Touring Guide to Baviaanskloof, Eastern Cape , South Africa
Author: Steve and Carole Eilertsen. email@example.com
Baviaanskloof is arguably the most beautiful wilderness drive accessible to 2x4 vehicles, enduro and off road motorcycles in South Africa. This is a comprehensive information guide to the valley to help you plan your own motorcycle tour or trip.
Note: A lot of pressure is mounting against owners of quad bikes and owners of noisy off road bikes who do not know how to behave themselves in a wilderness area - or do not know how to control their quad riding children in the camps sites. Failure of riders to self regulate or display self discipline and control could have unfortunate consequences of all owners of "bikes".
Citrus farms situated at the beginning of the 100km valley (by road 170km)
Introduction to Baviaanskloof
Baviaanskloof is a single 100km valley running between the Kougaberge mountains in the south and the Baviaanskloofberge in the north. The valley is 80km north west of Port Elizabeth. Port Elizabeth is in the Eastern Province in South Africa. There is a single dirt road that runs through the valley with no other access either in or out. There are 42 river crossings yet not a single bridge, only causeways. There are two river crossings that have neither a bridge nor a causeway. All of them can flood during a heavy downpour.
One of the many causeways.
Baviaanskloof is bordered by the town of Patensie in the East and Willowmore / Uniondale in the West. The distance from town to town is a touch over 200km - only 30km of this is tar. The rest is dirt road that varies from excellent to very bad. During the winter the valley is extremely cold and during the height of summer, extremely hot. All terrain vehicles with 2x4 transmission can easily manage during the dry season while 4x4 is recommended during wet weather (i.e. November to February) Enduro off road motorcycles with dual sport tyres are well suited if ridden by an experienced off road rider. Inexperienced riders can easily manage those areas that fall outside the official wilderness area. One river crossing i.e. Smitskraal however may be too deep however during the wet season.
Smitkraal during the dry season!
The valley is divided broadly into three regions i.e. before the wilderness area, the wilderness area itself and the area beyond the wilderness. The eastern and western regions are characterised by a small number of farms that offer accommodation and other activities like 4x4 trails etc. The dirt road here is good. The wilderness area offers only camping at designated areas, by permit only. The dirt road here is average to very bad.
For consistency of discussion Baviaanskloof is discussed assuming travelling from east to west.
The Wilderness Area
One may drive through this area without a permit. To deviate from the road for any reason including camping, hiking etc requires a permit from Tolkos in Patensie or the Baviaanskloof office at Komdomo. Note that there is no mobile phone reception in this area. Only limited numbers of campers may be in this area at any one time. Therefore if you would like to travel there during holiday season booking is essential i.e. (042 283 0437 or http://www.baviaans.net or http://www.baviaans.co.za )
Normal wilderness rules apply. There are no ablution facilities along the road. Take your own toilet paper and a few spare plastic bags. Soiled paper, nappies, sanitary towels etc must be removed from the area.
Wilderness Rules Apply!
Sedan Cars and Inexperience Riders
The valley can be only traversed from East to West or West to East. The eastern section is technically the most difficult with the western section being very easy and suitable for everyone On the Eastern side sedan cars and inexperienced riders can travel from Patensie to Baviaanskloof Lodge (not to be confused with Baviaans Lodge on the western side). On the western side they can travel from Willowmore / Uniondale to Smitkraal.
When to Visit
Avoid long weekends and holiday seasons!! The track is narrow and technical in places and two vehicles traveling in the opposite direction can have a huge problem getting past one another (or they should buy a motorcycle!)
Spring, before the heavy summer rains or Autumn before it gets cold, are the best times to visit if you intend to camp. If you stay at a lodge or B+B outside the wilderness area and own a good all terrain vehicle then you have more flexibility weather wise.
The dirt road varies from this . .
to this . . .
to this . .
The most difficult dry section is between Bergplaas and Doodsklip (24km from the Komdomo Baviaanskloof office) This is a steep, rocky downhill section more than one kilometer in length with a very steep drop on the valley side.
In general however the dirt road does not have thick loose sand or snotty, slippery surfaces. Traction is generally good with a good mix of sand, stones and hard rock.
In the east in particular the absence of any barriers on the mountainous passes can mean a nasty accident for a rider going too fast.
Time and Distance
This is an unforgiving route, especially if ridden under tight time constraints. It is not possible to ride from East to West and back by the same route, on the same day. In this case the main road, the N2 should be used to return (a 10 hour round trip). Alternatively you can stay over at a B+B on the other side.
Start before 8am in the morning. In the east it is normal to only complete 20km in 2 hours. The time lost here can be made up on the west where speeds of 80kph are possible for short distances. If the weather is good, the valley takes 6 hours to travel through but note that this excludes picnics and other stops.
The area has abundant game but is not big 5 country. Antelopes, tortoises and snakes are common. Baboons, from where the valley got its name, will be sighted many times during the day.
Petrol and other Supplies
There is no petrol (gas) to be had so make sure you have a full tank. Equally there are no stores. If you stay at a B+B or lodge you should tell the owners of any special needs you may have as they cannot "just pop into town".
Where to stay
Accommodation in B+Bs, lodges and camping sites is plentiful although each individual establishment is small. Booking is essential during weekends and holiday seasons. Click here more.
Die Skoolhuis 45km from Patensie sleeps eight.
Some more pics of the first 50km from Patensie . . .
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