Words and pictures by Andrew Middleton. Pictures by Jessie & Jenni Roberts and Siska van der Westhuizen.
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I’m sorely embarrassed to say that, since having bought my new-to-me ’96 Disco last month, I hadn’t aimed it at any serious off-road obstacles. As cool as I thought I was when driving over kerbs at the mall, I needed to drive through some scratchy bushes in an attempt to scrape away some of the British Racing Green paint-job. Having thoroughly explored most of the Cederberg’s 4×4 trails, I thought we’d covered the area, but Boegoeberg had somehow escaped my radar.
The 4×4 Trails
Situated on the upper eastern side of the Cederberg, or ‘Engelsman se Berg’, the working farm of Lambertshoek harvests buchu and rooibos that grow high up in the mountains – fields that, until recently, were accessible only via the old donkeycart paths. Hence the trail name: The Old Donkey Wagon Trail. Over the years, these tracks have been widened, lengthened and modified to explore the furthest reaches of the mountain slopes, where wild Buchu trees have been harvested since 1850.
Of course, tractors do the dirty work nowadays; and these machines are one of the reasons that owner and operator Sybrie de Beer decided to open up the mountains to 4x4s in 2000. The trail-building process started a little before then, and took place in two stages, each a month long, as 10 men worked morning to night to build what exists today.
In the end, Sybrie opened several new routes around his vast property. Most impressive, though, is a steep 40-degree descent of about 150m that you navigate between large boulders on a loose scree surface that offers precious little traction. I remember one of my frightened passengers, who’d come all the way from JHB and had never driven off-road, saying, “Whoever it was, the first person to come down here must’ve been absolutely cooked.” I can’t say I disagree, as some sections are so steep and technical that it must take a touch of madness to drive them.
But, don’t be put off: there we were, with an untested Discovery 1 and a Jimny with an off-road novice behind the wheel, and loving every minute of it. Thanks to the tracks mostly following the route donkeys used to take, there’s an obvious natural flow along the path of least resistance.
Of course, if you are like me and enjoy a challenge, you’ll appreciate the fact that more obstacles have been set up next to the primary trail. It was on one of these – less than 300m from the campsite – that I got the Disco precariously lodged on an off-camber slope which threatened to turn into a nasty rollover if I continued. On that point, I’d like to say that there’s no shame in being pulled out by a Fiat – as long as it’s a tractor.
After getting unstuck and driving for a couple of hours up the mountain route, the summit beckoned. This is where one encounters a viewpoint aptly named ‘Platklip’, due to its being a massive piece of flat sandstone which offers 360-degree views of the Sandveld region. All around are the white dunes and hills surrounding the towns of Lamberts Bay and Elands Bay, interspersed with the many circles formed by the centrepivot overhead irrigation methods used to grow the area’s legendary potato crops.
It’s after this point that the steep descent will challenge the nerves.
The long, circular route takes up to three hours of non-stop driving to complete; however, thanks to a waterfall, interesting old ruins and a series of challenging rock gardens, it could take at least half a day to explore fully. I’d recommend taking the leisurely pace. Also available on the farm is a less-challenging trail made for 4×2 vehicles, and an awesome sand-pit challenge (for the gung-ho sand-driving experts) which reminded me of the far side of the Atlantis dunes near Cape Town.
If you’re an experienced driver and know your vehicle, there are no parts of the trail that are car-breakers. Even the fynbos shrub is kept in check, and (with careful driving) you should have no issues with scratching. However, bear in mind that Boegoeberg is not the place for novices. The terrain is extremely technical in places and it would be very dangerous for a beginner to attempt some of the sections that cannot be avoided on the long mountain trail.
Boegoeberg offers a huge variety of accommodation options, from rough living in an old sandstone building deep in the mountains, to 30 grassy campsites, small chalets, and a farm house. The campsites and chalets are serviced by the same clean and well-kept ablution blocks with proper flush toilets and hot showers. There’s also an absolutely enormous swimming pool, fed by a mountain stream. Thanks to the abundance of water, thousands of species of tiny birds swarm the area and bring natural music to everyone. If you’re into birding, Boegoeberg is a must-visit.
Attention to detail is also important, and everything − from the Lapa area to the campsites and pools − is well kept, with recycling bins easily accessible at any point. Campsites are shaded by large trees, and each has its own power point; mountain spring water is available from a number of hosepipes that the birds are also drawn to. Each camp has its own concrete braai, and grids are available if you’ve forgotten yours at home. There is even a small shop where you can stock up on home-made preserves and whatever you may have forgotten.
I have said this a few times in previous articles, but it seems that every venue I visit is better than the last, and Boegoeberg is no exception. It offers everything you’ll ever need, from softroader trails to near impassable Grade-5 technical challenges, and in a setting replete with stunning scenery, camping, and a swimming pool. The whole family will love this place.