We sent Bruce Jenkinson, exploring just outside of Beaufort West. He came back with a trail so impressive, it has him heading back into the Karoo again and again and again.....
I travel for a living. It makes me a somewhat jaded voyeur. It takes a lot to impress me, to wow me in a manner that guarantees I will be back. Of all the trails I have visited in my life, only a handful have successfully made that type of impression. Wagendrift was the latest, most unexpected addition.
Located in the heart of the Karoo between Laingsburg and Ladismith en route to the Seweweekspoort. Entry to the farm is across the Buffels River, over a low-water bridge fed by the Floriskraal Dam. Before you leave home, be sure to check the status of the river. If the dams lei-beurt is open, you may have to use the secondary entrance downsteam. It’s not a problem either way. The biggest drawback is on the trail experience itself, if the river is at full flow sections of the trail become impassable.
Once you are checked in and settled, formalities completed and map received you are free to hit the trails. The Wagendrift 4x4 trail has two sections – the River Trail and the Zebra Mountain Trail.
Only bikes with low noise emissions (GS Touring or Dual Purpose Bikes), at the sole discretion of management, are allowed. No bikes with after market pipes will be allowed on the farm and on the 4x4 routes.
Graded 3 to 4, the River Trail sets out over Buffels River, which depending on the leiwater can be fast flowing, strong and deep. The seriousness of the water-crossing will depend on the amount of water released from the Floriskraal Dam, just as in the case with the Buffelspoort 4x4 trail downstream. Should the water levels be too high to allow easy crossing, the trail can be accessed by turning left or due south at point no 6 on the map provided.
Alternatively, should you choose to cross, it is imperative you know your vehicle and have some wading experience. This serious albeit short 10m wide crossing can be deceptive and should always be walked first. Take a strong stick with you for support just in case. At the time of our visit, the Buffalo was flowing fast and strong, an ran an estimated 1.1m deep for about 1 m. Deeper than most off-road vehicles are able to wade even with a snorkel.
Once through that, 500m after the first river crossing, a second longer, less serious river-crossing awaits. Don’t be intimidated. On the face of it, the second river crossing looks far worse than the first, rest assured it’s not. The trail doesn’t actually cross the full breadth of the river, but turns right towards an exit located mid-stream on the opposite side, roughly 20m into the crossing. It’s imperative you remember to turn.
Aim for the entrance of the road opposite the river. If you miss this turn and head straight across the river you will land in trouble and get more than you bargained for.
With the second crossing behind you, the river route continues. It crosses a farm road and 1.4 kilometres on converges with a dry riverbed coming in from the north.
The track descends into the riverbed tracing its course for approximately 3 km. The river bed provides lots of action, scattered with huge rocks, drivers are forced to proceed with caution as they clamber up and over the huge boulders. With cross-axles aplenty, progress is slow. You may find you need to walk certain sections first. Good traction and good ground clearance are required for this section of the track.
The track does not remain in the river bed, but criss-crosses the bed, climbing in and out at intermittent points. At one stage it exits out and up a daunting dune face. Rather err on the side of caution.
When progress becomes easier, the end is nigh. Keep an eye out for the makers on the rivers edge. When you reach Point No.6 you are at the end of the river trail.
The Zebra Mountain Trail is a circular grade 2 track that rewards with exceptional vistas and excellent game viewing opportunities. It offers a mostly easy mountain driving experience that provides loads of fun for even the most experienced driver.
Entry to the trail is between the cottages and the lodge, sign-posted “Entry B” on the map. Point 1 to 10 is fairly straightforward mountain climbing. The only exception is point 4, an unexpected tight 90 degree turn on the top of the mountain. It will need to walked first to ensure the correct line of entry is selected. Wider vehicles may struggle a little.
After that, the only moderately difficult section that remains is between points 11 and 13, where the trail cuts into the side of the mountain up a narrow dry river bed. This short 2.8 km section is both technical and surprisingly beautiful. As the track winds it way up the dry riverbed towards the 4 way junction at point no 13, it morphs between tight, controlled sand driving and rock climbing.
If you take your time and proceed with caution even a standard 4x4 should make it through without too much problem. That said though a passenger spotter would not be ill-advised. Any help you can get at this stage, take it!
The rest of the trail, from 14 to end, is easy going grade 2 track scattered with various points of interest. Points 12 and 17 for example offer breathtaking panoramic views across the Buffelspoort and Seweweekspoort mountains.
The facilities at Wagendrift are exceptional. If you make the journey, do yourself a favour and stay a night or two. The fully equipped large stone lodge offers 5 luxury double rooms with en-suite bathrooms. There is a swimming pool, an impressive fully kitted under-roof open entertainment area on the front stoep, a large fully equipped kitchen inside and open braai and built-in fireplace outside. The view from the here across the surrounding mountains is spectacular.
Three further self-catering cottages lie next to the farmhouse, comfortably accommodating 4 people / cottage. The Lodge and/or the Cottages can be rented for your exclusive use depending on the size of the group. It really is the ideal spot for a weekend away with family and friends.
Excellent trails, excellent accommodation. Great getaway for family and friend
How long is the trail? 35km in total
How long will I be driving? 2-6 hours
Maximum number of vehicles? 10
Do I get a map? Yes.
Will my car get scratched? Yes
Should I take off my running boards? Only if you plan on tackling the grade 4 sections.
Should I take a compressor? Take your own
Can we have a braai en route? No
Best time to go? All year, but cooler winter months are best.
Can I take my family along? Yes, Mom can relax at the Lodge if she is not that keen on the 4x4 activities.
Just for the day or the weekend? Both depending on where you are coming from.
Are there ablution facilities for day visitors? No day visitors allowed
Can I see game? Yes, Baboon, Kudu, Klipspringers, Duiker, Steenbok, Zebra, Fellow Deer and lots of snakes. Keep an eye out for Black Eagle, Kaapse Patrys, Buzzard, Sugarbird and Fish Eagle.
The nearest town? Laingsburg (30 km)
How do I get there? Travel 2,5km down the gravel that eventually becomes a dry river bed. Follow the sideboards to the Lodge. You can’t miss it.
The nearest petrol station? Laingsburg (30 km)
GPS? S33.38000 E20.94267
Where can I stay? Wagendfrift Lodge boasts 5 luxury double rooms with en-suite bathrooms. The Lodge is fully kitted with every home-away-from-home luxury you could possibly need. Three additional self-catering cottages lie alongside the main lodge, sleeping 4 persons each.
Must I take anything special? You need to bring everything you want to eat and drink. This includes coffee, tea, milk and sugar. The water is safe to drink, but is bore hole water which is “brak” and the taste of it is unpleasant for some people – best to bring your own drinking water.
What else can I do there? Take a leisurely walk, do some bird watching, go swimming, mountain biking, quad biking or visit the Floriskraal dam and do a history tour of the area. Floriskraal is where 9 flood victims scrambled to safety from the fierce Buffalo River floods that ravished the town of Laingsburg in 1981. Visit the Laingsburg Museum to find out more. Or on the lighter side, you could take a drive through the beautiful Seweweekspoort. Have a meal at the Matjiesfontein Hotel one hour away.
Lodge: R1000 per room, per night
Cottages: R1100 per cottage, per night
4x4 Trail: Free of charge
Bookings: Lou van der Westhuizen 082 3727370 | Anita van der Westhuizen 082 560 2113
Owners: Lou & Anita van der Westhuizen 082 3727370