of the room and has a glass sliding door. There are hooks behind the door and against the wall in the dry section as well as those plastic fold-up chairs. So you don’t struggle to keep your things dry. >
There is one urinal, a bathroom with a basin and mirror and four toilets. The facilities are constantly kept clean. Behind the ablution block are two large swimming pools for those hot summer days. Each is about as large as your CEO’s pool and the depth ranges from 1 m to 1,6 m. The pools are mirror images of each other. Around the pools are concrete tables and benches if you want to make your kids’ lunch right there while they splash around in the water. Further away is a play park with a trampoline, jungle gyms, swings and a slide. You probably don’t come camping next to the Vaal without bringing your fishing gear to hook a few carp and yellowfish. The staff asks that you please release your catch, after you pose for a photo of course.
It’s our first visit and we have to say we enjoy the tranquillity and the nature tremendously. We both love fishing, so this is the perfect place to come and relax. The stands are slightly small though.
UMFULA Something for everyone
Like with most of the popular campsites in this area, you have to hop to it if you want to book a stand at the Umfula Resort on the Fochville Road in the North West. Each of the 38 stands on the treerich riverbank is a sought-after patch of land during long weekends and school holidays. It’s slightly more of a family resort than Eastco, and while Dad dips a line in the water there are various things the kids can do to keep themselves busy. There’s a jungle gym, volleyball court, trampoline and a putt-putt course, and during weekends there’s even a jumping castle for the little ones. When it gets hot (and it does) you can cool down with the kids in one of the three pools. Okay, maybe not in the kiddies pool but definitely in one of the other two. The numbered stands are mainly on thick grass and are in the shade of big trees. There are a handful of stands, though, that are so sheltered from the sun that grass doesn’t grow on it. With a few of the other stands the opposite is true and there is enough grass but not any real shade to speak of. Chat to the person on the other side of the line when you phone to book and find out if it’s necessary to bring your flysheet and gazebo. Pack in sunscreen anyway because it can get really hot here, especially if you spend the day next to the water. >
If you come here mainly to fish, you need to try and find one of the riverbank stands (11–15). You can almost catch a carp or catfish from underneath your rally tent. The launch for your boat is to the right of these stands. If you prefer more privacy, and you don’t mind walking a bit to get to the ablution block, you can ask if stand numbers 10 and 34–38 are still available. Here you’re separate from the rest of the campsite and basically on the water, but there’s not a lot of shade. The stands differ in size and some of them are quite cramped, especially if you come with a big caravan. The stand on which we camped (29) is only 7 feet wide. Thankfully we only had a tent, gazebo and small motorhome. The majority of the stands are also slightly uneven and it’s only the stands right next to the water that’s even. If you’re camping with a caravan you will be able to get it level with the help of corner steadies and a jockey wheel, but keep an eye on where you’re camping if you’re doing it in a tent. You don’t have your own braai at your stand, but there are four communal braais where you can cook your chicken sosaties. These brick braais have eight spaces (four on each side), each with its own grid. But you can bring your own braai if you want to do so in front of your caravan. You share a blue socket with your neighbours and remember to bring an extension cord of at least 20 m in length. Depending on where you stand you might have to walk a short distance to the nearest tap.
Umfula’s one ablution block is basically in the middle of the resort and there are separate facilities for men and women. The face-brick building has gas geysers that ensure hot water, which means you don’t run the risk of having a cold shower when it gets really busy. The shower cubicles are small and it’s quite a story to keep your dry things dry. There are hooks behind the wooden door but there isn’t a curtain between the shower and the dressing area. If you can – and you don’t squeeze in front of someone in a wheelchair – try
to wash up in the wheelchair-friendly shower room. It’s substantially bigger and there’s way more pack place for your clothes. To the left of the door is the urinal and the basins with a big mirror covering the whole wall. Behind the basins is a wooden bench that you can sit on to tie your shoelaces or wait your turn in rush hour. The washroom is to the left of the building and there are two stainless steel sinks for dishes and two basins for clothes.
What’s the score?
When it’s almost kick-off time at Twickenham, you and your brother-inlaw can excuse yourselves and head in the direction of the main entrance. There is a recreation area and in the bar next to the reception office is a big-screen TV where you can shout for (or at) the Boks. Outside on the patio that overlooks the pool and play park you can braai and keep and eye on the kids in the water.
