The best thing about overlanding, says Francois Rossouw, is the unpredictability of it all. You simply never know what you’ll stumble across. Sometimes it is a wonderful 4×4 trail. At other times, well, it is something inexplicable yet wonderful
We recently did a trip into the Drakensberg mountains between Bergville and Swinburn.
We went up the old and eroded Bezuidenhouts Pass that had been popular before Van Rheenen’s Pass was built. It was quite a challenge. It took us one hour to complete a very tricky 1km stretch.
Next, we went down the old Retief’s Pass, with the permission, of course, of the owner of a farm that the pass stretched through. It was quite an experience, but the big surprise was still to come…
The next morning, we tackled the Middledale Pass between Geluksburg and Swinburn. About half way up the pass, we turned left onto a private farm road. We eventually came to a farmhouse and a huge scrap metal processing yard.
As it turned out, the farm belonged to Schalk van Vuuren. His mother, Tannie Corrie, used to be a teacher in Geluksburg, and she started telling us all the stories and legends of the area. It was so interesting that, with Tannie Corrie’s permission, we decided to take a route on the farm that would take us around the back of the Tintwa Mountain. This was a route only used by the farmer to get to the remote areas where his cattle grazed at certain times of the year, and had therefore not been used for at least six months.
At certain spots we had to chop up trees that were lying across the way. In other places we had to rebuild the road where it had been washed away by recent storms. The going was slow, but we enjoyed the trip immensely.
The track we were on could hardly be called a trail. It was more of an obstacle course! It was narrow and you had to manoeuvre between the rocks as you climbed up very steep inclines. It was a real 4×4 enthusiast’s dream.
After a while, we got to the original farmyard where the first house had been built when Bezuidenhouts Pass was still in use and the access to the farmyard was closer to the main road. Tannie Corrie’s husband had been a dealer in scrap iron, and had brought hoarded everything that he considered of historical and value. When the original farmhouse started to fall apart, the foreman on the farm reinforced and decorated the house with all the antique items that had been collected over the years.
The stairs to the house were constructed out of about 36 old ox-wagon axles, and the railings were made from old wagon wheels. The inside was decorated with old coffee grinders and meat mincers. Horseshoes and predator traps clung to the walls, while anvils and old water pumps dotted the yard.
Not too far from the main stood two sheds full of antiques and plenty of old ploughs and farming equipment. The walls here had been crafted out of old milk cans, and the path from the sheds to the house was lined with old cars. Tons and tons of once-valuable antiques littered the yard. An antique dealer would probably have cried if he saw how all these old treasures had been abandoned to the elements.
As you might imagine, I battled to tear the group members away from the scene. It was a facinating scene.
But just when I thought we would never hit the road again, a very rare bull came to my help. A Wahutsi bull from north Africa called the property home, and he had clearly become frustrated with all the people tresspassing on “his” property. The Wahutsi is a rare type of cattle that originates from north Africa and is known for its extremely large horns. The importance of a north African tribal chief is actually measured by the size of his biggest bull’s horns.
This particular bull started to blow through his nose and dig into the dirt with his front hooves, ready to chase us away. The group members ran for the shelter of the vehicles. Afraid that he would charge one of the 4x4s, we drove off as quickly as possible.
Back at the lodge at Geluksburg that evening, we couldn’t stop talking about the fascinating old house we had encountered. You truly never know what you will encounter on a 4×4 trip!