Our InsideOut Adventures: Karoo and Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Updated: Jan 23, 2022
We have just come back from a rollercoaster 3 weeks away, traversing through 6 provinces to the opposite corner of our beautiful country. It was hectic. Let me be clear, we don’t do holidays that involve sitting in air conditioning sipping cocktails. This is at the heart of what we love about them, the adventure. It is through putting yourself out of your comfort zone that you grow and it is exhilarating. This does not mean, however, that you can’t do an Kruger/South African holiday with all the luxuries you require. You can. I only hope that you will throw in a little adventure…
When travelling to Kruger by car, especially from Cape Town, you need to have at least one stop over. It is worthwhile to add a different experience to your trip, not more of the same. I recommend you travel somewhere you have not been! We stopped in the Karoo National Park, Bloemfontein, Golden Gate Highlands National Park and Mac Mac falls on route. Here I want to share some of our tips and stories from these places – after all, our experiences are often teaching moments 😊
Karoo National Park:
It is very hot in Summer. I think that is the most important thing to know about it. You will need lots of water, which is in limited supply in the Karoo. You have to have a decent fan when camping in summer! They do have a lovely pool through, with shady spots. It is a beautiful place though, as are all arid parks. I can’t quite explain what it is, except to say it is a very peaceful place, if you can withstand the heat. They do offer excellent chalets though, with aircon 😊. We used this time to come down from the end of year madness, and frightful covid numbers. We have been there twice, always camping and in Summer (so not the best time), on route to or from somewhere. It offers lovely drives and 4x4 routes, wild animals including lion and other predators. It is not an easy spotting park, the colours are blurred together and you need to be patient and observant. There are amazing sightings here though, and when you get them, you are likely the only car and because it is so open, it will be unobstructed.
As for camping… it was hot, seriously hot! I have spoken of a fan; it is essential and worth having a strong fan! A wet face cloth to cool down, but be warned, it dries very quickly! A silver reflective tarp is also very helpful to decrease the temperature inside, a tree is still best as the heat is absorbed by the leaves and the gaps allow the hot air to escape when rising.
This can be an all-round boring pitstop. It has advantages though. We used it to stock up on essentials. Our holiday took a covid turn here too. We were meant to meet family here and go together to Joburg. Unfortunately, we had a sudden change of plan days earlier (curve balls are common), we were not able to spend Christmas with any of our family as it affected every home. Instead, we spent many hours anxious and had a most unusual Christmas, very spontaneously in Golden Gate Highlands.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
We needed to find an additional accommodation between Bloemfontein and Kruger and this park was one of our to do’s. Making the best of these very difficult situations is hard, certainly I have spent many hours enjoying the pictures and videos we took while there but in truth it was sometimes a stressful time, re-living the memories has been the best part as I realised after how my mind was not entirely in the moment. This is testimony to importance of recording memories, regardless of your equipment (a phone can be excellent) and ability, over the years it has been my one regret – that I did not record more. I have taken to making family movies with them all during hard lockdown, all the photos and videos I have. It has brought so much joy to us as a family to re-live what we have forgotten! This is the core of our motivation and reason for these adventures, these life experiences, and the memories they evoke are profound! Ask Facebook… the power of those memories they now show us when reminding us of our past posts!
This place was magical. Wow. We will be back. We were meant to camp, with family in a chalet, then covid extended its hold. When we arrived I was rather emotional. This place was awe inspiring and resonated deep in me. We had to change our booking on the day, cancelling our chalet booking and then – because it was flooding at the time of our arrival and I did not have it in me to set up camp in a river – we changed our booking (SANparks was incredible – despite the last-minute cancellation – literally – they credited us and we chose to use the credit to upgrade our accommodation). We spent 2 nights in a family cottage – WOW views - and 2 nights in a magical place called Noord Brabandt, a farmhouse in the mountains away from everything and everyone – more WOW views. A very spiritual Christmas.
The park is small. It has incredible hikes and walks – some with a guide and other easier ones. Because of the monsoon like weather, they all closed, too wet with raging waterfalls and rivers. We still did go as far as safe. Cannot wait to revisit. The park also has an incredible vulture hide in one of the exceptional drives they offer. We spent hours there and we were privileged to enjoy an incredible sighting and wildlife interaction. At the farmhouse we rested, I cooked up a Christmas storm with very limited resources – controlled the things I could. It was stunning. More incredible walks and sightings on our doorstep.
We were sad to leave this paradise, but Kruger beckoned, as did our increased need to be with family. We met up with my brother and his amazing family in Mac Mac falls. Honestly, I felt like I was holding my breath in anxiety that something would prevent this. A heavy weight was lifted when we finally joined them. A long year in planning – a covid year – but we made it.
Graskop/Nelspruit/Hazyview/Sabi and surrounds
I could spend pages taking about these incredible places – easily on par with the garden route magic. I think I will save it for its own chapter. Should you go? Absolutely.
So, in an attempt to inspire your next adventure, I have made a vlog with some footage of these adventures. We hope you enjoy and feel inspired!