Buffalo Gorge is more than a trail – it’s an adventure. It doesn’t matter how you like to get your kicks, this special place will satisfy.
“You can’t just blast through the trail for the sake of completing it,” said Ryk Diepraam, owner of the Buffelskloof farm where the Buffalo Gorge 4×4 trail is situated. “You have to use all your senses to experience everything it has to offer.” Ryk hopes to reconnect every adventurer who drives through his gates with nature through the means of an off-road machine, or even a horse, should they prefer. This philosophy is reflected in the layout of the Buffalo Gorge 4×4 trail. It has very little human interference, with the exception being items that indirectly help prevent the the trail (and environment) from being damaged.Departing base camp, you can choose between the Bobbejaan Loop Playground and the Eco 4×4 Safari trail.
The playground consists of 16 water crossings, each of which has been fashioned into an obstacle of sorts. All obstacles vary in difficulty, from the first, which Ryk describes as a teaser, to the penultimate, appropriately named the Showstopper. The latter is not for the faint of heart, as it consists of a series of semi-boulders that have the potential to seriously damage a 4×4. Drivers can tackle these rocks head-on, or try to find a line around them. A decent helping of nerves alone will not be enough for this one, though. Low-range, off-road tyres and good ground clearance are a must, while vehicle protection also comes highly recommended. The Jeep Wrangler named Hellboy had no problem crawling over the show-stopping rocks, or any other obstacles, for that matter. As a result, we were soon searching the riverbanks for something that could test him. Then came obstacle 6. At first glance, it looked reasonably standard: a steep incline, with a stream running two metres from the bottom. No big deal, we thought. What we didn’t see, though, was that as a result of the water, a thick layer of mud had formed at the obstacle’s base.
We attempted the incline, but not everything went according to plan. The mud had formed a clay-like substance that seeped into the thread of the tyres, resulting in zero traction. We engaged both the front and rear lockers, but not even that had any effect. Almost throwing in the towel, we disengaged both differentials and engaged traction control as a last resort. Voila! The wheels spun frantically, but the Jeep clawed its way out of the sticky situation. The 18km Eco 4×4 Safari trail, meanwhile, circles the 364-hectare Buffelskloof farm. It consists of seven viewpoints, each offering either a spectacular view, interesting distraction or adventure activity. While each viewpoint is an experience in itself, number three easily takes the adventure cake. It features two 50m abseiling sites, namely Ryk se Klip and Adventure Valley, which double as rock-climbing sites. Ryk se Klip is easily accessible on foot and offers anyone not looking to abseil an entirely different perspective of the beautiful valley below. There are a few casual 4×4 obstacles scattered around the Eco trail, each offering a unique experience. One of these is Klipbang, a rocky section with plenty of opportunities to get a wheel in the air on a standard 4×4. It’s rated as a grade 4, but an escape route is available.
Buffalo Gorge caters for all kinds of adventure vehicles, be it 4×4, 4×2 or softroaders, as long as the latter have decent ground clearance. Mountain bike enthusiasts can strap their bikes to the car and enjoy a two-wheel adventure. Scenic hiking trails are also available. After a long day on the trail, camping enthusiasts can pitch their tents at one of the many campsites, although we would recommend the Wild Camp. As its name suggests, this camp is located in the middle of the bush with only (very) basic amenities. For those looking to get up close with nature and stimulate all the senses, it doesn’t get much better than this.
4×4 Muscle Trucks
This 4×4 trail review is brought to you by 4×4 Muscle Trucks, who specialise 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; tjmptaeast.co.za
I WANT TO GO, TOO!
Name Buffalo Gorge Eco Adventure
Centre Location Just outside Middelburg, Mpumalanga
GPS co-ordinates S25.54763 / E29.56321
Accommodation Self-catering accommodation available together with various campsites
Food Braai facilities are available at the camps
Difficulty level Bobbejaan Loop: Grade 1–3 (Season dependent) Eco Trail: 1–2 / Klipbang 4 Vehicle required: Softroaders welcome on Eco Trail /Bobbejaan Loop requires 4×4 with low-range
Price R250 per vehicle per day (includes all occupants)
Self-drive Yes, but guided is available
Contact Ryk 083 528-9586
Photos: Deon van der Walt