Friends From South Africa
Pictures and Story by Simon Morris

A day in the country with The Queenstown 4x4 Environmental Off-road Association

On Sunday the 11th of May, 2003, a group of 4x4 associate members joined Simon Morris on a visit with their 4x4 vehicles to The Imvani 4x4 Trail which is approximately fifteen kilometers from Queenstown towards Cathcart, this 4x4 trail is owned by Gary and Haley Sutton, who also run a bed & breakfast and game hunting lodge. 

We all met at The Shell Ultra City at 9:00am.  Once Morris was satisfied that all the drivers had signed the indemnity forms, we all set off in convoy to tame the 4x4 trail ahead of us.

Morris led the way; we first had the privilege of driving through the game farm where we were able to see many different types of wild game, consisting of wildebeest, zebra, springbuck, blesbuck and many other animals from the Ruminatia family. 

Once the last 4x4 vehicle had left the game farm area, Morris told us to all stop and then he gave us a short safety speech, telling those drivers whose vehicles have locking hubs to now lock them and that everybody must select low range and drive with a safe distance between each vehicle, otherwise they might end up some ones... (rhymes I know).  While I was telling the drivers what to do, I noticed a number of big toes tracing circles in the wet mud, while other drivers stared off into the distance.  Due to the rainy conditions the 4x4 trail would be very slippery and dangerous.  Some of the drivers then deflated their vehicles 4x4 tyres to give better grip. 

Morris, " the leader of the pack ", then proceeded onto the trailhead with caution and the rest of us followed in his tracks.  The trail took us up onto the top plateau of the farm, in fact very near the Pinical mountain, which is a well know land mark in this area.  At some stages of the trail we were driving on the edge of the mountainside with jagged cliffs on our left and wild unspoiled remarkable plains below. We all stopped to admire the fantastic views, many farms in the distance could also be seen. 

I overheard one driver saying that big kids need toys too. 

We all then set off deeper into the trail.  There are signboards along the trail with GPS waypoints and different names telling you what to expect ahead.  We then came across the name Bone Shacker, the trail then turned off to the left at this point and took us up and through a very “bone shacking” section.  It was due to all the small rocks on the trail, it felt that every bone in my body was loose.  Why is it we do this to ourselves? J  But it was well worth the shake and effort, as we were soon through this section.  We then came to the Cycad Avenue, which consisted of a steep incline - if you dare!  On the left were a few tree trunks and on the right a sheer cliff face, allowing us just enough space to drive through. 

Morris decided that the best thing for him to do was jam his right foot against the fire wall and the accelerator pedal to prevent his foot jumping on and off the pedal thus preventing  him from loosing control of his 1983 Datsun Tracker 4x4's revs and thus causing wheel spin. 

Morris gritted his teeth and drove up and through without any problems.  There was another driver in a Toyota Hilux who had a few problems.  I think his tyre pressures were too high, but with the excellent guidance from Ben Nel he managed to get through, but a lot of wheel spin was seen. Due to the limited axle articulation of the Isuzu, Ford and new Nissan 4x4's, these vehicles also found the going rather tough, but some of these 4x4 vehicles had diff locks, which gave them an added advantage.  We then stopped awhile near the Cycads for the rest of the convoy to gather.  Then once the adrenaline had subsided, Morris and the rest of the convoy proceeded down into the valley below, driving through a small forest of natural trees and then in and out of a small flowing stream, which could become a roaring river after a heavy rain storm. 

Morris said that along this stream section of the trail there were selected, optional sections available for those drivers who would like to try out their winching capabilities on their vehicles, but said that these sections were rated as a five out of a five, with five being very tough and that it was extremely technical; suitable only for experienced drivers and that their vehicles must be well equipped and  that they had all the proper tow and jacking points.  Morris also said that vehicle damage was a real possibility, but escape routes were also available. Morris said that Ronny Rengers and himself would be taking Ronny's modified Jeep Wrangler TJ auto through the winching sections in the near future, this will definitely make a great video. 

Due to the overcast conditions, we all decided to take the escape route, which took us towards a very steep grassy hill, that we would have to conquer.  To stop was to be stuck for sure.  The grass was wet, so Morris just selected first gear, low range and kept his foot in the hook and hoping against hope that he would climb out and through the hidden ruts and make it to the top.  Due to the Firestone 215x15" ATX tyres that Morris has on his 4x4 and the tyre pressure of 0.5 bars, these added factors allowed his 4x4 to slowly crawl his way to the top.  He did have an added advantage due to all the fire wood and other 4x4 recovery equipment consisting of a High Lift jack, the Trail Blaster (which is a CO2 cylinder), mud tracks, kinetic strap which also includes special strength rated bow-shackles, fire extinguishers, spades, tree cutters and also tree protector straps. 

Soon we had the braai fires burning.  Out came the refreshments, braai meat and in no time the delicious smells of the different meats on the fires could be enjoyed. We all had a good time, good laughs and the different drivers said that this trail was very cool and that they had had a blast and this is what this sport is all about, being able to enjoy the outdoors with their families and friends. 

The shadows had grown long, evening was approaching, and another day out in the country was drawing to a close.  What a pleasure this day had been, maybe you will join us on our next 4x4 trail when we visit the famous Bamboeshoek 4x4 Trail, which is near Sterkstroom, South Africa.  Invitations will be sent out in due course, but if you own a 4x4 vehicle and your family or friends are interested in joining this 4x4 Association on a 4x4 trail, then please contact Morris and give him your contact details, his contact cell number is 082 499 1924.