Rooirivier Eco 4×4 Trail
A rough and tough farm track
The Rooirivier Eco 4×4 Trail near De Rust isn’t for sissies, but once you get to the top, the view makes up for the slog, says Johann Grobler.
The Rooirivier Eco 4×4 Trail, some 30 km east of De Rust in the Olifants River Valley, was originally built as a standard farm track.
The purpose was to get access with a bakkie to Dorper sheep and broken fences in the mountains on Ockie
and Henry van der Westhuizen’s big family farm.
But it turned out to be such a rough track, it became a challenging 4×4 trail.
Clearly, the farm manager, Marius Meyer, learnt a trick or two about road building somewhere, since the track runs over ridges (mountains, actually) that were only accessible on foot before.
Marius expertly followed the natural contours through the rocky veld, all along the mountains of the fertile Olifants River Valley.
Are you up to it?
Before Marius allows you onto the trail, you have to prove your skills in an old quarry.
Lower the tyre pressure before tackling its slopes.
It’s a perfect practice run, since the quarry requires more or less the same skills as those that are required on the trail.
The 14-km-long trail is a grade 4, meaning it’s technically challenging and demanding.
It’s only for experienced drivers and low-range vehicles with decent ground clearance. And preferably diff locks.
Also take the recovery gear along …
If you suffer from a fear of heights, the best thing you can do is to hang at the camp and start the fire, because Rooirivier will show you no mercy.
What’s the trail like?
You start on a narrow track at the campsite, Kokanje. First up the mountain past the play pit, then down on the other side.
Kokanje means “land of easy living and idleness”, but you’ll have to put off this promise of lazing about for three to four hours.
You hit short, sharp and steep bends from the word go – beware of cross-axles.
It continues all the way until you reach the first wonderful viewpoint – the Swartberg range in the north as far as the eye can see, the railway line cutting through the mountains in the east, much like the Meiringspoort road in the west and in the south the Kammanassie Mountain with, behind it, the Outeniqua Mountains.
The vegetation is typical succulent Little Karoo – spekboom, Chinese lanterns, guarrie trees, elephant’s foot, crassula species and butter trees, to mention but a few.
The toughest part of the trail is a beast of an uphill with cross-axles – Wally’s Angel Heights. Choose the right line and keep the accelerator under tight control.
The right speed is crucial – too slow and you’ll never get up here; too fast and you might come a cropper on the rocky ledge awaiting you.
You could say the off-roading expression “as slow as possible, as fast as necessary” was born here.
Nail-biting moments …
The drive shaft of the selfsame Wally’s custom-built 4×4 broke clean off some time ago on this hill. The vehicle’s brakes were useless on the slope, and if it weren’t for a dirt embankment and guarrie tree, things could have turned ugly.
The place is now marked with a mounted old 20-litre jerry can.
Before entering a difficult obstacle, Marius halts the convoy and calmly talks everyone through it, as he knows the road well. He also gets out and helps drivers through the toughest sections.
Drive Out says: Yes, it’s a challenging trail, but you’ll be back for more …
What you need to know
WHY SHOULD I GO?
It’s a challenging trail with incredible views of the Swartberg, Kammanassie and Outeniqua mountains.
ON THE TRAIL
How long is the trail? 14 km
How long will I be driving?
It will keep you busy for 3-4 hours, depending on your time in the quarry and at the viewpoints, and how long you ponder over each obstacle.
Number of vehicles? Minimum 2, maximum 12
Do I get a map? Yes, and the trail is on Tracks4Africa too.
Will my car be scratched? Not if you stay on the trail.
Should I remove the running boards? No
Should I take a compressor? There is one at the farm office.
Can I turn around halfway? Yes, there is an escape route halfway.
Can we braai on the trail? No, only at the campsite.
AROUND THE TRAIL
Best time to go? All year round
Can I take my family along?
You’ll never forgive yourself for leaving them at home this time.
Just for the day or the weekend? Even longer …
Nearest towns? De Rust (30 km); Oudtshoorn (70 km)
Nearest fuel? De Rust (30 km)
How do I get here?
Take the R341 from De Rust to Willowmore. It’s 30 km to the Rooirivier signboard on the left.
Where can I stay?
The campsite on the farm has trees for shade and a lapa, flush toilets and hot showers. De Rust has many guesthouses.
What else can I do there?
Enjoy the area around the Stompdrif Dam, drive through Meiringspoort or visit the Cango Caves. Ostrich show farms and private nature reserves abound around Oudtshoorn and Uniondale.
Trail: R150 per vehicle
Camping: R30 pppn. Children under 12 stay free.
Ockie van der Westhuizen 082 410 4426; 044 734 1017;
Henry van der Westhuizen 082 771 8627; 044 241 2265;
HOW DO I GET THERE?
GPS: S33.53577 E22.82084
What you should know
Hennie & Ockie van der Westhuizen
044 734 1017
Hennie 082 771 8627 | Ockie 082 410 4426
5km | 2-3 hours
Trail varies from fairly easy to challenging, with intermittent very steep uphill sections to magnificent lookouts. The official picnic spot is in the riverbed It's a beautiful area, boasting great views. Maximum vehicles 10
B&B facilities nearby
Camping and caravaning facilities under the thorn trees.