Moordenaars Karoo

1 – 5 March 2023

Walter & Val, Steve & Debbie and Rob met us in Laingsburg before traveling into the Karoo to our campsite at Middelstevlei, stopping in and meeting the farmer’s wife en route who gave us a hamper of delicious homemade rooste brood, apricot jam and rusks to enjoy at camp. The remainder of the day was set aside to setting up camp, enjoying the hamper and admiring the 80m high sandstone cliff face that we were camping under.

The next morning we woke up to the special sight of 2 black eagles flying the thermals along the cliff face before we set off to explore the farm.

Photo contributed by Steve Newbould

We drove down the riverbed admiring the full extent of the cliff and then upriver picking our way through the rocks to a spot where a deep pool has been created by the river. Some bubbles, a small head sticking up every now and then (a terrapin?) suggested life in the pool. Walking in off the sandy bank proved slippery due to the mud so Rob and Val made it around to the rock steps to go in from, which proved to be a good entry as the water was very deep there. We thought Rob was teasing Val when he swam vigorously to the side and climbed out saying he had just been bitten and to our amazement, blood was running down his leg with a round bitemark about 10cm across. Shortly before being bitten, he said he did stand on something slippery. So much for safe swimming in the Murderer’s Karoo!

Photo contributed by Walter Mohr  

We then explored more of the farm and ended up being able to drive down to a very nice spot in one of the tributaries off the Buffels River for a break before making our way back to camp.

That afternoon, the farmer and wife stopped in at camp for a chat and were amazed to here that Rob had been bitten. The farmer told us that barbel do come upriver from the Floriskraal Dam in times of flood and that would be the most likely culprit.

A short while later, Ken & Shona arrived and joined us. We spent 2 nights camping at Middelstevlei and the one thing that stands out was the complete protection from any wind, making for very pleasant evenings around a fire where the smoke had no choice but to go straight up!

The next morning, we packed up and left Middelstevlei for Buffelsrivier Riverside Camping. Middelstevlei is a worthy destination and we will be going back as they have a 10km 4×4 route that the farmer was quite disappointed that we had not had chance to do.

En route to Buffelsrivier, Shona was able to get cell reception and concluded from the bitemark that Rob had had an encounter with a Sharp Toothed Catfish (barbel).

Arriving at Buffelsrivier made for some headscratching as the newly developed campsite was more spread out than anticipated but with Izak’s help (farmer), we all settled in with long extension leads to each camp. The campsite is only 2 months old and still under development so everyone gave him latitude for the currently single loo that requires one to leave one’s knees outside when closing the door!

During the afternoon, Peter & Ina as well as Geoff & Mary-Anne joined the group.

The next day we made our way upriver to explore the farm. Buffelsrivier has become quite popular and there were people bush camping upriver and at the Klipstoor. We stopped to chat with the people at the Klipstoor and they showed us a small pool in the river with a few large barbel hiding under a overhang. They clearly did not appreciate us being there if the thrashing water and low frequency growling sounds were anything to go by!

From there, we followed the quadbike track further up river and after climbing a sand bank that became more and more dug up as more vehicles climbed it, making for a stiff climb, found we were at the quadbike bush camp and had to turn back. We then made a shortcut back into the Buffels River to join up with the 4×4 trail that goes up one of the tributaries. One thing that was unexpected and stands out is how the rivers have exposed the various rock layers, folding and faults in the area making for scenic driving.

A short lunch break further upriver saw us turn out of the riverbed and make our way back to camp through the hills.

Due to the possibility of rain, there were some concerns over braaiing but it was a beautiful evening with the weather holding off until we all retired at 10PM and as if on que, the rain and thunder arrived.

Unfortunately, Steve was unable to join us around the fire as he was furiously working on the next great pandemic back in the rooftop tent. Fortunately, he’s now successfully beating off his demons and feeling much better, though Deb’s is now down with the dreaded lurgy!

The next morning was promising rain so everyone said their goodbyes and set off for home. On the way home, we ran into torrential rain and lightning going down the Hex River Pass and were glad that we did not stay an extra day with that kind of weather around.

All in all, it was a great few days away in great company and we’ll be going back to both places in the future.

Trip report contributed by Andy McMahon.