Stay on the banks of the bone-dry Gamkapoort Dam and rediscover the value of water.
See Franschhoek from up high, explore Molopo Nature Reserve and pick fruit in Ceres.
Gamkapoort Dam was formed when a dam wall was built in a narrow poort on the northern side of the Swartberg. The Dwyka and Gamka rivers empty into the dam, but right now it’s bone dry. Have you seen Vic Falls? Well, Gamkapoort Dam is the exact opposite – no water and no people. Except for Fox Ledeboer. Fox is the unofficial water bailiff at the dam and if you want to make his day, bring him a newspaper and a carrot cake (his favourite). The dam is situated in the Gamkapoort Nature Reserve and some animals in the reserve have survived the drought. There aren’t any activities to keep you busy. It’s the kind of place you visit so you can say that you’ve been there. You also come here to learn about the value of water. The dam looked like Dead Vlei when I last visited – great if you’re a photographer; not so great if you farm downstream near Calitzdorp. Talk to Fox and he’ll tell you how hot it gets here and how the drought has radically changed the area. Even the kudus and baboons are having a hard time. But maybe you’ll be lucky and the dam will be brimming with water when you visit one day. Then you can cast a line and paddle out in your kayak.
Facilities: There are five self-catering units on a koppie next to the dam. (No camping facilities.) Each unit sleeps four people (R250 per person per night). Bring cash because there are no card facilities. There are no shops either, but Fox sells a small selection of preserves like pickled onions and chutney. Bring all the food you’ll need and drinking water just in case. The facilities are basic – it feels like you’re staying in an old farmhouse. Towels, bedding and cutlery are provided. Each unit has a bath (with hot water) and there is one communal outdoor shower. You use candles for light and gas for cooking. The units don’t have fridges, but there is one communal fridge available to store your perishables. How to get there? As the crow flies, Gamkapoort Dam is only about 38 km from Prince Albert, but don’t go to Prince Albert if you want to go to the dam! There was once a road but it’s no longer traversable (don’t believe your GPS). Coming from the north, you have to approach the dam from Laingsburg – fill up there because you’ll drive further than you think. Also buy food supplies because Gamkapoort is an outpost and as remote as you can get. Follow the R323 tar road south from Laingsburg, over the Rooinek and Witnekke passes, until it becomes dirt after about 29 km. Carry on: The landscape is scenic, with onion fields, lucerne fields and orchards at the base of the mountains. About 42 km further, the R323 turns south and goes through Seweweekspoort, but don’t take that turn-off; continue straight (eastwards). About 6 km later you’ll be at the top of the dangerous Bosluiskloof Pass. Pull over where it’s safe and absorb the epic view. The landscape falls away: down, down, down. The dam is 18 km away in that direction, tucked into the folds of the mountains. The total distance between Laingsburg and the dam is only 100 km, but set aside at least two hours. Make it three for regular photo stops. If you’re coming from the Little Karoo in the south, Calitzdorp and Ladismith are the closest towns (both about 70 km away). Follow the R62 to the Seweweekspoort turn-off and drive north through the poort. At the northern end of the poort, turn right to Gamkapoort Dam and follow the same road down Bosluiskloof Pass as described above. Don’t go in a Yaris. You’ll need a bakkie or an SUV with high ground clearance. Contact: There’s no cellphone reception. Send an e-mail to Fox Ledeboer with your telephone number and he’ll call you back. firstname.lastname@example.org; gamkapoortdam.co.za
DRY, DRIER, DRIEST. Gamkapoort Dam is deserted except for unofficial water bailiff Fox Ledeboer (above left) who also handles bookings for the self- catering units (opposite page). The photos above were taken in January 2017, but the dam looked pretty...