This year we skipped the long Easter weekend due to miserable weather and a higher than usual workload and decided to hit the road the following weekend instead. A bonus of course being that we left behind the masses of people simultaneously leaving town.
The Tankwa Karoo National Park, about 300 km’s travelling distance from Cape Town sounded very appealing to us, so we booked one of the 6 camping spots and left the city early Friday morning.
For about 1.5 hours we drove through green valleys and lush winelands of Paarl, Worcester and Ceres and up a couple of breathtaking passes when all of a sudden the landscape changed its face. As we turned onto the R 355 – a dusty gravelroad – we left behind the green farmlands and entered a dry and thirsty scenery with an endless vacant horizon. The loneliness of the Karoo was our companion for the next three hours. And just when we realized, that all our cool drinks were stored somewhere deep down in the back of our car while we thirstily longed for an ice cold can of Coke, a little red something appeared on the horizon and developed into a cute little farmstall, the Tankwa Padstal – we were really thankful it was not a mirage. The extremely friendly owners supplied us with cold beverages, some delicious homemade caramel fudge and gave us the perfect turn-by-turn directions to our destination. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to stay for lunch although we would have loved to experience their vegetarian offerings.
From the Padstal it’s only around 80 km’s to the Tankwa Karoo National Park. We booked “Oom Rickert se Huis” (Uncle Rickert’s House )Camping Spot, which lays about 20 minute drive from the main office. You don’t necessarily need a 4×4 to get there, but a car with high ground clearance is advisable, especially in the rainy season when you have to pass river beds. Uncle Rickert’s house has definitely seen better days as the only remains to be seen were the ruins of a clay house, situated next to a ephemeral river and a water milling wind pump in the distance.
We pitched our tent and made ourselves comfortable, listening to the calls of nature. And there are many of them. The shouts of baboon or the cry of black-backed jackal in the distance sent shivers down our spines.There are no dangerous animals (you may of course encounter baboons, scorpions or snakes), so you can walk around freely and wherever you want. Nearly 143.600 ha of nature want to be discovered.
The Tankwa Karoo National Park caters for all tastes; you can book cottages, campsites with kitchen and ablutions or just plain spots in the middle of nowhere.
One of the most beautiful things to experience is the night sky. The Karoo is one of the few spots on our planet where you can see the most stars. As soon as the sun goes down one star after another comes out, creating a firework of light in the sky, an overwhelming feeling builds up inside and you begin to realize how small we actually are.
These two days passed so quickly … the remoteness of this area just lets you totally forget about the buzz back in the city and it feels so good to just lose the track of time and immerse yourself into Mother Nature. It could have lasted just a little longer … we will be back – that’s for sure!!