Eagle Falls Xmas
Part 1: Summer holiday 21/22
Finally the holidays arrived! My workplace was very slow to let us know when we would be off over the festive season, so luckily I'd only booked a 12 day holiday squeezed around Xmas and New Years, because the office closed very late (the clothing industry normally does the full 3 weeks leave at this time of year). And now I've been procrastinating a bit over writing this post, as it's sadly not a 100% recommendation.
This time we decided to try 4 nights in each place, instead of our normal 3. Hubby had made a comment that he feels we are quite busy when away. I can now say, without a doubt, that 3 nights is optimal and listening to hubbies is a silly thing to do, they should stick to doing the majority of the driving, braaing and carrying and let the ladies make the plans.
We left Cape Town on the 24th December '21 heading for Eagle Falls, near Uniondale. The drive was very rainy, but surprisingly, the other road users were being sensible. The best route, because it's pretty, is the N2 to George, then north towards Oudtshoorn along the Outiniqua Pass. It is beautiful with lovely view points, although it was pretty misty when we went through. The directions I was given were good and the place was easy to find. Google maps is a little off, the accommodation is about 4km further along than the pin. The drive took about 6 hours, including a quick windy and wet picnic lunch stop. The farm has a few different options for accommodation. There is a large campsite, arranged in tiers on nice flat grassy spots. We didn't explore it too much, other than when the dogs played on the jungle gym. It looked like there's one ablution block and an entertainment/lapa area. On reading reviews I saw a few comments on the ablutions not being great and needing to be fixed up and made more private. There are also a few bungalows which are attached to the restaurant and main entertainment area. About 30 metres away from this is the 2 sleeper chalet and a bit further along the larger chalet. I decided to book us into the 2 sleeper chalet, even though it was a little more pricey than what we normally pay, at R1100pn. The website has fabulous descriptions of the nature and claims the 2 sleeper chalet is very secluded. Sadly the chalet did not match up to the description on the website and was definitely not worth the high price. It is not secluded, being close to the restaurant and directly above the main swimming and entertainment area. It gets a lot of noise, especially on Xmas night at 23:30 when someone started pumping techno at the restaurant. The chalet is also in bad need of repair. Compared to places we have stayed before I would say that it should be priced around R600/R700pn, if that. I also saw that the pricing per person for camping is R450, which is way higher than anything I've seen before. The chalets are built on a slope, so have stilts with a deck running around the one side and front, no gate, so not suitable if you have a runaway type doggo. The view from the front deck is lovely, if you ignore the massive electricity wires running through it to the lawn below. There is more than enough seating on the deck, with a wooden bench table and a couple of soft chairs. The braai hangs off the side of the railing.
The chalet is open plan, with a comfy double bed, which has a nice view out the side window, ruined a bit by the, unnecessary-to-nature-lovers TV on one side. There is a sitting area with 2 nice chairs and small table, a fireplace, which looks like it was very messily added later, and a small kitchen. The fridge is quite small, between a bar fridge and a normal smaller size fridge, and there is a microwave and kettle, but no way to make nice coffee. The toaster and 2 plate stove are hidden in the cupboard. There are a few pots and things, but only enough crockery and cutlery for 2, so 2 plates, 2 glasses, 2 knives, 2 forks, you get the picture. So you need to wash up after every meal. There is also a draft in the kitchen due to the window pane in one window being smaller than the frame, bizarre. The wardrobe space is sufficient, but the doors are falling off.
The bathroom is through a door between the wardrobes. It is not in good repair, the tiles are broken and the counter is lopsided. The shower pressure is fine though and the toilet flushes properly. We also experienced a bit of an ant infestation. They also penny pinch on the toilet paper, I have never seen paper that thin and so tightly rationed, luckily I always take an emergency roll. There is no cell reception in the area and they try selling wifi for R50 per person, but why would you want it when out in nature. If you hike you will get a little reception at the top to send a quick message to loved one's to tell them you arrived safe.
Between the chalet and the restaurant is a grassy area, which is nice to throw ball on. The resident dogs are quite territorial, but small and friendly once they have established the visiting dogs' place.
To get down to the river you can take the path next to the restaurant or the slightly longer, but nicer path that leads towards the bigger chalet further along, then splits and goes down towards the waterfall. By the river is a nice grass patch, with a braai spot and a toilet, I think a long drop. It was nice to lie here in the sun when it wasn't too busy. The water was quite high when we were there, so the rock pools were nice to swim in. There is a foofy slide that a few kids used, which drops you into a deep pool above the main waterfall.
Now for the fun bits, the adventures. On our first morning we decided to run along the farm roads, back towards the main road and the little school. There are lovely fruit orchards and we pinched a couple of peaches, which were yummy. We also found a 4x4 trail, which runs around the hills on the other side of the farm from the river. It starts/ends at a split in the road where there is a sign for quad bike trails. After a kilometer or two there is a gate with a sign saying no quad biking past there and that there is a view site. We didn't find anything that was obviously a view site, but the trail runs all along the hills and there are lovely views from pretty much the whole thing. The trail ends/starts near the campsite and field. We did this trail in both directions, on different days, it is about 10km and quite steep from the campsite side, but the rest is not too steep, maybe even okay to mountain bike.
The main hike that they advertise is on the other side of the river and only 3.5-4km. You can get a very basic map from the reception. Because the river was high it was quite difficult to find the way across, we scouted it beforehand so we would know where to go when we wanted to do the hike on our last day. We saw quite a few people, while sitting on our deck, struggling to find the way across. It was quite funny, but we weren't all mean and did run down and help them if they looked really stuck. The trail is circular, with half of it along the river and the other on the hills above the gorge. We went up first, the split was a bit tricky to find, but once you are on the trail it is quite obvious and well marked. There are nice views as you go along the top for a km or 2 and then a steep drop down to the river bed, were you need to clamber down some rocks. This section would probably be easier for most people to go up, rather than down, doing the route in reverse to what we did. The way back runs along and in the riverbed, so our shoes got very wet since the river was high. There were sections along the river that were quite overgrown and we needed to push through. Other people that did the route in the opposite direction to us turned around here, as they couldn't see that the path carried on and then they missed the bit with the views. But on the whole a nice short trail and well marked. We saw some eagle nests, but sadly no eagles.
Other than exploring nature and chilling on the deck there is not a huge amount to do and no nearby towns or tourist attractions. Just the way we like it. Honestly though because of the high pricing this is not somewhere we would go back to and I'm not keen on recommending it to others. Maybe they allow day visitors, thereby you could do the hike and get all the views in and then return to your more reasonably priced accommodation.
...part 2 coming soon....