On the wa­ter­front

No, we’re not talk­ing about the V&A in Cape Town. Here in the north, in the Highveld, Mpumalanga has its own wa­ter­front.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Weekend Break - Text and pho­tos He­lenus Kruger

Secunda is prob­a­bly the last place you’d ex­pect to find a wa­ter­front. Highveld plains and coal mines, sure. But a wa­ter­front? Un­likely. The lo­cals, how­ever, will tell you a dif­fer­ent story. Here, on the edge of town, bor­der­ing houses, car deal­er­ships and head­frames on the hori­zon, lies the town’s most pop­u­lar hang­out for young and old. The Lake Umuzi de­vel­op­ment is next to two dams in Trichardt­spruit. On the north­ern side is the Lake Umuzi Wa­ter­front on the banks of what is known as the “top dam” and bor­der­ing this is the Lake Umuzi Lodge and Mer­chant Ho­tel. The com­bi­na­tion of res­tau­rants, ac­com­mo­da­tion, func­tion venues and es­pe­cially fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment places is su­per-pop­u­lar. Be­sides the wa­ter­front’s full-time en­ter­tain­ment, there are beer, wine and mu­sic fes­ti­vals dur­ing the year, as well as a moun­tain bike race and a sports fes­ti­val. And from Oc­to­ber last year, campers can also come and pitch their tents here. Lake Umuzi Kamp Oase is brand new and lies on the south­ern side of the stream, next to the “bot­tom dam”. This is not the place to come if you’re look­ing for a quiet week­end to get away

The camp­site was brand new when we vis­ited. Here and there the fin­ish­ing touches were still be­ing ap­plied.

from the hus­tle and bus­tle of the big city; there are sim­ply too many ac­tiv­i­ties in and around the camp­site. The wed­ding in the re­cep­tion hall across the wa­ter is go­ing to sup­ply back­ground mu­sic all night long and the buzzing of the power sta­tion’s chim­neys will even­tu­ally lull you to sleep.

Camp­site

Be­fore you park your car­a­van on the camp­site’s green lawn, you first have to book in at the Mer­chant Ho­tel, which han­dles the camp­site’s book­ings. Here you’ll get an en­trance per­mit that looks like your ve­hi­cle’s li­cence disc and that you have to stick onto your wind­screen. They also send an SMS to your phone with a cell­phone num­ber that you have to phone when you get to the en­trance gate. The gate will then open au­to­mat­i­cally. If you’re tow­ing, don’t drive onto the ho­tel’s premises – rather park out­side next to the road. The ho­tel’s en­trance gate is too nar­row for a car­a­van and even if you do make it, there’s no space to turn around. The camp­site is a fiveminute walk from the ho­tel, op­po­site the wa­ter. There’s a foot­bridge over the stream, so send the kids to the camp­site to go find a stand. You’ll have to drive around the Lake Umuzi de­vel­op­ment to get to the camp­site, though. As soon as you’ve gone through the main gate at the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, Lake Umuzi Kamp Oase lies be­low you. The gate is on higher ground and you look down on the camp­site. In the sum­mer >

it really does look like an oa­sis with the dam, lush green kikuyu grass and wil­low trees with their long, loose branches blow­ing in the breeze. When we vis­ited, the camp was brand new – they were still busy with the fi­nal touches. The build­ing at the gate is go­ing to be used as a re­cep­tion of­fice and ac­com­mo­da­tion for man­age­ment. The cold-wa­ter swim­ming pool will get a hot coun­ter­part, and the bath­rooms still need a few hooks and soap trays. Man­age­ment promised that every­thing would be fin­ished by the end of Fe­bru­ary. The 72 stands are not num­bered or de­mar­cated, but the lo­ca­tion of the braais and elec­tric­ity points make it easy to de­ter­mine your stand’s bor­der­lines. Each built-in braai has two braai places, one for you and one for your neigh­bour. Most of the stands are 10 m x 10 m, with a few on the edges of the camp­site that are a bit big­ger. All the stands are even and have a thick mat of kikuyu grass. About half of the stands get shade from the large wil­lows while the rest are in full sun. You can’t book a stand so if you want one in the shade, you’ll have to get there early. The braais have grids, a work sur­face, light, tap and garbage bin. The elec­tric­ity boxes are never more than 10 feet away (re­mem­ber to bring your blue car­a­van plug). Bring your own braai if you rather want to braai in front of your tent. There are three round boma-type braais with ce­ment benches be­tween the stands on the dam side. It’s not so much a com­mu­nal boma for all campers but rather for two or three friends camp­ing nearby. On the western side of the camp­site, to the far left as you drive in, is the Wil­ger lapa on the dam’s shores. You can rent the venue for any­thing from a wed­ding to an of­fice party. Next to it is a high con­crete slab with a steel-frame struc­ture that’s used as a stage dur­ing mu­sic fes­ti­vals. Here you

can dance till the early morn­ing hours to mu­sic by big names like Fran­cois van Coke, Just Jinger and Wa­ter­shed. When the lawn in front of the stage isn’t packed to the brim with fes­ti­val­go­ers, it’s avail­able to car­a­van clubs and large groups. The space is a bit big­ger than a rugby field and has 18 elec­tric­ity boxes each with four power points and a light.

