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Category “Johnie does Kalahari”

Green Kalahari

Monday, 28 April, 2014

By Johnie Jonker

Witsand

Route

Auto-routing on a Garmin can have its drawbacks, as happened here.

Pretoria to Witsand

[Source: Imagery ©2014 TerraMetrics, Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Travelling from Gauteng, one would normally stick to the N14 from Pretoria to Olifantshoek, and turn left towards Witsand 7km after passing through the latter. This leaves 70km of gravel to cover to the entrance of the Witsand Nature Reserve.

By the time we realized we were not on the N14 anymore – you have to turn right at a T-junction to stay on it – we had already passed a few tedious stop-and-go sections where widening of the road is under construction. So we stuck to it and were pleasantly surprised by Postmasburg in terms of the development taking place there, new business extensions especially. The older part had a decent Spar where we could obtain our last-minute self-catering supplies.

Following the GPS routing, we learnt that the direct route to Witsand has recently been blocked by a new mine. The green route below is how we actually had to travel, with the red “shortcut” in the middle now fenced off and gated as mining property.

Postmasburg

But a good road, with a very interesting Bergenaarspad 1:5 pass in it. As soon as the road leads into the Langberg to cut through it, it becomes somewhat washed out with some exposed stones – but not big – until it gets to the uphill section through the mountain, which is steep but paved with natural stone. Once at the top, the paving stops and the descent is rutted.

It was afterwards learnt that this cutting through the mountain was a community project where the local labourers were paid per day, instead of for the job. Naturally, they worked as slowly as they could to sustain their income over a longer period of time. So by the time they paved to the top from one side, the money for the project was all spent. Hence the unpaved other side.

Witsand Nature Reserve

The official web site is here: Witsand Kalahari Website. What follows below, are our observations during the visit.

Accommodation

Although this was school holidays, the reserve was almost deserted. Phoning on a Wednesday, accommodation was available for 3 nights from the Sunday. Moving this arrangement on by one day the day before our arrival was still fine.

Now that we’ve been there, I can understand this due to the location – nearest town 70km away. However, this is somewhat of a concern, as I cannot see week-end income only being sufficient to maintain the facilities, unless it’s being subsidised by the NC government. After all, there are only 10 each of both chalets and campsites, plus then the bungalows. So any follow-up visit should not be delayed too much.

The chalets however are rated as 4-Star. I have no idea what 5-star would be like, but this was hands down the smartest accommodation we had ever stayed in while on holiday. By pure coincidence, also the most expensive. Very private – you can’t see any of the other chalets from your own living area – and well maitained.

All chalets are centered around a tree – avoid No 5, the tree has died. We were in number 3 – sunrise side, but number 6 would be optimal if you’re after a sunset over the white dunes.

Also very well finished off – sleeper doors, good craftmanship and little things like pictures on the bedroom and lounge walls.

One drawback could be – the missing star – that the 3 bedrooms are serviced by the same bathroom – not ensuite – but this did not bother us. Maybe it would in winter. Seperate bath, shower and toilet with super hot water.

The kitchen is also superbly kitted out. Proper stove, microwave, fridge and a myriad of utensils for 6 people. Even a  Cadac …