A group of twelve intrepid Sedgefielders decided to drive the Attaquaskloof Ox Wagon Trail in 3 4x4's one Sunday in July 2013.
Rated one of the top 10 4x4 trails of Southern Africa, it is not only formidable as a 4x4 excursion but it is also a journey of great historical significance being the first recorded route across the Outeniqua Mountains from the coast to the hinterland of the Klein Karoo and Langkloof.
Ensign Isaac Schrijver of the Dutch East India Company originally pioneered the trail in January 1689, when he took 7 days to cross the mighty Cape Fold Mountains. Many noteworthy explorers among them the like of Van Plettenberg and Van Reenen subsequently used his route.
For 180 years, from 1689 to 1869, thousands of oxen trampled the grasses and rocky ridges of those daunting and oft times dangerous mountains etching into the landscape the evidence of their toils until the easier route via the Robinson Pass was opened.
En route from Sedgefield via the N2 and the R328, the modern day travelers stopped at Hillybilly's Ruiterbos Trading Store, just short of the Eight Bells Hotel on the Robinson Pass, a roadside restaurant and pub/country shop/postal agency, to be fortified with some excellent coffee. There they discovered a new concept of togetherness, a quirky combined ladies/gents loo!
Immediately opposite was the gravel road to the 1650 ha Bonniedale Fynbos Farm. The farm is 26 kms from the R328 in a westerly direction on a narrow gravel road that runs through pine plantation higher up and interrupted with numerous gates.
The owners have an arrangement with Cape Nature whereby they maintain the trail (of which there was plenty of evidence), control the gate keys and collect R300 per vehicle. The 1890 farmhouse is at the start of the 20 kms 4X4 and hiking trail through the Attaquaskloof Nature Reserve.
The very first section, which dates back to 1772, comprises a very challenging short steep climb over rough exposed rock to soon connect up with Isaac’s original route that passed the nearby Paardekop Farm.
The vehicles then continued along a gravel track that followed the Kamma River and which gradually climbed up a scenic valley covered in pristine fynbos.
Every now and then the vehicles were reduced to a crawl as the track deteriorated into being really rough and even muddy in places. Occasionally a stream was crossed.
After a good hour and a half a solitary
unoccupied cottage was spied which offered shelter from the penetrating breeze
so it was decided to stop there for a very welcome picnic lunch.
It was also the site of an informative historical plaque about the Attaquaskloof Pass. Once back in the trusty vehicles the group soon passed the remains of a very colourful outspan created by aloe plants that were still in bloom.
Once the oxen had been unyoked from their wagons these tall dense cactus type plants were used as kraals that could safely hold and protect them from predators.
Onwards the party went gradually ascending the Attaquaskloof Valley towards the obvious summit in the distance stopping at items which caught their attention such as fynbos flowers in full bloom.
The final climb to the top of Attaquaskloof was again challenging. Some of the passengers decided to walk to see the wheel ruts, and were rewarded by a stunning view looking back down the Kamma valley and the distant mountains.
Continuing round the corner over the crest it was just possible to catch a glimpse of the coast in the distance. The descent began following the Saffraan River valley through much thicker higher fynbos.
The stalwart travelers almost missed the well hidden remains of the 1900 Boer War blockhouse erected by the Mossel Bay Town Guard to prevent Boer commandos reaching the coast.
Thereafter the track leveled out but still passed through thick bush now covered in white flowers. Eventually after a good four and a half hours and another series of farm gates the weary adventurers exited onto the R328 on the far side of the Robinson Pass at Moerasrivier farm. After turning right to drive over the Pass and with a short stop to take in the view it was time to head for home after an eventful and exciting day.
Source document provided by an article resourced and written by Murray Douglas who also provided the photographs unless otherwise credited.
It is necessary to book for the trail as you need to get keys and maps.
Contact Nico and Danette Hesterman on 044 695 3175
View their website for other options and information at www.bonniedale.com