This was a test.. to see if a trail could be squeezed into a drive down to family for the Easter Holidays. Instead of swarming down with the masses, I decided to take the long way around, and split it into a two-day drive. I found that besides being able to add a special experience onto the drive, it splits it up into two much more enjoyable trips, especially as a solo driver. A 12-hour drive can just be plain dangerous sometimes.
I was heading to Port Elizabeth, and a few of my bucket-list trails on in the Eastern Cape, so I really wanted to find a way to sneak away and see them. My passenger on this trip was Shandelle’s brother, Kyle. It was his first time doing anything like this and I think it will be a lasting memory for him. I did however forget to pack his mattress, so I’m hoping his memories won’t just be from the horrible nights sleep he had!
Our Journey may have begun in Joburg, but the adventure began in Barkley East. Between Barkley East and Elliot, in the Eastern Cape; Is a dirt road that leads to another dirt road, that leads to one of the most impressive places I’ve been to… The Baster Voetpad Pass. The surrounding area was already incredibly scenic, lush green grassed mountains, littered with trees on the cusp of changing for autumn. With the rain over the past 2 weeks, the little waterfalls were cascading down the mountains, it was already quite impressive. What lay in wait, was going to make that seem average.
It was late afternoon and our drive had now begun for real. With golden light on our backs we bumbled forth! The road was quite bumpy; medium sized rocks dominated the trail, nothing serious but we had to take it slow and steady as to not make silly mistakes. The path had small waterfalls careening downhill over the rocks, we were lucky it hadn’t rained that day otherwise it would have been rather treacherous. We continued to climb, the gradient becoming steeper as we nearest the peak. There is always a building anticipation for getting to the top!
There I was chatting away, paying attention to the rocks up ahead had stolen my attention from the scenery. Kyle stopped me and gestured towards the left window. There it was… The view I had been hunting, I saw a clip on a 4×4 show once, and since that moment I have been trying to find that magical view, and now here it was right in front of me. It’s always a special moment when a dream becomes a reality, no matter how big or small.
We were up so high and so far away from anything that I made the decision we would camp in the outcropping on the top of the mountain. I was going to savour every moment of this view. That night, we didn’t have a luxury meal by any measure… It was 2 minute noodles, but I had not prepared for something this epic, I didn’t even bring my fridge along. This was just supposed to be a quick detour. Our meal may have been lacking, but the view from our chairs while we ate was incredible. I spent all evening taking photographs of the vehicle, some products for a couple of clients and obviously I had to get some timelapse footage just to really show people how incredible this place was. I still fear all of this cant truly relay the majesty of an experience like this.
As the sun set behind us, the land before us was slowly blanketed in shadow, with nothing remaining but crimson peaks, eventually fading into darkness.. The wind picked up and brought with it a memorable chill, that I hadn’t felt since winter last year.
I decided to wake up while it was still dark, I wanted to get some photographs of the night sky but unfortunately the moon only set at 4am, so I had to get up super early! The next step was to capture the sunrise before we had to head out and complete the trail and make our way to PE. I had almost forgotten about the destination, I was enjoying the journey too much!
After all of my photography admin was done, it was time to continue our adventure into what was supposedly the more intense part of the trail. I won’t lie, there were some pretty hairy moments. Yet there were few things that could beat driving through that pass, with the early morning light still catching the dew on the grass. It had its moments where I couldn’t see the trail because of the light blinding me, but regardless of that it was still breath taking.
We would descend around 500 meters over the next hour. The road twisting down and around the mountain, past a few rather difficult to access farms. The scenery of the landscapes reminded me a lot of the Mountains near the Matebeng Pass in Lesotho, yet this seemed to change every few kilometres. We followed mountains, into valleys, across rivers, through pine forests, and finally ended up in flat peaceful farmland. By the time we had made it through valley section of the trail, we had crossed about 4 rivers, and had a long dog leg bend that was just a big churned up mud pit. My gut sank, but I just dropped into low range, popped on the difflock and we yumped through the pit and emerged victorious on the other side! I didn’t bring any shovels or recovery tracks with me, as I wasn’t anticipating this type of terrain! So getting stuck would have meant a lot of digging for Kyle!
We reached a gate, I think this marked the end of the trail. Once we got onto the well graded sections of the pine forests, we got to get out of low range and just enjoy the view as we cruised through the forests and the farms, joining the main road again to continue our trip to Port Elizabeth, hungry and in search of a real breakfast!
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