Baviaanskloof, out and about.

Baviaanskloof, out and about.

by Gerald O’Brien

The Baviaanskloof is one of those places that will come up in conservation but is then soon dropped as the conversation moves on. Why, probably because it a place less visited by our 4×4 population, one of the reasons is more than likely due to the fact that there are no big predators roaming the reserve and the camps do not have elephants moving through at night.

We went there never the less to see for ourselves what the Baviaanskloof is all about, and how amazingly surprised the group of us all were. The convoy was made up of five 4×4’s, three of which were towing, two off road caravans and myself my off-road trailer.

Our first night was at a place called Die Ghwarries just past Patensie, headed towards Willowmore. It was a clean and comfortable establishment with a large veranda and braai area which suited us very well. The following morning we were on our way by 08h30 and headed for Timbila Game reserve on the northern side of the actual Baviaanskloof.
We intended doing a circular route, on the northern route from Patensie to Willowmore and then down the T1 from Willowmore to Patensie on the return. The first day had us headed up into the mountains and overlooking Patensie and all the citrus farms in the Gamtoos valley on our left, what a spectacular sight. The route which we were following was an off-road route and took us up and over the Antoniesberg pass on our way to Stytlerville for refuelling. The pass was amazing, the vegetation mostly of a desert scrub type which meant that had long distance views on the splendid countryside. Antoniesberg Pass was an exciting 4×4 drive which required low ratio in places. We stopped for lunch at the bottom of a pass on the banks of the Groot river, surrounded by mountains and very remote. Stytlerville is a pleasant town, spotless and clean and with everything in its place. If you’re passing through, try the Cupchino from the shop next

to the filling station, you will certainly not be disappointed. Our first two nights were at Timbila game reserve. The campsite was magnificent where it was set in amongst the bush and far from anything. Good, clean ablutions with hot water and power points in the campsites. The following morning whilst most went for a long hike, two of us went and drove the 4×4 route. This is a real 4×4 route and requires high ground clearance and the removal of running boards and nudge bars. Fortunately we were both in 76 Cruisers and did not have any problems.

Willowmore is another spotless town with lots to do and see and requires at least two or so hours to see everything properly. After Willowmore we had a short but interesting drive to Vaalwater for our third night. A fine camp site with power point and excellent ablution facilities, the farmer gets the coal powered donkey going the minute that you arrive and in no time you have hot water. The following morning we had time to drive a very moderate but interesting 4×4 trail before leaving for the Kloof itself.
The Baviaanskloof to our next camp was a mere 30 kms away, giving us plenty of time for pictures and exploring along the way. The descent into the Kloof is awesome, the road is good and the rugged mountains on either side are stunning, a photographers dream.

The plant life is quite something too with the most amazing variety of plants as you drive through the Gorge. A worthwhile stop over is at het roadside Baviaanskloof Craft Shop. Craft and souvenirs on the one side of the road and the best coffee and Rooster Brood you have ever tasted on the opposite side of the road.
Our next stop was at BO Kloof, and again a very pleasant campsite with a power point and more than adequate ablution facilities. Camping was on lush green grass and away from the main road. I have heard about the Anatolian Shepherd Dogs before and was pleasantly surprised to see them with the sheep on the farm. At Bo Kloof you are able to purchase an assortment of Honeys and Vinegars, all locally produced and at good prices too.
The last day in the Kloof was a fairly long one for us as we were headed all the way back to Patensie, and thus completing the full circle. The distance was only 130 kilometers but we had plenty to see and do along the way. We paid a visit to Sewe Fontein just before entering the San Parks portion of the Kloof. At Sewe Fontein we met up with Patrick the local tour guide who gave us the most interesting tour of the fountain and then the Fig Tree Forest. Patrick took us to the biggest of the Fountains where the crystal clear and cool water bubbles out from the ground at quite an alarming rate throughout the year for the past 20 years or so. There are seven of these springs but are quite a bit smaller in volume scattered around the area and the water is mostly used for irrigation purposes on the local farms.

Upon entering the San Parks portion of the Kloof, the road deteriorates dramatically and suddenly it becomes very slow going and the next 50 or so kilometers will take around 5 hours, that’s including a stop-over at the midway picnic sight for lunch. The reserve has a population of around 300 Buffalo so alighting from the vehicle outside from the picnic site is not permitted, needless to say though we unfortunately did not get a buffalo sighting. The drive itself is spectacular as the road meanders through the mountains, crossing the river a number of times and then finally over the last peak and down into the Gamtoos valley. The road is narrow in places and should you meet oncoming traffic, things could get a little tense out there, especially if both parties had vehicle which were towing.

I would recommend this trip to anyone with a 4×4, it’s a really fantastic trip with lots to see and do and without the long distances between each destination. I will be running one again next year at round about the same time.

For additional pictures of the trip, go to the Halfway Scottburgh face book page