This will be our eighth escape to the magical world of the Baviaanskloof in the adventure province of the Eastern Cape! From all of our trips we entered only once from the Eastern access gate and all the other times we entered through the Nuwekloof pass on the Willowmore side. It does not make any difference from where you enter, the rugged beauty is always special to us.
On 15 March 2019 the catchment area of the Baviaanskloof had a down pour of about 75 mm in a time span of 40 minutes which caused huge damage to roads and alike. Once through Raaskrans and crossing the first “drif” we noticed that big amounts of water rushed through the kloof. Debris was hanging from trees to indicate the water’s reach. This was the trend for the next two days – short and easy water crossing, longer water crossings, washed away water crossings and then there is the (in)famous water crossing at Smitskraal. This is where we also encountered two bikers that was soaking wet, but with big smiles on their faces. They just enjoyed the ride!
The 197 km long kloof is adorned with interesting names such as Vensterklip, where a skirmish between English and Boer took place, Doodsklip, Queen Victoria’s bust, Studtis and Babes se winkel. If you get to know the history of the kloof you will also learn that JG Strijdom was born in the kloof and a book by PH Nortjè is based on the kloof. Other points of interest are the Campbell monument which was erected to commemorate the floods of 1916 where several people succumbed to flood water rushing through the area. The little DR Church with its red roof was also relocated to Zaaimansvlakte after it has been washed away in the 1916 floods. So, there are a lot of sadness and interesting stories in the kloof if you look closer. Take your time when you pass through the kloof. You will encounter different types of traffic from bicycles to donkey carts and beyond.
If you are not comfortable with no cell phone reception and be disconnected from the outside world, this is not the place for you. In the kloof people are friendly and always have time for a bit of chatter. Be courteous and enquire about their wellbeing as well. Sometimes you, as the visitor, is the only contact they might have with the outside world for some weeks. Life is slow here. Enjoy the ride. At the moment you will definitely need a 4×4 to traverse the kloof as no road repairs were done to date. It might also be a good idea to make sure your spare tyre is in good condition. Despite driving careful we got a cut on the outside wall of one of our tyres, luckily no big damage, but come prepared.
Lastly, remember this is also a popular ride for motorbike enthusiasts. Be aware of them and especially around corners stick to your side and on steep inclines give them right of way – they will appreciate it! If an accident happen here it takes hours to get help to this remote part of the world.
A good place to stop and stock up while you enjoy a coffee moment is at Tolbos Deli and Bistro (http://www.tolbos.co.za) where you can buy anything from wine, jams and rusk that will make your trip more enjoyable. Also chat with the friendly owner, Hetsie, who is always on the ready the help with some advice.
Some need to knows:
Driving conditions are slow
Watch out for wildlife – kudu and baboon are abundant
This is a water scarce area – keep water sources pristine
Watch out for motorcycles
There are camping (our favourite is Doringkloof) and various guesthouse options available in the kloof
There is no cell phone reception
Nights can get chilly, pack something warm even though it is summer