CAMP IN THE CATHEDRAL OF THE MOUNTAINS
By Romi Boom
The sound of splashing interrupts the dusk silence. A buffalo, perhaps a kudu bull, come down to the water to drink. I am in a dense sweet thorn thicket and, because it will be full moon in two nights’ time, the long white thorns shimmer in the moonlight. Even more memorable is that I’m overnighting in Camdeboo for the very first time.
Nqweba campsite has 15 caravan and tent sites set on gravel, each with a power point and braai unit, plus use of a communal kitchen. Lakeview tented camp has four tented units, which have two single beds, camp chairs, table, braai unit and fridge. Every tent has its own locker in the well-equipped communal kitchen, as well as a cast-iron pot if you fancy making potjiekos. My favourite is tent number two, which has a view over the dam though reeds are obscuring the view somewhat.
Peter Burdett, park manager since 1990, explains that rising and falling dam levels cause the floodplain to encroach on the shore, to the extent that papyrus reeds reach up to the Khwalimanzi Hide from time to time. Once the soil dries out, a tractor is sent in to cut the reeds, which pose a fire hazard. With the view now obscured, it is astonishing to imagine that the hide, which was initially constructed for game-viewing purposes, overlooked as many as a hundred eland at a time.
The park has ample game and the veld was in an excellent condition after nine consecutive days of rain, most unusual for the Karoo. Although I did not see buffalo, I ticked off almost everything else on the park’s animal sightings list, including mountain reedbuck, leopard tortoise, small grey mongoose and substantial herds of Cape mountain zebra. At the Valley of Desolation I spotted a pair of Verreaux’s eagles riding the thermals overhead.
Although there is good game-viewing on the gravel road to Winterhoek especially, I found both 4x4 trails in the park absolutely worthwhile. The Koedoeskloof 4x4 Trail, situated in the western side, turns into a stony track with some steep inclines, but rewards with awe-inspiring vistas over the Sneeuberge and the great Karoo plains.
The Driekoppe 2x4 or 4x4 route, in the eastern section of the park, is accessed from the Kroonvale gate, for which you get a key from reception. It passes the lush green basin of Kwaggakom to the turnaround point at Driekoppe, where there are facilities for a picnic or braai. The Driekoppe overnight hiking trail enables you to explore the park on foot. There are three route options of 5 km, 11 km and 14 km.
Burdett says his favourite part of the park is the vleiland (wetlands) around the campsite, because it is so rich in birdlife. “But the best place to sit and read the papers on a Sunday morning is at the toposcope,” he confides. “Just below the clifftop, on the left hand side, is a Verreaux’s eagle nest. There is another nest near the viewpoint, and you sometimes see crowned eagles.”
Ngweba campsite base rate R175 a night for two people. R58 for an additional adult and R29 a child, up to six. Lakeview tent R500 a night, sleeps two.
Central reservations +27 12 428 9111