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Baviaans Lodge - 
Baviaanskloof 4x4 trails

Baviaanskloof 4x4 travels and stories.

4x4 adventure and trails around the Baviaanskloof,

personal experiences of travelling the Baviaanskloof region.

Russell Eagan,my personal account of " Eden to Addo travels " Baviaanskloof 4x4 adventure between Addo and the Garden Route
Richard Grant, epic MB trekking around the Baviaanskloof, 300 km in 7 days, spectacular mountain biking in this rugged wilderness, Patensie, Groot Revier Poort, Baviaanskloof and return to Patensie !
Mike Proctor-Sims account of his travels,
in the steps of mighty elephants, following the ancient migratory routes of these majestic aniamls - off road travels around the Baviaanskloof 
take it all in, its the Baviaanskloof Wilderness, Eden to Addo conservation corridor

There’s a huge initiative to join conservation areas via corridors for migration of animals and plants, using the support of private landowners. Mike Proctor-Sims looks at one of South Africa’s main one’s, the Eden to Addo Route…

 

Much has been written about the Garden Route, the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve and the Addo Elephant National Park. They are well-know travel destinations. However, far less is know about the myriad of roads between them, on which travellers who really want to get off the beaten track can experience this beautiful, wild area without being surrounded by hordes of sightseers. Dirt roads upon which friendly, environmentally-aware farmers are opening up their homes and vast lands to visitors -- guest houses and small lodges, where tourists experience real farm cooking and are normally the only guests.

 

The concept of corridors between National Parks and other state or privately-owned conservation areas has been around for a number of years internationally as a way of restoring and preserving biodiversity of plants and animals. It has been implemented to a degree in South Africa and abroad with great and sometimes lesser success. It’s a win-win scenario. Animals and plants get to roam again, increasing their chances of survival and improving their gene pools. The Knysna elephants have become the subject of folk lore but the truth is that they are trapped there. Given a corridor to Addo and further they will travel to and fro and elephants from Addo would do the same as would other species. Rivers would start flowing again with the removal of alien vegetation from land in the corridors, providing life-blood to thirsty human communities downstream. Farmers and other landowners would reap the benefits of eco-tourism and would reduce over-grazing.

 

Already, humans can drive, ride or walk the routes that elephants and other animals used to travel between Eden (a forest outside Knysna) to Addo and beyond into the Zuurberg Mountains. Humans can go much further, up to the Mountain Zebra National Zebra Park and others with ease and with much to see and do on the way.

 

The exact Eden to Addo Corridor route hasn’t been formulated yet. There’s lots of work to be done on where exactly it should go. There are landowners who want to be part of it, but aren’t on the scientists’ grid, while others are but don’t want to be part of it, fearing an increase of predation of their stock.

 

So, with no official corridor and no official route, I decided to do drive my own one with my camera.

 

I was parked next to the well-maintained gravel Elandsrivier road and hadn’t seen a vehicle except a road-grader for about an hour when a bakkie pulled up next to mine. “Can I help?” asked the farmer driving it. I explained that I was a journalist just stopping to take photos. He explained that it was his distant farmhouse I was photographing and that he had seen my vehicle and thought I had broken down. He had stopped milking his cows to come help. Such is the hospitality of the people you will meet here. I asked him if he ran a guest house at his wonderful old farm and he replied no, but that many of the people along the road did, offering 4X4 trails, hikes and game-viewing.

 

The Elandsrivier road isn’t on the “not quite official” Eden to Addo Corridor route but I reckoned it was a natural way for elephants and other game to travel and the farmer said there were stories from long ago about elephants, buffalo, eland and other animals passing by.

 

It seemed logical to me. The Elandsrivier road runs between Patensie (the start of the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve) and Uitenhage, close to the Addo Elephant National Park. The road passes through a well-watered valley next to the Elands River so the animals wouldn’t have to climb over the surrounding mountains  and would have plenty of food and water en route.

 

The route I travelled on my own Eden to Addo drive started at the Garden Route National Park, encompassing the Garden of Eden, Tsitsikamma and the Wilderness, all protected areas conserving massive indigenous forests with the yellowwood being the king.

 

I drove up the Prince Alfred’s Pass, built by the legendary Thomas Bain. Bain built the 85 kilometre pass using a trail used by elephants over the centuries from the Knysna forests to go inland in search of alternative food and to interact with other herds. It cost 11-thousand pounds and he used convict labour to construct it in the remarkably short period of seven years, finishing in 1867.  Its gravel and narrow but you don’t need a 4X4. There are several B&Bs and places to stop for a meal, tea or just a toilet along the way, most of them around the hamlet of De Vlugt but be sure to have ample petrol or diesel to make the trip. Part of the Eden to Addo project is a labour intensive effort to clear alien vegetation from the banks of the Keurbooms river to ensure the supply of water to places like Knysna and Plett as well as to restore natural flora and fauna. The pass crosses the Keurbooms river seven times as it winds its way through and over the mountains and I imagined elephants taking a rest at these spots, splashing and playing in the crystal-clear pools.

