A few issues ago we invited readers to join us on this adventurous weekend in the Klein Karoo with its warm hospitality, and magnificent passes that are rich in history. The challenge was taken up, and a good time was had. Tour leader Kalbas Nell reports back…
On 13 June our group met in Oudtshoorn, in the heart of the Klein Karoo, at La Dolce Vita restaurant for a cup of coffee before our departure to the farm Rooirivier in the red foothills of the Swartberg Mountains.
The route to De Rust was scenic, with red hills and the open fields a lush green after the first winter rains. The dark clouds hanging in the air moved away to make place for the sun to welcome our group to a beautiful koppie called Rooiberg.
Smoke could be seen twirling through the thorn trees, telling us that our bush chef, Zindile Matros, (Shortie) was already busy preparing dinner on the open fire. On arrival at the camp – Kokanje – our Tentco canvas tents were already pitched and ready for the guests for the next two nights.
The first evening was spent around the campfire getting to know one another, before sitting down to a meal so delicious that most went for seconds. On the menu were chops, wors, “pap en sous” from Shortie’s secret recipes, and salad.
To our relief the next morning dawned clear, and Shortie was ready with coffee and rusks. Breakfast consisted of cheese omelettes with filling, and toast. Ockie van der Westhuizen, co-owner of Rooirivier 4×4 Route, joined us for breakfast and to drive along in the tour guide’s Honeydew Toyota Land Cruiser 70 station wagon. The George LA Sport team (Norman and Magda) also joined us for the weekend.
As some of the guests on the weekend trip have never driven off-road in their vehicles before, everyone first went practising in a gravel quarry, the “gruisgat”.
And a bit of practice they needed – what lay ahead was a grade five 4×4 route!
On the way there Ockie showed us interesting fauna and told us more about the history of his farm. Then it all started with what is called the “Sokkiesrook Pass”, named after Toyota’s SA’s Willie van Greune, who on a previous trip wanted to know if the person wanting him to drive up there had smoked his socks!
The very steep road up the mountain required a cautious approach and there was no room for error. On top of the pass we stopped for two reasons, firstly to get the heart rate back to normal again, and to enjoy the great view over the Klein Karoo and Rooiberg.
Using the two-way radio Kalbas guided the convoy over the route, while the LA Sport team rode shotgun at the back. There were no mishaps, partly thanks to the practising done in the gruisgat that morning.
All the excitement whetted the appetite, and back at the camp Shorty was ready for us with nice warm roosterkoek, wors, cheese, home-made jams and that secret sauce of his!
The afternoon we spent in the “playground”, an area with a couple of small obstacles and made even more exciting by the water challenges left by earlier rains. Under Kalbas’s watchful eye the drivers each had a chance to test-drive his Honeydew Toyota-sponsored Cruiser. That night the vehicle’s outstanding capabilities were the topic of discussion around the campfire.
After a great night’s rest and another of Shorty’s excellent breakfasts, the convoy left for Prince Albert via the spectacular Meiringspoort with its waterfalls and 21 river crossings.
Lunch, a three-course meal, was at the 160-year-old Swartberg Hotel, and then it was up the Swartberg Pass to go to Gamkaskloof, better known as Die Hel. From the turnoff to the valley it’s only 38km, but the signpost cautions that you should set aside two hours. Once you’re on the road you understand why. It twists and turns into the valley, and is so steep that it took all of our concentration.
In the kloof we stopped at Tannie Annatjie Joubert’s farmstall, where Ta’ Annatjie herself gave us a warm Gamkaskloof welcome. At the campsite the Leisure Wheels 4×4 Safaris team pitched the tents and started to prepare dinner. Being here was like a step back into time, and so was the hearty meal – steak, mealies, garlic potatoes, salads, wholewheat bread and homemade jams.
The following morning everyone was reluctant to leave, but after breakfast it was time to say goodbye. Until next time.
FACES DUNE SAFARI
27 September – 3 October
The Namib – the oldest desert in the world and rich in the history of a bygone diamond era. We invite you to come and experience the highest dunes in the world with us from 27 September to 3 October.
On day one we meet in Solitaire, where you’ll be briefed about the adventure.
On day two our adventure begins as we head from Solitaire into the sand-sea of the Namib in the Namib Naukluft Park. The ever-changing dunes of the Namib promise breathtaking experiences for the family and the thrill of a lifetime for 4×4 enthusiasts.
As we move through the vast expanse of beautiful sand dunes, the scenery changes from typical Namib plains into a colourful landscape of red sand dunes. We drive along the Kuiseb River bed, with massive red sand dunes on one side, and pitch black mountains on the other.
The ever-changing scenery of the desolate Namib keeps surprising us, and the driving skills of drivers are being challenged more. Both the dunes and the dune straits are hugely impressive.
An early start on day four leads the convoy along the trails of the ghost towns of the previous Diamond Area No. 2. The remains of these little towns tell a story of hardship, endurance and eventual surrender.
Highlights of this historical trail are: the bird’s eye view of Conception Bay when you reach the Atlantic coastline, the wreck of the Eduard Bohlen and Meob Bay, with remnants of long forgotten mining activities.
Camping for these two nights will be in the Conception Bay area, depending on the progress of the safari, and weather permitting.
We camp at either Leeukoppie or Conception Water.
On the last day of our journey you will experience driving on stretches of dunes along the Atlantic coastline. Experience Sandwich Bay with the Shawnee shipwreck and the Langewand, where huge dunes meet the sea.
This wonderful adventure comes to an end near Walvis Bay. We say good-bye to our adventure by crossing the Roller Coaster Dunes, with a series of massive slip faces and high dunes.
The cost is R7427 per adult sharing, is based on a minimum of eight vehicles or 16 adults.
* Guide and logistical vehicles
* Breakfast and dinner
* Tent accommodation in Namib
* Preparation of meals, and cutlery
* Shower tent
* Camping in Solitaire
* Well-serviced 4×4 vehicle with low range
* Snacks and drinks
* Mattress, pillow and sleeping bag
* Sufficient petrol or diesel for adventure (approximate fuel consumption 3,0 km/l petrol and 4,0 km/l diesel)
Distance 750 km.
* Accommodation and meals in Walvis Bay
* For a full itinerary and additional notes please contact Kalbas Nell on 076 934-2123; 044 272-4731 or [email protected]
2009 4X4 SAFARI TOUR PROGRAMME
27 Sep-3 Oct Faces – Namib Desert R7427pp
12-16 Dec West Coast R3990pp
Experience the hospitality of the West Coast people with lodge accommodation and 4×4 driving in the West Coast dunes.
18 – 23 Dec Faces – Namib Desert R7427pp
27 Dec-1 Jan Faces – Namib Desert R7427pp
Highly recommended by the tour operator. On this safari, you will experience the most scenic parts of the Namib Desert, departing from Solitaire, including the highest dunes in the Namib, and ending in Walvis Bay.