It sounds like a children story title or, if you are adventurous, it might sound to you like the adventures of two travelers in some remote area. Well, you might be right whichever way your thoughts take you. All our special days, including birthdays, mother’s day, father’s day, Christmas and any other special day we can think of, is spent exploring different places.
The Gamtoos Valley is quickly becoming one of our favourite places to explore. It was thus a no-brainer to spend Felicity’s birthday in the citrus capital of the Eastern Cape. Except, this time around there were no citrus involved, but instead we discovered another secluded campsite not to far off the main road.
After spending a night in Baviaanskloof, it was time to meet the parents for a weekend camping and spoils for mom on her birthday. So after stopping of at Tolbos (more about this quaint little “padstal” later) to pick-up the keys, I was on my merry way to meet them for a quick light lunch and catch-up before heading into the “no signal” zone.
Gonjah (the indigenous word for grasshopper) is a secluded bush camp, 9km from Patensie, situated on the banks of a small little creek running right through the middle of the camp. The campsite has 4 ablution blocks, each with a hot shower (gas geyser) and a flush toilet. Situated under the big old yellowwood trees, Gonjah is covered in shade almost all day as the sun only reaches the bottom of the valley after midday. Here you find peace and quiet for your soul. With no cellphone reception, you will have plenty of time to appreciate the Knysna Loeries and other bird life that is in abundance in this few square meters of paradise.
As a family we always look for some activities to do together and Gonjah 4×4 is just the thing for that. On Sunday morning we headed out to enjoy a morning exploring a bit further. The turning around point would be the lookout over the Grootrivier River and the rest of the Cockscomb Mountains. It is also at this point that you will find a Geocache, which was a bonus for us, as we love looking for little treasures. The route is an easy, but rocky one. You traverse farmland and fynbos and with the fires that burnt in the area some time ago, the hard, black Protea bushes might be an unwelcoming surprise to a neatly cleaned new SUV. However, if you can bear with the bumpy ride and not get lost along the way (the markers for the 4×4 route is not at all clear), you will be rewarded with breathtaking views. We suggest that you follow our example and pack a picnic basket and coffee to spend some time at the top of the valley. The route up to the valley took us 2 hours at a leisurely pace without getting lost or diverting off the path. No real off-road skills needed. With two or three inclines on route, you simply will have to stick to what you know about your vehicle to succeed.
We only had one night’s stay here and could have easily stayed over a second night, especially given the competitive pricing. It was unfortunately time to pack up camp and head over to Tolbos for our last and final lunch of the weekend. A true birthday celebration, just the way we like it in the peace and quiet of nature. At Tolbos we met the owner of Gonjah and Tolbos Restaurant (Hetsie Scheepers) and spend quality time chatting and reminiscing about Africa and our journeys we undertook over the years. Hetsie is a seasoned traveler and it is clear that she has a passion for the outdoors and for people. It is thus no surprise that Tolbos Restaurant situated in Patensie is a popular stop-over for motorbikers and adventurers alike exploring the Baviaanskloof and passing through the Gamtoos Valley. The shop at Tolbos stocks a large variety of hand-crafted products. Here you will find anything from preserves to homemade pies. Hetsie and her friendly staff also serves the most delicious meals for the ravenous bikers to the light eater who only wants a snack. Hearty meals plated in a high-quality restaurant manner will surprise you and you will leave here on a full tummy, licking your fingers and wanting more.
Another two establishments in the Gamtoos Valley which you can add to your travel list. A friendly warning: you might want to add another hour or two, or even an extra day, to your itinerary. These places are bound to take your heart.
Just a little bit extra:
• Gonjah also has a fully equipped chalet
• There is a petrol station in Patensie
• Only high clearance vehicles will make it to the campsite (my VW Polo did not)
• Make sure you have a bite to eat at Tolbos – their food is fantastic and the hospitality is really something
• If you are planning to do the 4×4 route, we will happily provide you with some waypoints to easily find your way to the top