Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Off the beaten path

What happens when an adventurous group of friends wants to make the most of the long Easter weekend? Peter Field shares the group’s experience travelling on some of the Western Cape’s picturesque back roads.

Our travels have taken us from the sandy tracks of the Namaqua National Park to the corrugated gravel roads in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and northwards to the tar roads of the Kruger National Park. However, for this trip we decided to stay closer to home and continue our extensive adventures in and around the Western Cape. When planning our trips, I normally start months in advance, and this time it was no different. Since Jamaka Organic Farm & Resort in the Cederberg has been our favourite camping site for over 13 years, we decided to put it on the itinerary. However, since we like exploring new places, we decided to make our trip longer than originally planned so we could camp at two places we had not seen – Moon River Bush Camp and Ouplaas Campsite.

We prefer to stay off the busy highways and tar roads as much as possible as we love exploring new gravel back roads. This is made easy by Hilda, our trusty Aintree green 2013 Land Rover Defender 110. Hilda is fully kitted, and with her 2.2-litre Puma engine, is up to any task, no matter where we want to go.

With our camping spots booked, I worked out the route for our 14-day trip on Garmin Basecamp, which gave us a total distance of 562 km. While we have driven these scenic back roads on numerous occasions, it was a first for our friends.

Saldanha Bay to Klein Tafelberg 4×4

On the first morning, we wake up bright and early at 04:45, pack a few last things and start the 100 km journey from our home in Saldanha to the first campsite, Klein Tafelberg 4×4. It is located between the small towns of Redelinghuys and Aurora. Here one finds many species of sweet-smelling wildflowers and the famous Verlorenvlei wetland. Known as the “potato capital of the Sandveld”, this region has many potato farms producing high-quality potatoes. Rooibos also grows wild here and is freely available.

We got on the R399 and started the journey, driving through the small towns of Vredenburg, Velddrif and Dwarskersbos. We drove past the Rocher Pan Nature Reserve, which is worth a visit, drove a further 19.8 km to the T-junction, and turned left onto Elands Bay Road. After 3.9 km, is a quaint farm stall called, “Die Skooltjie Padstal”, which is always worth a stop. From here it’s only 546 m before we turned right onto the gravel Klein Tafelberg Road, and here we stopped to deflate our tyres for the 9.7 km ride to Klein Tafelberg 4×4. It’s just on 2 km to our favourite campsite, Bokkraal, and it is worth engaging low-range for the last 600 metres of soft sand. Bokkraal is a sandy camp close to the lapa, You will also find a swimming pool, wellmaintained ablutions and a small kitchen for the campers to enjoy.

Arriving early, we set up camp and made a proper camp breakfast while we waited for our friends, Ernie and Gail Everett, to join us from Cape Town. They arrived at midday, and after they had pitched their camp we all sat under the trees catching up on the news. This was our home for three nights. Each morning we woke up at 08:00, and to start the day off right, we made a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast on our Malawi stove with a cast-iron frying pan. After cleaning up, we walked around the beautiful campsite before cooling off in the lovely swimming pool. We spent quite a lot of time at the pool before making our way back to camp for some tasty lunch. Jeanette, my wife, makes a mean tomato bredie, green bean bredie, Hawaiian stir fry, and chicken curry, so we are spoilt for choice. Around 18:00, after sitting around camp and sharing some of our adventures and other stories with each other, we light the fire for dinner and crack open a cold one. We keep the fire going until 23:00 when we finally go off to bed.

If you are in search of some more adrenaline-fuelled activities, there is a difficult but exhilarating 4×4 trail that will keep you busy for at least three hours. This guided 4×4 trail has been voted one of South Africa’s Top 10 4×4 trails and will take you on a scenic 20 km adventure to magnificent viewpoints paved with sandy fynbos-covered slopes and weathered sandstone formations. It’s quite the test! There is also a hiking trail that can take anywhere between three and five hours to complete – a perfect way to test just how fit you are. Birdwatchers do not need to stray much further than the campsite, which is a great spot from which to check off the more than 190 species to be found in the area.

Klein Tafelberg 4×4 to Jamaka Organic Farm & Resort

With our peaceful stay at an end, we met up with our friends Jaco and Elisia Steyn, and their two boys, just outside the Klein Tafelberg 4×4 entrance. They came from Saldanha Bay to join us on the back roads through the farmlands to Jamaka Organic Farm & Resort. We turned right onto the Klein Tafelberg Road, left into Olof Bergh Street and made our way back to Redelingshuys were we stopped to look at all the murals painted on the cottages, and visited the Dutch Reformed Church that burned down in 2019. After spending some time sightseeing, we made our way to the General Dealer Store for supplies. I also took this opportunity to inflate my tyres to 1.5 bar, a happy medium for gravel and some tar stretches.

