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Trail Review : Bosch Luys Kloof

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VIEWS

‘A getaway best reserved for a long weekend in nature’s splendour.’ Yes, it sounds like a flowery brochure, but it’s true of Bosch Luys Kloof, a private nature reserve nestled in the middle of the Seweweekspoort Karoo area, adjacent to Die Hel.

Bosch Luys Kloof does not market itself as a 4×4 destination; however, my best praise would be to say that the management of the reserve is being extremely modest about their beautiful routes. The three 4×4 trails on offer dish up enough excitement for hardened 4×4 enthusiasts, while also intriguing nature lovers and history buffs alike.

Though some places offer tranquillity at the heart of their territory only, Bosch Luys Kloof’s picturesque reach extends far beyond its own boundary fence. Join the billiard-table-smooth gravel R323 from either the N1 near Laingsburg, or at its southern side nearer Ladismith or Calitzdorp, to begin your journey.

The 88km of gravel is one of the most scenic drives in the Western Cape: cutting through the magnificent Cape Fold Mountains of Towerkop Nature Reserve, the road passes quaint farmsteads between historical ruins and hamlets long stuck in the past, and far away from the internet, any cell phone signal or nosy tourist. This drive alone makes a delightful escape from the city lights, but, when you delve a little deeper, more jewels begin to sparkle.

Bosch Luys Kloof itself is 70% surrounded by state nature reserves, and, with only one route in, the reserve remains secluded – there’s precious little interference from the outside world. Greater Kudu, Eland, Oryx and Red Hartebeest are a few of the larger antelope on the reserve, and Burchells Zebra were introduced in 2010. Leopard have also been spotted, but are rare. A plus is that, unlike some reserves, all animals roam completely free, without tags, which makes sightings all the more genuine.

THE LODGE

The lodge is four-star rated, and the small team (including manager/guide Bruce Garven and chef Derick Theron) offer personal service to all guests. The lodge itself is clean and well-kept, and all 4×4 routes are regularly maintained and trimmed of stray branches or paint-scratching bushes. The accommodation is extremely luxurious, with private chalets overlooking the valley available to rent. A bar, pool and spa are part of the appeal, along with guided nature walks, drives, and unguided walks or hikes. Maps are available on request.

THE 4X4 TRAILS

Three dedicated 4×4 routes offer difficulties between the Grade 2 of the ‘To Hell and Gone’ route, and the Grade 5 of the ‘Wagon Route to Beaufort’. A third and longer option that covers the northern section of the Reserve is also available for exploration – it’s rated at a Grade 3.

‘Wagon Route – Grade 5’

This is the most hardcore route that Bosch Luys Kloof offers. A rocky, jagged and technical trail with switchbacks and no turnaround points, it is reserved for proper 4×4 vehicles with diff-locks only. The Wagon Route traverses a hilly middle ground of the reserve through valleys, bush and boulder beds. This route covers the old ‘Wagon road to Beaufort’ that was created in the early 1800’s for the wagons going to Prince Albert through Seweweekspoort. The 4×4 trail covers only a short section of the original wagon route, and is now 9km long, but (due to its rough nature) should take around three hours.

‘The Shepherd’s Trail – Grade 3’

The Shepherd’s Trail gets its name from the shepherds who used this trail to find grazing for their sheep. At 14.5km, the trail explores typical Karoo landscape along the remote southern foothills of the reserve.

Dry riverbeds, koppies, valleys and narrow neks are explored. The owner took special care to reopen the route without disturbing nature, and tree-cutting was kept to a minimum. Eland can often be spotted on the first section of this route, from where one can see the Elandsberg Mountain extending to the north.

To the west is the Seweweekspoort Peak, at 2325m the highest in the Western Cape; it often has snow in winter. Once you’ve completed the undulating 14.5km Shepherd’s Trail, decide whether you’ll continue down Victory Lane; that’s an extra 9km of 4×4 driving for the more adventurous amongst us.

‘To Hell ‘n Gone – Grade 2-3’

Also known as the Gamkaskloof Historical trail, this 11km route follows the fynbos-covered hills of the Swartberg Mountain range and ends at an unbelievable viewpoint overlooking Die Hel (Gamkaskloof), far below.

The tweespoor track has a grading of around 2 to 3, so won’t test your diff-lock, but good ground clearance is needed and cautious driving is vital in places. Consisting primarily of sandstone and slate rock, the 11km trail will take about one hour to drive each way, although a slower approach is recommended.

Built between 1959 and 1962, the track, then known as Otto Du Plessis Pass, was built as a trade route to connect the people living far below in Die Hel to the outside world. It ends at a ruin and a sign for ‘The Ladder ’, where a hiking trail descends 400m over a horizontal distance of 900m.

The ruin at the end of the 4×4 route (the Waenhuis – Wagon House) marks the point where traders from the Gamkaspoort Valley (Die Hel) would sell their dried fruit, honey and eggs to buyers from nearby towns. After goods had been sold, the now unladen donkeys and men would descend to Die Hel once more to re-start farming operations.

The majestic view of ‘Die Hel’ should be savoured; a picnic table has been erected under a thorn tree to allow you to do just that. Once you reach ‘The Ladder’, you’ll need to turn back, as there is no way into Die Hel other than via the Eland’s Pass on the other side of the valley.

Conclusion

As previously said, Bosch Luys Kloof is not marketed as a 4×4 destination, and to visit the area solely to test your vehicle to its limits would be missing the point. All the 4×4 routes serve primarily as access roads to areas that those without 4x4s cannot see.

The routes serve to educate you on their history, and to this end detailed brochures and maps are offered at the beginning of your chosen route. These contain valuable information on the rich history and diverse fauna and flora.

If you do go to Bosch Luys Kloof in your 4×4, it’s best to go for two or three days so that you can explore all the trails at your leisure.


ISUZU OFF-ROAD ACADEMY

To test yourself, the Isuzu KB and the Trailblazer 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 or Trailblazer.

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


Trail Info

Province: Eastern Cape
Nearest Town Ladismith – 52km
Nearest fuel Stop Ladismith
Terrain: Rocks and shrubs
Guided/Unguided: Unguided
Open/Closed: Open all year round
Will I get lost? No
Precautions: Keep a lookout for snakes, including puff adders in the summer months.
Bring your: Camera, binoculars, puncture-repair kit, a jack, plenty of water and your birding book.

Directions – Take the R62 through Ladismith and past the Hamlet of Zoar. About 25km from Ladismith, turn left onto the R323 gravel road and
continue for another 20km until you see the Bosch Luys Kloof turn-off on the right. Continue for the 10km to your destination.

Vehicle Requirements

Low-range Yes
Diff-lock Necessary on the Wagon Route, otherwise no.
Minimum ground clearance 220mm
Tyres A/T tyres advisable, although (if you’re careful) H/T tyres should provide sufficient traction.
Recovery points If doing the wagon route, yes
Underbody protection Bashplate recommended
Soft-roader friendly The ‘To Hell and Gone’ route won’t be ‘friendly’ to your softroader, but it is doable.
What vehicle were we using? Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8 4×4 AT

4×4 routes

R 250 per vehicle per route (for guests staying at Bosch Luys Kloof), there are 3 designated routes
R 300 per vehicle per route for ‘passers-by’, or non-residents
R400 pp for a game drive, including sundowners.

Accommodation

GPS: – S30°20’16.2’’ E21°30’34.9’’ (Google says 33° 22′ 0″ South, 21° 25′ 0″ East)

R1480 pp/per day including 3 meals.
R1280 pp/per day including dinner, bed and breakfast.

Contact: Tel (023) 581 5046

    To make a booking, fill out the contact form below.