Words Bongani Mgayi, pics Riaan Vermeulen.
This school holiday my family and I disappeared into the Little Karoo, far away from the lights of the city, submitting ourselves to the mountains, veld and wild things of Anysberg Nature Reserve. We arrived at twilight, the old symbol of the Karoo, the windmill, ushering us in as we swung open the main gate into the reserve. A curious jackal and a herd of kudu joined the welcome party, immediately lifting the spirits of my kids after the four-hour drive from Cape Town.
There is much to do for adults and children alike, but don’t bother to keep a to-do-list as the Karoo has a way of slowing down your pace. A few hours there and you will find yourself easily ambling from one thing to the other. For a few days we had the whole reserve to ourselves, lots of veld to cross and lots of koppies to climb.
Mid-morning we left for Land se Kloof with intentions to get an elevated view of the reserve and to see the waterfall. We began this trip in the back of a 4x4 bakkie, driven by the reserve’s field rangers, Nkosinathi Moyo and Ishmael Wambi. The kids enjoyed the bumpy ride, which made them imagine how previous generations travelled on ox wagon through the valleys of the Karoo. Along this route we saw some proteas and watched the vegetation switch from Karoo veld to mountain fynbos.
We were secretly hoping to come across the coy Cape leopard. Though our field rangers mentioned they had only spotted a leopard through the reserve’s bush cameras, our eyes were committed to spotting one. But this was not to be the day.
Nkosinathi did have another prize for us, however. The bakkie took us as far as it could into the gorge and from there we jumped off to see some rock paintings. Once the kids got over the excitement of a dassie fleeing up the rocks, it was time to inspect these rare paintings. Looking at the rock art made the experience real for the kids, that people actually walked and lived here.
From there we traced the route of the stream flowing down the gorge. The kids were determined to find the source of the water they drank in our cottage. Three-year-old Lungi, kneeling over the water bank to slurp water from his tiny hands, was priceless. Right there he was inducted into the bush.
Back at the camp we got ready for a bit of horse riding. There were mixed feelings of excitement, nervousness and the appeal of commanding a horse. Bejan and Zoe patiently tolerated the kids getting on and off, exchanging places on their backs. Our next venture was to see the dam and go kayaking. We picked up mountain bikes at the reserve office and pedalled our way down the rocky road, including a bit of bundu bashing through some thickets. From the dam we had a panoramic view of the reserve, which allowed us to retrace where we’d been.
What were the kids’ favourite things at Anysberg? For Cumi (6) it was the horse riding, long walks, bakkie ride and drinking from the river. Unathi (8) said the horse riding, mountain biking and soft beds. Ntando (10) liked the horse riding and mountain biking, while for Lihle (12) it was the horse riding, river, mountains, walks and the cottage we stayed in.
One of my favourite things was that there was no cellphone reception. Though this was a shock to my system at first, days without being able to make or receive phone calls proved to be just what I needed to clear the mind and rejuvenate the body. In his inaugural address, President Lyndon Baines Johnson said this about America: “It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge.” He could have been describing Anysberg.
Leaving this place we felt there was still plenty to be seen and done. We were sent off by two red hartebeest, browsing a stone’s throw away from our cottage. Ntando spotted them as we were getting into the vehicle. Now and again they lifted up their heads to look at us, almost to say, “This is what you could see if you stayed longer.” But our time was over.
We decided to take the road towards Montagu and the R62 as our route leaving the reserve. The deserted dirt road, meandering up and down the pass, made us feel like we were runaways, heading for the bright lights through the back streets.
Anysberg Nature Reserve lies in the Klein Karoo between Montagu, Touwsrivier, Ladismith and Laingsburg, and is about four hours’ drive from Cape Town. Remember to fill up with petrol in one of these towns as the reserve is “in the middle of nowhere”.
Accommodation includes camping and caravan sites on the lawn near the office at Vrede (R200 a night for one to six people) and five small, fully equipped cottages (from R840 a night for one to four people). Four rustic units sleeping two are available at Tapfontein (R800 a night for one to four people).
Activities: Kayaks and mountain bikes can be hired from the camp office at a nominal fee. Horse lovers can choose between a two-hour outride or the two-day Planet Trek horse trail (minimum four people).
Contact: Cape Nature 021 483 0190 www.capenature.co.za
1. You don’t have to be an expert rider to venture out on horseback.
2. Anysberg field rangers Ishmail Wambi and Nkosinathi Moyo.
3.Drinking from a clear mountain stream is a pleasure not to be missed.
4.You can hire a kayak for a paddle on the dam.
Source: Wild Magazine