Sometimes you have to just go with the flow. That flow, over four of six days of my trip, was caused by unrelenting rain, and more rain.
Sure, we need the rain in the Cape, but not even the most highly decorated weatherman, armed with four synoptic charts, could have predicted the sea-sawing weather conditions I endured on this journey.
There was rain in Mossel Bay, thick fog on the road to Victoria Bay, lightning and thunder in Glentana, billows of sea mist, and some sleet thrown in for good measure. Thankfully, there were some sporadic bits of sunshine.
But caravanning is fun in any type of weather, even if electrocution is a real threat during a quick sprint to the ablutions!
DIE PUNT, MOSSEL BAY
I drove up in a Renault Duster from Cape Town to Mossel Bay, fully loaded to enjoy almost a week of sheer caravanning bliss.
After picking up the new Gypsy Lite caravan from Tuinroete Woonwaens in Mossel Bay, I made my way to Die Punt Caravan Park for my first overnight stay. My wanderlust was peaking at an excited level at this stage, even with the ominously dark clouds hanging heavy with rain above.
The Gypsy Lite is incredibly easy to tow, and with a Tare of only 590 kg you still have 160 kg left for packing (GVM 750 kg).
After a quick setup and powering the green machine up (the Gypsy Lite comes in green, blue or grey colour options), I settled into my comfortable camp chair accompanied by the rattle of rain on the awning. There is something so lekker about being undercover when it’s bucketing down about you.
The Point (a municipal caravan park) has grassed stands that are spacious enough so that you are not tripping over your neighbours. It is quite a large caravan park, offering 73 shaded stands and 138 unshaded stands. All sites are electrified and have municipal water that is safe to drink.
There are communal braai facilities, but it’s advisable to bring your own grid as the built-in grids have seen better days.
The challenge with high usage caravan parks such as this, particularly when it rains, is that keeping the ablution facilities (two buildings with hot showers, wash basins, baths and toilets) clean is an ongoing process. There’s always a mop somewhere in the vicinity to get rid of muddy footprints on the tiles.
Within minutes of the Gypsy Lite being set up, I was visited by at least 30 campers who came to view the bright little unit inside and out – I’m talking about serious caravanners with a genuine interest in new products that hit the market. These guys, who often had their wives in tow, would have reverse-engineered the Gypsy Lite had I offered them the necessary tools. I let the resident caravanners and campers open and close cupboards, investigate the fridge freezer combo, lift the bed’s mattress, switch lights on and off, sit at the two-person dinette, open the roof vent and peruse the plug and power connection points, without taking anything apart.
The interest in the new Gypsy Lite was quite incredible.
Once the throng of onlookers had subsided, I lit a braai, trying to dodge the sporadic rain and some strong wind, which was quite a challenge. But I’m from the camp – braai in any weather!
A couple who were parked in a beautiful motorhome near my stand came over with their grandson and asked if they could braai some marshmallows on my fire, and I happily obliged. They said the weather was too foul for them to light a fire and I was only too happy to have the company.
After some scrumptious boerewors, a chop and some salads, I drove into Mossel Bay for a beer at Zeppelins Pub and chatted to a few of the locals. I even managed a game of pool and didn’t fare badly against the opposition.
Then it was back to The Point for an early night with the sound of rain and thunder as accompaniment.
I could feel the strong gusting winds battering the little caravan, but I was snug and dry inside and enjoyed being rocked to sleep by the elements.
The following morning I awoke early and packed up the Gypsy in a matter of minutes, the dark clouds above were again indicative of the day’s weather. Bring on the rain!
Before hitching up the caravan, I went looking some of the local attractions that are abundant in Mossel Bay near the caravan park. But first things first… coffee! I found a quaint place called the Blue Shed Coffee Roastery, which as its name suggests has lots of blue stuff – blue cars, blue this, blue that, and the building itself is blue. You can even enjoy a cuppa in an old blue VW Kombi that has been converted for coffee lovers to sit in and enjoy their steaming beverages.
If you want to find a place that serves a good breakfast, go to the Fork & Train restaurant. You can even rent their train accommodation. Yes, a real compartment, in a real train on real train tracks.
There’s so much to do in Mossel Bay: Obviously the beaches are fantastic, and provide a spectacular view as you have a sundowner at The Pavilion while the kids swim literally metres from the outside deck. At the harbour you can join on some boat trips, or go scuba diving and deep sea fishing. If you are feeling peckish, the harbour has lots of lekker eateries offering fish, oysters and more.
