Words & pictures by Hennie & Antoinette Jordaan
My wife and I collected our Skipper Oyster from Robbie and Jenny Kerkhof at their factory in Park Rynie, KwaZulu-Natal, in December 2017.
It was just in time for our bi-annual family camp on a farm in Adelaide in the Eastern Cape. We spent the first night in Park Rynie, where it rained so much that it was impossible to pitch the tent.
During our stay on the farm, my brother in law, Frikkie Potgieter from Bloemfontein, asked whether we would like to join them in March for a trip to the Kgalagadi. I didn’t have to think twice − I decided then and there that we were in!
Frikkie and his wife, Elza, collected their Skipper Oyster in February.
To find out what lay in store for us, I spoke to my friend and former colleague, Sarel Marais, who had just returned from the Kgalagadi. He told me that there are parts of an Oyster lying on the other side of Twee Rivieren, and he had seen the chassis just past Nossob. Initially I was worried, but luckily realised just in time that he’d been joking, as usual.
Finally, the time for our Kgalagadi trip was upon us, and on 28 February we met up with Frikkie and Elza in Upington. The next morning, all we did was fuel up, and then it was on to the Kgalagadi!
At Twee Rivieren, we checked in at reception, where all the paperwork was done quickly; and then there was just one more stop at the fuel station to fill up the tank and deflate the tyres.
A friend had advised me to set the front tyres of my Audi Q5’s at 1,5 bar, and the rear tyres at 1,6 bar; I deflated the Oyster’s 14-inch wheels to 1 bar. Then we hit the road to Mata Mata. Even though it is just 117 km, and the map indicates that you can do it in two and a half hours if you don’t stop, the road is very corrugated. There are places where it is so bad that it shakes the fillings in your teeth loose.
The Audi handled the road very well, but what really impressed me was how stable the Skipper was, coming along behind. At times I almost forgot I was towing! The Oyster follows nicely in the tracks of the tow vehicle, and you just have to check in every now and then.
The fact that the Oyster is so much lighter than many other off-road caravans means that it tows very well in sand.
When we arrived at Mata Mata, our challenge was to find a nice camping spot which offered some protection against the midday sun, as we would be spending five days there. We parked our Oysters next to each other, and soon the tents were set up.
The next day, after spending the morning driving out looking for animals, we saw two other vehicles arrive and look for a place to park. They pulled up right next to us, and as we were watching them from our camping chairs, we realised they were more Oysters!
That is how we met Dawie and Yvonne, from Gordons Bay. They had been part of the Oyster family since July/August 2017. Soon we were joking that this had to be a Skipper get-together in the Kgalagadi, and because we all had Oysters, it led to “Show me yours, and I’ll show you mine”.
Dawie and Yvonne left for Namibia three days later, and we finally headed to Nossob.
Another 112 km of corrugated road was awaiting us. Luckily, a part of the way is the Dune Road, which is not as bad, and we could pick up the pace a little… but still arrived in Nossob with an average of 50km/h for the trip.
In the Nossob-Twee Rivieren run, where you turn in to the Dikblaarkolk picnic area, you will find sand. Thick sand. And with it comes corrugations. The road is scraped every few days by a tractor dragging lorry wheels with chains, just to level the sand. This helps for a day or two, but then the corrugations are back. Once again, my Oyster amazed me by following silently wherever I drove.
We stayed at Nossob for five days, before returning to Twee Rivieren, where we inflated the Oyster’s tyres back to 1,8 bar, as instructed by Robbie.
We stayed only one night, so we did not set up the tent. It’s so nice to be able to “set up” in seconds, and then watch the sunset with a beer in your hand.
When the gates opened at 06:30 the next morning, we tackled the road back to the Cape¬: a mere 1 080km journey.
The stretch between Kenhardt and Calvinia is probably the most boring road in the whole of South Africa. For more than 100 km, the road is so straight that you’d think someone had placed a ruler on the map and drawn a line to plot the road.
At one stage, I wanted to overtake a truck, but suddenly the driver apparently woke up and started driving faster and faster. All I could do was put pedal to the metal, way past the speed limit. Only after I had passed the truck did I remember that I was towing a caravan, and not supposed to do so at that speed. Luckily, thanks to the low profile of the Oyster, the Audi did not even know that there was something hitched on behind. The Oyster just sailed along behind us.
With what we have experienced so far, we have not for a second regretted choosing to buy a Skipper. During our visit to the Kgalagadi, the Skipper drew more attention than many of the other off-road caravans, and we had to give people a tour of the Oyster and explain all its advantages − because there are no disadvantages.
The only “damage” we suffered was some sand that got into the hinge of the front packing space, which then got a little stuck. Luckily, someone had the right size Allen key, and I could loosen the hinge.
Greetings to everyone, until we tackle the long road in our Skipper Oyster again!