January 31, 2018
You are rearing to go in your newly-acquired 4x4 vehicle, and test it out in all sorts of terrains, but where are the best 4x4 off-road trails in South Africa? However, there is something you need to address before you even think of going on any of these trails – how skilled are you in engaging your 4x4 with the various terrains in South Africa? It’s all very well going to these beautiful trails, but what if you end up seriously damaging your vehicle or, worse still, exposing you and your passengers to great danger?
Let’s explore the best way to prepare for these off-road trails, and then we can enjoy reaching our destination safely.
Off-road trails are graded according to driving difficulty, with the lowest score being the easiest:
A rule of thumb is that you need to first walk over the terrain (rock, mud) before you try and drive over or through it. Tyre pressures should be reduced by about 20% when the 4x4 has marginal traction or grip, such as when negotiating difficult climbs or descents, shallow mud, and general terrain.
All you need to remember when approaching sand is to keep up the momentum of the 4x4. Rather engage the 4-wheel drive to be on the safe side. If the sand is really soft, the tyre pressures can be reduced to as little as 0.8 - 0.5 bar. However, steer carefully and drive slowly to avoid a tyre coming off the rim.
While entering the water, drive slowly in low-range second gear, creating a bow wave. Avoid any splashing as this may affect electrical components. If the water is quite deep, a 4x4 fitted with a snorkel is a pre-requisite.
Reduce tyre pressures by 15 – 20%, and the drive will be more comfortable and safer. Ensure that you don’t reduce the tyre pressure too much as this may affect handling of the 4x4.
Avoid the temptation to cross a ridge at an angle, because it many cause one wheel to lift off the ground, thereby losing traction on that axle. Just make both wheels cross the ridge at the same time.
When going through a trough, drive across it at an angle so that only one wheel is in the trough with the other one still on firm soil.
When climbing or descending steep slopes, do not depress the clutch if you feel the 4x4 is either beginning to slip, or about to stall.
Two trails are available at Korannaberg Adventures, on the farm Van Zoelenshoek, which is on the Lesotho border. Travelling on the R703, the farm is 30 km east of Excelsior, lying at the foot of the Korannaberg mountains. The 5-h Matopos trail is comfortable, and involves seeing seven waterfalls in the rainy season. The 7-h Malutis trail is actually shorter, but there are some serious obstacles that will challenge your driving skills, and the strength of the 4×4. Accommodation can be found on the farm itself.
If you want to really have a great time with your 4x4, then this is the place to visit. Although the trail is kind to beginners, driving on the trail will see you going through sand, mud, over rocky terrain, up steep hills, and down sharp descents. All in all, it can be quite challenging.
Riverside 4×4 is about 20 km from Steynsrus, when travelling towards Lindley on the R76. It has accommodation available on the side of the Vaal River.
A bit of heaven for the 4×4 enthusiasts can be found on Transboegoe Farm, which is on the border of the Kalahari Witsand Nature Reserve. Ideally done over a week-end, drivers can revel in the over 100 km of astonishing trails. The experience will make you want to come back again and again. Beckoning you are four trails that traverse the red sands of the Kalahari Desert, with the best located at Seekoeibaard. This trail starts with a rocky climb over the Boegoeberg Mountains. The trail can be found off the R64, between Kimberley and Upington, and accommodation is at the riverside.
From the Cedarberg Guest Farm, several trails wind their way through the beautiful foothills of the Drakensberg mountains. The Cedarberg Scenic Trail is for the faint-hearted, but if you are looking for that adrenalin rush, you need to travel along the Dagga Trail. You cannot do without GPS and a good map, while you work your way towards the Three Sisters. Seeing muddy terrain and rocky gorges will greet you on the way, it is essential that you use a high-clearance 4×4 with low-range capability. Bring along recovery equipment – you may well need it. To get there, drive from Kokstad to Cedarville on the R56 towards Matatiele, and Cedarberg Guest Farm is about 8 km past Cedarville. Accommodation can be found on the Farm itself.
This trail embraces over 250 ha of undulating, glistening-white dunes that are found near Lamberts Bay. Several trails can be tested over this huge, sandy terrain. Be careful not to be reckless – it may be most exhilarating to fly off a sand dune in your 4×4, but it could seriously damage your vehicle. For you to be able to emerge a victorious driver, the trails require a skilled combination of deflated tyres, momentum, and power. If everything becomes a little too much for your nerves, you can escape along certain routes back to normality. Coming from Clanwilliam on the R364, you will find the trail about 10 km before Lamberts Bay. Lamberts Bay itself provides accommodation.
Buying car insurance using PMD’s online platform is not nearly as difficult as some of these 4×4 trails. You will see for yourself if you try purchasing car insurance online.