“As I start unwinding from the drive and week, I get a fuzzy, contented feeling and begin to wonder what stories might have been shared around this fire place. There is something about a fire that draws me in. I call it my bush TV.”
It’s Friday afternoon and my 2pm meeting has been cancelled. After a busy week of work, traffic and touring the Mother City, I am ready to hit the road in search of somewhere to wind down. I cannot think of anywhere to go on such short notice so I ask my sister, who regularly escapes with her husband on short breaks from Cape Town. ‘BEAVERLAC!’ she says without hesitation. I do a quick Google search and discover it is a mere two hour drive from Cape Town. Perfect.
After a quick phone call, I secure a chalet for two of us for the weekend. I am not prepared to camp at such short notice so at R250 a night, it is exactly what I am looking for (and an absolute steal!). Within minutes, my little hatchback Yaris is loaded with food, bedding, towels, art supplies , books, hiking shoes, sunblock, medicine (just in case), hats, two pairs of shorts, comfortable T’s, plenty of bikinis and my yoga mat. Within an hour of calling, we set off before the usual Friday traffic begins.
We take a break at the last ‘pitstop’ , Porterville, to fill up and buy some drinks. We turn onto a bumpy dust road that later leads onto an extremely narrow tar pass. Be warned, narrow is an understatement! Driving slowly and holding our breath, we finally make it to a sign stating, “Beaverlac: enter at your own risk.” For the first time, I take in the view. It feels like we are in some enchanted forest from a childhood story book. The vegetation is green and lush and the rocks are stacked like totems, carefully placed and balanced by nature. Is this what the Cederberg is all about? Where have I been for the last 29 years of my life? I am completely mesmerized. The view alone makes the drive and narrow pass worthwhile.
We slowly make our way down the winding, dusty path before night falls. At the gate, we are greeted by a friendly, elderly Afrikaans man that kindly asks us to show our permit, which was the result of a quick online questionnaire. He asks for our payment in cash. Oh no, this is something I have completely forgotten about! My cellphone is not picking up signal and there are no card facilities. I am certainly not going back up that pass in the dark to draw money. Luckily, we reach a comfortable agreement and are handed the keys. We are finally here (within 2 hours – spot on, Google)!
As we enter the camp site, we are welcomed by the aroma of fire wood, braai vleis, orange blossom and the sounds of fellow campers laughing and birds chirping. At this point, all I can think of is my lovely bottle of wine in the car! Our “Butcher bird” chalet is so quaint and has all the essentials – a double bed fitted with fresh sheets, an indoor shower, a sink outside, a fridge, a kettle, a two burner stove, pots and pans, cutlery and a bottle opener (exactly what I need for my wine). There are several ablution blocks on site just a stone’s throw away. They have clean facilities with baths, showers, toilets and a washing area for those camping. All you need to bring are a plug and toilet paper.
We unpack and make our way to the mini braai area just outside the chalet that has very clearly been used before. I can see traces of old charcoal and burnt wood. As I start unwinding from the drive and week, I get a fuzzy, contented feeling and begin to wonder what stories might have been shared around this fire place. There is something about a fire that draws me in. I call it my bush TV. Not only is it a source of heat and light, but a central place for sharing knowledge – a social gathering ground for all ages. Firewood is provided. I am not sure if this is a regular occurrence or if a guest left it behind. I have blits, matches and charcoal, but no grill! We make do with placing our garlic bread on the warm rocks surrounding the fire and we pop our sausage on long sticks that we find.
I awake to the sunrise not knowing where I am. I slept so well! We start our day with huge mugs of coffee that I brought along with my filter and tackle the printed drawn map given to us by the gentleman at the gate. We overhear talk of a ‘secret pool’ and follow two girls carrying an inflatable frog down to the location. A beautiful pool with flat rocks and waterfalls appears. It looks so untouched! We submerge ourselves in the refreshing water and relax while little fish eat at the dry skin on our feet. I get a flashback of a spa in Thailand where they offer this as a treatment. Bonus! Nature’s own fish spa. We need to bring a lilo next time. Luckily, the girls kindly share.
Back at the chalet, we eat lunch and take some time to ourselves. I write and paint. Charmaine reads and then we take a dreamy afternoon nap. It’s very hot! I should have brought a fan. After our nap, we are ready to explore some more and make our way to the main pool. It is a bit too crowded for our liking so we opt to chill on an elevated rock and watch some kids jump off the cliffs into the pool. We open a couple of cold beers and listen to the sound of running water and crickets.
En route back to our chalet, we stop at the little shop at the reception to grab some more wood and marshmallows. I have a craving. Braaied marshmallows are calling my name! The lady kindly opens the shop after hours for us. It is pretty well stocked, which comes as a surprise. I was told it had the bare minimum. We head to our fire once again, supplies in hand.
I wake to a slight chill and spot evidence of light rain on my windshield. The cooler weather is so refreshing after the heat from yesterday. This is the relief rain I learned about in geography where air is forced to rise up the slope of the mountain and then cools and condenses to form rain-bearing clouds. I now understand where all the greenery comes from. We had planned to do the hour and a half leopard trail hike, but Charmaine has a slight cold and a sore throat. Instead, we pack up at a leisurely pace and get back on the road to return to the chaos of our everyday lives.
As I leave Beaverlac and thank the gentleman at the gate, I get a rush of warmth and fulfillment. I feel relaxed and revived at the same time, which is exactly what I came for. There were enough people around to feel safe, but we were still able to enjoy some solitude and seclusion. Who needs TV, music or cellphone reception? Music is not permitted in the area and so the silence was broken only by nature’s soundtrack – the chirping of the birds and whispering trees.
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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
- Do not forget to take cash. Entrance fees are R30 per car and R60 per adult. There are no card facilities available.
- The gates closes at 9pm and opens again at 7am.
- Other essentials include; Toilet paper, a braai grid, wine glasses, a plug, lots of sunscreen, a camera and hiking shoes.
- Although I was not plagued with bugs or mosquitoes, I did light a citronella candle at night which seemed to work a treat!
- Accommodation can be taken from 14:00 on the day of arrival and must be vacated by 10am on the day of departure.
- for more information and booking arrangements see https://www.beaverlac.co.za