"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream". Vincent Van Gogh
Tim has always teased me because I say I grew up in the bush, this may not be entirely true, but a part of me has always been drawn to the vastness of the outdoors. From the age of six I was fortunate enough to travel to the Kruger National Park in South Africa yearly. Yes, seeing the majestic leopard straddled across a branch of a tree that hangs over a river bed is breathtaking, but my favourite time of the day is when the fire was lit, the lights were off and we sat outside and gazed upwards. I remember waking up in the morning with a sore neck because my head was tilted backwards for so long, waiting in anticipation for a satellite or shooting star to fly across the nights sky. Looking at the nights sky has always been a way for me to meditate, growing up I may have not pitched many tents or slept on many blowup mattresses, but I was still close to the sky, whenever possible. I recall the feeling of getting home after a long hot day on the road, having a cool shower, covering myself in mosquito repellent from head to toe; asking what could be done in the kitchen and then heading out to take my place around the fire and gaze upwards. I remember camping for pony club which was beyond fun! I was young, with friends and horses, swam in the dams and didn't sleep much. I guess now nearing my 30's, I find camping can be a bit more challenging.
Before this camping trip, I only really experienced two others, in Greyton and the other at Klondike Cherry farm in Ceres, both were great but one night didn't really give me the feeling of camping and switching off from all digital electronic devices. Tim and I both felt as though we needed to get away, reboot and give ourselves some time to clear our minds. We often spoken about visiting Beaverlac in the Cedarberg mountain range, so we put our words into action, packed the car, gathered the essentials and headed for a weekend away underneath the stars.
We booked online, registered and packed my tiny red car to the roof. We took a slow long drive from Stellenbosch towards Porterville. Lack of water was undeniable as the golden fields we passed blurred into one dry mass.
We were aware that a 4x4 vehicle was recommended, but as my little mini was the only option we thought we'd give it a go. The road was fine until we got to the pass where we had to be careful and go slowly, but the beauty that we transcended into completely overshadowed the fact that something might rattle loose in my car! We were greeted at the gate by friendly man, who gave us all the information we needed and said we could choose a campsite anywhere that took our fancy. We did a few loops around the camp area, we chose our spot and began to set up home. One thing that is always deterred me from camping is the heat, so this time round heading off in mid-summer was not the brightest idea, but I came to a compromise knowing there are beautiful rock pools to jump into and cool off in. So once set up we headed to the main pool for an afternoon dip, the water was beautifully refreshing and cool.
Back to camp to start the fire and pour a much-needed gin and tonic! Now begins my favourite time of day, when the brightly blue coloured sky turns to a deep mauve colour, illuminated with the twinkling stars and big bright moon. Climbing into our tent that night listening to the sounds around us, was way more soothing than any podcast or YouTube video could offer.
One of the great things about camping in summer is the heat makes your rise early enough to enjoy the rest of the days delights. After a quick coffee and a obligatorily rusk, we headed off on the leopard trail for a hike towards the Totem pools. I'm not going to try and fool you, it was tough for me, as the heat and the uneven rocks was not something I'm used to, but I persevered knowing the reward at the end, beautiful crystal clear rock pools that I would soon be submerged in.
The satisfaction of reaching the top and diving in to these beautiful pools was beyond worth it. We spent some time lazing around and taking it all in, and then began to descent back to camp. Now around midday, we quickly lit the fire and began to prepare brunch, pairing that with an ice cold cider and a run in the sprinklers to cool down, ensured the perfect afternoon nap.
Another swim was welcome before the evening fire was lit, my favourite part about traveling with my other half is that we can sit in perfect silence and be content. I browsed through some magazines and he tended to the fire and my drink :) Dinner was served on paper plates and eaten on laps. We then decided to begin capturing the night sky, through some long exposures. Nearing midnight Tim decided to make the scary trek towards the main pool to capture a long exposure, between the barks of baboons and the black night sky he bravely disappeared, only to come back later with a beautiful capture of the main pool (see first image).
Morning broke and it was time to leave our sacred oasis. Packing up must be a campers least favourite part of the experience, a necessary evil nonetheless. Before departing we took one last quick trip to secret pools , where we unfortunately had our first sighting of a water snake which changed my mind very quickly about my final swim. As it was nearing midday and the sun was rising above us and becoming unbearable, we decided to jump into the air-conditioned car and make our way home.
In the car on the way home we could both feel we had recharged, but as the notifications, emails and messages began pinging away we were reminded that reality still exists, although quickly pretended it wasn't happening and began planning a return to Beaverlac.
See our Youtube video of our Beaverlac experience here.
If you are interested in visiting Beaverlac visit - https://www.beaverlac.co.za
Photography by Timothy Bowles