April 13 2011
By Myrtle Ryan
Over dinner at a South Coast resort, a couple asked if I had ever visited Mac Nicol’s Caravan and Camping Resort at Bazley Beach, which had won several awards. Not owning a caravan or fancy camping gear, I told them, meant such a spot would hardly lure me. “But they have log cabins,” was their response.
So here we were, ensconced in a luxury cabin, perched on a hill overlooking the Ifafa River on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, sampling the charms of the kind of break many families take, without the hassle of putting up or taking down tents.
On that note, let me mention that at Mac Nicol’s, staff take the pain out of even that chore by cheerfully assisting with erecting and dismantling your temporary home-away-from-home.
Friendliness is the key word at this resort. We had no sooner checked in than we were told there was a communal braai that evening. The owners light the fires.
Those who want to bring along their traditional South African favourite, the braai meat, and bond over the smoky cooking process, then sit down to munch together. Of course, those who prefer their privacy are not obliged to put in an appearance.
Don’t bring dessert; the highlight of such an evening is the perfect pancakes cooked in a row of pans by pancake master Ian Mac Nicol, and served with coffee. Contented murmurs from all present proclaimed these were the best they had eaten.
Then there are the cream scones served every morning (out of high season) beside the swimming pool. Reaching for a scone, as someone else makes a similar move, helps to break any ice that might still be floating in the glass of conviviality.
This is a particularly attractive caravan park, with lots of trees, subtropical flowers, lawns and two large sparkling swimming pools, which are heated in winter.
The Ifafa River and lagoon attract plenty of bird life. During our visit, we came across a number of Egyptian and Spurwing goslings, paddling contentedly behind their parents. Kingfishers darted and dived.
A backdrop to this peaceful scene is the railway bridge over the river.
Many campers who fancy a spot of fishing wander through the small tunnel of trees that leads to the remains of the old railway bridge that once spanned the lagoon. Apparently a train fell off it years ago, leading to the construction of a more sturdy bridge.
You can still see the scar – mostly covered in undergrowth – of the cutting in the hillside on the other side of the river, where the train track once passed.
Realising that if you keep the children entertained, the parents are more relaxed, the Mac Nicol family places great emphasis on keeping children of all ages busy having fun.
Watching families having fun in the pool or children play on the jungle gym or bounce on the trampolines somehow added to our own pleasure. The fact that we had no kids in tow did not stop people from including us.
The large recreation hall has a basketball court, table tennis, pool table and darts, and sports matches are shown on a big screen. We learned that the Juke Box, for teenagers, also has pool tables, darts and coffee… and adults are banned (except for a quick check on their offspring).
Children are encouraged to bring their bikes to the resort, though strict rules apply to their usage.
There is the 2km Mpithi bush trail through the riverine forest for bird watchers while canoes are available on a deposit basis. The sunset cruise on the Ifafa River – with the Mac Nicol family German shepherd dog the first to board – was pleasantly relaxing.
We disturbed a huge monitor lizard lying on a branch. It promptly fell into the river with an ungainly splash; barn swallows swooped against the darkening sky; we searched in vain for the fish eagles which have built a raggedy nest in a tree; and tried to imagine the lives of the Bushman family who once painted rock art on an overhang upstream that we examined.
Sometimes we tend to forget that once these first inhabitants of the country lived beside the sea but were driven deeper inland, to eventually take up residence in the harsh, dry areas, by our own marauding forefathers.
Early the next morning, a couple invited me to join them for a walk on the beach opposite the resort. Later, armed with the necessary permit, we headed for Ndesingane, a private beach 3km from the resort, where a long crescent of golden sand beckons beachcombers.
In season, Ian piles everyone who doesn’t want to take their own car into the “cattle truck” and transports them to Ndesingane for a couple of hours.
In season, we were told, they sometimes organise an evening cruise for teenagers, who go ashore for a few hours to toast marshmallows over a fire in the bush.
The luxury log cabins that provided the initial attraction to visit the resort were top-notch. The windows have solar shields, so while you can see out, no one can see in. We spent a lot of time sitting on the large balcony, just soaking up the view. There is a large lounge, dining room and open-plan kitchen stocked with every amenity.
Although there was a TV, we felt no desire to sit glued to the box when nature was waiting to be enjoyed. Both bedrooms are en-suite, but sleeper couches mean that each cabin comfortably sleeps six.
Mac Nicol’s, which was started by Angus and June MacNicol in 1983 and now has three generations of the family involved, was the winner in the SA Top 20 Caravan Resorts in 2001 and a winner in the caravan and campsite category in 2006 and 2008 of the AA Awards.
At night, as breezes played over my comfortable bed, I fell asleep to the distant murmur of the waves on the shore. In the mornings, the Egyptian geese – which seem to love the roof of the next-door cabin – woke me to another day in paradise.
Looking out at their silhouette on the roof, against the dawn sky, was a reminder that what in the city would have been a rowdy, raucous awakening, here simply brought pleasure.
Original Article – iol.co.za
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