NYLSTROOM LODGE Fair game

Go! Camp & Drive - - CAMPING DESTINATION | LIMPOPO -

This spot, 25 km out­side of Modi­molle, has been around for 25 years, but own­ers Jo­han and Lor­raine Maritz handed the day-to-day op­er­a­tions over to Shawn and Libby Thomas in Jan­uary this year. Shawn and Libby say they are striv­ing to make it a more pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion in the area. The gate is mostly kept closed be­cause there is game roam­ing around the es­tate and the own­ers don’t want them es­cap­ing, but you can just pull it open and drive in.

Pick your spot

If you con­tinue along the road, turn­ing right at the of­fice, you’ll pass the swim­ming pool on your left and the puttputt course on your right. Im­me­di­ately to the right is the camp­ing area.

The stands aren’t de­mar­cated, but you can use the 10 bricks and cement slabs as your guide­line. Not all of them are po­si­tioned un­der shade trees and some are closer to the taps, camp­site lights and elec­tric­ity points – all of which are perched on poles of vary­ing heights.

Power won’t be an is­sue be­cause there are more than enough sock­ets to go around, with some of the posts be­ing able to take up to eight do­mes­tic plugs and two blue car­a­van plugs at the same time. Some of the oth­ers only have two do­mes­tic plug points or four.

The camp­site is sit­u­ated on a slope, and the cement slabs help to pro­vide a solid sur­face on which to lower your cor­ner stead­ies. The shade trees are spread out and thanks to that the camp­site is evenly cov­ered in grass.

Let’s play

The putt-putt course is the clos­est ac­tiv­ity to the camp­site for rest­less chil­dren, but they’ll have to col­lect balls and clubs at re­cep­tion first. The swim­ming pool is larger than those you’ll find in most subur­ban homes and has two slides. One is fairly straight­for­ward and not too long, like you’ll find in most play­grounds, and is for smaller chil­dren. The other is built in the fash­ion of a su­per­tube and twists twice be­fore de­posit­ing ex­cited kids (or adults) into the cool water be­low. This area is fenced off to keep tod­dlers from hurtling into the water, and there are pic­nic ta­bles and chairs that are shel­tered from the sun if par­ents want to keep an eye on the lit­tle ones in the water. There are also a few deck chairs scat­tered about if you want to work on your tan.

Once the kids have dried off they can frolic in the gen­er­ously sized play­ground, which is di­rectly be­hind the pool area. There are two tram­po­lines, swings and plenty of other play­ground equip­ment. The huge lawn also has a vol­ley­ball net >

if you want to set­tle your fam­ily dis­putes over a few sets or chal­lenge your neigh­bours to a friendly game. More com­pet­i­tive groups can en­gage in Bushveld war­fare (the own­ers are paint­ball en­thu­si­asts) and the area to the left as you drive through the gate and over the bridge has been set up to play us­ing the nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion, a few ob­sta­cles for cover, and some junk­yard cars.

If you pre­fer to just peace­fully fish at the dam you’re wel­come to take along a rod as man­age­ment has just re­ceived a huge order of bream and carp. Just re­mem­ber to re­lease them af­ter­wards.

Clean up

The ablu­tion block lies right in front of the camp­site, across the gravel road that runs in a loop around the prop­erty. The out­side is lit up at night with a flu­o­res­cent tube and the camp­site is also well-lit at night so you don’t have to worry about stub­bing your toe on your way to the loo.

Right in the mid­dle is the space al­lo­cated for wash­ing your dishes, with two dou­ble sinks. Op­po­site these are more work sur­faces if there are more than two peo­ple queu­ing up to wash dirty dishes. This wash­ing-up area is also the en­trance to the com­mu­nal braai area.

On ei­ther side are the sep­a­rate ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties for men on the left and ladies on the right. The build­ing it­self is very plain, but in­side it’s smartly dec­o­rated with tiles up to chest height. The three toi­lets and three show­ers are sep­a­rated in the mid­dle by a sheet of cor­ru­gated metal, which adds to the rus­tic ambiance. There’s also a ded­i­cated bath­room with a bench for your towel and cloth­ing and a tub for you to soak in.

The three show­ers are large, with a dry area that you step up onto that in­cludes a wooden shelf that folds down so you can keep your change of cloth­ing dry. There are hooks in­side for tow­els and dirty laun­dry, but there’s place to hang tow­els and cloth­ing be­tween the show­ers as well. There are three basins with enough space to place your toi­letry bag when brush­ing your teeth and mak­ing fa­cial ad­just­ments, but there isn’t re­ally space to sit down and tie your shoelaces, apart from two loose ot­tomans on ei­ther side of the di­vider.

