How to make the most of a short, local vacation

There is something special about going camping, something that separates it from any other kind of holiday. I love traveling and enjoy all types of holidays, from city breaks to the fun of a theme park, and the old world of the Mediterranean. These holidays generally take some long-term planning and, on arriving it can take some time to settle in. On a short break, it can feel as if you have only just settled in when it’s time to leave for home. That’s what sets camping apart for me. It brings its own rustic experience that starts the moment you arrive. In fact, for me, it starts as soon as we leave the busy freeway and take that turn onto the country roads.  

Late January, early February is one of the best summer weather seasons in Cape Town, And after the frantic busyness and the festive season and the claustrophobic constraints of a prolonged pandemic ´lockdown,´ the opportunity to take a few days leave and head out for a restoring break just had to be seized. That’s the great thing about a midweek local camping break; it can be arranged on the spur of the moment, and unlike weekends and the holiday season, there is usually availability. That’s how we found ourselves taking to the open road and heading out of the city.

There is just something magical about being surrounded by the beauty and simplicity of nature. With camping, you are quickly engrossed by the scenery, and enchanted by its landscapes. The silence, the solitariness, the separation from the mundane and frenzy of everyday life washes over me the moment we step out into the open air. Instantly we feel fully immersed in our surroundings, with a deep sense of connection to something beyond these materialistic walls we are so accustomed to. As you allow your surroundings to wash over you, it brings a rejuvenation of the soul. It feels as though the crinkles in your mind are being ironed out and your thoughts and feelings, your stresses, and concerns are repositioned into their correct perspective.

After a short trip, a mere a 123km drive out of Cape Town, we arrived at Klipkrans camping site. The hustle and bustle of work and its responsibilities were still buzzing in my mind on the way up but on arriving at the campsite these seemed to drift off like phantoms. Our home for the next 3 nights was beautifully set alongside the Breede River, encompassed on either side by lush green grass saturated with vibrant hues. We took a moment to sit at our campsite before setting up camp, and very quickly my mind reverted to a mindful space. It’s hard not to be fully present when your environment is so breathtaking. We were immersed in beauty, hours passed as we took in our new scenery. As the sun slipped down the sky, we lit our fire and cooked our meal against a backdrop of vibrant hues of orange, pink, and purple dancing across the expanse of the heavens. After the day gave way to nightfall, the overhead canopy of darkness lit up and glistened with stars. It was truly magical. The kind of starscape you’ll never see in the city, just a short distance from ‘civilisation’. 

The following morning we savoured the privilege of waking up next to the river, breathing in the fresh air and taking a morning swim, with the long day lying blank before us, to do with whatever we pleased and go wherever the journey would take us . Klipkrans had kayaks available for its guests, so we decided to go on a little adventure. Borrowing paddles from the kayak and one giant inflatable unicorn, we launched our craft from the river bank. We spent over an hour in the river floating, laughing, soaking in the sun, and embracing the journey. On our sojourn we discovered a swing that catapulted from the land over the river, which would later lead to another adventure and falling and injuring my clumsy self. Klipkrans offered many activities. Besides the kayaks and swing, there is a lot of fishing, and two bird-watching spots for nature lovers. In our time there we were privileged enough to spy a heard of bokke and their young ones, as the camping grounds is home to some beautiful wildlife. 

Camping can be a great moment for resetting but it living at the mercy of the elements can bring its own challenges.  On the third day we had just been swimming and trekking camp grounds when the wind picked up and took out our tent. Definitely a shocking encounter but it turned into a humorous affair and you will be happy to know no tents died in the aftermath. Luckily Klipkrans offers tent houses as well. The management was more than happy and hospitable to help us out. I can highly recommend this option if you would like to experience the camping life without the effort of pitching your own tent. That night when the sky lit up and the galaxy revealed itself to us, we were entranced by magical stars that shone more brightly than ever. The wind that had harshly wiped out our tent, had swept away all the dust and light pollution, leaving us the priceless gift of the sky as a brand new canvas abundantly and extravagantly scattered with glitter.  

On our way out of Worcester on the final day we stopped at the nearby Karoo Desert Botanical Gardens where we could explore uncharted territory for ourselves. The park offered many different trails, we set off on foot and journeyed on. As our adventure came to an end we lay spreadeagled on the green grass in the gardens, inhaled the last sip of the fresh air, and left our deep gratitude for the places this road had taken us.

I find breaks like these are the perfect way to reset when time and money are limited. It’s great to go on a local adventure and the Western Cape has so much beauty to offer. If you enjoy the outdoors as much as I do and find it’s a good recharge for your spirit,  why not try something new, embark on a new little adventure and see what untold stories you may find along the way. Quite literally stop and smell the roses, iron out the kinks in your mind, embrace the new, and return to your world revived, refreshed, and thankful.