THE Witblitz ROUTE
SA4x4|April 2020
Just off the R62, at the top of Huisrivier Pass, a gravel road turns left down to Bennie and Selma Nel’s Matjiesvlei Guest Farm, where one can drive the Bojaankop 4x4 trail, among other attractions
Richard van Ryneveld
I wager there isn’t a place in Africa where SA4x4’s blue Isuzu D-Max could feel more at home than at Bennie and Selma Nel’s Matjievlei Guest Farm up near Calitzdorp. Why, you might ask? Because Bennie Nel – the fifth generation to farm this land, high up in the foothills of the towering Swartberg Mountains – is a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the brand. If you include his adult son’s Isuzus, there are 10 in the family – with five bakkies and a truck still permanently on the farm. 30 years ago, they played a big part in helping Bennie establish sections of the fantastic Bojaankop 4x4 routes on the farm. Of course, just like everything else on the farm, the trail is steeped in history.

When I tell you that the trail actually started in the 1800s you’ll probably think I’ve been hitting the Witblitz. In fact, the potent moonshine distilled in these hidden hills and valleys of the Swartberg had a lot to do with the origins of the Matjiesvlei trail – or so we discover. Bennie delved into this history, sitting at the table near the kitchen where Meisie (who has run this household for the last 31years) kept us plied with good moer koffie.

“My ancestors and the sharecroppers (bywoners) used to collect and drag bundles of Wild Plum down from the steep foothills of the Swartberg,” he began. From the farmhouse down near the banks of the Gamka River, one looks up at these steep foothills in the shadow of the looming Swartberg Mountains behind, and you wonder at the industry of these early settlers. The dry and dead Wild Plum was used to distil the region’s legendary White Lightning moonshine and to dry the raisins farmed in the valley.

“Man, that Wild Plum is an even better-burning wood than the hardekool found up there in the bushveld!” said Bennie. In winter, the tenant farmer made the most of this resource and sold the wood in Calitzdorp for extra income.

Later, while driving the trail, Bennie pointed to a gnarled specimen of Wild Plum, saying, “That tree has been there since my boet and I tramped this veld as laaities.” Like their vehicles, things last a long time out here in the hidden valleys and hills of the Vlei.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM SA4X4View All

Steelmate TP-S9

Solar powered TPMS (External sensor)

3 mins read
SA4x4
March 2020

Light on the dark side

VW AMAROK DARK LABEL

4 mins read
SA4x4
March 2020

Monkey business!

Vervet Monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) are the most widespread of the African monkeys; occurring from the Ethiopian Rift Valley, highlands east of the Rift, and southern Somalia, through the eastern lowlands of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia (east of the Luangwa Valley), Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and all nine provinces in South Africa.

3 mins read
SA4x4
March 2020

GREAT ZOOKS

There are a few mishaps as a bunch of Jimnys tackle one of Lesotho’s premier off-road challenges, Baboon’s Pass

10 mins read
SA4x4
March 2020

Chewy, But Edible

Take another look at those garden pests

4 mins read
SA4x4
March 2020

Uganda The Pearl Of Africa

This trip, the very last in the series of stories from Dan Grec’s two-year Africa round trip, details a scary mishap and some extraordinary wildlife encounters

10+ mins read
SA4x4
March 2020

Rad Rig The Dream Catcher

Motorhome world’s one-of-a-kind luxury globetrotter

4 mins read
SA4x4
March 2020

The Difference Between An Overlander And An Offroader

A very important distinction needs to be made between the offroader and the overland traveller; often the two are thought to be the same.

5 mins read
SA4x4
March 2020

Auto Perfection?

Adding a six-speed auto to Mahindra’s workhorse ups the game for this value proposition

3 mins read
SA4x4
March 2020

Defenders On Tour

The second 2019 Defender Trophy event kicked off in Limpopo and was unique in that participants camped in three different countries…

9 mins read
SA4x4
March 2020
RELATED STORIES

FALL OUT

The pandemic has sent American workers plummeting into a safety net that wasn’t prepared to catch them

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
June 08, 2020