MONTAGU

Be­tween the Lange­berg in the south and Anys­berg to the north lies the ob­scure Waboomsberg. Get in your off-roader and drive through fruc­tif­er­ous vine­yards be­fore hit­ting the arid plains.

Go! Camp & Drive - - CONTENTS - Text and pho­tos Cyril Klop­per

The words “Sun­shine in a packet” prob­a­bly springs to mind when the town of Montagu is men­tioned. It’s the slo­gan of the Montagu Dried Fruit & Nuts com­pany. Or per­haps you are re­minded of mus­cadel thanks to a song David Kramer made pop­u­lar back in the Eight­ies. But the Lange­berg re­gion of­fers far more than for­ti­fied wine and wrinkly prunes. We vis­ited three guest farms, each with their own 4x4 trails that dif­fer quite a bit from each other. Our route be­gan in Montagu and we trav­elled anti-clock­wise around Waboomsberg. Be­fore you set off, buy a bot­tle of red mus­cadel at the Montagu wine cel­lar on the cor­ner of Chin­saut and Main roads (S33.77678 E20.13281) and save it for later. Drive south to where Main Road ends in Long Street and fol­low the R62 (the bot­tom of Long Street) for 1 km out of town to the Talana road sign. Turn left and drive 1,6 km to the Ou­berg-Touws RiverLadi­smith road sign. Fol­low the Ou­berg Pass for 2,8 km un­til you see a lane of trees on your right. Keep your eyes peeled for the Tafelkop 4x4 sign that’s fixed to a tele­phone pole. >

TAFELKOP 4x4 TRAIL The tyre grater

Wel­come to Scheep­ers­draai. This farm is named after Gideon Scheep­ers, a 22-yearold Boer com­man­der who rode past here in De­cem­ber 1900 to at­tack the Bri­tish Cape Colony with 150 rebels – a brave but ul­ti­mately sui­ci­dal en­deav­our.

Cobus Uys, the owner of Scheep­ers­draai and the Tafelkop 4x4 trail, jumps off his trac­tor to shake hands. Be­hind him lie fields of pared fruit dry­ing out in the sun. “Yes,” says Cobus, “there was a Range Rover Evoque on my 4x4 trail the other day. It couldn’t even climb the hill. It’s tyres were in tat­ters. I had to go fetch it.” The hill that Cobus is re­fer­ring to – a sec­tion of that very Tafelkop – tow­ers out over the farm, and the twin-track that snakes along it is clearly vis­i­ble. It doesn’t look that steep but it’s a com­pletely different story once you start driv­ing it.

The trail

It starts next to Cobus’s or­chard (S33.78680 E20.18545). But first you have to drag an elec­tri­cal fence out of the way. Dur­ing fruit sea­son it’s switched on be­cause Cobus has prob­lems with ba­boons steal­ing his peaches. So be care­ful with the fence or ask Cobus to open it for you if you’re afraid of get­ting elec­tro­cuted. From here the road winds up the hill at an 18° an­gle.

The road sur­face con­sists of loose gravel and ra­zor-sharp rocks. Main­tain mo­men­tum and avoid wheel­spin oth­er­wise your ve­hi­cle’s tyres’ will pay the price. After the first hill the road dips slightly... and then the real climb be­gins. If you reach the top of Tafelkop (543 m above sea level) after 2,5 km – and with­out in­ci­dent – you’re re­warded with a truly spec­tac­u­lar view over the fer­tile Koo Val­ley. Op­po­site the peach, pear and other fruit or­chards lies Montagu in the shadow of

Bloupunt, a peak on the west­ern tip of the Lange­berg.

The road down is even steeper than the one go­ing up. It dives with a 30° an­gle over rock steps and bro­ken shale down to the val­ley floor.