Stock up and get to­gether

To the left of the re­cep­tion area and through a lit­tle arch in the main build­ing is the tuck shop. But it’s more than that be­cause Libby doesn’t stock only the bare camp­ing essentials like wood and fire­lighters. You can also buy cheese, bread, onions, toma­toes, milk, canned food, eggs, chips, soft drinks, cof­fee, tea, sugar, bis­cuits and enough sweets to keep the most in­sa­tiable sweet tooth sat­is­fied. It’s a proper lit­tle shop. You’ll only re­ally need to bring your own meat and hard tack. Libby also stocks var­i­ous mis­cel­la­neous items like pens, books and even spin­ning tops if you want to rekin­dle your youth.

In the camp­site there are three loose braai drums and grids that you can carry closer to your stand. Be­hind the ablu­tion block there’s a braai area with three braais, work­tops, ta­bles, and chairs for larger groups who pre­fer to so­cialise in a shel­tered area.

THABAPHASWA MOUN­TAIN SANC­TU­ARY Get out and play

Named af­ter the nearby Thabaphaswa, mean­ing “moun­tain of the black and white bull”, which tow­ers over the val­ley it’s sit­u­ated in, this farm breeds the hardy in­dige­nous Nguni form of Sanga cat­tle that have adapted to sur­vive ticks in the harsh lo­cal con­di­tions and to feed on leaves where grass is sparse.

The own­ers, Deon and Ankie Richter, bought the 330 ha farm in 1994 and have been liv­ing on it since 1998. Keen cam­pers them­selves, they opened their doors to wel­come out­door en­thu­si­asts shortly there­after and have steadily seen de­mand grow for peo­ple want­ing to break away from city life. They also rent a fur­ther

2 000 ha for the cat­tle to roam and graze and 4x4 en­thu­si­asts to test their skills and ma­chin­ery.

Get com­fort­able

Lo­cated 18 km north of Mokopane, Thabaphaswa is ac­cessed via fairly rough dirt roads. It’s 2 km from the turn-off to the farm’s gate, which can be slow go­ing if you’re visit­ing with an or­di­nary car­a­van. Once here, you soon re­alise that ev­ery­thing is clearly marked with sign­posts so you don’t lose your way. If you’ve booked online you’ll have re­ceived a map to the farm, but it’s best to go check in with Deon first at the homestead, which dou­bles as re­cep­tion. Its 1,3 km from the gate.

The first to greet you will be the farm’s dogs, Bruno, Igor and Pedi. They’re very friendly and al­ways look­ing for com­pany. They’re also al­lowed to ac­com­pany hik­ers if you want their com­pan­ion­ship and haven’t brought your own dog. But there’s no rea­son that you shouldn’t be­cause Thabaphaswa is dog-friendly and here Spot can run free and make friends as he pleases.

De­pend­ing on what type of ve­hi­cle you have and the type of car­a­van you’re tow­ing, Deon will ad­vise you which area of the farm will be more suit­able to camp in. In some places four-wheel drive and good ground clear­ance are a must. If you’ve run out of wood, ice or fire­lighters, you can buy them from Deon at R30, R12 and R20 a bag re­spec­tively.

All of the camp­sites on the farm have a sim­i­lar theme. They all con­sist of a clus­ter of clear­ings with very lit­tle grass, so you have to re­mem­ber to bring your ground­sheet. It’s also not level ev­ery­where. And re­mem­ber to charge your LED lamps be­cause there’s no elec­tric­ity.

Some of the stands have a com­mu­nal pit where you can make a fire. A small

This farm breeds the hardy in­dige­nous Nguni form of Sanga cat­tle that have adapted to sur­vive in the harsh lo­cal con­di­tions.

stand­ing grid and tri­pod stand for your potjie are pro­vided. The sink for wash­ing your dishes is a sim­ple metal bucket perched in a steel frame, with a plat­form on ei­ther side. There’s also a tap nearby so you don’t have to go far for water.

Sing along in the open

The toi­let and shower fa­cil­i­ties are of the open-air and reed-walled variety and are lo­cated 30–40 m down a path. There also aren’t any doors. At the stands north of the Pump House chalet the toi­let is closed only at the back, so when you’re on the throne you have the plea­sure of view­ing the moun­tain on the ad­ja­cent farm and the stream that runs past just be­low the camp­site while the res­i­dent vervet mon­keys won­der what you’re do­ing sit­ting in the mid­dle of nowhere. At the Bergvy and Thabaphaswa camps at the other end of the farm the toi­lets are only slightly more pri­vate.

