Reader Tour: From Bottom To Top

Words & Images Boudewijn de Roo

I have explored Namibia from Kaokoland in the north, down to Fish River Canyon (on foot) in the south; from Pelican Point (Walvisbay) in the west, to Bushmansland in the east; and Botswana, Lesotho, and
Swaziland almost as extensively. All wonderful destinations.

Mozambique, I was not particularly impressed with, nor with Zimbabwe. I cannot stand the corruption! In South
Africa I thought there wouldn’t be much left to explore… but how wrong I was! We did this trip in March, when it wasn’t too hot, or too cold, and supposedly just after the worst summer thundershowers.

I am fortunate to be retired and still in good health, so I can choose to travel outside school holiday times. My
preference is for unusual destinations; not for me, the resorts with campsites in rectangular grids or straight rows, where you live close to your neighbours. Most of this trip was done with two couples in two vehicles, using one AHA trailer camper and a tent. On our sightseeing detours, we covered approximately 8 000 kilometres.

Our first destination was the relatively new camping in Camdeboo National Park outside Graaff-Reinet. Each site is laid out in its own clearing in the bush with power point, and quite private. I thought this venue to be ‘good,’ but it was later totally overshadowed by venues which proved themselves to be ‘better’ and ‘best’!

Attractions in the area include a game drive in the park, and a visit to the Valley of Desolation or to Nieu-Bethesda and the owl house. Included in your conservation fee are the 4×4 trails to Koedoeskloof, where
there is a fair amount of game and a spectacular viewpoint, and the 4×4 trail to Driekoppen. The last-mentioned ends at a watering hole that was out of order at the time of our visit − it seems that the baboons had broken off the power cable from the solar panel. From this point, one can hike further along the
same track, totally washed away even for a 4×4, to a neck; and from there, further along zebra paths to the highest peak in the area, Hanglip − very rewarding for a one hour hike.

So, what was better? Well, Badfontein Guest Farm, just west of Aliwal North along the Orange River. Very well shaded sites, but, unfortunately, just out of sight of the river which flows only a few metres away. What made this destination special, though, was that they have their own hot-water spring. This has been beautifully developed into a small swimming pool, with a natural rock bottom through which the crystal-clear water bubbles up. There’s a lapa on one side and an overflow on the other, into a reed bed full of weavers and other birds.

Now, for the best. Balloch Farm is situated north of Barkly East, west of Lundins Nek in a cul-de-sac valley. Imagine camping under a large rock overhang, big enough to accommodate cars, tents, caravans, etc., on a clean level floor, with a built-in braai / counter with lights, power point and tap, and a view to die for. The ‘roof’ of the cave is a smooth rock, stretching maybe one hundred metres up.

There were thundershowers that first evening. We were absolutely safe and dry under the rock as the mountains around us echoed and amplified the thunder, and soon we were behind a waterfall as the water streamed down the mountain. Every evening after that the thunderclouds gathered, and we said, ‘Hope it rains again!’ Ever heard a camper in a tent say that?

The farmer allows only one group at a time at this site, so you have it all to yourself.

Attractions in the area are hiking, trout-fishing and a whole lot of spectacular passes. Apart from the tarred
passes, you’ll find Otto du Plessis pass, Bastervoetpad pass, Carlisleshoek pass, Volunteershoek pass, Naudes Nek pass, Lundeans Nek pass and more.

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