READER STORY

You’d ex­pect a 42-year wedding an­niver­sary to in­clude a can­dlelit din­ner at a fancy restau­rant, but Jo­han and El­mare van Staden from Parow do things a bit dif­fer­ently. They’d rather tackle a 4x4 trail to­gether.

Go! Camp & Drive - - CONTENTS -

It’s 27 Septem­ber and the an­niver­sary of the Van Staden’s wedding day. After 42 years and many ups and downs to­gether, they think about things dif­fer­ently by this time. That’s why they de­cided against din­ing out and to cel­e­brate the mile­stone in their off-roader. Armed with the old Drive Out #77 from their col­lec­tion, they pointed their Isuzu’s nose in the di­rec­tion of the open road.

Seed of doubt planted

We read about the Old Postal Route in Drive Out and de­cided it was some­thing we wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence. In celebration of our spe­cial day we de­cided to camp at the Enjo Guest Farm in the Biedouw Val­ley and to then take the Old Postal Route to the Tankwa Ka­roo.

Our first stop is at the Florida farm­stall just out­side Welling­ton and we eat a de­li­cious break­fast. The wide va­ri­ety of freshly baked bread and pies look very tempt­ing but we packed pad­kos for the next two days. We drive to the towel fac­tory in town where El­mare first does some shop­ping and then we take it slow on our favourite road, the beau­ti­ful Bain’s Kloof Pass. We stop in Ceres to fill the Isuzu’s tank.

We make good time through Prins Al­fred Ham­let and over the Gydo Pass, and as we drive to Op-die-Berg we turn left in the di­rec­tion of the Kat­bakkies Pass. De­spite the se­vere drought the area is sur­pris­ingly green and the fruit trees’ blos­soms are strik­ing. At the turn-off to Kat­bakkies, how­ever, we don’t turn right again and in­stead fol­low the de­cent dirt road past Mount Cede rand over Grootrivi er hoogte. At Ceder­berg Oa­sis we chat to Ger­rit, the friendly owner, and he strongly ad­vises against tack­ling the Old Postal Route on our own.

We drive on and at Matjies River we turn right to Wup­perthal. We drive through sand­stone for­ma­tions, but large parts of the beau­ti­ful veg­e­ta­tion were de­stroyed by fires. The last stretch from Esel­bank the road is badly ne­glected and the Isuzu drives slowly down the steep de­scents to Wup­perthal.

In town we buy some rooi­bos prod­ucts and then climb the slopes of and over the last moun­tain­side be­fore the Biedouw Val­ley. Im­me­di­ately after we turned right in the val­ley on the road to Enjo we see the gate and turn-off to the Old Postal Route as well as the steep road down that the route starts with. Ac­cord­ing to the ar­ti­cle in Drive Out this would be the Kraaiberg Pass.

After about 11 kilo­me­tres we reach our des­ti­na­tion. The friendly peo­ple at Enjo wel­come us and take us to our camp­site. They’re not fa­mil­iar with the Old Postal Route but vow to make some en­quiries. We pitch our tent un­der­neath beau­ti­ful >

thorn trees, with a power socket, tap and laun­dry fa­cil­i­ties close by. The ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties are very ba­sic but clean and com­pletely suf­fi­cient for our needs. De­spite the drought a stream still flows in the Biedouw River near the camp­site. Frogs sing cheer­ily. We don’t need can­dles or a night light be­cause the stars shine brightly enough.

No pain, no gain

The next morn­ing we’re still un­sure about whether we’re go­ing to drive the Old Postal Route. We de­cide to head back in the di­rec­tion of the Wup­perthal Road and to then ask ad­vice from the farm own­ers. The friendly Van der Merwe farm­ers near the T-junc­tion as­sure us that the road is en­tirely drive­able. They say they use it of­ten to get to their tea plan­ta­tions on the plateau. They also re­fer us to their neigh­bours on the plateau, the Bakkers, and say we should ask them about the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the route.

We de­cide to drive as far as the road will al­low us and to then turn around if necessary. We quickly climb the steep road up to the plateau while mar­vel­ling at the views.

The road runs past well-kept tea plan­ta­tions and through sev­eral gates to the Bakkers’ neat farm­stead. De­spite the ter­ri­ble drought they are still cul­ti­vat­ing the new plan­ta­tions and mak­ing plans to ex­tend the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem.

The Bakkers also as­sure us that the road is ac­ces­si­ble and in­vite us in, but we de­cide to rather con­tinue on this ob­scure road to­ward our ad­ven­ture.

It’s dis­heart­en­ing to see how many of the big wagon trees and other plants are with­er­ing away be­cause of the drought but nev­er­the­less we again stop at a sur­vey marker and en­joy the panoramic view over the beau­ti­ful land­scape.

The ravines and scenery are in­de­scrib­ably beau­ti­ful and even the best pho­to­graph will strug­gle to do jus­tice to this piece of nat­u­ral splen­dour.