Hot water for your shower is pro­vided by a hot-water don­key. You’re not al­lowed to light the fire un­der the don­key your­self. The staff will come and light it in the late af­ter­noon and then early in the morn­ing, de­pend­ing on your needs. You can ar­range for spe­cific times as well.

There’s a sim­ple enamel basin on a steel ta­ble for wash­ing your face and brush­ing your teeth, while there’s a low, round cement wall be­low the shower head that in­di­cates the wet area.

There’s also a frame with hooks to hang your towel and shelves to keep your soap and sham­poo on. Early in the morn­ing the abun­dant birdlife will pro­vide the cho­rus while you belt out your favourite tunes.

Ad­ven­ture time

If you’re a cy­clist you’ll be in your el­e­ment here be­cause there are mul­ti­ple cycling loops in the area that range in dif­fi­culty and dis­tance, from 7 km to 15 km. You can cycle the en­tire farm and use the neigh­bour­ing farm’s 4x4 and quad bike routes as well. >

If you’ve come here to test the abil­i­ties of your mo­torised toy (we’re talk­ing to the 4x4 guys), you’ll have to take your ve­hi­cle to the other farm where you can make as much noise as you want.

You ac­cess the neigh­bour­ing farm through a cat­tle gate on the north­ern­most road on Thabaphaswa. Speak­ing of cat­tle gates, there are cycling A-frames lo­cated at cer­tain sec­tions on the farm so riders don’t have to get off their bikes. Hik­ers and trail run­ners also have a variety of routes to choose from, but you’re ad­vised to stay away from the ar­eas where en­gines will be roar­ing. Sport climbers will also feel at home here and some of the rock faces have been bolted into the gran­ite by the Moun­tain Club of South Africa. You do need to bring your own equip­ment though. You can ab­seil here too.

Once you’ve had your share of thrills you can cool off in one of the farm dams, which are named and sign­posted so you know where to find them. At Hein’s Dam you can have some fun on the “foe­fie slide” where you can zi­pline into the water from the rocks up on the hill.

BLOUBERG NA­TURE RE­SERVE A taste of the wild

If you want quiet time in na­ture with­out bump­ing into tourists and run into your neigh­bour ev­ery minute, then Blouberg should def­i­nitely be high on your list. There are no swim­ming pools to beat the heat, play­grounds for the kids or bigscreen tele­vi­sions where you can watch the fi­nal. Ac­tu­ally, there’s very lit­tle cell­phone re­cep­tion and only those with MTN SIM cards will be able to make calls and per­haps check the score.

What Blouberg does of­fer, though, is an au­then­tic Bushveld ex­pe­ri­ence that’s fairly re­moved from the trap­pings of the mod­ern world, com­plete with game, abun­dant birdlife, and preda­tors on its 9 300 ha.

Make your­self at home

There are only two real camp­sites at Blouberg, and which one you de­cide to pitch your tent or un­hitch your car­a­van at is de­ter­mined by what kind of ve­hi­cle you’re driv­ing and what type of trailer you’re tow­ing be­hind it. The 1,3 km from the gate to re­cep­tion is fairly smooth, but the deeper into the re­serve you go, the softer the sand gets and four-wheel drive and good ground clear­ance will def­i­nitely be needed to pull your car­a­van through some sec­tions, es­pe­cially with the speed limit be­ing 30 km/h ev­ery­where.

The real se­cluded one is Mo­dumele, but here you’re required to be self-suf­fi­cient with a pit toi­let and bucket shower. The eas­ier camp­site to get to (and the one with more mass ap­peal) is Mo­lope, and you’ll have to go back the way you came from the gate and turn left at the sign­post. The camp­site has five fairly large stands. They’re level with hard dirt for you to lay your ground­sheet on. All of them have a large tree right in the mid­dle of the stand (ei­ther tam­boti, nyala, mo­lope or weep­ing boer­bean) and what kind of tree you choose to pitch next to will de­ter­mine the amount of shade you get.

Each stand is equipped with a rub­bish bin, raised plat­form for you to braai on and a grid. There are also lids fash­ioned out of old drums that fit neatly onto the plat­form to ex­tin­guish and con­tain any re­main­ing hot ash af­ter you’ve braaied. With the dense veg­e­ta­tion form­ing a nat­u­ral bar­rier be­tween stands, you don’t have to worry about look­ing into your neigh­bour’s wife’s eyes all the time.

