The red Jeep Wrangler named Hellboy brushed its broad shoulders through two billion years of history at the Berakah 4×4 Eco Trail, located inside the Vredefort Dome.
Millions of years ago (geologists reckon around 2 023 million) the area known as the Vredefort Dome was ground zero for the biggest meteor strike our planet has ever seen. It’s estimated that the meteorite travelled through the atmosphere at around 32 000km/h, leaving nothing but a 90km-wide crater in its destructive wake. Today, the Berakah 4×4 trail can be found inside this ancient crater, surrounded by a series of mountains born from this immense impact.
While Hellboy loves nothing more than scampering up the side of a mountain, the Berakah 4×4 trail is about reconnecting with nature instead of mechanically torturing a 4×4. The trail consists of two main loops, the first of which takes a more leisurely approach to the off-roading pastime. Travellers start off at a beautiful forest section that looks like it was borrowed straight from a nature documentary. From there, the track opens up towards the Enselspruit River, and here fun is measured in the ability to get a 4×4 dirty. Caution is advised during the rainy season, though, since drivers have to navigate through the muddy riverbank section. You soon start to ascend a hillside overlooking the area surrounding Parys. Unfortunately, there’s not much room to admire the views as momentum is a driver’s best friend on the steep rocky climbs that lie ahead. These climbs are littered with sharp rocks, making an all-terrain tyre a wise choice.
The capable Hellboy scampered over this section without breaking a sweat. Plenty of wildlife can be spotted in this area thanks to the 180-degree panoramic views: baboon, jackals, the illusive aardwolf, several species of antelope and even the occasional leopard. Reflecting on the magnificence of the area, we spotted a troop of baboon suspiciously eyeing us before fleeing in another direction. Soon though, we had to start our imminent descent. After all, what goes up must come down. We completed the first loop without any drama and were faced with a choice. Continue onwards to the second loop that is also remarkably more difficult, or head back to the farmhouse. The sun was nearing the horizon, and with no camping gear or food handy (and only two Cokes left in the cooler box) we decided to head back to the farm-house.
As a result, we missed out on the second loop of the Berakah 4×4 trail,which promises some gravity-defying obstacles as it heads deep into the mountainside. The most fearsome is known simply as ‘the mineshaft’ – a long and steep drop with a real promise of disaster if caution is not exercised. Definitely one for the off- road adrenaline junkies. To navigate the Berakah trail, a 4×4 with good ground clearance is required. For the first loop, a rear-locking differential is unnecessary since a good helping of momentum can get the job done. You’ll usually find an escape route, should things get too hairy. Hiking and mountain biking are also available for those less interested in a mechanical adventure, while braai and camping facilities are available across the length of the trail. All in all, Berakah is an adventure trail with a 4×4 alter ego. There are fewer “hang on and watch this” moments and more “wow, would you look at that view?”
4×4 Muscle Trucks
This 4×4 trail review is brought to you by 4×4 Muscle Trucks, which specialises in creating off-road leviathans. Their most recent builds include the R2-million Hilux called Godzilla and Hellboy, the big and mean Jeep Wrangler featured on these pages. 4×4 Muscle Trucks is owned by Hansie Coetzee, who also owns TJM Pretoria-East. More information: Tel: 012 809 0090;
I WANT TO GO, TOO!
Name Berakah Eco Trails
Location Off the R53, near Parys, Free State
GPS co-ordinates S26° 49’ 25” / E27° 22’ 20”
Accommodation Self-catering chalets are available, as well as camping and caravanning facilities
Food Braai facilities are available
Difficulty First loop: 1-3 | Second loop: 1-4
Vehicle required A 4×4 with good ground clearance, low-range and preferably A/T tyres.
Price R280 per vehicle (day visitors). R40 per person (hiking trail) and R40 per bicycle (mountain biking).
Self drive Yes
Contact Andre Tel: 056 818 1313 or email [email protected]
Text & Photos: Deon van der Walt