Words & Images Andrew Middleton
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If you, like me, have strong allergic reactions, physical convulsions and temporary blindness resulting from too much time at the office, the Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve is a potent cure. Only a couple of hours (180km) out of Cape Town, this trail on a private nature reserve is a mecca for the outdoorsy type.
From two-day hikes, to abseiling, snow-skiing and quad biking, this adventure playground has it all – including, of course, one of South Africa’s most famous 4×4 routes.
Located on a working fruit-, vegetable- and protea farm called Erfdeel, the Matroosberg reserve is most famous for its winter scenery, but we went to check it out during the warmer months to see if one of SA’s most popular trails is still one of the best.
Meandering uphill for about 30 kilometres, the 4×4 trail winds its way through the Matroosberg Mountain range, which accounts for a good portion of the 1000-hectare reserve. Eventually peaking at 2249m above sea level, the trail itself consists primarily of extensive rocky stretches of tweespoor littered with cross-axle sections. It is considered to be one of the three steepest trails in SA.
Blizzard-like conditions are found in the mountain peaks during winter, with much of the terrain covered in thick snow, resulting in treacherous driving conditions. Of course, we went when it was warm and dry, but the slick sandstone and steep ascents still present a proper technical driving challenge for any standard 4×4 bakkie.
In the early Eighties, Matroosberg grew proteas as its primary source of income. The track used by Bedford trucks to collect the proteas was the original ‘4×4 trail’. Unfortunately, in 1991 a massive veld fire wiped out most of the proteas and with it the farm’s source of income. To compensate, the owners changed tack and focused on adventure tourism, opening up a beautiful campsite located in a pine forest and alongside the river which runs through the reserve. The 4×4 trail was lengthened to its current state in 1999, thanks to all the South Africans keen to access the winter snowfall and experience the views from the sheer cliffs near the peak.
Just before the summit, there is a clearing and open area in which I assume people park in order to have a picnic (as we did) on the edge of the cliff. There is one more driving challenge to be had that we, unfortunately, couldn’t complete.
Rolling straight up the side of the mountain, an uncharacteristically unmaintained section offers a challenge for those with a pair of diff locks and some decent tyres.
If you make it past the last challenge, the trail ends at 2240 metres, right at the very top of the highest peak in the Boland. From the top of the cliffs to the valley below is a drop of 1000 metres. Shout, and you’ll hear the echo five or six times; but don’t mess around too much. If you fall off the edge, you’re not going home alive… It’s happened before.
During the winter months, Erfdeel Farm sees hundreds of visitors on a weekend, all excited about the snow. If, like me, you prefer to avoid crowds, it’s best to visit during the week or in summer − preferably on one of the cooler days.
Thanks to the natural splendour afforded by the mountains, many activities are on offer. Although the 4×4 trail is brilliant, well-maintained and tons of fun, I think it would be best to visit with extra time on your hands. Then you can take in the scenery, camp for two days in the private campsites (with hot showers) and explore the mountains on foot, horseback or quad bike. Abseiling is also a big attraction, with huge descents on offer as you drop into the valley below. There’s fishing for wide-mouth bass, and even ice-climbing and snowboarding on offer in winter when the ski lift comes into operation. If you’re in the Cape, or coming here for a holiday, get yourself to Matroosberg for a weekend. You won’t regret it.
ISUZU OFF-ROAD ACADEMY
To test yourself and the Isuzu KB range to its limits, the Isuzu Off-Road Academy offers a variety of courses to suit your needs. The academy aims to teach existing and prospective owners exactly what Isuzu KBs are capable of off-road while educating drivers how to operate all of the Isuzu’s 4×4 systems when venturing out on their own.
Off-road driving techniques in a variety of conditions including sand, mud, cross-axle situations and emergency recovery procedures are covered, aiding safe exploration through our country.
Various courses are available, ranging from a half-day course to familiarise drivers with the KBs 4×4 systems, moving on to a full-day and an advanced two-day course.
Though based at Gerotek near Pretoria, the Isuzu Off-Road Academy can offer training in other major centres, whether or not you own an Isuzu vehicle.
R500 – Half-day course
R1000 – Full-day course
R2000 – Two-day course
Contact the Off-Road Academy directly on 011 431 2000, or visit www.isuzu.co.za
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