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.

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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. gamkapoort­dam@gmail.com; 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...

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