Part 2: Summer holiday 21/22
Our second stop after Xmas '21 was one of our favourite spots, Bonniedale Holiday Farm. Since the drive was only about 2 hours we had a little time to kill between check out time from Eagle Falls and check in at Bonniedale. So we stopped at all the farm stalls along the way and found some lovely snacks and trinkets. This was the 3rd time we stayed at Bonniedale, in caravan number 4. We arrived on the 27th December, to a pretty empty camping site. The section where our caravan is has lots of small camp sites and is separated from the area with bigger sites by some bushes. There were a few families in the bigger sites, but no one our side. So for the first 2 days we had the place to ourselves, we felt quite spoilt, especially not having to carry our toiletries back and forth from the ablutions as we could just leave them there. The campsites are very basic, each with a braai space and small shelter. There is no electricity for the sites, but the caravans have a little bit of solar lighting and lots of paraffin lamps. The ablutions are really nice, in stone buildings with open air gas showers. If you want a bit more privacy there are a couple of more secluded camp sites, closer to the dam. If your dogs are wanderers, or if they will chase the sheep and horses that roam all over the place, then it would be a good idea to organise a little enclosure for them. I have seem a few people put up their own little fences around their camping sites to keep their dogs in. But mostly it is well behaved, sociable dogs that go there and it is so lovely to see them meeting and playing with holiday friends and neighbours. Our boys also always seem to attract the attention of the neighbouring kids and get lots of extra tickles from delicious sticky fingers.
Bonniedale is an outdoors lovers dream. There is so much space and so many activities to choose from. You can hike, run, cycle or 4x4 all over the farm. They also have horses, so you can book an outride, and there is a lovely dam with a swing bridge, peddle boat, kayaks and a foofy slide. Plus obviously lovely views and chill braaing space. When you arrive at the farmhouse you can pick up a map of the 4x4 and hiking trails. It is a very basic hand drawn map, but the trails are easy to follow. The only one we struggled with was the hiking only trail, Grootkloof, which was quite overgrown, but they were clearing it on our last day. The trails all interlink, so you can make it as long or short as you like. The farm backs onto the Ruitersbos Nature Reserve, which can be accessed through a gate at the old wagon trail, if you have a permit (it's Cape Nature so obviously dog aren't allowed, but I doubt anyone is checking up there).
Our first morning we did the routes on the south side of the farm, Goliatsberg and Bymans, with a quick run up to the view spot on Klipbokberg. The views are amazing! Over rolling hills and towards the mountains in the distance. It looks so green from afar, but there are so many flowers of all different colours and shapes. This linked up route came to about 14km and crosses one small stream, but otherwise no water. This side of the farm is a little flatter than the north side, but still challenging.
The second morning we ran the north side, starting up the very steep Honeybush trail, across the contours and up to Sunbird camp, which is the highest spot on the farm. On the steeper 4x4 trails they have splits which are marked as extreme route and escape route, and the extreme is really extreme. We always go up the extreme and down the escape, because running technical uphills is much easier than running technical downhills. The views from the camp are awesome, but it was quite overcast this day. After taking the view in we went back down and around Footloose camp. Both these camps look like they haven't been used in a while. We did Grootkloof as the way back, which was pretty overgrown, but there was a little water in the stream for the dogs. This route was 15km.
Our third morning we did a shorter version of the previous route, 9km, because the weather was clearer and we needed to see the views again. The run up Honeybush and Sunbird was well worth it for that big sky. After Sunbird we came down the old wagon trail and through the river at the campsite. There was a lot more water in the river than we'd seen on previous stays.
We were very excited on one of the days to see a group of 4x4ers using the trails, we've never seen anyone driving on the trails while we are there. It looked like really slow going, understandably on those crazy trails. We watched them go up the old wagon trial and then disappear from sight for a while. Later on while we were chilling at the dam we saw them coming down from Sunbird camp, luckily we had binoculars with us so we could watch them. A while later we saw them stop at the top of Honeybush trail, which I think is the steepest route. They got out of their cars and seemed to have a long debate about the trail. Eventually they started going and very slowly went down. We were very impressed and quite inspired to get into 4x4ing.
The dam is a lovely spot to chill during the heat of the day. There is a big shady lawn with a couple of braai spots and an ablution block nearby. The dogs had lots of fun going in the peddle boat and Dash was very distressed when another family used the boat and didn't take him with. The only problem was when the sheep and horses came down for a lunch snack and sip. They were quite pushy and kicked us out of our spot the one day.
Bonniedale is one of our favourite places both because of the adventures you can have and the value for money. If you love the outdoors and exploring with you pooches this is definitely a spot to try out.