Escape to rustic campsite in a nature reserve weekend breakaway
Mountain Sanctuary Park – Magaliesburg
Campsite in a nature reserve
XCape Camping Chronicles
Let me introduce you to our new baby. This one is on wheels; cute, compact and adequate for our shorter camping trips in South Africa and its neighbouring countries. Or of course to escape for a weekend breakaway.
Our new acquisition is a much-loved older version of a previously owned 2011 Jurgens Safari XCape off roader caravan. Robust, it boasts a fold out bed with sleeping room for two, a pull-out kitchen with a two-plate gas stove, a National Luna Weekender 50 twin 40L fridge/10L freezer and a water tank with a geyser. It can be connected to electricity and has a battery as a standby.
Click on the images to enlarge and open in a lightbox
We’ve upgraded from our trailer with a fold out tent, which has given us many comfortable nights of sleep over many adventurous trips. Trouble was, there was always plenty of storage box PT, unpacking, setting up and repacking after a trip. Hence our decision to buy this little caravan.
I must admit I blinked a tear away as our trailer disappeared down the road with its new owner. It has given us many years of joy and has done us well. I still remember having the discussion with friends whether we should buy the tent to place on top or just use our dome tent. They convinced us it would be the right thing to do for us. They were right.
An era of our lives was gone. Would our new home on wheels give us similar experiences filled with fun and adventure?
Where to go?
Which would be the first destination we would introduce our XCape to? We chose one of our favourite rustic camping spots where we have been going to for over 30 years, Mountain Sanctuary Park. This was a place we knew well, so we could ease into life with our new off roader. It was also close enough to drive to, less than two hours away from home.
I of course was ready to go on a tour through Africa or at the very least South Africa, but hubby said ‘Hold your horses, woman! Reel yourself in, lets first see if this little baby will give us any tantrums. We can set her up in comfort of familiarity and organize her till we’re comfy.’
I relented. He was right. But I’m still not sure if I’m ever going to get my road trip around South Africa! For the last six months we’ve been on semi-retirement and thought we would be able to get away more often, but we’ve been busier than ever. To top it all, I can’t support us on what I make through my website yet.
Setting up camp
Although it is relatively easy to set up the caravan, there is still a procedure to follow. We managed to fold out the bed, roll out the awnings and peg them down. It wasn’t long before we could relax. Everything has its place so not a lot of slog to make ourselves comfortable. It was far easier than setting up our tent and trailer. We liked the idea!
With our tent, although we loved it, we didn’t have sliding units that popped out the side or back with a fancy drawer system that stored everything including the kitchen sink, or the heavy fridges.
We manually had to lift the heavy lid of our trailer with our tent on top, unpack just about every piece of camping equipment, close the lid and only then unfold our tent and peg it down. After that we usually reshuffled our stuff into some sort of order then erect a gazebo to provide us with shade and a makeshift kitchen area.
Once that was done we had to lift our heavy fridges out of the car and place them somewhere suitable.
Back to our nifty little XCape, I cooked our dinner on the stove and soon after that we crawled into our little ‘cave’ as we call it and went to sleep.
That Friday night the wind started blowing. Not knowing all the new sounds caused by the wind, chivalrous husband went outside to check that everything was fine. He found one of the poles had collapsed and a tip had broken off. Nothing major though, so he sorted it out and came back to bed. The wind continued and our sleep was still disrupted.
It seemed like the wind was countrywide but on the mountain it always seems worse. Although Saturday was warm enough, the cool wind still blew. After I reorganized the cupboards in the caravan to my satisfaction, we went for a walk to one of our favourite spots – the rapids.
Throughout the day, Saturday's wind brought a sprinkling of dust to add to our meals or coat everything else.
By evening it felt like a howling gale. We were trying to cook a stew in a potjie, a black pot used for cooking over the coals. Eventually we parked our car to shield us somewhat from the wind, finished cooking and ate inside the caravan. Glad we could do that!
We went to bed quite early, because it was unpleasant outside, read a bit then turned out the light. Paul dozed off but I couldn’t sleep.
Heard about the story of the wolf and the three little pigs? Well, that wind huffed and puffed. Canvas flapped and fluttered and I was convinced it was going to tear.
With our bed folded out and extended like an extra limb, it is quite secure but it felt like we were going down the rapids. Gusts pummelled away relentlessly and shook the caravan. By 1.30 AM I jabbed hubby in the ribs and said we should both get up to see if the awning was still there. Once again it was lying on the ground and the poles had collapsed. We tried to correct it but the wind was so strong, we couldn’t secure them and they wouldn’t stay in place. We decided it was best to roll the awnings up.
Have you ever tried to fold a Chinese puzzle of poles and canvas in windy conditions?
Let me add, it was pitch dark outside with hardly any ambient light. My headlight curved its weak beam onto the ground, not providing much illumination. I held onto canvas that seemed to have gained a few extra pieces, waiting to take off, not gracefully like Mary Poppins, but more like a wicked witch on a pole that would squash or sever fingers.
After much struggling we managed to get both awnings folded to a degree where we could secure it and wouldn’t tear in the wind. We went back to bed but were frozen from the icy wind and took forever to get warm. Eventually just before daybreak we fell asleep for a couple of hours.
On Sunday it was a beautiful, still day, with hardly a breath of wind. Most of the other campers had packed up and were heading home by 8.30 AM. If the wind had persisted I would have packed up too, but we still had another night booked. After assessing the damage, which was luckily minimal to nothing, we cleaned up some of the dust and spent the day relaxing and walking to one of our other favourite rock pools, the sliding pools.
Unfortunately they were bone dry, but the walk was still pleasant. Paul rescued a snake out of a water hole that we call the jacuzzi because he didn’t think it would be able to get out.
The evening continued to be still and we had a lovely braai (barbeque). We settled into our cave and had a peaceful night with no disturbances. Things were looking up. We were very comfortable in our new abode. Even packing away was a breeze!
Apart from the dreadful wind, the escape for a weekend breakaway in our XCape was worthwhile. I wonder where the next trip will be to. So many possibilities!