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Reader Travel: Caravanning in the Eastern Free State

Words and images by Theo and Ester Kleinhans

We left Pretoria in early February this year, heading for the eastern Free State, with our Sprite Sprint hitched up behind our Nissan X-Trail. Our aim was to explore Seekoeivlei at Memel, the Ingula hydroelectric power station under construction, and visit the festival at Rosendal over the Valentines’ weekend. We travelled on the N3 to Villiers, and from there on the R34 via Cornelia and Vrede to Memel, a distance of about 350 km. The road between Vrede and Memel is under construction (destruction) with a couple of ‘stop/go’ arrangements.

What’s left of the road is more potholes than tar, in many stretches; and this was the theme for the next two days of numerous road-construction encounters. A very promising development for the region, if done properly. At Memel, we booked in at the Du Meda ‘caravan park’, which isn’t a conventional park at all but an opportunity provided by Dina Rautenbach to park in her own spacious back yard at 7 Eksteen Street. There’s space for four or five caravans on lush green grass with some shade, power points, and a bathroom that’s part of the house, but with a separate entrance from the outside.

Dina was away on family business and we were welcomed by her son, Johan, and his wife. Johan assisted us with the necessary to set up camp. There were friendly dogs, and the workers, Klaas Motlaung, Nomvula and Sprite, were available if needed. We stayed two nights in this lovely place; it emphasised the need for such sites in the rural areas, as there’s no other caravan park for a very long way. Maybe this could be an inspiration for other small-town residents with large stands. That Monday, we visited the Seekoeivlei nature area, some 10 kilometres out of town. As the infrastructure of this area is under construction, it is best to report to the Free State nature conservation offices in Voortrekker Street, right next to Du Meda.

There we were issued with a permit (R60) by the friendly Elton Manganyi, who also gave us a map of the area and the code to enter the gates. When we got there, the main gate was not locked, as Elton had been there earlier in the day. We were the only visitors to the resort; in the time we were there, we saw no other soul. It is a beautiful marshland area of some 30 square kilometres. The entrance gate and some other structures (perhaps admin buildings) were still under construction.


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