Matjieskloof extended long weekend

20 – 24 March 2021

We ended up with 11 vehicles partaking in this Tankwa Karoo excursion, with an incredible selection of vehicle types on display for the journey ahead. Most people left Cape Town on the Friday, to overnight in or near the meeting spot, Travellers Rest, just behind Clanwilliam, at 10h00 on the Saturday. Some of us departed Cape Town and surrounds early Saturday morning to make sure of reaching the designated meeting venue on time. Nobody was late and we all deflated tyres to roughly 1.5 bar to cope with the rough terrain over the next few days.

The weather was superb and after not too long in the saddle, we stopped at Uitspankraal in the Biedouw River Valley for coffee and biscuits. What a great little pitstop this is! We then crossed a very shallow Doring River and proceeded along some very remote dusty roads until about 20km or so from Calvinia, and then changed into a southerly direction for our first nights’ camp. We travelled more remote roads until about 14h00 when we stopped for a lunch break and some rudimentary repairs to Laurence’s tow bar. Thankfully with teamwork contributions, a solution was implemented and off we went again.

We were now driving generally at an altitude of around 1200m asl and late afternoon stopped for another welcome break at a partly demolished farmhouse with a few 1950’s rusty cars lying in the veld. One had visions in the imagination, of a previous era with a classic beautiful house and cars, with incredible views over the hinterland. What must have happened here is a mystery and quite sad.

On leaving here, we were all looking forward to the Matjieskloof campsite, which was only a short distance away, with us arriving at about 16h30. We all found ourselves a place under the trees to set up camp and connect to the various electrical points. Here we met Jurie and Sanette who had made their own way here the previous day from Hermanus. What an immaculate campsite in the middle of nowhere. We had hotwater ablutions, fantastic boma and kitchen facility with a unique stretch tented boma complete with leather lounge couches and chairs. Everyone gathered around the nice communal fire for supper and the normal idle fireside banter. What a great eventful day it was.

On the Sunday, everybody did their own thing in camp which consisted of walking, photography, dipping in the small circular pool, reading, cycling and generally just taking in the Karoo air and landscape. Andy took out a few vehicles on the morning trail which descended very steeply to the river in a somewhat canyon setting, with the climb back up. (Note from editor:  Richard didn’t do the morning drive but it was a spectacular descent to the river with some steep down and up inclines and fantastic views! Those that didn’t drive it missed out big time!) In the afternoon, Andy led us to a very scenic spot which overlooked the morning trail down into the surrounding canyons. The rock formations, plants and fresh air, with distant baboon calls, made this a very worthwhile excursion. We enjoyed this wonderful camp for the second night, taking in the vista of starlight and night sounds in this remote part. Souls all duly recharged and ready to depart the next morning.

Monday morning we hit the road by 10h00 and after more Karoo exploring started a descent down the Gannaga Pass. Once again we were treated to spectacular views and by the time we reached the bottom, the temperature had ramped up to about 35 deg C. We were driving through the Tankwa Karoo National Park at one stage with signs visible to the various camps within its boundaries. We drove on through this mostly flat sandy and rocky desert area with the odd remains of previous farms adding to the harsh and stark environment for which this area is known. We stopped at a weir to the north of Die Mond with accompanying smooth brown rock formations and had a quick late lunch out of the vehicles. From here we headed to our next campsite, Die Mond.

We had full reign of the campsite and all set up alongside the water and under the trees. There was no wind and thus incredibly hot so most of us at some point were in the water swimming after having pitched tents and things. That evening we wheeled three barrow braai’s to a communal piece of grass under the stars, and had a great time braaing and drinking various refreshments while dressed in shorts and tee shirts.

The next day was another top drawer weather day with most people having countless swims and generally hanging around in their costumes all day – perfect! People wandered around making friends with the local goats or wandering and chatting in small groups learning navigational/maintenance/car performance tips etc from one another. Most rewarding and a lot of fun. The following sunset was spectacular which was a fitting end to the cocktail hour alongside the water. The wind blasted through later for an hour or so to test our equipment setup, but thankfully was short lived.

Wednesday dawned which was hometime for most of us. A few lucky souls were going back to the National Park for another few days. We agreed to head for the Tankwa Padstal for a coffee but sadly arrived there to find it closed on Wednesdays. On we moved down the R355 towards Ceres and stopped again to reinflate tyres when we reached tar again. This was a time for last goodbyes until the next one.

Trip report kindly contributed by Richard Jackson (after some persuading from admin J ! ). Thanks Richard!