With the excitement and anticipation of a child finally getting to the front of the queue to receive his ice cream cone on a hot sunny day, so too was Dave Koster. He was about to receive his ice cream cone in the form of his first Land Rover Bush Run.
The day had finally arrived. I was joining the Land Rover community on my first outing. Being a newbie to the fraternity and to any form of 4×4 driving, I was soon to learn why Land Rover owners feel as if they are part of something that was difficult for me to describe prior to joining it.
After introductions were made and a few details of what lay ahead were revealed, a total of five Land Rovers, carrying 11 eager adventurers, set off into the mountains towards the Wolkberg Nature Reserve and the campsite, which is situated at the Serala Forest Station. Driving into the Wolkberg range, which forms part of the northern Drakensberg Mountains, is a breath-taking affair and travelling in a convoy of Land Rovers as they wind up the mountain dirt road makes one feel that the adventure has really begun. Halfway to our destination, the convoy came to a halt as a minor repair was carried out on one of our intrepid adventurers’ vehicles. This was the signal that the first plane had already flow over and fridges were accessed to retrieve some cold frosty refreshments. The fun had begun.
Upon arrival at the camp site, the view of our playground for the next few days was on display in all its beauty and splendour. The area is comprised of the Wolkberg Mountain plus several smaller peaks, valleys and ravines, gorges, steep cliffs, streams, thick indigenous forest, waterfalls, rock pools and small rivers. Deciding that there was too much sunlight left in the day, the group opted to explore the tracks and set off to view the Cascades Waterfall which is located on the Mohlapitse River, a tributary of the Olifants River. The single track to the Cascades prepared the group for the days to come. Tight switchbacks and steep ravines made for a fun excursion and the sight of the waterfall created a sense of positive energy within all of those that viewed it. A few braved swimming in the fresh cold pools and after a rest we returned to set up camp and start the fire.
An evening of laughter and jokes ensued as the group got to know each other better. Some were newbies while others were getting reacquainted, but in all instances, bonds were being formed and memories being made that will last a lifetime. That’s when the rooftop tent’s ladder first started “disappearing”… and would continue to disappear, much to the dismay of Dave and to the amusement of everyone else. This would become a nightly ritual as Wynand hid the ladder in the most ingenious ways.
A river through it
Day 2 was to be a continuation of an epic adventure. After a hearty breakfast the group packed up camp and readied themselves for what was to be the kind of experience that all Land Rover owners yearn for: engage low range, lose all contact with the crazy outside world and descend into a place where nature consumes all your senses, and you rely solely on your travelling companions to get you to where you need to go… slowly. The next stop was around 30km away but took the group six or seven hours to reach.
The journey and the final destination can be difficult to capture with photographs and that is why a Bush Run is such an important element of the Land Rover community. As a wise man once said: “The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man”. Travelling the ravine of the Mohlapitse River provided exactly that.
Throughout the day the group traced the road built around the early 20th century and it dawned on me that those who had built this road were the true adventurers. They did not have the luxury of using the ‘Best 4×4 by Far’ as we did and must have endured many struggles. Our intrepid group were not immune to struggles, though, as we had to find alternative crossings through the river due to bridges having been washed away.
Under expert guidance the convoy traversed many of the scenic crossings with little incident. The boobie prize of the day went to Brain Mathews, who managed to get a Defender 110 properly bogged down in the mud. Snatch ropes, spades and a little effort were required to extract the vehicle. To add insult to injury, he then let the Landy roll forward and it bumped into the vehicle ahead. There was no damage to speak of, but Brian was to endure the banter of the rest of the group for the remainder of the trip.
We finally arrived at the second night’s camping spot at Krom Elmboog and we were once again overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of this secluded spot. Camp was quickly set up, but many opted to simply sleep under the stars. At the spur of the moment the group decided to throw all the meat together and the resulting potluck dinner could have rivalled a Michelin 5-star meal.
Again, the ladder of the rooftop tent disappeared, which meant that Dave had to descend from the tent in the wee hours of the morning via the spare wheel. This was a rather precarious process considering the tender state he was in from the previous night’s festivities.
Nature showing off
Early the following morning we packed up and departed in the direction of the western gate of the Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve for another day of awe-inspiring views and challenging 4×4 driving.
We tackled the Orrie Baragwanath Pass which, at its highest point, reaches 1 370m. This a true off-road pass and the roads were in poor condition. However, the scenery was spectacular, and we had plenty of time to enjoy it as the group slowly traversed the pass in first and second gear low range. I’ve heard the pass described as a continuous arrangement of twists, turns and switchbacks, like a composition of music that endlessly dips and falls. Rather fitting if you ask me…
A few hours later we stopped at the Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve (the name meaning place of water) for breakfast. The awesome natural beauty of this reserve, with its crystal-clear rivers and waterfalls, makes it the foremost attraction in the area. The next stop on the journey was arguably the highlight of the entire trip. The Knuckles is a mountain within the reserve that – as the name implies – resembles the knuckles of a hand. To see it one needs to drive to a viewing point overlooking the escarpment and to say that the view was simply breath-taking is an understatement. When we arrived a number of Lappet Faced Vultures were soaring in the airstreams… free and beautiful. As we sat and took it all in, I reflected on the trip thus far and realised how truly blessed we were to be able to experience the natural splendour of it all.
Our intended route to the next overnight stop was blocked by an army of wattle trees that had overgrown the single track. They stood like sentries, and they were adamant that no-one would pass without shedding, blood, sweat and tears. With Land Rover people being the adaptable bunch that they are, plans were changed, and we retraced our route back to the pass and then down to the main camp With time to spare, the explorers decided to end the day with a visit to Leydsdorp. This ghost town originated as a goldmining camp and was proclaimed a city in 1890 but was virtually abandoned when gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand. The hotel and pub, however, are still going strong and offered a welcome reprieve for the thirsty travellers in the group.
Arriving back at camp, the last night was spent reflecting on the last few days. The ladder disappeared… again. Dave had finally had enough and decided to add a little something extra to Wynand’s fruit salad and custard. Needless to say, the pilchard did nothing for the taste of the pudding. It was all in good jest, though, and added to the many laughs that had been shared on the adventure. When we arrived at the start of the Bush Run, we were a bunch of likeminded travellers with a shared love for Land Rovers. By the end we were brothers and friends and we parted ways as such, eagerly looking forward to our next unforgettable trip.
About Bush Run
group of Land Rover enthusiasts regularly undertake Bush Runs, exploring the rough terrain and beauty this country has to offer. Join them for their final event for 2022, their Year End Weekend at Rust de Winter 4×4 ATV Club from 16 to 18 December 2022. Contact Nico Denner via WhatsApp to join the group and get more information: +27 83 653 0864.