Before I had even entered the resort’s office, I noticed the “Camp Rules” posted on the window: Smile often, relax and unwind, visit with friends, watch the sunset, make memories, sit by the fire, braai is a must.
Now those are some “rules” I won’t mind obeying!
Where was I? Eastco Holiday Resort Magaliesburg, just over an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and only some 24 km’s from the Cradle of Human Kind visitor’s centre at Maropeng.
What was I doing? Exploring a few resorts in this lovely part of the world.
I was also finally getting the chance to experience camping in the Okto Villa caravan. And as a bonus, my tow vehicle for the trip was a spanking brand new Kia Grand Sedona SXL – the flagship vehicle in the in the MPV range with every luxury one would expect.
It was Friday around mid-morning when I arrived at Eastco, and I could see only one other caravan in the camp… but boy, oh boy, this sure changed in the next few hours!
Before I tell you more about Eastco Holiday Resort Magaliesburg, which is now one of my favourite campsites, I want to back up to the start of my trip and one of my other favourites in South Africa: Loftus Caravan City, where I was to collect my Okto Villa.
The dealership, headed by the Loftus brothers Woody, Neil and Joel and their team, makes anyone who steps over their threshold truly welcome.
The Loftus team always have everything spic and span when one arrives to collect a caravan, and the shining Okto Villa was waiting for me, ready to hit the road.
However, hitching up the Okto we found that the lights weren’t working on the caravan. A quick check by a Loftus technician proved the fault to be in the electrical socket of the Sedona’s towbar.
Before I knew it, Woody had arranged to take the vehicle to the Kia dealership just down the road in Northcliff. The service I got at this dealership was so brilliant, I could do a whole story of the experience.
The fault had nothing to do with Kia at all… it was with whomever had fitted the towbar. They had taken a shortcut and jammed the controller under the bumper, instead of doing a proper installation.
After a full day delay, I was finally on my way.
I wasn’t on the road long before I had forgotten about my problems. The Sedona is a marvellous vehicle, and made the journey through the Magaliesberg a true pleasure.
EASTCO HOLIDAY RESORT
If you want to visit Eastco on a weekend you’d better book early, as I was soon to learn.
The resort is situated just off the R763 road, and it’s not hard to see why the area is so popular with visitor, particularly from Gauteng.
Waiting for me in the office was Lindi de la Rey, who is in charge of the bookings.
She immediately said: “Take stand number one… it’s really easy get your caravan under the shade net and it’s right next to the ablution blocks.”
My Okto was barely unhitched under the shade cloth, when the caravans started straming in and filling up the stands. That weekend I was to meet young and old, but the overriding popularity of Eastco is the fact that it is out and out a family-orientated campsite with tons of stuff to do for everyone.
The resort has 39 paved stands under shade cloth, surrounded by neatly-trimmed grass. There are another 8 large open stands for bigger groups.
Two ablution blocks that are kept immaculately clean and tidy at all times, service the stands.
Each stand has an electrical supply point, a braai and a tap. The tap water is from a borehole. I used the water for all my tea and coffee needs without a hassle. But bottled water is available at the shop just across from the campsite.
The shop is run by Amanda Schutte, who shares managing the resort with Lindi.
I heard from one of the other campers about her famous “pap tert” and ordered one right away.
The pap tert is delivered to your caravan. Piping hot and wrapped in tinfoil. I thought this is the most delicious cheesy, fluffy potato bake I’ve ever eaten.
The shop which stocks all the basics, as well as quite a bit of fishing gear and gadgets, including crazily-named baits used by fisherman.
Apart from fishing, activities at Eastco includes putt-putt, a large water slide, trampolines, heated indoor pool and jumping castle.
The resort is also pet friendly. Which brings me to the story of a four-legged guy called Buksie.
The little Yorkie belonged to my camping neighbours, Elizma and Johan Erasmus. Buksie ruled the campsite like the lion he thought he was. But Buksie had also teamed up and befriended a small ginger cat. The two are inseperable, often lying wrapped like two balls of fluff in Buksie’s warm bed that the couple always bring camping.
This magic that can make a dog and cat best friends is the spirit of Eastco – it’s a place where people get together and become more than just someone who camps next to you.
Want proof? Here it is: I have already raved about the super service at Loftus, so it should not surprise you that Woody phoned me every day to ask how thing are going.
One my second day at Eastco, I told him: “Major problem Woody!”
There was a bit of a laugh before I added: “I haven’t managed to eat any of the grub I brought. Since my first here, someone has come knocking on my door asking if I am really camping alone, and then inviting me over for dinner!”
My mission on this trip was to visit two popular campsites in the Magaliesberg area: Eastco and Weaver’s Roost.
What I liked was the fact that although the two resorts could be considered being in competition, manageress Lindi at Eastco told me: “It’s really worthwhile and beautiful resort… if we’re fully booked we often recommend Weaver’s Roost.”
I can only concur, this is a fabulous campsite, but quite different from Eastco Magalies.
It’s situated in a beautiful bushveld valley making up part of the Magaliesberg. From the moment you turn off the R563 through the electrically controlled gate, you are in another world.
