“What about doing Grootrivierpoort?” my father says just after I told them that I’m driving the Suzuki Jimny for the next few days.
Cars, opinions of cars and the choice of cars, are something that often gets passed on from generation to generation. And if there’s one thing I value dearly in life it is my father’s opinion on it – old or new, off-road or a flat fancy Ferrari – so whenever I have the opportunity to drive something new, I make sure to pick them up for a trip.
“Grootrivierpoort?” I ask.
“Ja Grootrivierpoort, the road between Patensie and Steytlerville, you take the Elandsrivier road but at the Telkom tower, instead of continuing towards Uitenhage you go to Steytlerville.”
Grootrivierpoort is not an ordinary easy-going circular trip that you do in a few hours (especially if you have to make your way back to Gamtoos Valley). It’s a full day operation, a full day with more than half the day on a dirt road somewhere. Which is all great and good, but we are three people. And three people in a Jimny means someone will be slightly cramped in the back, sitting on top of a wheel feeling the rocky road and every single bump with a bit more intensity than the two in the front; it is not the Jimny’s fault, it is science or maybe Newton’s law of gravity.
“Grootrivierpoort it is then. It can’t be that bad, right…”
And in a nutshell, that’s how I ended up not only off the beaten path, but also completely off the map in a Suzuki Jimny, somewhere between Patensie and Steytlerville on an impromptu day trip with a few sandwiches, some grapes, a pack of Oreos, definitely not enough water and no camp stove to make coffee. And no coffee.
Grootrivierpoort | Antoniesberg Pass
Will firstly, let’s call a spade a spade… and let’s call Grootrivierpoort something else.
Grootrivierpoort is just the name of the middle section of the route, the poort, but Antoniesberg Pass is the actual name of the road. There is no indicator of this on the road and I only found this out afterwards while searching on Mountain Passes South Africa.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, if you like travelling off-road, over passes and through a poort or two, I highly recommend you pay for the subscription to Mountain Passes South Africa. The website is run by Trygve Roberts and so much attention, detail and research goes into it, with videos and topographical ‘cyber drives’ of what it looks like and what to expect.
If you start from Patensie’s side you have to drive 15.4 km of dirt road before the Elandsriver Road splits towards Steytlerville (left) or Uitenhage (straight) at a Telkom tower.
It was just a kilometre or three after this split when a bakkie (coming from Steytlerville’s direction) stopped and the guy said (sorry there is no way to translate this to English with the same emotion), “Ons skud nou al vir 5 ure ons longe los.” (Basically, excuse the poor midnight translation: the road has been loosening/rattling their lungs for the last 5 hours.)
Of course, in that moment, I thought he was exaggerating but thirty minutes later I believed he played it down.
And besides four-legged creatures, that’s the only form of life we saw for 8 hours; a guy on an off-road motorbike passed us at the turn-off but he turned around about an hour later and passed us again.
The road was rocky but the Suzuki Jimny was Rocky Balboa, one hellavu off-road fighter despite the road being badly rutted (especially after the heavy rains a few days prior to our visit); the view of Cockscomb Peak towering out from the Groot Winterhoek Mountains wowed us but the ability of the Jimny left us all in jaws-on-the-floor awe. If we had dentures it would’ve dropped out of pure admiration; okay maybe 90% admiration and 10% because of the road condition.
There are some steep climbs and steep downhills, incredible scenic views of proteas and mountain vistas, a few random houses (mostly inhabited), some livestock – whether they have owners or not is up for discussion – and at one point you are in a section of the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area but before you know it Google Maps is lost, and you find yourself not just off the beaten path, but literally OFF the map as well, a dot in the middle of nowhere, travelling further towards somewhere. You are only back on ‘track’ after a few hours and a river crossing at Groot River; one that is prone to flash flooding. We got lucky as it was less than half a metre deep and the Jimny came out the other side almost as dusty as it went in.
After the river crossing there’s a climb but once you’re on top the road becomes an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy dirt road all the way to Steytlerville; due to heavy rains prior to our visit the last bit of 15 to 20 km into Steytlerville was heavily corrugated.
If you want to drive the Antoniesberg Pass – or as it is known to many Grootrivierpoort – here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Jy gaan jou longe los skud (something about the roads unscrewing the nuts and bolts of your lungs, and other organs).
- Do not go alone! Go at least with one other vehicle.
- This is not for a 2×4 or for soft-riders, or first-time or inexperienced drivers; of course the road condition can change but this road graduated off-road university while its next door neighbour, the road through Baviaanskloof, is still in kindergarten.
- Fill up in Patensie or Steytlerville.
- Deflate your tyres.
- Start early, this is a full day trip, make yourself ready for about 8 hours of driving.
- Take care when crossing the river, walk the river first and always cross with doors unlocked, windows open and seat belts off. Go slow, keep it steady (low range, first gear) and don’t break the bow wave in front of your vehicle. If you are unsure, don’t cross the river.
- Take enough water and things to eat, and always throw in some emergency food and water in case something happens that might keep you there for the night.
- The majority of the road is without cellphone signal.
- If you are flexible with the choice of where to start – Steytlerville or Patensie – it can be better to start on Steytlerville’s side especially if the area was affected by heavy rains; if the river is too deep, it is easier and quicker to turn around and make your way back to Steytlerville as the worst part of the pass and longest driving time is the section from Patensie to the river.
- Enjoy the road; it is strange that it is so close to Baviaanskloof yet so different.
“Grootrivierpoort it is then. It can’t be that bad, right…”
The poort ja, the poort is not that bad. It’s just a river crossing.
But the whole pass, from finish to end?
Well, it is kind of ‘bad’.
But it is also SO GOOD.
100% worth it if you have a trusty and ol’ faithful 4×4.
Watch the video below and if you think the road doesn’t look so bad then just know that, while filming and not driving, my eyes were so occupied on the dongas that the camera was the last thing on my mind.
You might think ‘ahh cute’ when you see the new Jimny (or an older model, which, let’s face it, had a timeless design that was modern well ahead of its time), and yes it is cute but this car’s cuteness has nothing to do with pink tutus and ballerina tiaras; this car is pure dynamite and pack a mighty skillful off-road punch.
There’s something about the Jimny that feels just right, like it hits a sweet spot of contentment, like finding the pot to your lid, like coming home. Regardless of its size, it is enough. It doesn’t feel too cramped when driving with someone in the passenger seat and yes, the backseat while going off-road can be an element of torture, but this is of course not a family car. You don’t buy this vehicle if you have a big family or if you know your style of vacation is to pack up your whole house. With that said, I also have to add that the backseat was more spacious than what I thought it would be. It was comfortable and, for someone who doesn’t have long legs, just enough. If you are wondering how to optimise the space, take a look at how Treadlite 4×4 Care Hire is kitting out their rental Jimnys.
As I mentioned earlier, if there’s one thing I value dearly in life it is my father’s opinion on cars and I could see that the Suzuki Jimny – despite its petite size – made a massive impression on this loyal VW Syncro driver.
Also, did you know that the Jimny is a finalist for the 2019 AutoTrader SA Car of the Year competition?
Ja. Klein maar getrein.
Here’s what you need to know about the new Suzuki Jimny:
All the Jimnys come out with the new and more powerful 1.5 litre engine – a lekker upgrade as its predecessor had a 1.3 engine – and there are two specification levels and two transmissions:
Jimny 1.5 GA Manual Transmission (five speed) – R264 900
Jimny 1.5 GLX Manual Transmission (five speed) – R299 900
Jimny 1.5 GLX Automatic Transmission (four speed) – R319 900
There is a separate gear lever in all models to switch from 4×2 to 4×4 high range or 4×4 low range.
The GA models are standard with no electric windows and no instrument panel on steering wheel while the GLX models have the Smartphone linkage display audio with a 7 inch touchscreen and an extra 12V socket in the luggage area. Compare more differences and see more specs by visiting www.suzukiauto.co.za.
All models have a 4 year / 60 000 km service plan.
The only downside is that there is a *6 month waiting list if you want to buy one…
But it will definitely be worth the wait.
*Some people now have to wait up to 10 months to receive their Suzuki Jimny (around October). And they have to give their first colour choice as well as a second choice, as it can’t be guaranteed.
Also, if you’re wondering if we ever found that guy’s lungs somewhere on Antoniesberg Pass or in Grootrivierpoort, the answer is no.
Lungs, dentures and other organs that don’t survive the shuffle is lost forever, the poort takes, it doesn’t give.
Disclaimer: I was afforded the opportunity from Suzuki SA to use the vehicle for a short time, all opinions are my own.
And yes, the thought did cross my mind to not give the keys back and just become a fugitive.