We got onto the R366 before turning right towards Piketberg, and continued for some 26 km before turning onto the R365 Lamberts Bay Street, driving for 5.1 km on tar before hitting the gravel for 26.3 km, passing the Paleisheuwel Solar Plant. This is the largest photovoltaic solar power project in South Africa with 611 000 solar panels covering 240 hectares, and it has an operating capacity of 82.5 MW. After this, we turned right onto the Alexandershoek Road and drove past the Flora United Protea Farm SA and on to the Skimmelberg Pass. Once on top of the pass, one can see the family-owned Skimmelberg farm which produces and sells Buchu and Rooibos tea products. It’s another 14.6 km down the mountain to complete the pass, and another 12.5 km to the N7, which we joined for a kilometre before turning onto the gravel Algeria Cederberg Road and soon after, crossing the Olifants River causeway. We then almost immediately turn left and follow the Olifants River for 19.75 km, passing Lebanon Citrus Holiday Farm. Before reaching the turn-off going into the Cederberg mountains, one of our friends managed to get a puncture in his left rear tyre.

After over an hour of us all helping to fix the tyre, we finally got back on the way, turning right and following the 17.29 km winding road that hugs the mountainside to Jamaka Organic Farm & Resort. It is located outside the town of Clanwilliam, the Rooibos capital of the world, where approximately fourbillion Rooibos tea bags are produced each year. The town is also one of the 10 oldest towns in the country, named by Sir John Cradock after his father-in-law, the Scottish Earl of Clanwilliam.

We finally arrived at the family-owned farm and resort in the main valley of the mountainous Cederberg area, close to Cape Nature’s well-known Algeria campsite. It is the only certified organic farm in the Cederberg mountains. We immediately set up camp with our Bush Lapa caravan, taking us a mere 20 minutes. Most of the campsites here are strung along the Rondegat River and have trees to shield you from the unforgiving sun. The campground is mostly level with some grass here and there. With everything sorted, we sat back and relaxed, waiting for our other friends to come later in the evening since they could only leave later due to work commitments.

We were seven families camping together during this long Easter weekend. Every Easter, for the last six years, we as friends have come to camp together on the same spot at Jamaka. Luckily, we were blessed with some amazing weather during this trip, unlike the previous year when it was rainy.

There was much to enjoy during our four-night stay on this functioning farm that produces citrus, mangoes and Rooibos tea. We took drives on the farm and had some lazy days beside the river, which has been dammed up to create a swimming pool. The children were also kept busy at the volleyball pitch which is located near the river. There is also a donkey cart ride available for young and old to enjoy during the busy holiday seasons. Some of us enjoyed a few of the testing hiking trails available in the area, while others simply relaxed back at camp. Each evening we all sat around the fire and enjoyed each other’s company.

Jamaka Organic Farm & Resort to Moon River Bush Camp

Our time at Jamaka over, we all packed up and were ready to hit the road. At around 10:00, most of our friends headed home, and just us and another couple started the 80 km trip to the next campsite, Moon River Bush Camp. It is located deeper in the Cederberg mountains, which is named after the strictly protected Clanwilliam Cedar tree, an extremely rare tree that is endemic to the region and typically grows at an altitude of over 1 500 m. These dramatic mountains form part of the 71 000-hectare Cederberg Wilderness Area, which was proclaimed in 1973. It includes such dramatic wind-carved sandstone formations as the Maltese Cross and the Wolfberg Arch.

Turning right out of Jamaka, it is just 5.14 km to a left turn past the Algeria Forestry Station and Cederberg Algeria Campsite, then on to the Uitkyk Pass. It is unfortunately now tarred, but still provides dramatic views down the valley. From here the road levels off, passing the turn-off to Driehoek Tourist Farm and 14 km later reaches Dwarsrivier, the reception of Sanddrif Holiday Resort which is 1.2 km further. At the fork in the road we turn right to the Kromrivier Pass.

We pass Die Slee restaurant before turning right and going over the cement bridge and down the Truitjieskraal Road before turning right on the main Cederberg Road. The Truitjieskraal Road should not be rushed as it is quite rough in parts, and one has to stop quite regularly to open and close farm gates. It’s a good opportunity to take in the stunning views and snap some photos.

