Text and photography: Leilani Basson
Overlanding addicts on the North Coast like quickies. They dig in and get it over and done with. Finish and klaar.
It all started when a group of friends could not join a 4×4 trip because it would have kept them away from their commitments for too long. They also felt that most of the trips were organised from Johannesburg or Cape Town, leaving them somewhere in the middle with way too many kilometres to cover to reach the assembly point — before the trip had even started.
“Just because we can’t go away on long weekend trips or stretched out overland expeditions with the bigger 4×4 clubs doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get the same enjoyment from our vehicles,” said Marais Viljoen, chairman of Noordkus Spore 4×4 Klub and one of the founders. “So we started our own club that arranges one-day excursions in and around the North Coast. And it’s growing at a rapid pace.”
Marais and Nardus Jooste, prominent and hands-on members of the club, had a bee in their bonnets. They felt a need for time-restrained 4×4 owners (and businessmen who work on Saturdays and holidays) to get out and enjoy themselves. Quality, not quantity.
Sundays proved to be the perfect day to enjoy nature, a bit of 4×4’ing, good company and good food in pleasant surroundings. And if they kicked off early, they could be home by the afternoon, leaving enough time for that well-deserved nap or helping the kids with last-minute homework.
Within a month, Noordkus Spore 4×4 Klub was established with 21 members and a lot of interest. The first 4×4 family fun day was arranged at Heatonville Adventure Park. Sixteen vehicles pitched up that morning.
“We were surprised at the outcome,” says Marais. “At the second outing, 21 vehicles turned up and for the third, a whopping 31 vehicles.”
The unexpectedly good turn-out had them nervous all right, but it confirmed their hunch that there is a market for quick excursions hosted by a local club.
The fourth family fun day was arranged at Bainage Izulu Village and 4×4 Facility in the heart of Zululand.
The meeting spot was at Nardus’s 4×4 Megaworld store in Richards Bay. Everyone had to be there before 07h:00, in order to reach Bainage by 08h:00. Twenty-five 4x4s and their owners rocked up. The group was made up of people from all walks of life: newly married couples, families with children, mommies and daddies with babies and toddlers and one family with a yorkie.
After the customary meet and greet, Henning de Wet, vice-chairman, gave a rundown on the proceedings and explained the etiquette of driving in convoy. And a long convoy it was – the 25 vehicles ranging from Toyota Land Cruisers to Land Rover Discoveries and Mazda, Nissan and Ford double cabs. There was also a Jeep Wrangler piloted by a lady.
Fanie van Rooyen, the club’s events coordinator, brought up the rear to ensure that all the cattle made it to the kraal. Fanie owns Palm Service Station, just around the corner from 4×4 Megaworld.
BainageVillage is just outside of Empangeni. This privately owned farm on the banks of the Umhlatuzi River, with the Ongoye mountain range in the background, offers everything 4×4 and more. The terrain presents something for every level of experience (and confidence), including riverbeds, river crossings, scenic drives, gentle gravel stretches, grade 4 inclines and some really rough rocky tracks and dongas.
What sets Bainage apart from most other 4×4 courses is that obstacles were created in such a way that no one can carry on by themselves while leaving the rest behind. This made it possible for Fanie to give each participant the instruction and guidance needed to navigate the obstacle in the best possible way while keeping the specific vehicle in mind. While one vehicle is at it, with another already lining up, there is enough space for the other vehicles to park in convoy, giving everyone the chance to watch the action. All vehicles (and their sometimes flustered occupants) are met with enthusiastic cheers and screams of encouragement.
For many, the spectator value was more entertaining than the actual driving. Waiting your turn at the obstacles made for wonderful photo opportunities and a growing sense of camaraderie.
Some participants had their first taste of driving through water (and not getting stuck). For others the steep inclines — where you really have to be in control of your traction and momentum — proved to be the biggest obstacle. It was at one of these inclines (said to be the steepest on the farm) that three lady drivers showed the men a thing or two by making it to the top in one go in three different vehicles. Many men didn’t make it or bailed out halfway up.
It was not all rough riding, though. Laid back drivers who opted for the casual approach over the more mundane obstacles had equal enjoyment.
Later, everyone met up at Bainage’s sizable lapa surrounded by shady trees. Camping chairs were put out and experiences were shared. With a lamb on the spit (sponsored by Bestcut Butchery in Richards Bay), the real socialising began.
Since the first family day, lunch has been sponsored by members. Everyone gets a turn to use their specific resources to the benefit of the club.
“And we would like it to stay this way,” says Marais. “Some members sponsor cash while others may supply something else. Our member fees all go towards making these get-togethers as pleasurable as possible. And who knows, if there is enough interest we will arrange weekend excursions close to home that are 4×4 friendly and forgiving for SUV owners as well. A little bit of a longer quickie that’s at least close to home.”
Noordkus Spore 4×4 Klub: Marais Viljoen: [email protected] contact: 083 441 3670 of
Bainage Izulu Village and 4×4 Facility: [email protected] or 083 649 9990
4×4 Megaworld Richards Bay: Nardus Jooste: [email protected] Tel: 035 789-0919, 082 784-9202