After an early morning flight from Addis Ababa to Joburg we picked up our home for the next month: a Bushlore Toyota Hilux topped with two huge tents and a ton of camping equipment inside, that we named Bucky. After the grand tour, we hit the road, stopping at McDonalds (a real treat after a month in Ethiopia) on our way to the lovely campground of Magalies (pronounced ma-ha-lies) for our first night under the stars.
We had a long drive from Magalies to Witsand Nature Reserve and arrived just as they were closing the gates. There are luxury cabins for a hefty price, and with some more basic and budget-friendly options too. The campground is lovely, wide-open spaces with a fire pit, water and electricity. The bathrooms are warm and clean, with hot water and even a bathtub. Prices are R110 ($9) per person, per night for camping or R60 ($5) for day visitors.
Whitsand Nature Reserve
Our day in Witsand park was fantastic. We were up with the sun, had a good breakfast of fried eggs and garlic mash and walked to the reception through fields of springbok and gemsbok. Here you can buy supplies, get a map of the sand dunes and pick up a sandboard for R150 ($12). They’ll give you a small pot of wax that you have to reapply after each turn, so get enough to last the day, especially if you’re sharing the board with others.
Most people drive to the Roaring Sands dune but we decided to walk as the sun was shining and it’s not too hot in the winter. It took just over an hour to get there, and the same to get back even though we took a “shortcut” that ended up with us in the backyard of one of the chalets. It’s a steep final ascent in deep, soft sand but once you reach the top you’re rewarded with amazing views.
The sandboarding is really fun and completely exhausting. It’s just a short hike up to the top and a fast ride down, if you remember to apply to wax, if not you’ll just get stuck in the sand and that’s no fun. The boards they give you are meant to stand up on, but you can also lie or sit down on them if you’d rather. It’s nothing like snowboarding so my 4 winter seasons did not help, but it was H I L A R I O U S.
You can also visit other viewpoints and sand dunes if you have the time, before heading back to shower off the sand that will undoubtedly get everywhere. We spent the evening with our South African neighbours, sat round the braai (fire) eating juicy boerewors and drinking honeyport, watching the steenbok and civet cats creeping through the darkness trying to steal our food, and hearing the jackals call to each other in the distance.
You can view the full album here.