After we turned right, we passed the Nuwerus Farm and continued for 35.9 km over the Grootrivierhoogte Pass and Blinkberg Pass before turning right into Moon River Bush Camp. Take note you need a 4×4 to get into Moon River Bush Camp. We booked in and drove 1.3 km to the campsite which is right next to the river and surrounded by two mountain ranges. At Moon River, the site is exclusively yours for the duration of your stay. The camp is peaceful and tranquil with a lot of wideopen spaces to explore but does not have electricity or cell phone reception, and the ablutions are merely a toilet, so you have to come prepared. This campground also has a slight slope, and your shade from the glaring sun is limited to a small lapa.

Our two-night visit consisted of exploring the campsite on foot, taking photos, and walking along the river, climbing over rocks in search of pools. We also enjoyed some late nights around the campfire. Activities at and around this camp are very limited, so it’s best to just sit back and enjoy what nature has on offer. This was our first time camping here, but definitely not our last!

Moon River Bush Camp to Ouplaas Campsite

After having a scrumptious breakfast, we packed up camp, and by 10:30, we were on the road again, to our last campsite for the trip, Ouplaas. We turned right on the main Cederberg Road, passed the Katbakkie Pass turn-off after 6.1 km and headed another 26 km or so south to Op-Die- Berg. After stocking up on supplies at the Spar, we headed north on the R303, towards Citrusdal. After 23.2 km we passed the Schoongezicht Campsite turn-off and Balie’s Gat turn-off after another 4.7 km. From here it was another 13.7 km to the Suikerbossie Guest Farm road and another 1.7 km for our right turn to Ysterplaat Farm. The road takes one over the Suurvleirivier causeway. Be cautious here as a tight bend just before the causeway can be difficult for those towing long caravans. Ouplaas Campsite is on the working farm Ysterplaat, which is located in the Koue Bokkeveld, an area known to be one of the coldest places in the Western Cape in the winter. Some of the oldest farms in the country are located here.

After arriving, we searched for the perfect spot to set up camp, and there were plenty of spots to choose from. We decided on campsite number 1 as it was nice and level with lush green grass. More importantly, there were lots of old oak trees providing shade from the summer heat. To cap it all off, the Cederberg mountains in the backdrop made this campsite just picture-perfect. Our four-night stay consisted of swimming after a few long walks around the place. The bush walk down to the water wheel was our favourite as we discovered some lovely rock pools and waterfalls. The owner also took us up the mountain, which overlooks the beauty that is the Koue Bokkeveld. Besides these adventures, we enjoyed relaxing at camp, and we also cooked some amazing food – the standout for me was the fried Kabeljou and chips done on the Malawi stove. There are various other activities for young and old to enjoy, such as a few adventurous hiking trails, stargazing and adrenalin-fuelling mountain biking and mountain climbing. This was our first time camping here, and we were impressed with the hospitality and facilities available. Each campsite has a braai and a water point, and there are also some nice, shared ablutions. Like most good things, the trip came to an end way too soon. After 14 days of pure bliss, we reluctantly made our way home. Luckily, we already have our next two trips planned, so there is some adventure to look forward to. The first will be a 10-day Winter Tankwa Expedition in July and then a 14-day Northern Cape trip in September.

When should I visit?

The best time to visit the Cederberg depends on what conditions you are comfortable camping in. During our trip, we were blessed with sunny weather each day, perfect for our laidback activities. However, summers can get quite hot, especially in the Cederberg area, with temperatures rising to the mid 40 degrees Celsius. It can get quite cold in the winter, and since it is the rainy season, some of the roads might not be open or accessible. You will have to be picky about which campsite you choose, as camping close to a river as we did, can be dangerous.

I would suggest taking on this trip between November and May, as you are likely to get sunny weather. Note that if you plan a trip covering the back roads of our beautiful country, make sure that you do your research on the accessibility of the road as some roads are not open or accessible during certain periods of the year.