A visit to the caves at Pinnacle Point is a must, it’s a national heritage site where humankind first discovered that heating silcrete in a controlled manner could transform poor quality raw stone into high quality material to be used to make tools. Pinnacle Point is also where the first pigment ochre (an early form of paint) was used.
Just driving around town you can find some interesting antique shops where you can buy reasonably priced artefacts to add to your antique collection at home.
Back at The Point Caravan Park, I hitched up the caravan and set off on my short journey to the Victoria Bay.
Visibility along the way to Victoria Bay Caravan Park was about 50 metres due to the thick fog. On arrival, Marelize Claassen the resort manager, handled my booking and directed me to the campsite with my necessary electronic gate tag.
What a gem she is, going to great lengths to ensure all her guests are well cared for. When I needed a braai grid, she obliged. When I needed photos of the second campsite (part of the same resort but with private ablutions for each stand) she obliged. When I needed extras for some photos around my caravan, she invited some friends for the photo shoot.
The municipal park is run by the Eden District Municipality, and tariffs are very reasonable both in the shared and private ablutions campsites. I stayed in the shared ablutions campsite where all the stands enjoy thick green grass, individual braai areas and taps with drinkable water. All stands in both campsites enjoy 20 amp electricity.
The first night was fraught with heavy rain, forked lightning and booming thunder – my sole accompaniment. At one stage, I even though my braai fire would not survive the rain, even after igniting it with a full box of Blitz. But braai I will, in any conditions.
The following day saw clear skies and Victoria Bay beach quickly filled with people in search of fun and sun. Victoria Bay is well known as a premium surf spot, so you will see your fair share of surfboard-toting guys and gals pulling some great moves in the waves. The restaurant at the beach serves typical fare such as burgers, hot chips and drinks to the hungry beachgoers.
Take a stroll to the Bramwell Butler Pier and view Victoria Bay in all its beauty, swim in the warm tidal pool below the pier or put up an umbrella on the grassed verge above the beach and enjoy a well-deserved rest in the shade.
In the evening of the second night of my stay at Victoria Bay, Marelize and her friends joined me for a braai. There is something I have to come clean about and that is I have officially handed over my mantle as “braai king” to Liesl Barnard (Marelize’s housemate). Never in my 53 years have I seen someone who can braai as well as she did. Jislaaik! She Like a seasoned pro she cooked a variety of meats, chicken, sausage, garlic bread and corn on the cob to absolute perfection. It’s a pity that Mossel Bay is a bit far to travel every day from Cape Town, but if I’m ever in the area again, I’ll hunt Liesl down and invite her for a braai. I’ll offer to make the salads!
There are many attractions within close proximity to Victoria Bay such as Great White shark cage diving, Supertubes in George for the kids and brave adults, an indoor trampoline park, supermarkets, shopping malls, a reptile park and even skydiving if you take a short trip to Plettenberg Bay.
Just round the corner from Victoria Bay is the picturesque Kaaimans River where you can either take your own SUP or kayak or you can rent one from Kaaimans Kayak Rentals at a very affordable price. It’s a family affair that’s safe as houses with all the necessary life jackets, stable kayaks and calm river water. An hour on the Kaaimans River is pure sustenance for the soul.
After saying my goodbyes to Marelize, Xoliswa and Salvester – the friendly staff at Victoria Bay Caravan Park – I made my way back a short distance towards Mossel Bay to my third and final destination. Glentana Caravan Park is situated a few kilometers from the town of Groot Brak.
Intermittent rain was the order of the day, but nothing to complain about. After setting up camp at Glentana, and feeling like an estate agent to all the caravanners wanting to peek at the Gypsy Light, I settled in for a two-day stay.
The caravan park is about 100 metres from the beach and has lovely green grassy stands, clean ablutions and all the stands are electrified. Errol and Jenny Thysse are the owners of the caravan park and eager to assist where they can.
Once my caravan was set up, I took a drive into Groot Brak, which is a very interesting little town. Beware of the traffic cop that was out with his camera on both occasions I visited Groot Brak, he’ll probably be there when you visit too. He’s a jovial chap and even smiled at me while he tried to read my lips.
For a more traditional breakfast or meal, find your way upstairs to the deck at the Peperboom Restaurant, or if you enjoy being surrounded by paintings, interesting collectables and books while tucking into a full breakfast and a delicious cappuccino, then the Black Vanilla Coffee & Eatery is the place to be. I sat outside in the garden on both occasions I was drawn to this gastronomical gem.
