I remember sitting with my fiancée a few years ago on the south-eastern arm of the Gariep Dam. From a gazebo high above the shore, we watched the sun set, and talked of buying a cheap house there with a bilge-keeler bobbing on its mooring in a bay nearby.
These were among the thoughts I had as I walked around the immaculate park-like grounds of the Gariep Forever resort, with a fleet of yachts across the mudflats in the bay tugging restlessly at their moorings in the morning breeze.
I had decided to try out one of the luxury stands (which have their own ablution and food-prep areas), and had spent a very good first night there in my easily-popped roof tent on a level, paved stand under the trees. But, as I walked around the resort and took in the main caravan park overlooking the yacht club, I realised that this was actually where I would have chosen to be, had I studied the resort’s layout beforehand.
The resort has an enormous sparkling pool, beautiful mowed lawns, a children’s playground, a mini golf course, well-maintained chalets, and a professionally set-up functions hall.
The Forever resort at Gariep Dam is a big caravan park, with 106 camping sites − 90 of these share two ablution blocks, and there are 16 luxury stands which have private ablution facilities. The shared ablutions have ample toilets, showers and baths. There are also facilities for washing and laundry.
All the stands have electricity (a ‘male’ plug is required for connection at most stands) and the water from the shared taps is safe to drink.
On my first day at Gariep, A Forever Resort, after a good high-pressure shower, a cup of coffee and a few rusks, I headed out to Ernie Griesel’s Donkerpoort 4×4 track nearby. Although this exhilarating Grade 3+ ride was most enjoyable, and I feel is a must for any serious 4×4 enthusiast, it’s a story I won’t expand on here as it will be published in our sister publication, SA 4×4, in the months ahead.
During our journey around Ernie’s farm, we came across a dilapidated dwelling that apparently belonged to an erstwhile contractor involved in supplying sand for the building of the Gariep Dam infrastructure. The conversation that followed provided me with the stimulation to uncover some interesting facts about this large construction project.
The scale of the nearly 6-billion cubic metres Gariep Dam project was huge, and it was one of two major storage dams designed to check and divert the waters of the hitherto-unbridled Gariep River to numerous irrigation schemes along its length. One of these – the Orange-Fish river link – required an 82 km tunnel to be drilled through a mountain range to deliver water to the Great Fish River Valley.
The project was the brainchild of Dr A D Lewis, way back in 1928. However, a full technical report was presented to government only in 1948, and it was to be another twenty years before construction started. The dam was completed in 1971, at a cost of some R95m.
After a morning of rampaging through mountains, rivers and other 4×4 obstacles, Ernie kindly offered to take me to lunch at the Quenna Bistro restaurant, situated at the reception building of the Gariep Forever resort. I was impressed by both the food and the service… my venison potjie was the best I’d ever had.
After our late lunch, Ernie led me past the resort’s driving range down to the small on-site 4×4 obstacle course! As if this wasn’t enough excitement for the day, Ernie then asked me if I’d like to go for a jaunt on the dam in a friend’s ski-boat, but I’d had enough activity and opted to read a book in my hammock instead.
That night, I had my step-dad, Harvey, over for a braai. As he’d had a recent debilitating operation to his leg, we had decided that it would be best if he didn’t camp, so I had installed him in the aptly-named View Lodge up on the hill behind the campsite. I’d booked him in the lodge only because Gariep’s chalet accommodation was full! This just shows how popular Gariep Forever Resort is, as they have a total of 56 chalets (a dozen of which are termed ‘Luxury chalets’ and have particularly good dam views) as well as recently refurbished chalets with sleeping configurations catering for two to six people.