In February, I surprised Mark with a camping trip. Shocked? Well, I shouldn’t really need to add this was no ordinary camping trip. I don’t have to take my hair dryer when I travel, but I certainly like to have cotton sheets. Afterall, I’m not a princess… but I am a champagne girl.
I literally stumbled across Kol Kol Mountain Lodge during that terribly boring Christmas season when I was office bound and doing a fair amount of twitter-moaning. I spontaenously booked it, and kept it secret for two months! I didn’t even join their facebook page at the risk of Mark seeing it. I told everyone about it, hinted at it on twitter, but the surprise was on!
Not without hiccup, as these things apparently go (or at least, thats what everyone said to cheer me up), we finally hit the road on Friday evening. The N2… the first clue.
After passing Elgin, and down Houwhoek pass – we took the offramp to unknown spot called BotRivier. I say unknown, as besides the recent twitter blasts about Beaumont Wine, I probably wouldn’t know what else was there. 6,7km along the gravel Van Der Stel Pass, we turned into Kol Kol Mountain Lodge.
I chatted to Karin a bit over email before I booked our weekend, umming and aahing like only I can between the cabin or the tent. Karin was completely honest with me and mentioned that while the tent was more private and a more unique experience, if the wind blew – we’d know all about it. The cabins looked charming, but not unlike other amazing places we’d stayed before – so I threw caution to the wind (no pun intended… really) and booked a tent.
There are two cabins and two tents, and as we drove up the hill (turning left at the shed) and passed the cabins, I was thrilled that I had booked a tent. Mark still didn’t know what he was in for, and assumed we were on our way further up to another cabin. Instead we were driving towards a fairly camouflaged tent.
The landscape itself is filled with rolling hills. Wait, backtrack. Not the green lush ones you’re imagining. They’re a dry brown and densely spotted with brownish shrubs. Narrow hard leaves, twiggy branches – this was a landscape I hadn’t seen before. The picture I paint, may sound unattractive, but in its rustic, raw and dry state, its alive and beautiful. Around every corner in South Africa, there seems to be scenery that in unsurpassable until, that is, you discover another!
Thankful that we didn’t have ‘low profile’ tyres, we approached what, from the outside, looked like an old army tent. Olive army green, and shielded from the mountain wind we’d been warned about. We were camping!! The flap was open, expecting our arrival. We stepped onto a decked flooring and the small ‘chill area’ (a table and chairs), bedroom to our right and a kitchen to our left. The bedroom had an enormous bed, white cotton linen (always a plus in my books) and a mosquito net neatly tucked away. Red and green (not in a Christmas way) cushions were on the bed and I caught a glimpse of the victorian bath-tub through the doorway to thethe cordoned off bathroom.
The kitchen was complete, gas stove with oven and grill, NICE wine glasses (I can’t drink out of dinky ones) and complimentary coffee, rusks, sugar and salt. There was even a coolerbox shaped fridge freezer with a mineral water, milk and some butter. The tents are eco-friendly, using solar power for the in-tent lighting and the fridge, and gas for the geyser and stove.
We had arrived at dusk as the landscape was turning pink. We opened the door (flap) onto the front deck to breathe in the view and found our hot-tub, warmed and ready for us. Keeping to the green vibe, it needs fire to warm it up and plenty of coal stoking to keep it that way. But it was the shower that got us talking. It had the best view of the whole tent. To describe it as open air, is an understatement. Something liberating about showering on a hillside completely surrounded by fynbos and mountain views.
There are hiking trails, mountain bike trails and places to fish. But as we were only there for two days and in desperate need for some time-out, we didn’t leave our tent. I’d brought enough food (and champagne) to last, and while there’s a stunning restaurant (the Kitchen @ Kolkol) we only saw the inside of it for a coffee as we left on Sunday.
This is the type of camping I can deal with. Fully equipped and fairly luxurious, the remoteness and strange night-time noises made me feel I’d left the world I knew behind. Total relaxation with no distractions. Oh, and a hot tub.