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Baviaans Lodge - " Eden to Addo " 4x4 adventure

Baviaans Lodge, Baviaanskloof 4x4 Trails and Adventure.

A personal account of my travels in the Baviaanskloof region by Russel Eagen

Eden to Addo, follow this conservation route
My Journey around the Baviaans, Eden to Addo as told by Russel Eagan, following the conservation route as it develops
towards a major Mega Reserve wilderness area.

Eden to Addo, on the conservation trail by Russel Eagan

 

Taking the back roads, from Addo to Baviaans Lodge, a wonderful off-road adventure through Elands River, Baviaanskloof , Baviaans-kouga4x4 trail and on to Baviaans Lodge and the coast, my personal story told .............. by Russell Egan, 2014 .

A journey from Addo to the Baviaans Lodge by Russell Eagen ( 2014 ) following wilderness tracks and trails from Addo, Elands River through the Baviaanskloof to Baviaans Lodge, and on to the Sunshine coast.

 

After returning from a lengthy work spell in London, I decided to take my young family on a visit to some of our remote and interesting areas near Port Elizabeth. On advice I received from Rob at Baviaans Lodge, I deceided on taking a little known route from our Addo holiday stay, to his Lodge in the Baviaanskloof region, this seemed an interesting and little used route waiting to be explored. After our 2 days staying at Chrislin African Lodge  and going on some excellent tours with crisscrossadventures.we left Addo in the Kirkwood direction of the R75 and turned off left towards Uitenhague where we topped up our fuel and supplies. 

A brief zig zag through the town in the direction of Humansdorp takes you to the turn off for Elands River. In hindsight I would have filled up with fuel at the garage on the corner of the Elands River turnoff as I was running a bit low towards the end of the journey, about a quarter tank fuel left, but enough to carry you through this wonderful trail.

 

Having lived in the Eastern Cape for many years during my youth, I had never heard of this route and was very surprised to find wonderful views of the mountain ranges and vistas back towards the sea, not to mention  farms and general scenery. A great place to find yourself alone and travelling, new to me but well worth taking the Elands River valley gravel road, this unknown detour towards the Baviaanskloof.

After a long drive up and down the various hills you reach a crest of the Winterhoek Mountains, past Coxcomb Mountain peak,where the view back to the Jeffries Bay wind farms is something worth stopping for. After that you encounter a sign showing right to Groot River Poort and straight to Patensie. We chose the Patensie option and wound out way down the gravel road into the Gamtoos valley at Patensie. 

At the tar road turn right and follow the windy road along the scenic Gamtoos River valley, with its wide ranging orange tree fruit orchards for 30 km to Komdomo gate. 

 

(This is also your Go/No Go point where you can divert via tar road to Humansdorp if time is not on your side and travel on the N2 then via the R62 to Kareedow then on to Baviaans Lodge. ) If time is on your side, there are a couple of delightful tea shops where local cookies and tea provide a welcome break on your travels. You can also obtain fuel and supplies in Patensie by turning left of the tar road in to the small town of Patensie itself. 

 

On the way to the park gate, keep a lookout for the pebble banks on your right for some amazing formations, plant life and caves, a remnant of the old sea level from millions of years ago.

Turn down and left into the Komdomo rangers station to pay your day visitor fee here or remain on the gravel road taking you in to the Baviaanskloof, to pay your day entrance fee at the gate on the road itself. East Cape Parks levy a small fee to enter as a day visitor of R 20.00 per adult. 

Note the staff we encountered had never been into the Baviaans Kloof and had little knowledge of where to go and places to stop/stay etc, they also had no maps available, so be prepared, make sure you have your travel times etc well worked out and planned !

We rested on the grass for a few min and chatted about the journey ahead, then set off on the winding, climbing gravel track, in to the Baviaanskloof. At the first few river crossings, we stopped to freshen up and have a bit of lunch. What a welcome sight the shade and cool water is as after all the dirt roads wich have vibrated and rattled you a bit by now, passengers always feel it more, and the late summer afternoon was pretty hot as well !.

 

We followed the road up and along some technical 4x4 sections and were quite amazed at the speed of some of the vehicles coming towards us. They seemed to be going at pace to get out the park and later I realised that the roads in the beginning are very good compared to what the other drivers had just come through so they were travelling at a much higher speed than I was. So keep a lookout for cars when approaching corners and keep left !

There are a few places to stay overnight in the first few km but after that it’s a long way to any other human habitation. The trail winds up into the mountains then along the crest and down into some steep ravines. It seems concrete has been added to the areas which are worst affected by rain water so whilst it may be narrow in sections, the roads are in generally good shape. Once levelling out you drive through many wooded vallies crossing the Baviaanskloof river many times and there are several camp sites. Personally, my feelings are it is not a place for a young family but rather adults who are comfortable with Baboons and very basic facilities to camp over at. As such, we kept going past Smitskraal etc. The remaining journey is the best in my opinion, the valleys and hillsides are spectacular with loads of wildlife and unique rock formations, typyfing the Baviaanskloof, no wonder it was declared a World Heritage Site.

There are a few river crossings where you can stop to take a break and there is one or two water sections which should be carefully crossed as they are for e.g. 100m long and about 1/2 a metre to a metre deep. The water touched the bottom of my doors in places, but my 4x4 bakkie handled this with ease. 

If it has been raining heavily I recommend stopping and checking the depth to make sure some of the river crossing are safe enough to cross. There are good, flat pebble bottoms so if you gas it across in 4H you should make it across with no hassles.

The ground then levels off and you can see many troops of baboons, hence the name " Baviaanskloof " valley of Baboons, and remains of some old farm houses from the early Dutch settlers to this kloof. Beware of exploring this area on foot as there are wild buffalo about, these where introduced back to the area some 10 years ago, in fact, you are asked not to leave your vehicles while travelling here.

 

Upon leaving the manned gate at the exit to this Wilderness section , we drove a few km and stayed overnight at the Zandvlakte guest farm. There was also an option to drive a few km further and stay at the Rus en Vrede farm. The self cater stay suited our needs for the night and we were supplied with wood to make a braai and the house we were assigned had a good lounge, bedroom and bathroom and a few basics.

By now everything had defrosted from our long haul from Addo so we chilled our meat in the freezer part of the bar fridge. If you have an icebox or thermoelectric cooler box or ever better a full on 12v freezer box you will be smiling, this trip was a learning curve !

In the morning we drove to the next farm Rus en Vrede and went to the main house to look for the owner to pay for the remaining journey, its a jeep track leading leading to Baviaans Lodge and received some verbal directions from the friendly farm owner, Chris Lamprecht, who also has some accommodation options on his farm. 

 

We drove up ad left into the mountains and over what must be several hundred water run off bumps. As such the going is slow, to prevent your vehicles underside from hitting the crest of the bumps but the bonus is that the road is in very good condition for a 4x4 track.The views back in to the Baviaanskloof are quite spectacular, as you climb out on to a mountain ridge, overlooking the Baviaanskloof, strecthing out towards Willowmore, quite something, well worth experiencing.

The route is 36 KM , deceptive as although its not a hectic 4x4 route, travelling is generally slow, as you tend to stop and absorb and  appreciate the views, wildlife and amazing fynbos. The Baviaans-Kouga4x4 trail is not known as one of the top scenic trails in South Africa for nothing !

There are a few technical 4x4 sections in places to make it interesting for the 4x4 pundits but there is no mobile phone signal at all until you reach the Baviaans Lodge and this is not a place to run out of fuel etc. So take water, spare fuel, good shoes and it is highly recommended to advise suitable folk of your departure time, the route, ETA and to have an agreed contingency plan(s) if expected times aren’t met as there is very low traffic through this route, making it rather special to travel on !

There are a few gates to open/close and some very interesting scenes. I encountered a small chameleon, some brightly coloured lizards and some amazing plants which I had never seen before.

There is a place where the hillside levels out into a flat section where you should encounter some game and livestock. After that there are a few technical climbs then you travel up avenues of proteas to a lookout where you will see a small metal map and some rocks piled up. I later found out, after chatting to Rob, the manager at Baviaans Lodge, that a ceretain " Katot Meyer " lost his landrover down the kloof at this point ! It is worth stopping to enjoy the view, but leave your vehicle in gear with the handbrake up !

 

After that it is only a few km of descent to the farm and you will turn right at a T junction onto a farm road, Here you catch the 1st glimpse of Baviaans Lodge, quite spectacular, in the valley floor below, filled with some amazing natural indeigenous forest .Follow signs to the lodge.

We were welcomed by Rob and shown to some great accommodation , lovely stone cottages, quite special ,where we rested for the afternoon then treated to a tour of the facilities, an excellent evening meal and refreshments. 

In the morning Rob kindly took us for a 20 min drive then a 30 min hike along a secluded and wild valley crossing a dry river bed several times then up to hidden bushman caves where we travelled back in time back to a forgotten age. Spectacular views the Bushman enjoyed, leaving some remarkable paintings on the cave walls behind.

 

Upon return to the lodge we freshened up for brunch then packed up and drove 40min on the 2x4 road back to Kareedow. Keep right when unsure of what route to take and do take a moment to stop and take in the rugges Kouga River poort and stop at the river for a break as the views are worth taking in. 

 

After travelling the mountain pass down into the Kareedow valley we turned right onto the tar road and topped up fuel and drinks at the farmers co-op (2 blocks down to the right in the dorp) then took the R62 to Humansdorp and we were back home in St Francis within an hour. A journey not to be forgotton, revealing some best kept secrets of the Eastern Cape right on our doorstep.

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