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.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents - Text and pho­tos Schalk Jonker

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.

Wa­ter af­fairs

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.

Clean up

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.

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