 

At the top of the pass, I turned right onto the now quite famous R62 to drive through the Langkloof, through countless fruit orchards, mountains to left and right and plenty of guest houses. Just past the town of Karreedouw and opposite the Assegaibos Hotel, I turned left onto a gravel road that would eventually take me over the Kouga river and on my way to the Baviaanskloof.

 

Some rather rough 40 kilometres later I arrived at my overnight destination, the Baviaans Lodge, a stunning mountain lodge, built from natural stone, offering Baviaanskloof region accommodation – really in the middle of nowhere. No electricity, cell signal, no neighbouring farms in site. Manager, Rob Le Roux says that Baviaans Lodge wants to contribute to and benefit from the corridor. Since the Baviaans Lodge started operations some years ago, no commercial farming has taken place and hundreds of yellowood trees have been planted and fences taken down. Baviaans Lodge has already reaped the possible accidental benefits of “the corridor”. A small herd of buffalo have taken up residence, presumably having roamed off from the Baviaanskloof reserve. I saw four early the next morning. Even though they are worth hundreds of thousands of rands,  they are perfectly safe here. Leopards also live here. There are Bushman caves and paintings and a variety of vegetation types.  

 

The next day’s journey took me over and down a track (you need a 4X4 for this one or very experienced 2x4 bakkie driver) from the Baviaans Lodge via the Baviaans-Kouga4x4 trail  to the main R 332 road through the magnificent, much written-about, Baviaanskloof  coming out at Patensie. Then it was onto the little-used but excellently maintained gravel Elandsrivier road, where I had the pleasant encounter with the farmer.

 

From the historic town of Uitenhage, it’s a short tar road haul to the Addo Elephant National Park, which is also much written about, is expanding at a rapid rate and supports the corridor principle to give more land to its elephants, other animals and plants.

Addo’s elephant population is an example of why corridors are so important. The reserve was started to save the last eleven elephants of a once teeming population. The majority of its several hundred elephants come from this initial herd and are prone to inbreeding. While other bulls and herds have been brought in from other reserves to bolster the gene pool, the ultimate answer is to let the elephants roam and form new herds. It is probably the only way the legendary Knysna elephants can be saved. Nobody knows how many there are – four seems to be the latest figure – but they cannot keep in-breeding in such a small family group in an environment not ideal for them to spend forever in.

 

While driving the roads of my made-up Eden to Addo route and walking over the mountains and through the kloofs and forests, I marvelled at what it had going for it. No less than seven of South Africa’s eight biomes ranging from forest to Nama Karoo with the all-important thicket (valley bushveld) in between. Of course, South Africa’s most famous biome, fynbos, is ever present. These different biomes so close together give rise to a spectacular tour of different plants and animals with impressive geological formations embracing them. I recalled someone telling me that South Africa’s most famous reserve, the Kruger National Park, really has only one biome, and that this area between Eden and Addo is infinitely more diverse in plant and animal life than the mighty Amazon rain forest. No wonder that it is home to Africa’s Big Five, is regarded as internationally as an environmental hot-spot and probably hosts more different species of animals and plants per square kilometre than anywhere in the world.

 

Throw in that it is regarded as the home of modern man, has geology that blows the mind away and one can see why the authors of one of the books I read on my journey called the whole area and not just the Garden of Eden: “East of the Cape: Conserving Eden”. Internationally-renowned scientists Richard Cowling and Shirley Pierce, in their book, point out that their Eden (or Paradise) is not necessarily lost.

 

There is much left to save. Man, from the early stone-age to now has done much to degrade it over the past several thousand years. Yet there seems to be a new initiative now. Climate change stories in the media are changing public and government perceptions. Scientists are being listened to. Farmers are changing.

 

The “Great Outdoors” experience is becoming more popular. And may I be as bold to state that nowhere else on this planet can you appreciate that great experience than doing a trip between the Tsitsikamma National Park and the Addo Elephant National Park, passing through the World Heritage Site, the Baviaanskloof, choosing your own route via map or advice. In the mighty steps of elephants.

 

If you want to hike it on foot then you can go to www.addotoeden.co.za its a is 400 kilometres mega-hike and takes 18 days. Some of the proceeds go towards setting up the Eden to Addo Corridor.

 

Enjoy the walk, ride or drive.               

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