We drive on and it’s not long be­fore we see the deep ravines of the Dor­ing River ap­proach­ing. The Kar­retjies Pass is some­thing to be­hold and is not as rough as we ex­pected. We stop on the pass to take a photo at the same spot as the one fea­tured in Drive Out.

The ravines and scenery is be­yond de­scrip­tion. Even the best photo can’t do jus­tice to this piece of nat­u­ral splen­dour. At times the road is rocky and it al­most sounds like porce­lain plates crack­ing un­der­neath the wheels, but I have com­plete faith in the old Wran­gler RT/ SA tyres. They have, after all, done more than one tour through the Richtersveld, the Bavi­aans, Le­sotho, Namibia and, above all, have sur­vived sev­eral trips in the Tankwa. Our bakkie doesn’t have a load though and the tyres are slightly de­flated so at a few places where we have to climb very steep slopes we ac­ti­vate the diff lock to avoid wheel spin.

Hold your breath, we’re go­ing in

De­spite our con­cerns about strong rivers, we cross the Tra-Tra and Dor­ing with­out has­sle. Be­cause of the drought there are only small streams over the rocks, but it’s still a good place to stop to en­joy lunch at a stream in the Ka­roo.

We won­der at the many lucerne crops and beau­ti­ful old build­ings at Elandsvlei and then we drive on to the long R355 dirt road. For about 40 km we drive in the di­rec­tion of Calvinia and en­joy the ease with which our old Samu­rai con­quers the dirt road. We turn left, back to the Biedouw Val­ley and shortly after this road crosses the bor­der be­tween the North­ern and West­ern Cape, we drop sharply down to­wards the Dor­ing River.

This road is a com­pletely different ball game. The river isn’t strong but it’s wide. There isn’t a con­crete slab and where the road goes through the wa­ter it’s deeper than ex­pected. I walk through first to es­tab­lish how deep it is and at times I have to roll up my shorts to keep it dry. I also stack a cairn to avoid driv­ing over a dan­ger­ous rock un­der­neath the sur­face. Back at the bakkie I see that the wheels will be com­pletely sub­merged for a large por­tion of the cross­ing. The bot­tom of the doors will be about 300 mm un­der the wa­ter sur­face. But the wa­ter flows slowly and we mange to pass through with a slow, sta­ble pace.

There prob­a­bly isn’t any real dan­ger but I don’t like to sub­merge the car and I am fairly wor­ried when I hear the fan’s blades go un­der­wa­ter. The mo­tor is soaked but luck­ily no wa­ter seeps into the ve­hi­cle or the load bin.

Back at our camp­site we light a fire, braai some meat, and end a blessed day in peace.

Time to head home

Fri­day morn­ing we pack up. The road back is over the steep Hoek-se-Berg and through the Pakhuis Pass via Clan­william. The new N7 road is great, but after we stop to buy or­anges and naartjies at a farm­stall we again turn off onto the Al­ge­ria dirt road.

We cross the Oli­fants River where only a small stream flows and we choose the old dirt road back to Citrus­dal. At Piket­berg we round off our trip with a meal at the Spur and then we head back home. We used 74 ℓ diesel for our trip of 793 km. Even with an ad­just­ment of 10% for the in­ac­cu­rate odome­ter we achieved an ac­cept­able 10,3 ℓ/100 km con­sump­tion fig­ure. Not bad given the com­fort­able drive over rough ter­rain and nu­mer­ous moun­tains in a com­fort­able dou­ble cab bakkie with four-wheel drive and au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. As per usual there were also no un­ex­pected re­pairs. At R140 per night the camp­ing fees were also very rea­son­able.

We are once again thank­ful for an­other en­joy­able ex­cur­sion in our beau­ti­ful South Africa.

LET’S GO TOO! Jo­han and El­mare read the orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle in edi­tion #77 of Drive Out and de­vel­oped the urge to tackle the Old Postal Route in their own Isuzu KB. On their 42nd wedding an­niver­sary, they packed up, climbed in and hit the road. The plan was to camp at the Enjo Guest Farm in the Biedouw Val­ley and drive the Old Postal Route into the Tankwa Ka­roo.

ADVENTURERS. You’ll have a hard time ex­plain­ing to some­one the beauty of this part of the world, even with pho­tos. It’s one of those places you should ex­pe­ri­ence in per­son, says Jo­han and El­mari. After they were ini­tially told to not at­tempt the Old Postal Route on their own, they bravely sol­diered on. After a nerve-rack­ing river cross­ing their trip was con­cluded with­out any fur­ther hic­cups.

Jo­han and El­marie van Staden win a Camp Cover Bundu-bag worth R500. The mul­ti­func­tion bag has been de­signed so that you can use it as a first-aid kit or sim­ply as a suit­case. Have a look at Camp Cover’s range of ex­cel­lent pro­tec­tive cov­ers on their web­site. cam­p­cover.co.za

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