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Classic Kruger camping in revamped ’65 Gyspey caravan

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Approximately five years ago I received a phone call from a good friend, Manie Kriel, who at that time was residing in Phalaborwa working as an estate agent. Manie mentioned a deceased estate that needed to be finalized and that there were a few old cars in the estate. I am a keen collector of old classic cars and at that time I already had a few classics in my collection.

Long story short, I paid a visit to the site and low and behold I purchased a “golden oldie” – a ’65 Gypsey caravan, which was known as the Africaravan back then.

After some research and checking with my advisor (Google), I established that the first year of manufacture was indeed 1965.

As with all restoration projects, it is paramount that you have a proper base from which to start from. This old Africaravan had much potential.

Arriving home with my newly acquired beauty thinking it would be quite simple to bring it back to its former glory… oh boy, was I wrong!

Besides the reasonable good condition that the caravan was in and the fact that everything in it from the venetian blinds to the old Electrolux gas fridge was 100% original and intact, I realized the entire wooden frame was rotten to the core.

The project was put on hold for five years, but when Covid-19 hit in early 2020 I decided to start the restoration process.

After only two months and hundreds of thousands of nails and sanding paper (maybe a bit exaggerated, but that was how it felt), the project was complete, and what a satisfying feeling it was!

Unfortunately, due to lockdown and certain restrictions still in place, we could only do the Maiden Voyage with the old Grand Dame on the 23rd of October, visiting Skukuza Camp in Kruger, entering the Phalaborwa Gate.

What a splendid trip we had! The arrival of this vintage combination consisting of a 1971 Mercedes Benz 280SE, pulling the 1965 Gypsey caravan was an eye-catcher indeed, and it certainly brought back a lot of memories which were shared by several happy campers approaching us to admire a bit of caravanning history.

One gentleman, in his late fifties, said he could still recall as if it happened yesterday how his duty, firmly laid upon him by his father, was to secure the tent poles to the side of the caravan when they packed up after a tranquil camping trip in the wild!

My daughter Hanné, aged 10, with some of her nieces (totaling four chatterboxes), with a wireless Marshall Bluetooth speaker, made sure that this delightful moment should be coloured in with proper background music – reggae and hip hop – whilst we were en route.

Of course, a complete shutdown of the entertainment systems coming from the backstage of the car, happened when we arrived at the park.

And during our trip through the park and with all the attention that were drawn, and comments been made, was sealed by a remark by one of the girls in a profound way: “Oom Cobie, we are famous!”

Caravanning might sometimes appear to be challenging and it is certainly disruptive compared to the comforts that we enjoyed in our own homes, but in return and with the right attitude, it can be a splendid experience with relationships that’s been fosters and a lot of new friends that are made on the way as we go along.

As far as the youngsters that joined us on the trip are concerned, we are now self-proclaimed celebrities, and the experience that they had would be remembered and cherished for the rest of their lives as well as ours.

Francois Huysamen

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