If I think about wide-open spaces, two places come to mind: Namibia and the Karoo and this time the Karoo was the closest
Sometimes one gets that indescribable longing for quietness and open spaces. Karoo quietness and openness. And the only way to solve this craving is to go camping in the Karoo (or in Namibia).
When looking for a suitable spot on Google, all indicators pointed me towards Gatsrivier. I didn’t know the place and I didn’t know where it was. A quick look on Google Earth and I was sold, this is where I needed to go. I send an email to reserve my spot and receive a prompt and friendly confirmation along with directions. Everything is confirmed, it is time to pack and go.
From Cape Town you have two options; either via Touwsrivier or via Ceres. On the way there I travelled via Touwsrivier. You follow the N1 up until Touwsrivier and then turn off on the Pienaarskloof road, it is a good gravel road that takes you directly to Gatsrivier, not a very well known road but beautiful and a pleasure to travel on. On this road you keep left where the board says Pienaarspoort. 15,6km further is another left at the T-junction and a 3,8km further is the board that indicates Gatsrivier. By this time you know you are in the Karoo because the beauty simply surrounds you.
On the way home I travelled via Ceres, just to see the difference. From Cape Town you travel to Ceres, and then follow the Calvinia/Sutherland road, it is the R46 that becomes the R355. You then travel through the Karoopoort and then follow the R356 to Sutherland. After 7km you turn right on the Patatrivier/Matjiesfontein road, and after approximately 36km you turn left to Gatsrivier. Die farm is 27km from this point, the road taking you past Bakensrivier. I must be honest in saying that I prefer the Touwsrivier route, simply because it is more beautiful up to the N1.
Gatsrivier is pure Ceres-Karoo, with wide-open spaces and quietness and stars, just what the soul needed. The air is completely free of pollution and the galaxy is just waiting to be appreciated. You must not, like I was, be fooled by the name Gatsrivier, because the camping facilities are actually situated along the Ongeluks river from where I was lucky to be able to harvest a bit of water following recent rains. The camping spots are spread out in such a manner that you do not even know about your neighbours, giving the feeling that you have the whole place to yourself. Karee and Acacia trees provide glorious respite from the heat. The ablution facilities are great with warm water and flushing toilets, just like my wife likes them. Oom Hennie the owner, and a very interesting character, was kind enough to leave a pile of firewood at every campsite.
All campsites are very private with private ablutions, which are equipped with gas geysers. Every campsite has its own water tap.
Don’t expect cellphone signal because there is none. Something that we do not see any more was the honesty bar, drink as much as you like and leave your money in the bottle. It was great to see and because I appreciated the novelty so much I felt that I needed to leave more in the bottle than what was necessary. Near the lapa there is also a small splash pool, which is perfect respite against the intense heat. It is not a proper swimming pool, but it does the job.
Walking and driving routes are in abundance so if you are active, hit the trail and go exploring. The 4×4 routes are challenging and if you would like to see game, head towards the Bakens river, just outside the gate. The Zebras and Black Wildebeest are tame enough that they pose for photographers.
Gatsrivier is the perfect solution if you are looking for some quiet time. It waits patiently for your visit and welcomes you with traditional Karoo hospitality; they will most certainly be seeing me again soon.
Location: 65km from Touwsrivier
Accommodation: Camping and Self-catering
Pricing: From R250 per night for a campsite that can accommodate one car and a maximum of six people
Contact: 082 8759016
Email: [email protected]
Text and Images: Pierre Labuschagne
Lekker kampplekke is an online magazine and website specialising in South African campsite reviews