This December my love for camping was put to the test. I realised that most campers probably had a camp experience or camp trip that didn’t live up to the serenity of camping. In fact, that one trip pushed you to the unthinkable question of “Why do I even like camping”… Interestingly, I do not think this is something campers will talk about often. A sort of taboo if you will. It just feels wrong to dishonour the sanctity of camping by admitting you had the worst camp trip of your life! Well, I’m going to say it. We had the worst camp trip of our lives! (I feel immediate regret by admitting it). But there’s it. (Thank you Suzelle DIY)
This is our story…
My happy camper family and I booked ourselves a lavished 12-day camp holiday for December. We are BIG ATKV-resort fans and with my 3 young kids, it’s always a great idea to have plenty of entertainment in order for mom and dad to also have a rest. I admit I made my booking a bit late in the year and the only spot available was at ATKV Eiland Spa.
We were warned by all family and friends about the temperatures during December in Limpopo. But my love for camping, the wish for a long camp holiday and the persistence to visit an ATKV resort prevailed. We booked and our excitement could not be contained.
A last-minute update from the resort about a Christmas Lunch at the swimming pool includes a reminder of Malaria in the area. A quick call to our GP. Does anyone know the costs of Malaria medication? Eina!
Finally, the day arrived. We were packed with food, games, a Christmas tree and decorations, presents and our old faithful air conditioner. We were ready to face the heat. Our excitement soon turned into a bit of frustration when the planned 4h32 min trip from Pretoria to Hans Merensky Nature Reserve turned into an 8-hour traffic jam. The roadworks in the area are endless and every oasis or rest stop is overrun by hundreds of people and the temperature was rising.
We arrived at ATKV Eiland Spa just after 15h00. All was forgotten, and we were happy to have safely reached our destination. Camp set-up didn’t exactly go as planned either. The paralysing heat struck, and my poor husband suffered a mild case of heatstroke. We managed to cool him down and revive his energy to finish camp set-up. Again, we were ready to enjoy our long-awaited holiday and we didn’t allow the smallest stand on the resort stop us. We united with our camp neighbours to create a wall between the two stands, just to ensure a bit of privacy on both ends as we were literary on each other’s doorstep. But again, don’t sweat the small stuff, we are ready to have fun!
Our first night at the resort proved to be the trendsetter for the days to come. Without boring you with the details… After the bugs tried to kidnap my youngest son my eldest woke up with heat rash. We treated the itches and scratches. We realised the single fan and old-model aircon will not cut it. By 02h00 everyone was sitting outside watching the bug zapper light up like an electric storm. A light breeze gave us hope and by a miracle, a few drops of rain came down. I am however sure I saw them evaporate before hitting the rock-hard ground.
Day 2. Daddy to the rescue! My husband made a trip to Tzaneen (on the 23rd of December – not recommended) to invest in 2 extra fans and a new air conditioner. Our old faithful did not make it through the night. RIP. The day spent at the swimming pool, super tube and fishing pond was wonderful. The water was pure bliss and the anticipation of an upgraded aircon left a promise of a good night’s rest. All was well in the world.
A light rain shower cooled the earth and we were thankful for relief from the heat. Except with rain comes power outage. We spent a quiet evening without power. Not a problem. The new fans and aircon will soon be initiated. Or not…
Day 3. Flu strikes. Meds. (Really?) More power failures.
Day 4. Christmas Day. Good day. Happy. Meds working. Kids playing. Thank goodness.
Night 4. Storm. Yes, that’s right, a storm. Water flush through the tent. Mud everywhere. I just laugh. Still a beautiful sound to hear the rain fall on your caravan and tent. Even more power failures.
Day 5. Boxing Day. Cool, cloudy, wonderful. Kids actually feeling cold. No swimming. Just chilling at our campsite. #Happiness
Day 6. Something smells funny???
For an extra bonus, our brand spanking new Intex Super-Duper-Luxury-Kitchen- Deluxe mattress has a slow puncture. We need to inflate it 3 times a night. I wonder what the neighbours are thinking?
Power failures. Ongoing.
Day 7. Something smells really bad! Start to unpack. A poor frog got trapped in our tinned food crate. RIP.
My eldest son complains of a seriously painful toe. Visited the on-resort first-aid centre. Friendly guy suggests a scorpion sting. I’m not convinced. Contact with GP. Infection and fever strike through a cut on his toe. Antibiotics required. (Sigh).
Day 8. Toe shows improvement. Fever resolved. A day at the pool. Thank goodness. Watch a complimentary Lianie May show. Fun at last.
Day 9. Perfect day. Potjie-kos day. Cool and cloudy. Listening to Lukas Maree and Coenie De Villiers. Playing Snap and Uno. 30 Seconds for Kids. Did I mention the electricity problem? I’m not going to. What is 3 – 4 hours without power between friends in 39-degree heat?
A visit to a nearby open field to practice my newly found love of photography ended in an emergency call-out as the Kombi’s battery died. Thank you, stranger, in a bakkie for your assistance. Again, I just smiled.
Day 10. The perfect storm. Early morning, I receive a notification from OUTsurance that a storm will hit Pretoria. For a second I ponder if this will influence us as well? But when the 5cm deep flood streamed through my tent and my husband frantically tried to dig a duct around our campsite in a full-blown downpour – I realised, oh, yes, of course.
That night our new mattress took up residence with the old aircon and the frog. RIP.
The weather bureau predicted temperatures between 39-42 degrees for the next 2 days. I think it’s time to go home. Period.
We pack and joyously wave adieu to ATKV Eiland Spa.
The question remains, can you have a bad camping experience? The answer – a decisive YES!
I would like to emphasise that this experience was not about ATKV Eiland Spa. We found the resort beautiful, clean, and well kept. The resort manager even did a personal visit to all campers in block E and F to explain the power outages. Our experience was due to my own poor judgement. My family and I love water. Lots and lots of water. Rivers of water. Dams. Waterfalls. Oceans. We are not bushveld campers (I’m sorry if I offend anyone with this statement – it’s just a personal preference). I should have known better. Next time I’ll choose better and be a bit more prudent with my bookings.
What did we love at ATKV Eiland Spa?
- The swimming pools are spacious with a lot of shade.
- Lots of space at communal areas. Even though this is one of the largest resorts in South Africa, I didn’t feel crowded.
- Beautiful and clean bathrooms. Always an available shower or bath facility.
- Friendly staff.
- Daily assistance with dishes and washing if you require help.
- Fishing pond.
- Wildlife in the resort.
What we disliked?
- It’s just too hot! Like between 35 and 40 degrees hot. I guess a June/July visit will address this problem.
- The resort is enormous. I’ve never seen so many campers. We even got lost a few times.
- My kids were unable to find their own way.
- Real power and sewer problems exist (this is being worked on proactively).
- We prefer paved stands. The rocky stand resulted in no bare feet at all. The mud in our tent after the rain was no fun either.
- The shop is extremely pricey, and stocks run low quickly e.g. Buns, ice, washing powder, cool drinks.
I conclude my epic tale. I still love camping – although we were put to the test. We had crazy up’s and down’s – but we will always be die-hard campers. We’ve already booked 4 trips for 2018.
Happy camping all!
PS: Please share your camping-horror story with us in the comments.