The Karoo pauses a man, and he stands amazed at nature and her beauty. Alex Kock and his family recently rediscovered their souls at Porcupine Rest Camp near Laingsburg.
It’s Friday afternoon, the start of a long weekend… To the adventure lovers, it means that the bakkie is packed and we are taking off on a new adventure! On the agenda for this weekend: Camping in the picturesque Karoo! It’s about 210km on the N1 from Paarl to Laingsburg, where we take the turnoff on the R323. A further 47km away lies Porcupine Rest Camp, where we’ll pitch camp for the weekend. In the middle of nowhere, on a dirt road, as far as the eye can reach, we finally see the sign indicating that Porcupine Rest Camp is on the right
We are heartily welcomed by the owner, Joy. Porcupine Rest Camp is a stop on the R323 where travellers can relax and recharge. Enjoy something to wet your whistle, hearty meals to choose from, and of course, the three bushveld campsites (River Camp, Karee and Sweet Thorn) for staying the night.
After enjoying a drink at the Overlander bar, we drive down to our campsite. The camp is unbelievable – spacious and well sheltered, with the most beautiful thorn trees, neat ablution and kitchen facilities, and irrigation from the borehole (I suggest that you take along fresh drinking water). The camp has no electricity, but a donkey is provided for hot water. The silence, together with the fresh scent of Karoo bush, sets the perfect ambience.
I start the fire immediately, to ensure a lovely hot shower later. We pitch our tent and settle in. I’m glowing because tonight we’re eating like kings: Karoo lamb and roosterkoek, accompanied by good red wine – what can be more appropriate for our surroundings?
The next morning my first priority is to get the kettle on the gas stove for a cup of coffee. The mornings in the Karoo are incredible – serenity beyond description. With the fresh, clean air, and turtledoves cooing in the thorn trees, how can you not be chirpy?
After breakfast, we hop in the bakkie to go and explore our surroundings. Back on the R323, we turn right in the direction of Seweweekspoort. The exceptional Poort extends over 17km, with the most majestic rock formations. At the end of the Poort, we reach the other side of the mountain range, on the R62. Calitzdorp is left, but we take a detour right to Ladismith for the best cheesecake ever. This area is renowned for its high-quality cheese, after all!
On our way back to the camp we visit Zoar, a small communal town, where one of my wildest dreams came true – to ride on a traditional donkey cart. After numerous enquiries in town, I am finally referred to Samuel, the well-known donkey cartman, as he is described by the community members. It made my day! Samuel harnessed his donkeys especially for me and he let us go for a ride. Clearly, Samuel loves his donkeys – they are well cared for and in good shape. It was a moment that I’ll cherish forever.
Back at Porcupine, we drop in at the Overlander bar for an ice-cold beer to add the finishing touch to our day’s adventures. We have a little chat with Joy and enjoy a game of snooker before we head back to our camp, where I instantly start the fire and donkey, because tonight we’re having potjiekos. With the potjie simmering, a glass of red wine to drink and a Karoo sunset, we once again realise how blessed we are with a fantastic evening and a sky set alight with thousands of shining stars. The donkey is at work, and a hot shower under the trees, in the open air, is our reward for a day well spent. After a good night’s sleep, we listen to the kettle whistling again for a cup of fresh coffee to kickstart the day. We prepare a light breakfast and hit the road again. Today we’re doing the Swartberg Pass.
On our way back through Seweweekspoort (still impressive after the third time!), we stop often to take pictures. The Karoo offers the keen photographer many photo opportunities – from windmills and ruins, to landscapes…let alone the breath-taking stars! For our last evening, I serve a lovely chicken pie with sweet potato chips. There’s nothing better than relaxing around the campfire under the thorn trees, filled with nostalgia about the prospect of packing up and heading back home the next day
But not without the perfect memories of a wonderful, blessed weekend. The group shares the sentiment: If you’re looking for serenity, away from the hustle and bustle, Porcupine is just the place, with the added bonus of being central enough to explore.
To me, the Karoo is perfectly portrayed by the lyrics from a song performed by the well-known Afrikaans singers Juanita du Plessis and Theuns Jordaan who sings (loosely translated): “Do you know the road to a place that leaves a mark in your soul? Do you know the meaning of togetherness on the tracks in die dry Karoo?”
Rikus from Lekker Kampplekke share some of the top products to ensure a convenient camping experience, everytime:
- SnoMaster fridge
- National Luna battery system
- Front Runner roofrack with accessories
- Campmor tent
For more information on camping sites near you, visit the Lekker Kampplekke website: