During our stay at the Embizweni Cottage, a spectacular thunderstorm rolled across the pla
The next morning we woke up wondering how much the dry washes from the previous day had changed with the night's rain. Fortunately, the route had changed little from the previous day, although high winds limited the amount of wildlife that we encountered on the trail. With fewer stops, we were back to the main lodge by noon and looking for more adventure before returning to Cape Town. There was one 4x4 Eco Trail remaining to be conquered, but it was obstructed by a locked gate. We began to think that trails in South Africa might not be so different from trails in the States after all as we headed to the visitors' center to return the keys to the Embizweni Cottage and inquire as to the status of the closed trail.
"Passage through Pienaars Pass costs 170 rand," the woman at the front desk explained to me. "And it is a very rough route, Grade 4 to 5. Are you certain you want to go that way?"
"Can we do that in my stock Land Rover?" Royce asked with his concern in his voice.
Large troops of baboons could be found throughout the park. These primates have learned to
"Oh yeah, no problem," I replied with what I hoped was a good poker face. I didn't know what a Grade 4 route meant, but the fact that this woman was concerned about us driving through Pienaars Pass certainly piqued my interest. With no idea what we were getting ourselves into-and no spare tires-we paid the fee and grabbed the keys for the Pienaars Pass gate lock.
After driving past the gate we ventured into a quickly narrowing valley. Amidst the rocks and vegetation, we could see the narrow shelf road clinging to the canyon wall. "Is that the road?!" Royce asked with ever-growing concern in his voice. "Just put the transfer case in low-range, raise the air suspension, and put the Terrain Response in "Rocks" mode-you'll be fine," I advised, trying to convince myself as much as Royce.
Fortunately, the difficulty of the track was due to steep, loose terrain, not large boulders or ledges. With only 30-inch tires (all-seasons on 18-inch rims at that), ground clearance is not the LR3's strong suit, but the Land Rover is never wanting for traction. Pienaars Pass was tight and technical, and on numerous occasions the tires began to slip before the traction control on the Land Rover kicked in and we continued forward progress. Soon we were back at the top of Klipspringer Pass again, via a different route than the previous day. Not wanting to press our luck any further without a spare tire (or spare anything at that point), we headed down the graded road and returned the key for the gate to the visitors' center. We had to get back to Cape Town anyway to go cage diving with Great White sharks, but that's a story for another day.
The West Coast Locust hasn't done nearly as good a job of camouflaging itself against the
The Newbie's Guide to Outback Gear
To have an adventure like this, you don't have to go all the way to Africa. You can easily replicate a similar trip near wherever you live. We found that the following items made our trip much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.
- Plenty of water
- Sleeping bags
- Binoculars Camera
- Fullsize spare tire and jack
- Bug repellant
No one is ever fully prepared for what might happen in the backcountry, but isn't that sense of adventure part of the appeal? That said, these are some items that we did not have along, but will bring along the next time we hit the trail. The rooftop tent isn't essential if you don't plan to camp, but everything else on this list should be considered mandatory for any trip to the wilderness.
- Rooftop tent
- Cargo hold downs
- Tire plugs
- Tire gauge
- Air compressor
- Second spare tire
- Recovery strap
- Basic tools
- 5 liters of extra fuel
- Ice chest
Although the name "hartebeest" comes from the Afrikaans word for deer, the red hartebeest
Speke's Weaver is just one of the many colorful birds found in Karoo National Park. The pa
Since we were traveling alone, we tested the depth and firmness of this water crossing bef