A serious dose of cabin fever had built up and I was off on my first adventure of 2020. My escapade began when I fetched the Isuzu D-Max with a rooftop tent in Cape Town and ambled up the N2 to my home in Greyton. This gave me a chance to pack all my cameras and camping gear. After a pit stop or rather a pie stop, in Riviersonderend, I headed on to Montagu to my first campsite of the trip.
I love turning left off the N2 at Stormsvlei, for the scenic drive across to Bonnievale and on to Montagu. The Stormsvlei Farmstall and Restaurant is also well worth a visit when in the area. Soon I was on my way to the Doringlaagte Camping & Chalets, a few kilometres outside the town of Montagu. Friends of mine, Brett and Cindy Byrne, who live in Montagu said, “It’s a really great campsite, we once stayed there for two weeks.” As they are seasoned campers, I heeded the Byrne’s advice. In fact, I had an escort to Doringlaagte.
Not the blue light brigade but rather Brett, on an off-road motorbike who was waiting in Montagu’s main road as an escort. Shortly after the Doringlaagte entrance gate, Brett stopped. We were looking over at a row of cottages with lovely green lawns. In front of the cottages was a large dam but the water level in the dam was quite low. Brett explained, “It’s hard to believe, but this dam stretched all the way to the reception building in the far distance. It is the terrible drought we’ve experienced here. But it will hopefully fill up again soon,” he added. We were on our way to check-in at the reception office where we were warmly welcomed by camp manager, Keira Gooderson. “Choose any campsite you like,” she said with a smile. Not knowing the campsite so well, Brett kindly took me on a guided tour.
The campsites were all beautifully grassed and maintained. On our walkabout more and more campers were starting to arrive. From the outset, it was obvious that Doringlaagte is a popular family venue. There is a fenced-in playground with swings, seesaws, slides with a sandpit, and a jungle gym. The play area is close to the reception area. Close to the playground – and just in front of reception – are two wooden-decked swimming pools. At the reception, there’s a lekker little pub, a comfortable lounge area with a big-screen TV.
Outside alongside the wooden deck area is a pool table and darts. Another very popular venue in the area is the Karoo Beach Pub, overlooking the sand-fringed Karoo Beach family swimming and boating area. There are a host of paddleboats, canoes, and kayaks that are free for the kids to use. Bring your own lifejackets if you require one. The quirkily-named Karoo Beach Pub, made from reeds, has three covered verandas overlooking the Karoo ‘ocean’. So it’s a very pleasant way for the grown-ups to have a beer and keep an eye on the kids at the same time.
The Karoo Beach Pub also has a heated indoor pool for the adults and a wood-fired pizza oven but their menu also encompasses burgers, toasted sarmies, and their ever-popular slap chips. To work off the excesses of the good grub from the pub, there are mountain biking routes, hiking trails, and bird watching to be done in the area. I noted how many fishing rods were leaning against the tents and caravans, as fishing is very popular at Doringlaagte.
There is quite a wide variety with bass, carp, bluegill, tilapia, and barbel. All fishing is on a catch-and-release basis. As I was lucky enough to have the very capable Isuzu D Max 4×4, Brett and I headed out to the 4×4 routes in the mountainous hills overlooking the resort. At the top of a steep ascent that leads to a viewing point over the whole resort, looking out is a wooden platform covered in AstroTurf.
This wooden green, the so-called ‘19th’ hole, was part of Doringlaagte’s 9-hole golf course. I particularly enjoyed taking pictures of Brett high up on the mountain, looking dizzily down to the green far, far below. I’m not a golfer but I nearly took up Brett’s offer to go and fetch one of his clubs and smack a couple of balls into the abyss. Sanity prevailed, and the magazine didn’t face any personal injury lawsuits. Most weekend campers will have so much to do at the resort they probably won’t amble off to the nearby town of Montagu, but it is worth the drive.
I sauntered off on Saturday morning. After a cappuccino and take-home-for later, freshly-baked ciabatta loaf (it was lip-smackingly good) from the Pastry Place in the Main Road, I headed to the local Montagu Village Market. The market is held in Euvrard Park, in Bath Street, every Saturday morning from 08.00 – 12:00 in summer and 08:30 – 12:30 in winter. It’s a hive of activity and really well worth a visit. The historic town of Montagu has plenty of excellent restaurants, farm stalls, wineries, and a first-class museum. If you haven’t eaten your fill at the Village Market, head directly across the road to Piccolo Tesoro for the best pizzas and pasta in town.