And into the Karoo I go, to lose my mind and find my soul…
It’s hidden from the world. A cache in the folds of the Klein Karoo, miles away from civilization. A place so accessibly remote that you’d never find it unless you knew where to look. A reserve sparsely populated by a few top class self-catering units that are cleverly hidden from one another and you’ll go for days without seeing another human being. Solitary bliss in an arid countryside, a night-time sky so dazzling that it will take your breath away.
A coal-fire hot tub, barrel braai and fully equipped kitchenette complete the picture of a one-bedroomed wooden cottage that we were headed to, in the middle of nowhere and with panoramic views as far as the eye can see. We drove across the dusty Karoo terrain and arrived at the gate.
Gecko Rock Private Nature Reserve is remote. The entrance lies to the left off a long dirt road leading from Touws River on the N1, 180km from Cape Town. A rough route leads past reception and after a special welcome from owners Jonathan and Sharon Deal, you’ll disappear into the hills to find your isloated abode. We were headed to Rhebokvlakte Cottage, one of the few self-catering accommodations that are scattered across this 40 000 hectare reserve. There are also luxury-self catering options available on the reserve, as well as camping facilities.
The coal-fire hot/cold tub is a good starting point each morning, a welcome oasis in which to soothe and keep cool before heading out on a trail, or heading for the porch to sit and contemplate life. It’s an arid and harsh landscape, so quiet and yet so intoxicating. Lay back in the cool waters and enjoy this front-row seat to the theatre of nature which surrounds you. Days of unaldulterated, uncluttered, unbusy, unaffected solitude.
And then, when the sun sets and darkness befalls the land, it’s time for the night sky to take centre stage. Besides nearby Sutherland (which is world famous for its star-gazing extravanganzas), the coal-fire hot tub at Gecko Rock is probably the next best place in South Africa to stargaze. Pour yourself a glass of wine, switch off the cabin lights, and climb in to the (now warm) hot tub. Lay back and be treated to the most spectacular night skies you have ever seen… from a warm tub… in the middle of nowhere. Soul retreat.
And the next day can follow the same pattern. Stay in or go for a hike, have a braai and lie in the pool, the silence and the wide open spaces is calming and literally switched your brain off. There’s no wi-fi signal here, so what a pleasure to be forced to retire from the real world. We took full advantage.
But calmness and solitude is not all that’s on offer at Gecko Rock. On a previous visit, myself and my partner Sue had blasted shot guns on the reserve’s remote shooting range. Owner Jonathan and his son Travis will first show you the ropes before you take your stance in front of a number of targets. A few shoulder-ripping discharges will see any pent up frustrations disappear into the Karoo air. Strangely satisfying and also a totally unique break from your normal everyday activities. Various types of other weapons can be fired, including hand-held revolvers and long-range shooting… but shotguns are totally awesome to pump and blast.
I also tried my hand at abseiling. Dropping over the edge of a 30-metre cliff produces plenty of adrenaline, and looking out over the Karoo landscape from a sheer cliff is spectacular. The instructors here too are excellent and your safety is paramount, so there’s no fear of doing a Wylie Cyote in a puff of dust at the bottom. A afterwards, retiring back to the solice of your cabin lets you relect on your day’s whirl, and you can once again sink into seclusion.
The reserve’s 4X4 trails are world-class and designed for every level of expertese. Signposted and controlled, motorheads can come out into the Karoo and test their skills across the Karoo landscape, the ultimate Paris-Dakar training if that’s your passion.
Mountain biking trails also criss-cross the landscape, so bring your bike and experience some of the most scenic rides you’ll ever take.
But all roads will lead back to your accommodation, whether you’re with a group of friends or on your ace… and once again you’ll remember where you are. In the middle of nowhere. In a vast open expanse, devoid of humankind. A place where peace and contemplation can combine with your need to get your wild on!