You’ll have to walk 10–30 m to fetch water from the one tap that ser­vices the five stands, be­tween num­bers 2 and 3. Stand num­ber 5 is clos­est to the ablu­tion block, but you’ll have to be con­tent with peo­ple “look­ing in” at your stand. >

Wash it away

The ablu­tion block is a small and sim­ple build­ing, just off the road into the camp­site on the right. There are two flush­ing toi­lets in the centre and a shower at each end. The one on the left is an open-air af­fair, with woven wire se­cured on top of the walls to en­sure that a ba­boon doesn’t jump in and steal your undies. There’s a cement bench on which to put your change of cloth­ing. Two hooks to the right of the taps will hold your towel and face­cloth. On the far right is a closed shower room where you’ll be able to clean up in pri­vacy.

The toi­lets are also where you’ll have to brush your teeth and hair be­cause there’s a mir­ror above the ce­ramic basin. If you want any of the ac­tiv­i­ties above to in­clude hot water, you’ll have to make sure there’s a fire un­der the don­key. You can ar­range for the times you want at re­cep­tion, but in the event that there are no flames be­fore your al­lot­ted time, you’re re­quested to make a small fire.

You can wash your dishes in the sin­gle sink perched on two brick and cement posts right across from the ablu­tion build­ing. It’s out in the open and has a small ta­ble made out of con­crete lin­tels right next to it for ex­tra work space. Re­mem­ber to pack a torch for emer­gency vis­its to the toi­let be­cause it gets dark here at night with all the trees around the build­ing.

Don’t walk or cycle

You can self-drive the re­serve at no ex­tra cost, but do be care­ful be­cause in cer­tain sec­tions the road con­di­tions can be­come tricky. If you’re not in a 4x4 the soft sand can quickly swal­low up the wheel of a sedan or hatch­back un­der se­vere brak­ing or turn­ing. An in­for­ma­tion sheet avail­able at re­cep­tion warns you about sec­tions be­tween spe­cific road mark­ers. Man­age­ment can ar­range for re­cov­er­ies at a cost of R500. Also, the fact that there is in­ter­mit­tent cell­phone sig­nal means you might need to walk back, and un­escorted walk­ing and cycling through the re­serve is not al­lowed. You’re also not al­lowed to drive at all in the re­serve 30 min­utes af­ter sunset and 30 min­utes be­fore sunrise. One of the parts of the re­serve that can only be ac­cessed with a 4x4 is the plateau above the Cape vul­ture breed­ing colony, up on the moun­tain. With over 800 breed­ing pairs, this is the largest colony of

its kind in the world. If you haven’t come in a suit­able ve­hi­cle you can re­quest a game drive (R220 per per­son and R660 min­i­mum) or vul­ture colony drive (R300 per per­son and R900 min­i­mum).

If see­ing all of them at once is a bit too much for you, take a drive to the vul­ture “restau­rant” about 30 min­utes from the camp­site and peep out at them from the cover of a dark, thatch-roofed room com­plete with cam­era holes while they feast on the scat­tered bone frag­ments and car­casses around the wa­ter­hole. The buz­zards aren’t the only birdlife at­trac­tion though, and ea­gle-eyed bird­ers might also spot the crested guinea fowl, ground horn­bill and a variety of rap­tors. You can ask to be taken on a guided bush tour (R110 per per­son, R330 min­i­mum) on which Ruan Stander will give you in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion about the an­i­mal life and tree species at Blouberg. It will take any­where from two to four hours, de­pend­ing on where he takes you. Na­ture lovers should go check out the Big Tree sec­tion of the re­serve when you’re back be­hind the wheel to see the big­gest baobab at Blouberg – a giant 19 m in cir­cum­fer­ence.

Stick to the speed limit be­cause you never know when you’ll turn a cor­ner and be eye to eye with a gi­raffe or buf­falo. The roads are marked by num­bers at in­ter­sec­tions, so you can’t get lost.

EV­ERY­THING IN ITS PLACE. The camp­site is neat, but get there first to grab a braai drum early. There’s plenty for the kids to do and play on. The ablu­tion blocks are clean and wel­com­ing.

PLAY ALL DAY. The pool area caters for fam­i­lies who want to braai next to the water. And you can play putt-putt for free. Af­ter a hard day at play you can shower in one of the three spa­cious cu­bi­cles.

BACK TO BASICS. The camp­sites are rus­tic with no elec­tric­ity, but you do get a fire pit. The toi­let and show­ers are a short walk away from where you camp and both are open-air. You’ll have to wait for warm water from the don­key first.

AD­VEN­TURE AL­LEY. You won’t get bored here if you en­joy the great out­doors. Visit one of the tran­quil dams, Dome Rock chalets, go for a run or zi­pline into the water.

IN THE VELD. You can take a guided walk look­ing for tracks, visit huge baobab trees, and even watch vul­tures feast.

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