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2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road)

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2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road)

Postby Alex Roux » 10 Jan 2016 14:06

Hi all

For this years annual trek to the Cape, I decided to make a meal of the back roads, through the Nortnen Cape, Western Karoo.
This is a brief summary.

We set off from Jhb on the N12 towards Wolmaranstad, then turned off to drive via Schweizer Reneke, then onto Jan Kempdorp.
Only from Jan Kempdork onwards, we hit the first dirt driving via Spitskop dam towards Delportshoop.
Then over Schmidtsdrift towards our first night's stay, near Campbell.

Campell has one big church, a police station and a few old houses.
We stayed at the Wildspan Gasteplaas. The hosts welcomed us with a bottle of sweet wine and a bottle of Coke!
Generally we found the hospitality on this trip to be exceptional. More on that later.
The firewood smelled like it was more suited for furniture and, as was for the drinks, on the house.
http://www.wildspanguestfarm.co.za

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The next day we set off towards Williston. This required 10 hours in the car, which is why I invested in a proper entertainment system for the kids before we left.
Between every movie they had to complete a set of 10 Sudokus. The degree of difficulty depended on their respective ages.

From Campbell, we headed for Griekwastad, then South towards Prieska, via Niekerkshoop.
The shop pictured below is next to the courthouse where the infamous Steenkamp family murder trial took place.

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On lunch at Prieska I met a farmer with a 2005 4.8 GRX for sale. He will still advertise on this form. It had only done about 100k, and he only wants to sell it due to it not being used enough.
From Prieska we headed for "Vanwyksvlei". One of many half deserted towns. Half way between Prieska and Vanwyksvlei are the Copperton Solar panels. A gazzilion solar panels.
From Vanwyksvlei we took a turn at a farm gate (since the GPS told us we could. That was my story anyway, in case we were approached by an angry farmer). The next two hours required Swambo and me taking turns opening farm gates on a "tweespoor" path until we reached a road again that had a number! This was fun. Kids enjoyed the rooftop views too. On the way we found many farms that looked active. I.e. many sheep, and working windpumps, but where the farm houses are closed down and deserted. This we later learned is due to the farmers giving up their land, or renting it out to allow other farmers to farm with greater economies of scale. This also in part explains why many of the smaller towns are becoming increasingly deserted (such as Niekerkshoop and Vanwyksvlei), while some of the bigger towns flourish (like Prieska and Williston). It is part of a consolidation process happening.

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Another interesting phenomena is the progress of the SKA, with Williston at its centre. These guys, with international funding and government support, are searching for a Big Bang in space. In doing so they are taking up more and more farm land at a set "market price" which the farmer by law HAVE to accept. This leads to greater uncertainty and stifles infrastructure maintenance on the farms in this area. Apparently, in search of this big bang, they need total silence. All farm fences need to the taken down. Definitely no driving will be allowed in this area (certainly not in a V8). It may therefore be the first and last time we are able to drive this route.

Our stay at the guest farm near WIlliston included dinner and breakfast. Dinner was an "eat as much as you like" skaap tjoppies, ribs and kebabs special. They only do the banting diet in the evenings apparently. For 5 people, bed, breakfast and dinner cost us R1,100. They even filled their farm pool with water, just for us. I am yet to find better value for money.

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The Williston guest farm is called Rietvlei. There is no website and no web-based advertising. But I can give direct contact details if anyone is interested.
Last edited by Alex Roux on 10 Jan 2016 16:50, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: 2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road) Part

Postby Alex Roux » 10 Jan 2016 14:15

...continued

The Williston Farm is a de facto museum.
The next morning we were given a tour of how bread used to be made.
The corbel house, then the donkey mill, then the oven. The corbel house has a roof made of flat stones, which keeps it cool in the day. It is a technique that originates from Europe and can be found in the Williston, Fraserburg and Canarvon area. The donkey driven mill is still in working order, one of very few known to be so.

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From Williston we drove south towards Sutherland.
We had a choice: Either 200km mostly tarmac, or 140 km dirt. We chose dirt.
Generally we were very lucky with the dirt roads chosen, very little corrugation.

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By now we had enough dirt on the car to enable the children to make a political statement.
I can confirm that I did not persuade or coerce them in any way whatsoever.
(The views expressed in this and other pictures is not necessarily that of the author or the moderators of this forum)

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From Sutherland we entered the Tankwa from the South Eastern corner on the Oubergpass. This pass is popular with offroad bikers.

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The temperature increased from around 33deg to 40deg as we descended down this pass.
Views were stunning. Technically it can be driven by a platkar, but I would not risk road tyres on this surface.
Last edited by Alex Roux on 10 Jan 2016 15:40, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road) Part

Postby Alex Roux » 10 Jan 2016 14:28

...continued

However also note that it can snow in winter. Tankwa is surrounded by the Roggeveld mountain range on the East and the Cederberg mountains on the West. Therefore the range of temperatures between summer and winter is significant. There are may camping spots which are well maintained. Some are completely without water or ablution, which makes them very cheap (R100 per night). Others include dedicated ablutions per camper. But I would only stay there in Spring or Autumn.