The approach road winds down through masses of indigenous bushveld trees. As I was driving, a bushbuck dashed across my path and I saw a hint of his spotted red coat before he disappeared into the surrounding forest cover.
Waiting to meet me at reception was Danie Havenga and his wife Lorraine. Danie and Lorraine are Grey Nomads who look after the resort when the owner Henriette Prinsloo is away.
There are 45 camping sites at Waver’s Roost. Because of the tranquillity and beauty of the surroundings, it’s as if each site had its own private piece of the bush.
Sites have their own braai facility and electrical point. The bathrooms are so spick and span it will have your beloved immediately booking for another stay.
Weavers Roost also has a fully-equipped 5-sleeper camper and a 4-sleeper off-road trailer available for hire. All you need to supply is your own bedding.
The resort also has plenty of things to occupy the whole family. There is an exciting water slide starting in the shadow of those Magalieberg mountain slopes. I took a casual amble up the start of the hiking trail. It was magnificent, the bird life prolific.
The resort has mini golf, a playground with a trampoline, and a games room with pool table, table tennis and DStv.
There is a small kiosk but if you really need to do some shopping, Hekpoort is only 5 kilometers away. Hekpoort has a grocery store, bottle store and hardware store.
There is good reason why the Magaliesberg area is so attractive to visitors: Not only is it close to the city, but it would take months to visit all the wonderful sights that this area offers.
Both resorts I visited are practically on the doorstep of the Cradle of Human Kind, as well as close to the Sterkfontein Caves, the Wonder Caves and Hartebeespoort Dam, restaurants, spas and accommodation options to suit all pockets.
All I can say is that I cannot wait to get back to Magaliesberg to spend some more time and do justice to this incredible piece of paradise.
Often I only get to know about the flesh and bones of the caravan I’m travelling with by reading the spec sheet. In this case, I had the dedicated team at Loftus to take me through the details.
Woody showed me some panels that make up the body of the caravan, saying: “Feel the weight of these… what is unique about the Okto is that these skins are single sheets with no joints on either plane.
“The walls are made from a combination of aluminium, GRP (fibreglass) and polystyrene, all glued together in a vacuum press that creates a single panel.”
But I’m not here to tell you about the technical stuff, you have read about that in previous magazine, or you can find it all on our website (www.caravansa.co.za). Let’s talk about my the nuts and bolts of camping with the Okto.
My first impression of the Okto was the lightness and ease of towing, followed by the ease of set up.
With the four corner steadies cranked down, you just go inside and pop up the roof, open the big hatch outside housing the kitchen unit, and your all set up!
The Oko fits into a standard garage, and I had thought this would give you a somewhat cramped caravan. Wrong!
The living space is large, and it feels that way! In the front, the island bed has proper space around the side. And it comes with a very comfortable mattress.
All my many visitors, especially the ladies, tended to exclaim: “Goodness, but it’s roomy!”
I had one guy who looked as tall as Bakkies Botha, actually he was 6 foot 7 inches in the old measurement, standing in the caravan, with room to spare!
It’s a pleasure to tow and to camp in, and I know this 100% locally-built caravan is going to become a leading brand name in South Africa’s camping industry.
Okto caravans are available at Loftus Caravan City (Randburg, Gauteng) and Cara-Camp Caravan & Outdoor Centre (Somerset West, Western Cape).
KIA GRAND SEDONA SXL
I picked up the spanking brand new Grand Sedona SXL from Kia’s head office in Johannesburg.
The Grand Sedona, the flagship in the MPV range, is a 7-seater vehicle incorporating every luxury one would expect, including keyless entry and start, as well as the ability to open the large sliding side doors and boot with the press of a button.
Opening the sliding side doors you’ll find a huge interior space with really comfortable seating for all the passengers. Directly behind the front seats are two individual seats with a walking space between them. This leads to the 3-seater bench seat at the back. Or if you prefer, you can fold the 2 seats in the second row away, allowing direct access to the bench seat at the back.
There’s loads of legroom and headroom, and packing space for the whole family in the boot. I had flown up from Cape Town and was going to be on the road for more than a month. I had to pay plenty for excess luggage, but I could have fitted another 6 photographers’ gear in the trunk.
The luxurious finish and feel of this car arrives the moment you climb behind the wheel. From the heated steering wheel to the leather seats with contrasting trim, you know you’re in for a grand drive, if you’ll excuse the pun! The front and second row of seats are heated.
The Sedona is fitted with the ultra-reliable 2.2-litre turbo diesel motor, which puts out 140 kW with a hefty 400 Nm of torque.
Coupled with the silky smooth new 8-speed automatic gearbox, the Grand Sedona tows like a dream. It’s a marvellous tow vehicle.
It’s clearly also an excellent family car. Not just because of the space, but also because of the safety aspects. The vehicle comes out with ABS/EBD, six airbags, and of particular concern to parent of young children, the lates Isofix child seat anchor points fitted to all the seats behind the driver and passenger seats.
I have to say I felt like a bit of meneer in what I got to referring to as The Grand. It was darn hard handing it back!
By Richard van Ryneveld