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Trail Review: Touwsberg Private Game & Nature Reserve

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VIEWS

With the kids chewing gum wiped all over your leather, and ‘are we there yet’ ringing in from the back seat, you know you need a break, but where?

Your wagon is full of kit and there’s a long road ahead but you’re keen on some adventure and respite from the noise. Touwsberg certainly offers the latter, but what about the former – adventure? Well, on a recent trip deeper into the Karoo, we stopped in to check it out.

Located just off Route 62, past ‘Ronnie’s Sex Shop’ between Barrydale and Ladismith, and four hours out of Cape Town, Touwsberg offers a wide variety of chalets and accommodation options available to large families and adventure-seekers alike. Resting at the base of the Touwsberg mountain range, in a district known for its harsh contrasts in landscape and perennial lack of water (in addition to a phenomenal richness in Fynbos if you care to look) this 7000 hectare reserve has about 90km of dirt roads which serve as game-drive routes, but offer some 4×4 action, too. No, it’s not going to challenge a Rubicon or Defender; but, for our Trailblazer, the trails racked up some excitement and provided stunning scenery to match.

Marketed as a game reserve, the typical Karoo fynbos offers a home to animals like the rare Cape mountain zebra, as well as to giraffe, red hartebeest, kudu, eland, oryx and black wildebeest. Camera traps set up have caught the odd leopard too, but these are extremely reclusive and rarely seen.

When we were driving around the farm with Freddie le Grange (one of the farm’s owners), he explained how things work. The trails around Touwsberg are essentially farm tracks that link various chalets and viewpoints around the place. The ‘4×4’ routes are the more challenging sections of track that allow visitors access to scenic areas which would be out of bounds for drivers of softer softroaders or sedans. There is no formal circular route, and visitors are encouraged to explore the reserve at their leisure.

Bringing the family’s bicycles would be a perfect way to explore the place if you don’t feel like driving any more. If you’re so inclined, there’s a hunting option, too. Freddie explains that he also owns a nearby hunting lodge where a variety of animals similar to those seen on Touwsberg Nature Reserve can be found. Along with the hunting attraction, a bass dam is available if you feel the need to catch your own dinner.

Of course, Touwsberg is just off the well-known Route 62 which offers various attractions – including the hot springs at Barrydale and at Montagu, Ronnie’s Sex Shop, Bosch Luys Kloof Nature Reserve, the cheese factory in Ladismith and, further south, the Anysberg Nature Reserve – to name an arbitrary few.

To conclude, I wouldn’t consider Touwsberg a destination for the sole purpose of 4x4ing. It’s a home base for a weekend away, with various outdoor activities on offer for your whole family. Bring the kids, get in touch with nature, and explore the mountains in your 4×4 or tackle a hiking trail on foot. The chalets dotted around the farm are all self-catering units, but offer picturesque scenery and all the necessary amenities in varying levels of size and luxury, depending on your needs. For a weekend away from it all, Touwsberg has plenty to offer – including a lot of the stillness that can’t be found in a crowded car on a long family drive.


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: Western Cape
Nearest Town: Ladismith – 34km
Nearest Fuel Stop: Ladismith – 34km
Terrain: Mountains and river crossings
Guided/Unguided: Unguided
Open/Closed: Call for a booking
Will I get lost? No
Difficulty: 2
Bring your: Your binoculars, a camera, your kids, bicycles, hiking shoes and a birding book.

Directions
At 295km from Cape Town, the Touwsberg Nature Reserve is accessible by getting onto the R60 via Worcester then the R62 past Ashton. Continue past Ashton on the R62 for 121km before you spot the sign for Touwsberg on the left of the road. From George, continue to Oudtshoorn (63km) then hop on to the picturesque R62 through Zoar and Ladismith for another 135km before reaching the Touwsberg sign on the right.

Vehicle Requirements

Low-range: No
Diff-lock: No
Minimum ground clearance: Any modern softroader will handle the easy sections
Tyres: H/Ts will be fine
Recovery points: No
Underbody protection: No
Soft-roader friendly: Yes
Trail Cost: Free


What vehicle were we using?

We drove a Chevrolet Trailblazer on the standard H/T tyres. The large SUV is great for a family as it has comfortable seating for seven; and it provides ample capability for a place like Touwsberg. The lack of a rear diff-lock shouldn’t be of much concern as traction control and a limited-slip diff is standard. The powerful 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine mitigates the need for low range in most places around Touwsberg, but we were thankful for large amounts of engine braking on some of the steep descents – even with the six-speed auto as fitted.


ACCOMMODATION

R800–R4500 per night, depending on the size of chalet rented

GPS S330 37 49.5 E210 00 39.8

CONTACT – Ann Richards – 028 551 2172 or 073 414 2790