The Karoo is a harsh place but it’s beautiful. Porcupine Rest is the perfect camping spot from which to explore this region.
It’s Friday afternoon and we’re in the bakkie en route to a camping trip, we’ll be spending the long weekend in the beautiful Klein Karoo. From Paarl it’s approximately 210km on the N1 to Laingsburg, where we take the R323 turnoff, 47km down this quiet gravel road is Porcupine Rest Camp.
Porcupine Rest Camp is the perfect stopover for travelers on the R323. They offer something to quench your thirst, delicious meals, and three bushveld camping spots, River Camp, Karee, and Sweet Thorn.
The friendly owner, Joy Nel who together with her adventure and culture guide partner Francois Roverch runs the place, greets us. Joy spent many years traveling southern Africa’s wilderness and fell in love with the African bush. After years of talking about opening a camp, she finally decided that she’d done enough talking, it was time to put 20 years of planning into action. She left the hustle and bustle of city life to follow her dream: establish a spot for campers where you don’t need to share overcrowded ablutions or a run-of-the-mill patch of lawn; a place where people could enjoy nature and all that it offers.
At Porcupine Rest Camp, when you book a site, it is yours exclusively, no sharing with strangers. You’ll have the peace and privacy city life often denies you, it’s a place to spend quality time with friends and family.
In keeping with Porcupine’s ideal of treading lightly through nature, the campsites are designed to blend in with their natural setting, using mainly local materials and on-site resources. Deadwood and invasive flora are used to stoke the hot-water donkey boilers, while humble paraffin lanterns provide subtle lighting.
Joy believes in giving back, most of the items available to buy at The Overlander Pub and camper’s lounge – meat, ice, bread, homemade goodies, curios, plants – are locally sourced, and support local small businesses in the Vleiland and Karoo community.
After a quick drink at The Overlander Pub, we make our way down to the incredible campsite. The large space is well covered with beautiful thorn trees. There’s no electricity, a decent ablution facility, and a dishwashing area with water from the borehole, and the aforementioned donkey boiler ensures warm water. The uninterrupted silence with the fresh smell of Karoobossie is an idyllic setting.
“Mornings in the Karoo are incredible…”
The first priority is making a fire to ensure there’s a warm shower later. We pitch our tent and set up camp. The fire burns high, tonight we will naturally be braaing Karoo lamb and roosterkoek paired with a good bottle of red wine, which perfectly compliments the setting.
Mornings in the Karoo are incredible, with an indescribable silence. Waiting for the water for coffee to boil on the gas stove, in the fresh air, with a dove cooing overhead in the trees, it’s impossible to wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
After breakfast, it’s time to go exploring; we head out on the R323 in the direction of Seweweekspoort. This 17km road nestled between the mountains is an incredible drive with the most beautiful rock formations around every corner. On the other side of the mountain range we reach the R62, to the left is Calitzdorp, we turn right towards Ladismith for the best cheesecake, as this is a cheese-making region.
On the way back to Porcupine Rest Camp we stop at the small town of Zoar, this is no ordinary stop, I’m here in pursuit of a dream; to ride in a traditional donkey car. After a couple of conversations in town, I’m referred to Samuel, or the Donkey Car Man, as he is known in the community. My day is made with Samuel rigging up his donkeys exclusively for the occasion. His donkeys are in good condition and well looked after, they clearly mean the world to him, and this is a moment I will cherish for a long time.
On the menu for our second night is potjie. We pour a glass of wine and enjoy a beautiful Karoo sunset, while our ingredients simmer over the fire. The weather is perfect, as night falls we are in awe of the millions of glittering stars.
If you are looking for peace and quiet, and a break from your four walls, Porcupine Rest Camp is the perfect destination. Its central location is also perfect for exploring the surrounding area and towns.
PORCUPINE REST CAMP
Hot water: Yes
Swimming: Yes, when river is flowing
Pet friendly: No
Nearest town: Laingsburg
I WANT TO GO, TOO
Name: Porcupine Rest Camp
Pricing: From R160 per night per person older than 8
Contact: 072 448 2106 or [email protected]
Text and photographs: Alex Kock