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Hoeksfontein 4x4 Trail

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26km from Pearston

-32.3875, 25.1187

50km, 5-6hrs

+27 42 246 1488 www.hoeksfontein.co.za

Configuration: This is a circular route with short routes branching off to viewpoints and alternative roads back to the main road, should a quick return to base be required.

Terrain: Rock, loose stone, gravel, mud.

This is a self-drive route and no guiding is needed. You can drive here throughout the year, but avoid the hunting season as this is an active hunting safari venue. Always check in ahead, as some weather conditions can make the roads impassable and dangerous. Several accommodation options in lodges and campsites are available. A swimming pool and playroom with pool table complete the picture. There are two other routes to explore: The Olievenfontein and Vlakfontein routes (also described below). Apart from 4x4ing, you can try your hand at paragliding. However, the main activity at Hoeksfontein is hunting with rifles or bows.

About

Venture into the Karoo Heartland and discover the unsurpassed grandeur of majestic mountains, vast plains, champagne air and crystal clear starry nights. The Hoeksfontein Safaris base camp is situated close to Pearston in the Semi-Karoo. The landscape consists of rock outcrops, mountains, hills and open plains. You can also expect thick valley bushveld.

The Bontebok Lodge is the base camp for all the adventure trails and all the routes start and end here. There are three spectacular routes to choose from. They wind over mountain and valley across Hoeksfontein, Olievenfontein and Vlakfontein.

The Hoeksfontein route, covering a distance of 50km, starts with a steep climb up towards Aasvoelberg and the first plateau, where breathtaking views await. The winding descent into the following ravine snakes past wild olive groves and Icebell, the highest peak of the Coetzeesberg. Then it's on to the Smit farm, hugging the side of the mountain through thorn trees and over stretches of dolomite. A steep downhill section will lead you to the game area and on down and through another ravine. A relaxing 10km-long drive through a typical Karoo plain follows, before the final short but steep ascent back to base camp.

The Olievenfontein route is a less demanding 25km route through scrub and wild olive trees, up the side of the plateau, with a very steep ascent to the top and Olievenfontein.  The descent from the plateau follows a ravine along an old livestock trail to the Rockford farm.

Finally, the Vlakfontein route has very steep sections and covers a distance of about 30km. It starts at Langkloof, up a deep narrow valley where Bushman drawings can be seen if you take a short walk.  From here the trail crosses steep sections of dolomite to the summit and some spectacular views of the surrounding area.  At the summit you will also find a 4x4 obstacle course for those who want to know what their vehicles are really capable of overcoming. The return is along a narrow valley across Viljoenshoek. It should take you about 3-4 hours to drive Olievenfontein and 4-5 hours to drive Vlakfontein.

At the Bontebok Lodge you will find great accommodation. The electricity supply is at 220v 50 cycles and the water is fresh and untreated. The bathrooms are comfortable and there is a large braai area for spending pleasant evenings discussing the events of the day. For those who would like to spend their outdoors time differently, there are grassed areas for pitching tents or for parking caravans. A swimming pool and playroom with pool table, dartboards and other recreational games will keep everybody relaxed and happy. If not, jumping from 1 400m above sea level and gliding down for 400m on a paraglide might just hit the spot.

Coming into Pearston from Graaff-Reinet, turn left into the first street and take the "Coetzeesberg" gravel road. The turnoff to the Bontebok Lodge is 23km further up this road on your right.

Karoo Heartland

Eastern Cape

About

The Karoo Heartland area lies in the Eastern Cape province, inland from the busy coastal city of Port Elizabeth. It embraces the eastern landscapes of the Great Karoo and, like the rest of this vast and semi-arid region, it is sparsely populated and little developed.

Rising in the north-west of the region are the Sneeuberg mountains. As their name suggests, the higher reaches are often draped in a blanket of snow during winter. Further east they link up with the Bankberg range. From here the landscape drops in altitude in a series of gentle slopes and rolling foothills.

For the motorist, the steep gradients are traversed via the winding roads of the Lootsberg, Naudesberg, Ouberg and Wapadsberg passes. In the south the landscape flattens out in a sweeping flat expanse, referred to as the plains of Camdeboo. In the eastern extremes the traditional Karoo scrub gives way to waving grasslands, tall slender aloes and tree-choked gorges.