A little further up the road is Beatnix Leatherworks which makes quality leather goods. Have a chat to Werner the owner and he’ll show you some of the quality products he produces. Just up the dirt road above the leatherworks there is a great vantage point to take pictures of the Groot Brak River as it winds its way through the woodlands towards the sea.
I purchased some meat and wood at the local butchery and then went to the grocery store for some readymade salads to accompany my braai back at the caravan park. I named my particular stand “The Laughing Eland” after a tree that resembled a buck of sorts next to my campfire. When you’re on your own, without any company, passing the time by chatting to the trees, insects, wagtails and Franklins that venture into your camp is a necessity. This probably explains why the Eland tree was laughing in the first place.
What a picturesque camp and caravan park this is. All the stands have a dedicated braai area (bring your own grid) and power point. There are two shared ablution buildings which offer hot showers, baths, basins and mirrors. The ablutions were cleaned daily and necessities such as toilet paper were abundant. Most of the stands offer partial shade and all are grassed. Each stand has a municipal tap with drinking water.
Errol Thysse came to my rescue with a braai grid (one of the most important accessories that I forgot to bring along) and I found my thoughts drifting into the flames of the fire. A crackling fire is a wonderful meditational tool to release the myriad thoughts that often get bottlenecked in our brains. Being in nature has the same ability to release the negative and accentuate the positive.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m a guy that likes to braai all the time, but if you are looking to get served, literally 20 metres from the resort entrance is a restaurant called Visgraat where you can enjoy some wonderful seafood, pizza and a variety of other meal options. Don’t even bother to get into your car, it’s within easy walking distance.
The beaches at Glentana are pristine and swimming is safe along most parts of this coastline. If you’re looking for vast open expanses of beach for some chill time or a stroll in the evening, this is the place where you will find it.
My neighbours were Braam and Poppie Haasbroek in their Pacer motorhome (something I’d love to own when I grow up), and they told me they had bought a house and were moving down to Hartenbos to start a new life in their retirement years.
Later, as I sat and contemplated life in the flames of my braai fire, I struggled to find the single Afrikaans word that wholly encompasses what truly is the essence of campers, caravanners and motorhome enthusiasts. My Afrikaans is rusty to say the least and memories of my Regimental Sergeant Major vloeking the troops out on the parade ground didn’t help my search for that elusive word… gelukkig? Nope, that’s not it. Vreindelik? Nope.
The word was on the tip of my tongue and after a few more minutes of staring into the dancing flames of the braai fire it came to me. The single word that sums up the wonderful people of the outdoor world, is “gesellig”.
BACK TO CAMPWORLD
After packing up the Gypsy Lite in the morning, I set off to find some scenic coastal spots to take photos of the caravan along the way, and then returned the caravan to Johan at Campworld. What a wonderful few days it was, even with the crazy weather. I slept very comfortably in the Gypsy Lite, ate well, saw some amazing sites, meandered along dust roads less traveled, found small towns off the beaten track and met lots of like-minded campers to chat to.
It certainly is an exciting world out there if you’re willing to accept the adventure.
RENAULT DUSTER 1.5dCi DYNAMIQUE 4X4
My six-day trip to three caravan parks in and around Mossel Bay in the Duster with a new Gypsy Lite in tow proved to be an uncomplicated and easy drive, with excellent comfort and brilliant consumption, hovering at around 6.4 L/100 km on the entire trip.
The Duster has an all-wheel drive system with an in-dash rotary switch to change from two wheel drive to four wheel drive. The Duster does not have a low ratio transfer box but the short first gear assists when negotiating more taxing terrain.
With power and torque figures of 80kW @ 4000rpm and 240Nm @ 1750rpm, it was a perfect SUV with which to tow the Gypsey Lite (which is braked, otherwise it would have been illegal to tow).
As a tow car, the Duster performed well and I hardy felt the extra weight behind me.
The large touch-screen infotainment system offers navigation, a sound system, a USB port and Bluetooth capabilities.
This turbo diesel comes with four airbags, ABS with EBA, ESP, power assisted steering, electric windows front and rear, cruise control with speed limiter.
My overall impressions, after six days of driving the Renault Duster 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4X4, are a very positive. It’s pricing is competitive, it’s an easy vehicle to manage with just enough gadgetry to entertain you rather than confuse you.
Power: 80 kW @ 4 000 rpm
Torque: 240 Nm @1 750 rpm
Tare: 1 276 kg
GVM: 1 875 kg
GCM: 1 337 kg
Max towing braked: 1 500 kg
Max towing unbraked: 638 kg
Ground clearance: 210 mm
Retail price: R309 900
By Stuart Reichardt