Rocky 4x4 weekend
off roading + remote location = a great weekend away
Albert Einstein said that logic will get you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere. The same can be said about roads. Highways will get you from A to B and probably in the fastest time but dirt roads and trails are where imagination takes over. This tribe should remind us that travelling isn’t always about getting from A to B in the fastest possible time.
I got my Drivetribe invite at just the right place and time - while away on a 4x4 weekend with friends at a little known trail called Ribbokkloof near Middelburg, Mpumalanga, South Africa. It is 40km North East of Middelburg and only around 2.5hrs from Joburg which makes it a doable after-work drive. The final part of the drive along the R555 is quite a narrow road and we had to contend with loads of trucks and suicidal overtakers, which is why we came back a different and much calmer, more scenic route but more about that later.
When you get to the farm any stress from the drive quickly evaporates as the remoteness, tranquility and first cold beer starts to sink in. The chalets don’t have ‘proper’ 240V electricity and all electrics run off a solar system which adds to the charm. It isn’t exactly roughing it and ours even had a TV!
There are no official permits for the 4x4 trails and if you are staying in a chalet no charge either, unless you get stuck and have to be rescued. The whole environment is very relaxed and we were told “If you find a road you can drive it” and given a map and some advice “there is one long uphill road full of loose rocks that should be driven down and not up”.
We set off towards the sign that signaled the start of the trail and tried to see the road on the left which we were supposed to take. Like true explorers we just carried on driving when we couldn’t find the right road and eventually ended up at a large muddy dam with a herd of cattle staring blankly back at us. We retraced our tracks and discovered another road which lead up a hill and decided to try it. After slowly crawling over hundreds of loose, medium sized rocks we realised this was the hill we should have gone down. Our trusty vehicles - 2 Toyota Fortuners, affectionately named Storm and Pumba handled it without breaking too much of a sweat. One word I will use to describe this trail is ROCKY. The tracks took us to the top of rolling hills and down into their narrow valleys with some steep inclines and declines to get the adrenaline pumping. With low range engaged the cars crawled over all the rocky obstacles relatively easily although we did need diff lock a few times. I don’t think an all-wheel-drive SUV would handle the course as easily as our 4x4s but you would be able to drive most of the dirt roads, having said this the farm owners have an X-Trail.. It is described as a 2-4 difficulty and I would agree with this. As long as you take it slow you won’t have any major issues along the trails.
Overall it was a cheerful, laid back weekend enjoyed by all and definitely worth a look if you enjoy off roading and leaving civilisation behind for a while. For our route back we decided to carry on with the dirt road that runs past the farm (towards Belfast) instead of dealing with slow trucks on the tar road and found it completely enjoyable and fascinating. We experienced beautiful vistas of the countryside and strange deserted granite mines filled with crystal clear water. Goes to show that the best roads are sometimes between the more favoured ones.