Gecko Rock Seattle 4x4 TrailEnquire Now
25km from Touwsrivier
9km, 2-3hrs, Grade 2-4
+27 23 358 9902 www.geckorock.co.za
Configuration: This is a one-way trail linking up with the access road to Echo Valley Camp.
Terrain: Gravel, rocks, sandstone ridges and pole bridges, steep ascents and descents, sand.
The routes are guided, but experienced groups can use their own guide. 4x4 driver training is also available. The best time to do this route is from April to October. You have a choice between two campsites and a self-catering wooden cottage for your accommodation. The Boyz 2 Men Trail has some serious grade 4 sections, while the milder Bothashoek Trail is accessible to 4x2s and soft-roaders. Climbing, hiking, motorcycling and training, mountain biking, stargazing and flower tours are all on the list of other activities available at Gecko Rock Eco Adventures.
Gecko Rock is located within one of the world’s unusual regions: the Karoo. The name, ‘Karoo’ originates from the Khoikhoi tribe, who long ago called the region ‘Garob’ which translates to 'the place of great dryness'. The word eventually changed to Carro, and finally its present day form. It is this very scenic area between Nougaspoort and the Touws River that the Koegaberge Mountain Range reaches to heights of nearly 1 300m. This transitional zone between the Great and Little Karoo is home to springbok, grey rhebok, duiker, steenbok, klipspringer, aardvark, African wild cat and caracal. There are also many bird species, including the rare black harrier that frequently nests in the valleys.
The hand-built Seattle trail offers different technical challenges as it traverses the changing terrain in this pristine environment. Rocky outcrops, sandstone ridges, steep ascents and tight angles are but some of the surprises waiting around each corner and after the next climb. This is a unique experience as your guide will stop and explain the fossils, succulents and rock formations along the route. These refreshment stops are complemented by a lunch break at a spectacular viewpoint. The number of vehicles on the trail is limited to 15 at any one time, with a minimum of 6 vehicles. Experienced groups may be led by their own guide as long as they are currently registered as 4×4 and overland tour guides.
Another tricky trail, known as the “Boyz to Men” route, is located on the southern side of Gecko Rock and offers a more challenging - though less interesting - drive than the Seattle trail. For the 4x2 drivers there are various roads around the reserve to explore, as well as The Bothashoek route, a challenging and scenic circular drive of 12km. It will take about an hour to complete. Different levels of 4x4 driver training are also offered.
The very private self-catering Rhebokvlakte Cottage sleeps two in a panoramic valley. The De Wet’s Rust Campsite under shady trees has space for up to 20 vehicles and tents and comes with ablutions and a splash pool. The smaller Echo Valley campsite is nestled in a private valley and has a shower and toilet. The list of other activities includes hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking as well as flower and succulent tours, birdwatching and stargazing.
Drive out of Touws River following the road along the railway line. Drive on for about 25km, past the Bloutoring turn-off and through an S-shaped poort. 1km past the Nougaaspoort turn-off you will see the Gecko Rock sign on the left. Turn left and proceed to Gecko Rock Eco Adventures.
As the name suggests, the Cape Winelands is an area of vines and vineyards; the berries of which are responsible for that most delicious fermented juice of the grape: wine. The region is well known for its proliferation of estates and cellars that continually create quality wines throughout the cultivar spectrum.
This is an area that encourages leisurely meanders along its various wine routes, absorbing the natural beauty of the rural surroundings.
The region stretches northwards from the eastern outskirts of Cape Town. In the south the popular and trendy towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek nestle in the shadow of the mountains that make up the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. To the west the popular tourist ‘Route 62’ follows the Breede River Valley. It takes in the town of Robertson, the quaint village of McGregor and continues to Worcester.
North, across the N1 highway, the historic towns of Paarl, Wellington and Tulbagh are strung out between a series of mountains. In the far north-east, the town of Ceres is a dot in a sweeping valley of fruit orchards.
