I would be lying if I said I didn’t plan my trip around this trail. It took would take us far from home. We left from Johannesburg a day ago, and had a beautiful night under the stars in Springbok, Northern Cape, at the local Caravan site.
Heading out in the morning, we set out sat-nav for West Coast 4×4 Trail, which would take us through, Namaqualand National Park, Namaqualand Coastal National Park and finally onto the West Coast 4×4 Trail. Our goal is to get to Langebaan for a family holiday and then kick it back to Johannesburg via Camdeboo National Park, on the other side of the country! I didn’t even know what sort of adventure lay ahead for us, my travel partner on this trip was lovely Girlfriend, who remained more level headed than me at times! Oh, and she wasn’t too bad with a shovel either!
We decided to head up to Hondeklip Baai, to explore a little bit, as we knew we were going to wild camp on the 4×4 trail, so we had a bit of time to kill with some adventure! We ended up exploring a ship wreck, watched a little group of baby seals, enjoy a bit of rough housing in the midday sun! This was all a warm up for what was to come.
Not much can rival the drive through the Namaqualand, we didn’t even go in flower season and the raw stark beauty of the landscapes are just stunning. We opened a gate into the Namaqualand Coastal National Park, and were greeted by a little sign on the road indicating that we should deflate our tyres due to soft sand ahead. Now, that’s when the adventure began. Cruising through the soft sand at first, eventually we ended up going through wild axle twisters, my girlfriend Shandelle was literally bouncing around in circles of the chair, while my head was just being rammed into the roof of the vehicle! Speed didn’t make a difference, so I figured that the sooner we could get out of that the better, and tried to hoof it a bit!
The experience was absolutely awesome, I didn’t realise I would be spending 4 hours driving along the coast, at times along the beach. Every now and then there is a pull off with a spot to have a campfire and a wild camp for the night. I decided not to just pick the first one we saw, so we kept driving and driving, “Not this one, let’s get the next one.” I remember saying to Shandelle. This might have been the one time that patience didn’t pay off.
Like a genius, I decided to take a bit of an interesting route and test out the vehicle a bit. So, I took a classic “Sho’t Left”, down a dune… Very fun going down, I had just assumed that there would be an easy way out. Well none of the routes I tried would get us out. We decided to continue down the beach, with our tyres screaming on the sand and the vehicle’s rear end sliding side to side, I see a small hill and decide to just put full power to make out way off the beach and away from the approaching tide. We make it up the hill and a little bit further, I decided to follow a set of tracks. I was sure they would lead out to somewhere. The sand was so soft that I would sink to my knee when I got out the vehicle, I realised then that we were going to have a very difficult time ahead of us. A very difficult time. We got stuck axle deep in the sand, on a hill. Our recovery tracks were trying as best as they could, but they just weren’t up to scratch to get me out, they were just cracking and melting. There I am trying to drive us out, Shandelle is digging us, then I’m out lying on my stomach trying to clear the diff and the driveshaft from sand, it was painful. I decided that instead of ascending, I thought if we can just reverse a bit and get off the mound, we could set up camp and get a good night’s sleep and try do this when we are nice and fresh in the morning.
After and anxious night of restless sleep, we got up and decided to head back the way we came, if we could get enough momentum we could perhaps get up the hill we came down. I think the dew had made the sand a bit more dense, and gave the tyres a bit more resistance to work with. Our main challenge was to get up an unsuspected hill that we forgot about on our way there. We set up the recovery tracks, took a bit of a runup and tried to get over the crest. Time and time again, we failed. After about the 15th attempt of digging, I was near giving up. I noticed that every time we attempted the hill, it would get smaller and smaller… if we could break down the crest, it would allow the low breakover angle of the bakkie to get over. I got out and with my boots started just running up and down and breaking apart the hill as much as possible. I lay down the tracks once more, and took a big run up, I hit the pedal as hard as I could… At the point where we would get stuck, the vehicle took grip on the recover tracks and gave enough momentum to break over the hill! We were ecstatic! After almost 2 hours of digging, we made it up our first obstacle. Now all that was left was the hill that tempted me down into these dunes. We managed to cautiously make it over the dunes and back onto the beach, I made sure to keep my speed and momentum up. I decided “Stuff it, we are going to get out of this flipping place and have a wimpy breakfast by 9:00am!”, I turned the wheel towards the hill I kept the momentum and speed up, I quickly engaged the rear diff-lock and we took the hill on, screaming with anticipation. Next thing, we were at the top! We looked at each other and shouted with excitement! All we wanted now was to hit the tar, and have a Wimpy breakfast!
So, we managed to get to a Tar road, we aired up the tyres, punched Wimpy into our Sat-Nav, and drove off still high on conquering those dunes. I have never enjoyed a Wimpy breakfast and Mega coffee as much as that morning. From there it was a quick and easy drive along the coast, towards Langebaan where we would enjoy our family holiday.
There was a magical energy in the West Coast… There is an element of South African culture that is still really pure here. Especially at places like Die Strandlooper, sitting with your feet in the sand, enjoying freshly caught seafood cooked over the open flame, homemade, oven baked bread with homemade konfyt and rooibos tea. If you ever get a chance to get there, do not hesitate.
Our Journey back home would take us a long and convoluted route, back to Johannesburg. I wanted to go through the Valley of Desolation, in Graaff-Reinet, and then Finally through Camdeboo National Park.
We had an early start to the day, and took a slow drive through Camdeboo National Park, which really surprised us, and ended up being an amazing little stay! We enjoyed our time there and finally hit the road for a long boring drive back to Joburg!