Our first night in the Tankwa was at "de Zyfer".
Many of these cabins are old farm houses that where bought out with the farm land to make up the Tankwa Karoo park of today.
The houses are restored. The ones we know of are without electricity. It relies on paraffin and candles for light and a donkey for hot water.

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The next day we drove up Ganaga pass to visit the town of Middelpos, which is famous for its goats cheese.

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From there we took the Watervlei 4x4 trail in the reserve. This moves very close to the edge of the Roggeveld mountain range.
In terms of difficulty, Swambo only exit the car twice to check my line, otherwise it is quite time-consuming. About two hours.

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The next day we stayed at the Elandsberg lodge, from here there is a short 4x4 trail to a lookout point (well worth it).
These units are newly built for the Tankwa and includes a splash pool.
Given that temperatures reach the 40 deg celcius range, this lodge is highly recommended for summer, but other than the wind protected fire place, it does not have the large in-house fireplaces of the restored farmhouses, which is what you would want for winter.

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For Tankwa, booking is done through Sanpakrs.
Last edited by Alex Roux on 10 Jan 2016 16:55, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road)

Postby Alex Roux » 10 Jan 2016 14:53

When we departed from the Tankwa we intended to drive the Biedouwvallei pass towards Wuppertal, but our GPS and Map could not agree on which way to go at a particular T-junction. There is apparently a Slingsby map of this area that is a must for next time. So we missed it, and went further North than planned, coming down the Botterkloof pass instead. then onto the Pakhuis pass towards Clanwilliam. Pakhuis pass was a little disappointing as I expected it to be dirt as well. By now we have reached the Cederberg range. Just before the Pakhuis pass however there is a well managed farmstall for lunch. This is close to some bushmen drawings of dinosaurs too.


From here we headed to Riebeek Kasteel and were well back into civilisation.
Riebeek Kasteel by the way was a new discovery form. A very "Frenchy" little town riddled with restaurants.

From Riebeek Kasteel our trip took a turn for the conventional. Table mountain, beaches etc.
The Table mountain trip was an ordeal to forget. Lots of European languages at the top and a real scuffle to get down the cable car again.
I told my kids they better remember this trip, because I am not doing that any time soon again.

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I almost forgot! There was also the CT GTG with Peter Connan, Dawid Prinsloo and Stefan de Villiers, including a beer at the Thirsty Scarecrow.
Last edited by Alex Roux on 10 Jan 2016 16:57, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road)

Postby Alex Roux » 10 Jan 2016 15:16

..continued

From Cape Town we headed for Vleesbaai, and crossed over the Breede River using the Malgas Pontoon.
It costs R48 per vehicle (but there is no change for a 50, so make it 50), can take three vehicles at a time, and requires the physical workout of two strong men.
This I thought would not go down very well with human rights activists. The nature of the workout is not too dissimilar to that of a traditional Riksjha (which I understand is now banned in India).

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After Vleesbaai it was time to head back home. On our way, North of Graaf Reinet, between the Naude's pass and the Loodsberg pass, there is a turn off to the right onto the R61, which takes you over the "Wapadsberg Pass".
Coming down from this pass, presents a fantastic panoramic view of the Eastern Karoo. I guess I could see more than 100km away.
We stayed at the self catering guesthouse between Hofmeyer and Steynsburg. Here we were received by our hosts with a freshly baked Apple crumble!
Then the farmer guided me on his mountain's 4x4 trail. The dryness of of the land depressed him. But the views are still stunning.
The farmer offered us another night (for free), but by now the kids were well and truly homesick.
(https://acomsa.co.za/steynsburg/lords-guest-farm/)

On route we reached the town of Hofmeyer, which is sporting a pink church.

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Heading back home, we pass the Gariep dam, which is currently at around 35-40% capacity.

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After Gariep we hit the N1 for the first time on our trip and I started to enjoy closer to normal fuel consumption.

In summary, This was expensive. We covered around 4,700 kms. It required a lot of planning.
But I would not hesitate to do it again.
None of the places we stayed at disappointed us.
None of the farm guest houses had electricity. So if that is your thing, then I can recommend the same places.
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Re: 2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road)

Postby Jules » 10 Jan 2016 19:46

Great report Alex, thanks for sharing

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Re: 2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road)

Postby JoshJ » 11 Jan 2016 06:50

Nice one Alex, thanx for sharing :thumbup:
Being alive is a Blessing!!

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Re: 2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road)

Postby Herrie » 11 Jan 2016 08:06

Baie dankie vir die fotos en die inligting! :thumbup:
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Re: 2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road)

Postby gupster » 11 Jan 2016 09:06

Wow Alex, that was fantastic off the beaten track adventure you went on. Thanks for sharing all those details, they have made my feet very itchy to get out there again.

Kind regards.

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Re: 2015 Karoo and Southern Cape (maximising dirt road)

Postby ricster » 11 Jan 2016 09:36

Very nice Alex !!!!
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