Amongst the koppies and expansive plains are small rural towns like Graaff Reinet, Cradock and Nieu Bethesda. All of these are popular with visitors and well-known for their fine architecture and enduring charm. Graaff Reinet is best known for its magnificent stone church, the historic Drostdy with its colourful Stretch’s Court. It also has tranquil tree-lined streets sporting grand old houses and quaint cottages.

On its outskirts, the 19 000ha Camdeboo National Park almost encircles the town and protects the habitats and wildlife of the area. Within its boundaries stand the pillars of balancing rock that make the Valley of Desolation so intriguing. Nearby, the Sundays River flows into the Nqweba Dam.

A short drive north, at the base of the towering Kompasberg Peak, is Nieu Bethesda. Its main attractions are the Owl House with its artwork, and the mythical figures in the Camel Yard. The town is loved by seekers of tranquillity who come to escape in its rural charm and laid-back ambience.

In the east the busy, upbeat town of Cradock on the banks of the Fish River boasts a wealth of interesting architecture. The best preserved of examples form part of the well-known Tuishuise.

Each year canoeists converge on the area for the annual Fish River canoe marathon.

Cradock’s natural icon comes in the form of the Mountain Zebra National Park. This expanse was proclaimed in order to protect the endangered mountain zebra, which now number around 300 in the park. The variety of game includes cheetah, Cape buffalo and black rhinoceros. The landscape varies from rugged mountains to plateau grasslands.

Throughout the region there is a cultural richness, and strong traditions still survive in the towns and on the farms. With an extensive network of gravel back roads that lead to hidden farms and stunning views, the Karoo Heartlands is ideally suited to the explorer. It’s also home to large game lodges, 4x4 trails, hiking and mountain bike routes, fishing, and birdwatching.

Look out for

Camdeboo National Park – on the outskirts of Graaff Reinet, this 19 000ha park protects some of the low-lying plains as well as the mountainous terrain in the area. It contains the Valley of Desolation. Within its boundaries are 12 species of large game and 225 bird species. There are several hikes, varying from a 1.5 km stroll to a day walk and an overnight trail. 4x4 enthusiasts have a choice of either the Koedoeskloof or Driekoppe trails. There is a tented camp and some campsites are being developed in the park. 

The Valley of Desolation - is formed by the extraordinary geology of the mountains that create impressive dolerite rock pillars, which are easily seen from various viewpoints along the walking trails. En route to the main viewpoint a toposcope stands on a small koppie, from where there is a magnificent view of Graaff Reinet.

Mountain Zebra National Park – situated 12km from Cradock, the park nestles amongst the craggy heights of the Bankberg mountains in the far eastern area of the region. Proclaimed in 1937, the park embraces undulating plains and plunging valleys where the Cape mountain zebra was saved from extinction. Accommodation is in the restored Victorian homestead at Doornhoek (that sleeps 6), or in cottages and campsites at the main rest camp. There is an à la carte restaurant, a shop selling basic commodities, a fuel station and a swimming pool. Day visitors are welcome.

The Owl House – this iconic house was created by eccentric artist Helen Martins. It became famous by being featured in world-renowned playwright Athol Fugard’s film, ‘The Road to Mecca’. Obsessed with the interplay of light, colour and reflection, martins covered walls, ceilings, windows and other surfaces with bright paint and glass. The effect is amplified by the many candles, lamps and mirrors she collected. The Owl House is rated a premier ‘outsider art’ destination and attracts 15 000 visitors annually, from all over the world. It’s open to the public daily (except Christmas day). Opening times: 09h00-17h00 in April to September / 08h00-18h00 in October to May.

Blouwater Railway - for a rail journey with a difference give Charles Kingwill a call to book a seat on his rail van, which trundles up the 11km-long Lootsberg Railway Pass and back. He can take a maximum of 9 passengers per trip. Trips run from Monday to Saturday between 09h00 and 15h00. It takes 2 hours, and you can take your own picnic and refreshments.

Tuishuise –mention Cradock and the first places that come to mind are the historic Tuishuise. Even if you’re not planning to stay overnight (although you should), make a point of exploring Market Street where they are situated. 

When to go

To Do

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