Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Lekker, boys!

HENRY JONKER and his two sons, LIAN and JEAN, are never satisfied with doing the ‘mainstream’ thing. Adventure is in this trio’s blood, and they are always searching for places off the beaten track. Recently, they discovered yet another gem – this time in the Karoo.

Some people might raise their eyebrows ever so slightly and even drop the cup full of ‘I’m oh so holy’ from their hands when I say that the everyday – or rather tourist things – never appealed to me. I honestly have no desire to explore that old tower in Paris, Italy’s Instagram-worthy coastal towns, the resorts in Mauritius or – closer to home – the busy beaches of Hartenbos and Stilbaai…

Nope. I much rather keep my ear to the ground for places that are remote and not easily accessible to the average tourist. The moment we get the annual calendar from school, I start studying the potentially available weekends, long weekends and school holidays… and then it’s a simple formula of affordability and, of course, availability before the lads and I start the countdown to our adventures. After all, Walt Disney once said: “The best way to start is to stop talking and start doing!” So, we do – with enthusiasm!

Our country has many (and yes, very unique) problems. And yes, everything does not always work as it should – but believe me it is not always greener on the other side. With a little effort and planning, you can discover many gems in our beautiful country and the boys and I were privileged to recently discover exactly such a place – Matroosbergstasie’s Transkaroo campsite, approximately 30km from De Doorns on the R318 (also known as the Koo road).

On our first visit to the area about a year ago, I was surprised how many houses and buildings there were, and I could only imagine how busy this station was when the old railway still existed. Some of the cottages have now been restored for weekend accommodation and the old bar and a mini cinema are also sometimes available for special occasions.

The owners of Matroosbergstasie, Estian and Elzaan, invited us to try out their brand-new bush camp, Transkaroo, and provide some insight into how and what they can change. After a great welcome upon arrival, Estian took us to the site. As we descended into the valley, I heard the boys gasp for their breath: “Geez, dad – there’s a waterfall too!”

The waterfall doesn’t flow all year round, but our timing was absolutely perfect. On one side you have this stunning waterfall and swimming hole and then, probably less than 100m away, are two poplar trees where the camp is located. The area under the trees is open and wide enough to fit three to five families, depending on the sizes of their cars, tents, caravans or trailers. A covered kitchen with all the basic necessities (gas stove and fridge) makes things very convenient if you don’t feel like packing everything. The highlight for the boys was, without a doubt, the hot tub (very innovative in a small, corrugated iron pond).

Late in the afternoon, when the mist cleared up a little, the boys were eager to take Mila (yep, the place is pet-friendly – so your four-legged family members can tag along for the adventure) for a walk to explore the waterfall. I had to keep them from swimming with all my might, because there is no way that a soaking wet dog was going to sleep in the tent with us! In addition, it was bitterly cold! Not that the cold ever seems to have an impact on the boys’ adventurous spirit – there’s nothing a nice big campfire and a few chops on the coals can’t fix, after all! Add to that an intense Rummikub tournament that makes for some heated debate and the cold is soon forgotten. (PS: for all those tannies who are probably jumping up and down because I let the wet dog sleep outside in the cold… calm down and take a sip or two of that rooibos tea – a semi-dry Mila comfortably cuddled between the three of us!)

We woke up to a fairly clear day the following morning and decided to explore one of the dams on the farm and, en route, take the time explore to the old train track more closely. After a quick lunch, the boys started stoking the hot tub with wood. I soon realised that their patience was not going to last and that I had to implement a short-term plan… So, I made the statement that they are not brave enough to take a dip in the cold swimming hole at the waterfall. I wanted to confirm my statement with previous stories about them chickening out, but while I was still talking, I saw the dust as the boys headed to the waterfall. Mila obviously thought she was in heaven and for her the weekend was a combination of exploring, zoomies, sleeping, swimming, eating… and repeat!

The rest of the afternoon we enjoyed the hot tub and spent the time bonding. While we like to invite friends along on our adventures, it does mean that we then do not spend as much one-on-one time as the boys play with their friends while the adults mind their own business. These camping trips with just the boys and I force us to really connect in a meaningful way and deepen our relationship.

It is also on weekends like this that the boys are in charge of the food pots. So, Jean started a chicken potjie on the gas stove and Lian got things ready for the second Rummikub tournament of the weekend. It was in the midst of the conviviality that Estian and Elzaan came to surprise us with a freshly baked bread. They were barely gone when the butter came out and, armed with a thick slice of farm bread and thick butter, we continued playing and hanging out.

On Monday we hit the road early in the morning as we had to get home for Lian’s birthday party. On the way, I could not help to remind the boys how grateful we should be to call this beautiful country – filled with places like Matroosberg’s Transkaroo waiting to be explored – home. A massive thank you to Estian and Elzaan for the invitation – what a privilege to be among the first guests to visit your new place.

I cannot conclude this piece without a special word of thanks to my two sons. These guys are always up for anything, and there is never a whine or complaint to be heard – only exuberant gratitude and enthusiasm. This time was no different. Before we left, Elzaan called me and mentioned that there was a thunderstorm and light rain and that we might want to postpone the visit. Since weather conditions are only one of the aspects of a getaway, we have never changed our weekend plans because of it.

However, as I put down the phone, I realised that I might have to ask the boys if they would like to camp in inclement weather. When I discussed this with them, there was confusion on their faces. “I don’t understand the question, dad… is it a problem because it’s raining?” asked Lian. To which Jean chimed in: “It’s never stopped us – why would it now?” And that’s why I always say you can learn so much from your children and their outlook on life. Adults will be tempted to change plans and move things out at the first sign of adversity, but a child’s view is so simple. Thank you for letting us learn from you.

Follow the Jonker trio’s adventures on www.jonkeradventures.com or on social media: @jonkeradventures

More about MATROOSBERGSTASIE

Matroosbergstasie is a lovely piece of heaven in the countryside, just 27km from De Doorns. It is an old train station which is now part of a sheep and cattle farm. The farm is completely independent of the local power and water grids and aims to exist in an environmentally friendly way with nature.

Accommodation on the farm is offered in four lovely self-catering cottages with comfortable beds or the new Transkaroo campsite. Each cottage has a bathroom with a shower, a well-equipped kitchen, a cozy lounge area and a veranda with beautiful views. Most of the cottages boast two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen and living area with a built-in braai and a heated swimming pool. All linen, and bath and swimming towels are provided.

The farm also boasts a communal swimming pool and lapa with hammocks where guests can relax. In addition, there is also an outdoor shooting range of 1.3km where anything from air rifles to .50 calibers is welcome.

De Doorns lies on the main route between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and is a town full of cultural heritage. Activities in the area include wine tasting, hiking, cycling, 4×4 trails and bird watching.

CONTACT: karoostasiehuisies@gmail.com

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