Travel Guide

Klein Tafelberg 4×4

This campsite is within a two-hour drive from Cape Town in the heart of the West Coast Sandveld. A visit to Klein Tafelberg 4×4 sets a gateway for 4×4 tourists to explore this interesting region and experience the splendour and silence of the peaceful Sandveld nights. There are two types of accommodation available. You can camp in the middle of the beautiful Sandveld, with the Klein Tafelberg mountain in the background, for R250 per night for two people (R50 per extra person per night, children under six stay free). Or you can stay in the recently finished, almost fully equipped self-catering chalets for R750 per night per chalet for four people maximum (R50 per extra person per night, you have to bring your own bedding and towels).

ktb4x4@breede.co.za | +27 83 771 6237 | www.kleintafelberg4x4.co.za

Jamaka Organic Farm and Resort

The family-owned Jamaka Organic Farm & Resort started as an organic farm but decided to expand their facilities to establish campsites along the river. Through time Jamaka became a popular holiday and accommodation destination in the Cederberg area, and subsequently, more cottages were added while the camping grounds were expanded to increase their original capacity. New camping sites are added from time to time. Jamaka currently features 10 fully equipped self-catering chalets with capacities ranging from two to 16 people per unit respectively and starts at R600. There are currently 83 campsites available for campers to choose from, starting at R240.

info@jamaka.co.za | jamaka@agrizone.co.za | +27 27 482 2801 | www.jamaka.co.za

Moon River Bush Camp

Moon River Bush Camp is a relatively new campsite perfect for self-sufficient 4×4 campers searching for remote camping with 400 hectares of untouched nature to enjoy. There are only two campsites, namely the River campsite and the Sugarbush campsite, ensuring peace, quiet and relaxation for all who visit.

moonriverbushcamp@gmail.com | +27 82 455 4947 | www.moon-river-bush-campcamping farm.business.site

Ouplaas Campsite

Ouplaas Campsite is a private off-road campsite designed to facilitate the enjoyment of its natural surroundings without distraction and accommodates environmental camps, as well as smaller, private groups. They have four campsites available for campers to choose from, starting at R250, and they recently finished their one and only chalet. This twosleeper unit is priced at R1 600.

info@oumasehuis.co.za | +27 82 695 3854 | www.oumasehuis.co.za

The green Machine

Our Aintree green 2013 Land Rover Defender 110 with its 2.2-litre Puma engine is the perfect four-wheel partner. It takes us wherever we want to go with ease and comfortably tows our Bush Lapa caravan. We named her Hilda after my mother, who sadly passed away in 2012. We heavily kitted the Landy out with various accessories to suit our camping and overlanding needs. The accessories fitted so far include:

  • Front Runner roof rack
  • Bushwakka L-shaped awning fitted on the left of the roof rack
  • Bushwakka storage box bolted to the front of the roof rack
  • 2 x 20-litre water containers mounted on the right rear side of the roof rack
  • 2 x 20-litre Jerry cans for diesel mounted on the left rear side of the roof rack
  • Between the two sets of Jerry cans is a fibreglass box to carry our Rooikrans firewood
  • On the right side of the roof rack is mounted a spade, axe, and a high-lift jack
  • The front of the roof rack is filled with four Hella spotlights
  • WARN winch 16.5Ti
  • Custom-made bullbar to accommodate the large winch
  • Bush cables connected from the roof rack to the bulbar to deflect branches away from the side of the Landy
  • Snorkel
  • ARB compact heavy-duty air compressor mounted inside the right front fender
  • ARB tyre deflator
  • ARB tyre inflator
  • ARB puncture repair kit
  • ARB recovery kit
  • 2 x ARB Air Compressor hose extensions
  • 2 x Xenon HID spotlights mounted on the bullbar
  • Headlights changed to Xenon HID lights
  • A two-inch lift from the heavy-duty Terrafirma coils in the front and rear
  • Terrafirma Pro Sport shocks
  • Terrafirma Steering Samper
  • Maxxis Bighorn MT-762 Mud Terrain 305/70 R16 tyres
  • 30 mm wheel spacers
  • Front steering bash plate
  • Diff lock guard
  • Rafiki rock sliders bolted to the chassis
  • Long-range diesel tank fitted under the right rear fender
  • Water tank fitted under the left rear fender
  • Rear working light
  • Heavy-duty spare wheel carrier
  • Spare wheel cover
  • Body corner protectors incorporating a step
  • Gas bottle mounted to the right rear of the vehicle
  • Chubb fire extinguisher
  • Discover AGM Traction Dry cell 100Ah deep-cycle battery
  • Vitron 12 V 15 Amp battery charger mounted under the rear seat
  • CTEK D250S dual DC to DC battery monitor
  • Front Runner drawer system
  • Icom VHF two-way radio
  • Cutlery bag hanging on the inside rear door
  • Garmin Montana 610, with Tracks4Africa loaded (I never leave the house without it as I am a registered supplier of Tracks4Africa). The only thing I can think of that I still want to add is a Stone Accessories safe under my cubby hatch.

Follow Peter on Facebook for more information on his adventures: Peter Field Bushscout.

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