Willowmore is a village which is situated on the border of the Great Karoo. It is a perfect stop to do groceries and fill up your tank before you start driving the Baviaanskloof, which every South African boy (Africa is still a men’s world) should have driven once in his life.
With no expectation other than that the drive would take about 7-8 hours and parts of it are only recommended for 4x4, Marty and we were ready for our second challenge. Marty, still on the heavy side, was in need of some more training and so we turned left at the sign showing us the way to Baviaanskloof.
The Baviaans area features majestic mountains rising from rolling plains, with lush green valleys, narrow gorges with flowing streams, steep mountain pases, and views of unspoilt wilderness. This area is around 270.000 hectare wide and the Baviaanskloof, a World Heritage Site, is part of it.
The Baviaanskloof itself has many different routes to take, but all routes start in or around Willowmore. The road leads you for around 200 km through the rugged beauty of the “Grootrivier” Gorge which lays between the Baviaanskloof Mountains and the Kouga mountains.
As we turned left into the Baviaanskloof we decided to go for T1 (1 of the 4 routes to take) which slowly turned into gravel as the road cut itself through the red/orange coloured mountains. We where driving at 80 km’s an hour and Marty didn’t had any problems with the road. Some lodges where tucked away between the kloof of this mountain range, but our plan was to keep the momentum and drive until we where a fair part on our way.
We didn’t stay over at our first, second and third lodge/campsite as they would charge as an outrageous amount of money while there was nobody around. Where they not glad with a few customers? But they kept to their prices and so we pushed on. At the fourth campsite there was no one around to help us and finally at the fifth campsite we were in luck. The camp owner greeted us heartily and showed us the way to a beautiful campsite with everything we needed for our car and ourselves, even including a swimming pool. YES, we have the jackpot, BAM!
The campsite was enclosed by mountains and when the night set in and our campfire was on, we looked up as we saw hundreds of stars lighting the sky. It was a beautiful site to be hold as there was no light pollution in a radius of over 100 km’s.
Waking up with the sun coming over the mountains and after a nice dip in the pool we where ready for another day Baviaanskloof. But it didn’t go like day 1 where we had a fair speed, instead we were driving not more than 10 km’s an hour. The road changed into rocks as we crossed the that was flowing through the kloof river multiple times and if we had a gravel road it would be covered with potholes. Did you know that this river covers the entire kloof and you actually cross the river no fewer than 42 times? But you will probably only notice the numerous dry river beds after it rains, when they’re a little trickier to navigate.
The road continued on into the mountains with a steep ascend while the road twisted and turned. Many parts of the road were so narrow that two cars couldn’t pass each other. We crossed our fingers crossed in the hope we didn’t meet anyone else on the road.
After 5 hours driving we finally got to our second campsite which was set on the river bank of the Baviaanskloof river. Two hundred meter up the stream we heard baboons playing in the water. “Bommmeetje” some young baboons were screaming while they jumped into the water from the high cliffs, making the older baboons wet. As they got out of the water, the older baboons angrily chased after them. The young ones were only too quick and were already making themselves ready for their second jump.
As the sun was setting in, Inge made a campfire while I was preparing diner on our gas stove. Half an hour later we were enjoying our diner while the fire gave us warmth and light. When we were ready to go to bed, the sky was illuminated by the brightest falling star we had ever seen in our lives. Satisfied and tired we fell asleep and dreamt about the last part of the Baviaanskloof.
Early morning, we continued on and after half an hour drive the road ascended again. While Inge was having her eyes on the road I was looking down into abyss while the road was getting narrower and narrower. Sweat was pouring from our heads and under our armpits, cause one wrong move would be the end of our story.
The descend was maybe even more trickier than the ascend, especially while the road was full with potholes and cracks. But we were gaining more and more experience with this and bit by bit we were slowly getting more confidence in our driving. After a couple of more ascends and descents we arrived at the gate which marked the end of the track. We are on tar road again up to our next destination.
x Chris & Inge