Someone once asked me, “What is there to do and see in Baviaanskloof?”
I answered, “Absolutely nothing.”
A confused face stared back at me as the words left my mouth and before the confusion could find its direction I added, “Absolutely everything.”
That is Baviaanskloof; one of the few places in South Africa where there is absolutely nothing but a place where nothing is absolutely everything.
Isuzu recently turned 80 and I celebrated this milestone of #80YearsofReal by venturing out to General Motors in Struandale Port Elizabeth on a plant tour to see how the Isuzu gets assembled and, with a KB300 by my side, I also ventured into the Eastern Cape’s beautiful Baviaanskloof.
The Baviaanskloof is an ecological wonder containing seven out of eight of South Africa’s biomes; the 210 000 hectares is a World Heritage Site with a mix of farming and conservation as it is home to the most diverse species of plants per square kilometer.
It is impressive; if South Africa is the rainbow nation then Baviaanskloof must be the rainbow garden because where in the world do so many plant species, as diverse as fynbos, forest, grassland, succulent Karoo, nama-karoo, sub-tropical thicket and savanna, meet?
The kloof and its rugged wilderness terrain of narrow roads, water crossings, balancing acts of sandstone rock formations and sheer cliffs is a playground for 4×4 enthusiasts, outdoor lovers and motorbike troopers. It is where dust, diesel and diff locks come together to traverse over mountains and through valleys, from Patensie’s side all the way to Willowmore and vice versa.
There is only one road; it is 200 kilometers and takes 8 hours or more if you ignore all the camp sites, cottages, tree houses (yes, a tree house), guest houses and the luxury caves (yes, I said caves). And if you don’t want to drive in from one side and out to the other side you can always explore the first section (from either side) at a leisurely pace before you reach the Wilderness Area (which is restricted to 4×4 vehicles).
Luckily, during this trip, I had a 4×4 by my side and the kloof had the honour of adding a layer of dust to the Isuzu’s red exterior while it lived up to its promise, Isuzu Delivers.
And it seems that Isuzu has been living up to that promise for the last 80 years; in Vredendal is Daniel Kotze who clocked over 500 000 kilometers with his 1979 model, in the Gamtoos Valley is Oom Rooi Kritzinger (who I’ve met on the day I left for Baviaanskloof) who’s KB 250 did more than one million kilometers and in Port Elizabeth is my brother who reached 900 000 kilometers with his bakkie.
Three bakkies, three engines and one promise: Isuzu Delivers.
If you want more information about the Isuzu KB 300 and its automatic gearbox, click here.
I made a little video about my trip, it’s bumpy (because of the road) but have a look:
Baviaanskloof Points of Interest
There is nothing in Baviaanskloof; it is one of those places where our modern world necessities become obsolete and get quietly chased away and driven out by nature’s pristine, remote and serene powers. It is one of those places where the million year history and the evidence of the footprint of humanity breathes a sense of belonging into life, where visitors bow their heads in awe of landscapes, where parts are still unknown and undiscovered.
There is nothing in Baviaanskloof; it is one of those places where nothing is absolutely everything.
Make a stop at Tolbos Farm Stall or Padlangs if you are entering from Patensie’s side or Sophie’s Choice if you are coming from Willowmore’s side.
In the kloof you can have a halfway bite at the BaviJaans Farm Stall or a legendary roosterkoek at Vero’s Restaurant.
Things to do or see
Hiking: There are numerous hiking trails in the kloof from day hikes, to slackpacking to more strenuous trails. Some guest farms offer hiking trails on their property as well and bushman paintings are only one of the few things you will see along the way.
Mountain Biking: The Trans Baviaans is a 24 hours mountain bike marathon so if you want to tackle a dirt road you are definitely at the right place. Bring your bicycle or inquire whether or not your accommodation offers bicycle rental.
Birding: Nearly 300 species have been recorded in the Baviaanskloof and bird watchers can look forward to spotting a Knysna lourie, a blue crane, Stanley’s bustard and the protea canary to name a few.
There is also an opportunity to go rock climbing, kloofing, swimming, rafting and do absolutely nothing other than just to enjoy nature!
See, I told you nothing is absolutely everything.
If you are not up for a dirt road, have a look at the blog post I wrote about different routes and places to stop when driving through the Gamtoos Valley.
Baviaanskloof: Know before you go
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you travel to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area:
• There are no ATMs or petrol or diesel; fill up and bring cash as card facilities are not wide spread.
• Get your food in Patensie or Willowmore if you are camping or staying in a self-catering place.
• Make sure about the road conditions before you leave.
• Make sure you know how long it takes to travel from one spot to the next.
• Adhere to the speed limits.
• Cellphone signal is limited.
• If you are travelling during peak season, book ahead.
A special thanks to my mother who took most of the photos in the blog post because I was too busy filming the bumpy roads.
Disclaimer: General Motors SA sponsored the vehicle for the trip. As always, all opinions are my own.