Each of the 38 stands on the tree-rich riverbank is a soughtafter patch of land during the weekends and school holidays.
CASA CARA LODGE A place of your own
The Casa Cara Lodge lies on the Free State side of the river on a farm in the direction of Sasolburg, and they have recently made 13 stands on the river available to campers. If the idea of a hideaway next to the fishing waters with private facilities takes your fancy, this the place to head to. Although Casa Cara’s focus is actually on weddings and other events, they don’t neglect campers. In fact, all the facilities available to chalet dwellers are also available for you to use if you camp here. That includes the colourful play park, small zoo, restaurant and swimming pool. We chatted to the resort management and it sounds if they are going to be adding a pool and play park in the campsite sooner rather than later. A stand is allocated to you beforehand, and when you arrive at the reception office you get a key for your bathroom after finishing with the paperwork. The stands are in a row on the riverbank and are numbered with a plaque screwed onto the bathroom building’s wall. Stands 1 and 11 are the biggest of the lot and you can request these if you’re camping with a twin-axle caravan. The other stands are more or less the same size and you pitch camp on a cement slab. There are no partitions between you and your neighbours so it’s not totally private. You can of course always park your caravan with the rear facing the neighbours and then pitch your tent in the direction of the bathrooms. The stands are higher than the river, but below next to the water a space has been cleared where you can come and make yourself comfortable with your fishing gear. The road to the bottom can be smooth and muddy after rain and it’s especially a challenge to get back up to the top. In front of your stand is a brick braai with a grid. The steel frame that the grid rests on is bolted onto the braai and you can remove it. Next to the braai is a basin with a cold-water tap. Your private bathroom is basic, with a shower, toilet, basin and mirror, but it’s brand new and neat. The shower is spacious enough that the curtain doesn’t bother you. The gas geyser ensures hot water, and because everyone has their
We heard about the new campsite and decided to come check it out with friends. It’s lovely and the private facilities are a nice treat. We will definitely return.
own the water remains nice and hot when you shower. Outside the ablution block is your electricity socket (two standard domestic) and a hot- and cold-water tap. The dish for washing cutlery and crockery that fits underneath the taps have been ordered and according to management should arrive in the next few weeks.
Time to eat
If you don’t feel like cooking dinner, you can head to the lodge’s restaurant. This place is something to behold. It’s built on top of and in a freshwater dam and the wooden building has various extensions where it really feels like you’re sitting on water. By the way, you can bring your fishing gear and fish in this exact dam. You just have to release the carp and catfish that you catch. The play park is equally impressive, with almost everything a toddler could dream of. So they can play to their hearts’ content while you relax. There is also a small zoo with animals like rabbits, pheasants, chickens, peacocks and a variety of goats. If you’re headed this direction, remember to bring water wings and polyotters because the pool is also located here.
BRAND NEW. If you’re excited by the prospect of camping right next to a river you should seriously consider Casa Cara Lodge.
Kosie and Susan de Kock from Potchefstroom tow their Jurgens Penta Gold with an Opel Vivaro.
ACT FAST. There are 40 stands at Umfula, but you have to book early if you want to come and relax here. It’s one of the more popular resorts in the region and it’s not hard to understand why. You camp close to the water, there’s lots to do, and the...
BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE. Several stands are right on the water’s edge and you can practically fish from within your tent. Unfortunately the stands don’t have braais and you’ll have to bring your own. Alternatively you can pack a cool box and decamp to...
FIND A SPOT. Each stand is allocated ahead of time. Most stands are covered in lawn except the heavily shaded ones. Fishing is the primary activity but there are other diversions as well if you aren’t into angling.
Roelof and Beatrice Steyn from Alberton camp with a Sprite Swift that they tow with a Mitsubishi Colt.
CATCH A BREAK. There’s lots of room between stands so that you don’t trip over a neighbouring tent’s guy lines. Few things are as soothing as a crackling fire near water.
IT’S NUMBER ONE. The stands are spacious enough for a tent, caravan and car, the lawns are finely groomed and the trees provide ample shade. The ablution facilities are clean, well maintained and include amenities such as refrigeration and laundry...
Jurg and Margaret Reynders from Parys tow their Sprite Tourer SP with a Toyota Fortuner.
CHATTERBOX. The stands are paved and your caravan will be completely level when you unhitch it. The braai grid is bolted to the brick braai; bring your own fire basket if you want to sit around something a bit more cosy.