Ve­hi­cles equipped with hill de­scent con­trol will per­form well. Oth­er­wise you’ll have to switch over to low range and hope the gear ra­tios are low enough. If you brake you’re look­ing for trou­ble, be­cause as soon as your ve­hi­cle starts slip­ping there’s no stop­ping it. If you drive in a hardcore of­froader you can do the trail in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, tack­ling the 30° slope head on, but you’ll have to bring your A-game. At the bot­tom of the slope there is a camp­site with a braai and ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties. Un­for­tu­nately the toi­lets are van­dalised and in­op­er­a­tive. Cobus ex­plains that the neigh­bour­ing farm over which the Tafelkop 4x4 trail winds is no longer owned by his fam­ily. The ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties are on the new owner’s farm and he ap­par­ently is not in­ter­ested in main­tain­ing it.

From here it’s 500 m down­hill to the Kingna River, where the trail ends. Head over to Cobus’s house one last time to tell him you ar­rived safely oth­er­wise he’s go­ing to have to get into his bakkie and go look for you.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion

There are three re­fur­bished houses on Scheep­ers­draai that used to be rented out to vis­i­tors, but th­ese days they’re oc­cu­pied by per­ma­nent tenants. Cobus has plans for new ac­com­mo­da­tion next to his farm dam, though, but for now you can stay at Cobus’s other neigh­bour: Dor­inglaagte (see go! Drive & Camp #7 for our re­view of Dor­inglaagte). There are 10 neat chalets next to the dam, in which you can fish, swim and ca­noe. There is also a camp­site and even a par-three course where you can prac­tice your puts.

Visit dor­inglaagte.com for more info. Max­i­mum amount of ve­hi­cles al­lowed No limit.

Do I get a map? Avail­able on the web­site.

Will I scratch my ve­hi­cle? It’s un­likely.

Should I pack a com­pres­sor? No.

Can I braai next to the road? Yes.

Can I turn around half­way? Yes.

How long is the trail? 7 km.

How long does it take? About an hour.

Will I see game? Per­haps. Cobus says there are a few klip­springers that graze near the trail.

Best time to go? Year-round.

Can I bring my fam­ily? Def­i­nitely.

For the day or for the week­end? Day.

Are there ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties? No.

GPS co­or­di­nates S33.78435 E20.17843

Price R250 per ve­hi­cle.

Con­tact 082 789 5079 (Cobus) tafelkop.co.za info@tafelkop.co.za >

After you’ve played around on Tafelkop you can buy a bag of mixed dried fruit (R35) from Cobus and move on to your ac­com­mo­da­tion for the night. From Tafelkop it’s 26 km north over Langk­loof Pass, Ou­berg Pass and Kop­pie se Nek Pass to the Leeuwen­bosch­fontein turn-off. The hill on your left is called Klip­springer­berg – at 1 427 m above sea level it’s one of the high­est in the area. From here it’s an­other 12 km in a north­west­erly di­rec­tion. Be on the look­out for a big gate and the Desert Wind sign post on the left-hand side of the road. The gate is se­cured with a chain and pad­lock. You may want to phone some­one to come and open it, but there is no cell­phone sig­nal. Don’t worry though: The locks hide a grey cara­biner in the chain. Un­clip it, open the gate, and drive in.

DESERT WIND The paint strip­per

When Re­nier Swart, sales di­rec­tor of the posh Val de Vie es­tate out­side Paarl, isn’t re­lax­ing here in his pri­vate na­ture re­serve, you are more than wel­come to.

April Plaaitjies wel­comes you at the en­trance and shows you where to park. “You can park here at the front door. Can I help you carry your bags?”

The farm­stead con­sists of three houses and a barn. A fourth house – the Kli­phuis – is a kilo­me­tre fur­ther on. The grass is emer­ald green and forms a stark con­trast to the arid earth around the build­ings. When you ask April about the con­di­tion of the trail, he puts your mind at rest: “No, it’s easy with a 4x4.” What he ne­glects to men­tion is that in places the trail is over­grown with burnt pro­tea bushes. And th­ese bushes’ hard branches reach out like witches claws to­wards your car’s mint body­work...

The trails

There are ac­tu­ally two trails that you can drive, both with­out a guide. The 6 km long main trail – the only one men­tioned on Desert Wind’s web­site – lies to the south of the farm­stead. The other trail lies in the north and fol­lows a dry river­course along a ridge. Trail 1 starts at a gate to the left of Re­nier Swart’s pri­vate home – “the di­rec­tor’s house” – and im­me­di­ately heads up­wards in the di­rec­tion of Waboomsberg. It starts off as a mild twin-track, but the trail in­creas­ingly be­comes tougher and the pro­tea bushes ever closer.

The tough­est ob­sta­cles are rock steps which re­quire your ve­hi­cle to have good ground clear­ance. Low-range gears and diff locks aren’t necessary, but you should be on the look­out for loose rocks that could carve huge gashes in your rims. There’s not much you can do about the bushes though. Close your eyes and turn up the mu­sic if you don’t want to lis­ten to the hor­ri­ble sound of branches scratch­ing against body­work. If you’re will­ing to leave your air-con­di­tioned car in the heat to snap

off ev­ery sin­gle of­fend­ing branch next to the road, it will take you all day to do it. And then you also have to hope that the owner doesn’t mind you vi­o­lat­ing his flora. On the ledge high above the farm the trees are more sparse. From here you have a view of the val­ley be­low and Anys­berg on the hori­zon to the north. With a trained eye you might be able to spot eland, ze­bra, gems­bok, grey rhe­bok and spring­bok in the blanched land­scape. Un­for­tu­nately the road ends at the neigh­bour­ing farm’s fence and you have to turn around and fol­low the same track back to the farm­stead where you started. The sun should be set­ting by this time. After an even­ing braai on the open plains of the Klein Ka­roo it’s time to fetch that bot­tle of red mus­cadel from your car’s cub­by­hole. Turn out the lights and raise a glass un­der­neath the magical, clear night sky.

You can tackle the sec­ond trail the next day. It starts at a different gate to the right of Re­nier’s house and runs west­wards to the farm’s bor­der fence and then back, east­wards, in the dried-up course of an ephemeral stream. The 10 km long trail has no real ob­sta­cles to speak of, but it’s nev­er­the­less too rough for an or­di­nary sedan. Un­like the main trail you don’t have to turn around and an hour after leav­ing the farm­stead you’ll ar­rive back at Desert Wind’s main gate.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion

There are four op­tions: The Large Guest­house sleeps 10, and prices range from R3 675 to R3 885 (De­cem­ber) for the whole house. >

The Small Guest­house is con­nected to the Large Guest­house and sleeps four: Mom and Dad in the dou­ble bed and two kid­dies in the sin­gle beds. Prices range from R893 to R1 257. The two guest­houses are con­nected to each other via a door in­side. If you want to rent both you will re­ceive the key for this oth­er­wise locked door.

The Sta­ble Suits is a semi-de­tached unit with two rooms with pri­vate bath­rooms and kitchen fa­cil­i­ties and each house two peo­ple. Prices range from R1 575 to R1 732 per room. Lastly, there’s the Kli­phuis. This build­ing is quite a dis­tance from the farm­stead, next to a dry river­course and built out of the river rocks. It sleeps four. Prices range from R1 365 to R1 575. Next to the Kli­phuis are stands for tents or trail­ers. An ablu­tion block with sep­a­rate fa­cil­i­ties and basins over­look a boma.

It’s not a cheap place to stay but all the units are clean and neat, and at night when you’re star­ing at the clear Ka­roo sky you are not go­ing to feel cheated. (Keep in mind, though, that VAT is not in­cluded in the prices quoted on the web­site and there­fore not here ei­ther. You’ll first see the dam­age on your fi­nal in­voice.)

None of the units have Eskom elec­tric­ity and there is also no cell­phone re­cep­tion. You cook on gas stoves (pro­vided) or fire. There is a farm shop that’s run by April’s wife, Maudie, where you can buy any­thing from Val de Vie wines (R150 per bot­tle) and wood (R100 for 50 pieces) to freshly baked bread (R35), vetkoek (R60 for 18 – bar­gain) and toi­let pa­per (no price is too high).

CHOOSE WISELY. The tem­per­a­ture in the arid moun­tains around Montagu is on av­er­age 5 °C warmer than the floor of the val­ley un­der­neath. This isn’t the ideal place to punc­ture a tyre; rather take it easy on the rocky route. The cli­mate in the val­ley is...

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