Craggy mountains are a feature of the landscape, giving rise to the region also being called the Boland (High Land). The mountains include the ranges of the Groot Drakenstein, Langeberg, Hexrivier and Witzenberg. Their steep rocky peaks plunge to gentler gradients rich in fynbos and proteas, before levelling out in fertile valleys threaded with chortling streams.
In these low-lying areas, suspended between the slopes, vineyards stretch in patchwork patterns. Like an artist’s palette the area changes with the seasons - from subtle spring pastels, through lush summer greens, to the earthy shades of autumn.
Not only are the Cape Winelands a delight for connoisseurs of fine wines; the towns themselves are centres for a host of enjoyable pastimes. Many are steeped in history and have magnificent collections of traditional Cape Dutch and period architecture.
These are best viewed during a stroll along the leafy streets. The historic Church Street in Tulbagh has the largest concentration of provincial monuments in one street in South Africa. The university town of Stellenbosch, with its oak-lined boulevards, is the second-oldest town in the country, dating back to 1671. Today it is an important cultural centre with a host of galleries and museums, and the country’s oldest music school.
Franschhoek, reclining in a somnolent valley ambience, entices gourmets to sample its fare at some of South Africa’s top restaurants. McGregor is well known for its life-enriching tranquillity and Ceres for its fruit production and snow-covered mountains in winter. Besides their wineries, Robertson and Worcester are known for the production of some of South Africa’s best known brandies – Klipdrift and KWV, respectively.
The winelands is great country in which to enjoy a leisurely trip along minor roads that fade into the fynbos. They will take you into valleys and gorges, past barns stacked with bales of lucerne, and paddocks with grazing sheep and lazing cows. Around farmsteads and cottages, chickens strut their stuff and pigs wallow in slushy heaven. Dams mirror the sky and hillsides, their reflections rippled by drifting and preening waterbirds. Tractors till the land, and labourers and farmers wave to every passer-by.
For centuries the terroir here has been ideally suited to the production of great wine and today, more than ever before, it is also conducive to the making of good times and fond memories. The Cape Winelands is a region to relax in, whilst inhaling the warm, scented air and indulging in the finer things in life.
Look out for
Wine tasting – naturally this is a popular and pleasant pastime in the region. The Stellenbosch wine route, established in 1971, is the oldest in South Africa. Today other routes lead to the cellars and estates around virtually every town in the region. Many of the wineries offer tasting and sales from Monday to Saturday. Maps are available from the tourism office in each town.
Brandy tasting – this much-loved spirit is produced by a good number of cellars and specialist distillers throughout the region. There are 2 brandy routes in the region. The Western Cape Brandy Route winds through Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Wellington. The R62 Brandy Route goes through Robertson and Worcester. Many of these offer tasting, tours and sales from Monday to Friday.
Historical towns – the Cape Winelands is rich in history, with most towns and many of the wine estates having their own collections of historical buildings, museums and monuments. The region is synonymous with Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture. Highlights include Church Street in Tulbagh and the De Oude Drostdy Museum just outside the town. There are Zeederberg Square and the Paarl Museum in Paarl, and Klein Plasie open air Museum in Worcester. Twenty declared National Monuments are in Wellington and there is the Huguenot Memorial and Museum in Franschhoek.
Scenic drives – where there are mountains and valleys there are always scenic roads and passes to explore; here is no exception.
River rafting – the Breede River is the sixth largest river in South Africa and is a playground of fun and adventure.
Adrenalin - for lovers of the adrenalin rush, Ceres Zipslide Adventures offers 8 slides totalling 1.4km amongst the rock formations of the Skurweberg mountains near Ceres.
Art galleries – the towns are home to a host of artists and galleries. The Stellenbosch Gallery and Rupert Gallery in Stellenbosch are popular and showcase art through many mediums and genres.
Wildlife on display – the area has a number of parks that allow one to get close to a variety of wild creatures in captivity. Some of the better known ones include the Drankenstein Lion Park, Butterfly World, Paarl Bird Sanctuary and the Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm - all situated between Paarl and Stellenbosch.