Trail driving’s not for everyone. Some folk love the idea of steep descents, axle-twisters and muddy play pits, but many feel it’s a pointless pastime and an unnecessary risk to their vehicles.Words by Grant Spolander Pictures by Grant Spolander and Johan Klopper
But 4WD trails do present certain attractions. Firstly, a local trail will keep you motivated for your next overland journey by reminding you of all the things you love about the great outdoors. Secondly, it’s an excellent way to hone your driving skills and to familiarise yourself with your 4×4. Lastly, it’s a helluva lot more fun than watching DStv repeats on a Saturday afternoon.
For this reason, we prefer trails which offer more than just a bulldozed obstacle course. We want escapism, excitement and expansive horizons – three qualities that can be found at the Serendipity Eco Trail in northern Limpopo.
Just 140 km north of Pretoria, the Serendipity Eco Trail criss-crosses its way over a 2 000 hectare farm within the Waterberg mountains. The terrain consists predominantly of rocky tracks, dense savannah woodlands and countless river crossings.
The trail’s owner / manager, Johan Klopper, constructed the trail some 20 years ago to gain full access to his farm. Since then Serendipity’s offerings have grown into a comprehensive package of accommodation options and driving experiences, open to all.
There are three routes to choose from, each named according to their duration: the half-hour, one-hour and three-hour trail. If you arrive at Serendipity late Friday afternoon you’ll have just enough time to setup camp and complete the half-hour trail before sunset (in summer that is).
The half-hour trail is a technically challenging route that winds its way through the farm’s narrow riverbed. In the dry season you can choose your line wisely but when the rains come you have to ‘feel’ your way through gushing waters with every tyre revolution. The one-hour trail offers a balanced combination of scenery and technical driving. Once again, the river plays a key roll in providing obstacles and if you have a phobia about river crossings this is the ideal trail on which to face your fears and practise that perfect bow wave.
The three-hour trail is roughly 30 km long with just a few challenges along the way. Most of the drive is a scenic meander up and along the mountain ridge. However, you’ll find a ballsy descent somewhere near the top; a narrow, stony track that loosely weaves through a dense lining of trees. Naturally, low-range is essential and you need to be light on the brakes, but if you’d like to forgo any white-knuckle driving you can opt for an easier path close by, effectively bypassing the hairy stuff.
Many of the tracks at Serendipity are narrow and tree-lined; that’s not to say your 4×4 will get scratched – the trail is very well-maintained – but folks driving Hummers and other super-wide 4x4s may need to fold in their side mirrors or get someone to guide them through the really con ned sections.
As mentioned before, low-range is a must for all the routes. Diff-locks aren’t necessary but good clearances are – you may want to remove your vehicle’s OEM running boards.
Standard HT tyres will be alright in dry weather but if things get wet you should have ATs fitted.
Your choice of accommodation is wide and varied. Serendipity offers everything from fully-furnished dwellings to facility-filled campsites, rustic bush camps and more. For this reason prices can range from as little as R80 pppn up to R280 pppn.
Our recommendation? Invite a few mates to join you and stay at the bush camp. Drive the half-hour trail early Friday evening, the one-hour trail on Saturday morning and the three-hour trail on Saturday afternoon – pack a picnic for an en route stop at the farm’s dam and don’t forget your Speedos.
All in all, it’s a great trail that’s certainly worth a weekend break (or at least a day’s outing) for JHB / Pretoria residents.