Climbing the Skerpenheuwel To The Breede Otter Campsite -
When you’re a Grey Nomad, you’ll probably answer to Hodophile too, and we’re both. The Honey Badger stood forlorn, dusty and neglected in a barn behind a lock and chain, and she needed a weekend out, even if it's going loco on a road less travelled by us.
My response to the Knight’s invitation to join them for a weekend at the Breede Otter Campsite was immediate. My fingers flew over the keypad. “Yes. We’ll be there for two nights, having a prior luncheon engagement.” I said.
Sue didn’t know that I knew all about their reservation and had been waiting patiently. I'd heard the news on the grapevine.
With a mop, bucket and Mr Muscle, I tackled the grimy Honey Badger. Kalahari dust billowed around me as I swished my feather duster around the small space. Two hours later, we had a freshly made bed, a sparkling bathroom and a fridge stocked with delicious goodies. With fingers crossed, I’m hoping the mound of red sand, leaves and seeds I tossed out the door will be enough to produce a subtropical Zambezi seedling in the garden.
My glueing skills let me down once again. A small trinket bowl, caught up in my enthusiastic dusting, slipped and broke into three pieces. Mortified, I tried using Super Glue to repair it, and all I managed to achieve was sticking it to my fingertips and spoiling my tabletop in the process. I inadvertently wiped the table, not knowing I’d spilt a drop of glue. The combination of glue, dust and grime made an ugly smear. Werner Scheepers, porcelain restorer extraordinaire, said Peanut Butter should do the trick in removing it. Let’s hope.
The pies Butch brought home for lunch were disappointing but sufficed. I could skip the dishes, and we could hit the road early. A mere 25km from our home the short scenic drive took us through vineyards, busy cellars, olive groves, fynbos, game farms, and many weekend getaway spots along the Breede River.
I’ve known Dawie and Ronel, the owner of Breede Otter, for decades. Our children, their three daughters and a son, and mine are similar in age and all attended school together. Highly accomplished, motivated and enthused by any project Ronel tackles, the Van Niekerk’s still knocked me for six when I set eyes on their property. I know no request will go unanswered and the girls will do their utmost to make guests' stay as memorable as possible.
The manicured campsites lie quilted along the embankment of the looping Breede River. Some sites are nestled under shady trees, and ours had a sizeable sprawling lawn with an uninterrupted view of an expanse of sparkling riverfront. The shady willowy tree swayed, keeping us cool and a windbreak at sunset. The “bush camps” are without electricity. Fortunately, our neighbour allowed us to share his connection.
Our mission was to relax, enjoy the views, take an amble around the property, and I hoped to get a good night’s rest. We set up our director’s chairs, snapped on the table cloth, poured ourselves a refreshing drink, and then watched the relaxed slip-slap of water as a paddler floated by on a stand-up board. It was mesmerizing.
We sliced the beautiful freshly baked bread Jana and Ronel baked to accompany our sundowners. Campers may order bread beforehand. Wrapped in brown paper and tied with a fragrant sprig of lavender, it almost looked too pretty to eat. Thick slabs of butter on freshly baked farm bread are hard to beat, and I had to kidnap four slices for breakfast.
Sue and Percy served delicious Masterclass Gourmet Hamburgers and a decadent hot chocolate ball filled with marshmallows and a gooey Bar One sauce for supper. My palate itched! While they did the dishes, we slipped off for an early night wrapped up in our winter down duvet. The first autumn chills were upon us.
After a lazy start on Saturday morning, we explored the farm.
Sue and I couldn’t resist clambering up the koppie behind the campsite. Covered in the most exquisite fynbos, aloes and succulents, we traversed zigzagging ourselves up. The view was spectacular, and we were rewarded with a 360° view of the river, valley, vineyards and mountains surrounding us.
Going down was challenging as we slipslided over shaley gravel, rocks and slate—anchoring our feet against thorny cacti. A few drops of blood and a scrape added to the drama and made our adventure more exciting. The boys were suitably impressed.
Triumphant, we made it!
The orange Sputnik (a submarine-like capsule used for rescue missions) was too much to ignore and had to be explored. Alighting the Sputnick took fancy footwork on my beloved's part. I could imagine the attraction for children.
Neighbours joined us for supper, and Butch outdid himself with Lemony barbequed chicken thighs. Our aubergines roasted in the coals were smokey, silky smooth and smothered in a flavoursome Moroccan Tahini dressing were a hit. It was well past midnight when I finished drying the last dishes. Once again, we failed in solving the world’s problems as we put Putin to bed for another day.
A well-stocked shop sells wood, ice, and basic necessities like toiletries, cleaning agents, veggies (which could be grown on the farm, e.g. Butternut) and bread. The ablutions are spotless, and I had a most enjoyable shower experience. Unfortunately, I must confess, Butch didn’t; he reported spurts of hot and cold water gushing. The amenities are all tastefully decorated, fresh and immaculate.
On Sunday morning, we packed up early. Although I was looking forward to my luncheon date, I regret that we couldn’t spend more time at the Breede Otter. The birding is excellent, and I can even recommend this large well-appointed campsite to bird clubs for an outing; it’s perfect for family gatherings, reunions or a couple of Grey Nomads, who will love it.
Do pack your fishing tackle, binoculars and bird guide. Walking shoes and sticks too. If you're inclined to climb take good hiking boots. If you own a small boat, canoe or paddle boards, take them along. There are slides and jungle gyms for the littlies, a foofy slide into the river for the brave, and sunset cruises on the Breede Otter flatboat can be arranged. The quiet roads are perfect for cycling on a morning. I do recall that certain water sports are prohibited on the river. Check beforehand.
Ronel and Jana, congratulations on a project excellently done. You’re one of the top Top Ten campsites in our Breede River area in my books. I believe you’re fully booked up for Easter and the upcoming long weekends, a pity, but the early bird catches the worm.
Thanks, Sue and Percy, for giving us the nod. It’s been too long, and may this be the restart of the Fab Four camping locally.
CONTACT DETAILS FOR BREEDE OTTER CAMPSITE: