Anysberg 4x4 Eco Trail
Trail Review

Words and pictures by Words and pictures by Grant Spolander
 
RIDING HIGH

One of my fondest off-road memories is a trip I did to the Anysberg Reserve in late ’07. There are three things I’ll never forget. One: losing our camping gear thanks to whoop-de-doos and an open-back bakkie. Two: a 
boulder-strewn ascent near the beginning of the trail. Three: a two-hour recovery to free our Nissan Patrol from a 1.5 m deep gully which I’d reversed into.

Anysberg 4x4 Eco Trail
That was my first Anysberg experience – before that trip I didn’t even know the reserve existed. Back then the park’s 4x4 trail was hugely overgrown; in fact, from what we were told, we were the first people to drive the route after its initial public opening.
Since then I’ve often wondered what the trail looks like now and whether more people are driving it. After four and a half years of wondering, I got to find out.

Since our trip in ’07 the reserve has spruced up its swimming pool, built a kiddies’ jungle gym and given the campsites a nip and a tuck. On the trail side, I only noticed one major change: the rocky ascent I mentioned is now a tweespoor concrete track. Th is is disappointing for me, as it previously consisted of a long climb over loose rocks. It was a hugely fun section to drive – I’ll never forget how our Patrol pick-up climbed, clawed and dragged its way to the top.

But the park’s decision to cement this stretch is understandable. As a national reserve open to a wide range of visitors, the trail has to be drivable for experienced and inexperienced 4x4ers alike. That said, I hope they don’t do anything else to further tame its charms. The Anysberg Reserve is not an exclusive 4x4 destination like the Central Kalahari Game Reserve or Moremi. Most of the people visiting this park arrive in family sedans and normal road cars. The gravel track leading into the park is in reasonably good condition, but some of the lessertrodden tracks may require a softroader with respectable ground clearance. There are two routes to choose from: the Horse Trail and the Mountain Trail. The first is geared towards softroaders, while the Mountain Trail, which we review here, is only for 4x4s with low-range. This trail is roughly 30 kilometres long and climbs to an altitude of approximately 1 400 metres above sea level. The track is primarily rock and gravel, and the vegetation consists of fynbos and Klein Karoo veld. There’s also a fair measure of game to see including steenbok, duiker, gemsbok, red hartebeest and the endangered Cape mountain zebra.

The Mountain Trail is still overgrown, it’s not as bad as it used to be, but as far as 4x4 trails go there’s a fair measure of bush bashing to get through. On the plus side, most of the really thick vegetation is green so paintwork scratches aren’t too bad – nothing a bit of polish can’t take care of. In terms of difficulty, it’s not a challenging route but you can’t let your guard down. If you lose concentration on this track, it’ll bite you. The problem stems from erosion and infrequent track maintenance. Because the road is sometimes overgrown by vegetation, the holes and deep washouts caused by frequent soil erosion can be hidden until the last instant. Some of these dongas are deep enough to damage your vehicle and will, at the very least, see you performing a lengthy recovery. That said, the trail’s unpredictability is one of its enduring qualities – it keeps things interesting and most of all it conveys a feeling of adventure, an authentic bush experience. This is no pedicured path, this is the real deal.

Then there’s the cherry on top: you can camp on the mountain’s summit. However, there’s a catch. At the time of writing the park’s manager, Marius Brand, was a bit apprehensive about letting folks camp up top. Besides logistical issues, he also has to consider fire and waste issues. The moment people start to abuse this mountain camp it’ll close to the public. In other words, it’s a huge privilege, one that requires permission from Marius. Hopefully, none of us will let him down. I’d love to tell you the location of this campsite, but I couldn’t find it. It’s a genuine bush camp so you’re not gonna find ablutions, showers or wash-up basins. The only clue that you’ve found what could be a campsite will be an appeal to your instincts as you look around and think, “Mmmm, good spot, flat ground, no wind, man sleep here”. That said, we’ve been told that the mountain trail will soon see a facelift, and in time, the summit camp could receive signage and ablution facilities.

Time will tell. The wind deserves a special mention. At the mountain’s summit the weather can change rapidly from clear blue skies to being ominously overcast with howling winds and very cold temperatures. We spent one night at the top; when we got there the wind was blowing fairly hard but died down shortly aft er nightfall. Th en, sometime around 04h00, it kicked up again but with such force and ferocity it felt like we were gonna be plucked from the mountain and thrown over the edge. Th at night I lay in my tent like a starfi sh, desperately trying to hold all four corners down.

So be prepared for the worst and make sure your camping gear’s packed in your vehicle before going to sleep. Even more important, make extra doubly sure that your campfi re coals are fully extinguished, even if the wind isn’t blowing at the time! Th e next morning, aft er beginning our descent, we saw leopard spoor all over the track. We could see where the shy cat had clawed the ground and where it lay for a short nap. It was an incredible sight, almost as rewarding as seeing the real thing lurking in the rocks. Th e thought of a Cape leopard trudging the same path we were on… what a feeling.

The trail gets a bit boring on the way down – an anticlimax following the summit’s spectacular views and wind-carved rock formations. To make matters worse, it’s usually at this point that your passengers will spend less time appreciating their surroundings and more time focusing on the bumpy, uncomfortable drive. My advice: take your time in the morning, make a cup of coffee, wander around the mountain top and snap some photographs of the scenery. Th en, once you’ve started your descent, be on the lookout for a good picnic spot. When your passenger’s discomfort graph intersects the positive campsite terrain line, make your move, or rather, your stop. Pull to the side of the road, whip out your skottel and fry up a huge breakfast. Just in case, bring a shade-cloth windbreaker and tie it

NISSAN PATROL 3.0 R619 912
As the technical editor at SA4x4 I’m in the very fortunate position of being the mag’s 4x4 off-road tester. This has exposed me to almost every 4x4 on the market and has allowed me to compare various models with each other. In many ways I can only share my opinions and perceived perceptions of each 4x4, but when it comes to the Patrol I’ll happily stake money on the fact that this vehicle is one of the top three toughest 4x4s money can buy.

Without physically dissembling the Patrol I can’t prove this point, but if you drive this Nissan you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The feeling you get when you’re behind the wheel of a Patrol is one of resilience, indestructibility and all-out reliability. Couple these features with the Patrol’s legendary off-road performance, great cabin room and extra long-range tank, and you’ve got one of the most capable overland vehicles currently on offer.

Personally, I prefer the Patrol’s big capacity 4.8 GRX petrol model that produces 190 kW and 425 Nm, but from a tank-range perspective the 3.0 GL diesel with its 118 kW and 380 Nm makes perfect sense. All in all, both models are highly capable and well-rounded 4x4s, regardless of engine derivative. They both hold an equally special place in my heart, and a top three spot on my 4x4 wish list. between two 4x4s – it’ll make a big diff erence if the wind’s blowing. Th e Anysberg Mountain Trail is a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s a true overland adventure with 4x4ing, bush camping and leopard tracking within a few hours drive from Cape Town. Th e trail itself can be driven in a day, from morning to late aft ernoon, but I strongly suggest you spend the night en route. If you’re driving down from Jo’burg, stop here for the night – it’s a great way to slow yourself down to Cape Town’s pace!

If you arrive on the Friday afternoon, spend a night in the campsite or in one of the rustic chalets. Th en, start the trail on Saturday morning, camp on the mountain’s summit (weather dependant), and drive down the next day. Spend the rest of Sunday exploring the reserve or lying around the pool / dam.

That said, the Anysberg Reserve is a great holiday destination, worthy of a much longer stay than just a two-day weekend. Th e park may not off er much in the way of activities, but you don’t come here for that. Th e best thing about Anysberg is its solitude – think of it as a reboot button for the soul.
Trail info
LOCATION:
Province
Western Cape
Nearest town
Touwsrivier (60 km)


Directions
The reserve has two entrances, east and west. If you’re approaching from Cape Town, the quickest way is through the western gate. Follow the N1 north and turn off to Touwsrivier, travel through the town, cross over the railway line and follow a gravel track south. Bear left at the fork and head towards Kruisrivier. The park gate will follow shortly after this small town. GPS (WGS84)
Reception / Campsite / Chalets S33° 27.852, E020° 35.239 Start of Mountain Trail
S33° 28.559, E020° 41.354
Nearest fuel stop

Touwsrivier
TRAIL DETAILS:
Terrain
Mostly rock, interspersed with sand.
Distance / Duration
33 km / 7 hours
Guided / unguided
Unguided

Will I get lost?
You may struggle to  nd the start of the trail but once you’re on track there’s only one route to follow. Ask reception where the trail’s starting point is.
Recovery facilities No
On-site compressor facilities
No
On-site high-pressure wash facilities
No

Min / Max number of vehicles 1 / 8. If you’re travelling solo be sure to inform management of your movements.

Time of year

All year round, but camping will be challenging in the winter months – bring lots of warm clothes and be prepared for bad weather.

Diffculty

Mostly a 3 but don’t underestimate this trail and be on the look-out for hidden holes and washouts.

Rating guide
1 Suitable for complete novices.
Softroader friendly, no low-range required.
2 Low-range required, but suitable for novices.
3 Low-range and some off-road experience required.
4 Technical trail for the experienced. 5 Extremely technical, for experienced drivers only. Vehicle damage a distinct possibility.

VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS:
Low-range
Defnitely
Diff-lock
Not necessary
Minimum ground clearance
190 mm
Tyres
Provided they’re in good condition, most tread patterns will do.
Recovery points
Shouldn’t be necessary.
Underbody protection
Not necessary
Softroader friendly?
No

PRECAUTIONS:
Malaria
No
Exposure to heights
Yes. The trail occasionally exposes you to sheer drops.

BRING YOUR:
Wife and kids Your kids will love the swimming pool / dam and the chance to ride their mountain bicycles in this 62 500 ha reserve. Your wife will love the relaxation time and the fact that she doesn’t have to worry about your kids’ safety.

Food and supplies Bring everything with you.

Fire wood
Yes. Wood is available but bring your own to be on the safe side.
Braai grid
Yes
Swimming costume
Yes
Quads / Motorbikes
No / Yes
Mountain bikes
Yes
Pets
No
ALSO IN THE AREA:
There ain’t much but you could check out the colourful hamlet of Matjiesfontein (25 km) or visit the hot springs in Montagu.

COSTS:
Trail
R170

Accommodation
Camping will cost you R200 pn off-peak and R250 pn during school holidays. The chalets go for R400 pn off-peak and R440 pn during school holidays.

CONTACT:
Bookings must be made through Cape Nature on 021 483 0190 or visit www.capenature.co.za for more info. You can also contact the reserve’s manager on 023 551 1922 for more info on the reserve.
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