Words and images by Grant Spolander
“Geez, this trail’s lame. I could drive this track in a Durban-pimped Bantam bakkie.” I wasn’t sure how to respond to this statement, so I changed the subject. “Wow, aren’t these mountain views beautiful?” Truth is, I was a bit embarrassed. I had promised a group of mates a thrilling 4×4 weekend, butthe Leopard Trail’s shorter route wasn’t producing the goods.
In their defence, the owners of the farm near Bonnievale in the Western Cape offer two 4×4 trails: a shortish one that explores local 4×4 tracks (the one we were on), and the trail proper that heads into the Marloth National Park. The latter is a Grade 3 or 4 route, peppered with slippery cross axles, clay sloots, and a bit of rock. Unfortunately, we had been forced to give the slippery trail a miss after heavy rains the day before, and had chosen instead to meander around the guest farm’s shorter option.
We were now about a quarter of the way in, and up to that point the only “challenging” part of the route had been a shallow river crossing and the exhausting task of opening and closing a dozen cattle gates. Aside from the Bantam banter, I could see that our convoy was becoming restless. Although the shorter route is free (to campers staying on the farm) and spectacularly beautiful, the first section of the trail is a meander through the meadows, and not a low-range sort of track…. so it’s a bit boring from a 4×4 perspective.