Clean up

If you’re in need of wa­ter for wash­ing bod­ies or dishes, you have to walk to the main build­ing at the gate. The men’s and ladies’ bath­rooms are be­low the build­ing, to the left and right of the scullery. There are many places that can learn a thing or two from Umuzi in terms of space and lay­out. The com­mu­nal area be­tween the shower cu­bi­cles and basins is spa­cious enough that there’s room to move even in peak time. An­other clever plan is the wall that sep­a­rates the toi­let and wash­ing ar­eas from each other. There are basins on each side. The lay­out of the men’s and ladies’ sides dif­fers, but both have the same ameni­ties. The size of the shower cu­bi­cles are also the same. On the ladies’ side there are four show­ers and the wet and dry ar­eas are sep­a­rated by a wall. The shower and dress­ing area is not cramped. You can put your clothes on the benches and hang your towel on the hook be­hind the door. There are also two bath­rooms with a bath and basin as well as a bath­room for ba­bies. The six basins are di­vided be­tween the wash­ing and toi­let ar­eas (three on each side) and are fit­ted in mar­ble slabs with enough space to pack things be­tween the basins. There is a mir­ror above each one and you don’t have to bring your own hand soap be­cause it’s pro­vided, along with pa­per tow­els. The men have seven show­ers. The seven basins are, like on the ladies’ side, also in mar­ble slabs. The baths and basins don’t have plugs so you will have to bring your own. The scullery is cov­ered and is at the en­trance to the bath­rooms. The six dou­ble basins are also in mar­ble slabs with loads of pack­ing space. >

There is a sec­ond smaller ablu­tion build­ing on the edge of the camp­site near the dam. You can’t bath or shower here but there’s a toi­let and a basin on each side plus two uri­nals for the guys. You can take a dip in the cold-wa­ter pool at the main build­ing next to the bath­rooms’ en­trance. The round pool is 1,3 m deep. An in­door heated pool next to the cold-wa­ter pool is un­der con­struc­tion.

Play time

The wa­ter­front is where every­thing hap­pens. Once the kids have dis­cov­ered this area you won’t see them for the rest of the week­end. Just make sure they have a few bucks in their pock­ets. The way there starts on the north­ern side of the camp and it will take you a full seven min­utes to get there. Just fol­low the path over the stream and through the ho­tel’s park­ing lot un­til you’re past the ho­tel’s en­trance gate. Right out­side

the gate to the right is a smaller gate that takes you the wa­ter­front. At Rocky Wa­ters your bud­ding golfer can pre­tend he’s Louis Oosthuizen on the 18-hole putt-putt course. The course is laid out over mul­ti­ple lev­els and there are even a few wa­ter holes (R35 p.p.). At the Bowl­ing Cen­tre, Mom and Dad can join the young­sters to roll, hit and throw a few balls. The fam­ily can play ten-pin bowl­ing (R40 p.p.; R30 for schol­ars; R20 for tod­dlers), or, if you can get a group to­gether, you can play ac­tion cricket or ac­tion net­ball (from R350 per group). Car­ni­val Square, ap­par­ently the big­gest jun­gle gym in Africa, is heaven on Earth for the lit­tle ones (R50 per hour). The play area is sim­i­lar to those you’ll find in fam­ily res­tau­rants, only big­ger. There are me­tres and me­tres of tun­nels to crawl through, a big pit with balls, and a wind­mill. Sud­denly the jun­gle gym in the camp­site – which it­self is not to be sneezed at – pales in com­par­i­son. If you’re in high school (or taller than 1,35 m) you un­for­tu­nately can’t play here. And Mom and Dad need to keep an eye on lit­tle ones younger than two years. The wa­ter play area Aqua Zone is by far the most pop­u­lar of all the wa­ter­front en­ter­tain­ment. When the doors open at 10 am there’s al­ready a long queue of ex­cited kids wait­ing, and if you get there at lunchtime you should ex­pect a long wait. But it’s ab­so­lutely worth the wait, and once the kids are in­side you’re go­ing to strug­gle to get them to leave. The baby slide will keep tod­dlers oc­cu­pied while the older kids can at­tempt the Fast River Tube slide or the Blou Mamba. The large in­door heated pool is very pop­u­lar. While the kids are hav­ing a blast, the par­ents can un­pack a pic­nic bas­ket on the lawn and light a fire in the braai. If you don’t feel like hav­ing a pic­nic there are nu­mer­ous res­tau­rants next to the dam where you’ll find some­thing to eat and drink while you wait for the kids. Open­ing and clos­ing times dif­fer de­pend­ing on days of the week and sea­sons. Visit lakeu­muzi.co.za for times and con­tact num­bers.

MAIN AT­TRAC­TION. With a va­ri­ety of slides, a cold-wa­ter pool, and fish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the bud­ding an­gler, it’s clear that wa­ter is a huge part of the ap­peal. The ablu­tion blocks are mod­ern and spa­cious (bot­tom).

FUN FOR ALL. Whether you like to make a splash like bois­ter­ous youths or sim­ply pre­fer to sit qui­etly around a fire un­der a boma, Lake Umuzi Kamp Oase has you cov­ered. The braais have a light, work area and garbage bin (in­set).

GRAND­FA­THER WIL­LOW. You’ll have to get there early if you want to set up camp un­der one of the mas­sive wil­low trees (main). The camp­site also makes pro­vi­sion for the lit­tle ones with a huge play area (be­low).

PIC­TURESQUE. Lus­cious green lawns, well-spaced stands, and plenty of ac­tiv­i­ties to keep young and old en­ter­tained are all part of the pack­age at Lake Umuzi Kamp Oase.

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