Klein Tafelberg, have you heard of it before?
If not, I almost feel guilty for sharing its location. It makes for the most amazing secret getaway, far from the city and crowds.
If it’s a working holiday you’re after - this is not the place. The signal is almost non-existent - except, somewhat ironically, on top of the mountain.
It is, however, so breathtaking up there - checking your phone is likely not going to be the first thing that you want to do.
Situated between Elands Bay and Velddrif, but more inland. It falls under the Bergrivier Region, and who knew - a whole adventure world awaits in this part of the country.
The Bergrivier has been named the “Adventure Capital of The West Coast”, and Klein Tafelberg surely helped them achieve that title.
With the launch of their new Adventure Centre this month, they’re now boasting a range of activities that got my heart pumping.
Present was photojournalist and the man who brought the crew together, Jacques Marais, AKA Die Oom, my regular adventure partner, mentor, and friend.
He came with Densen Magaisa, my little brother - I decided a while back. I’m not sure how he feels about this, but that’s irrelevant.
Densen is a photographer/ videographer and an artist. Little bro is talented, and handsome too. We found out that the Bergrivier region agrees, as we saw his face on two brochures.
Along with JM and Dense, (in Jacques spectacular new Isuzu) was Paola Capelli, an Italian beauty, who crept into my heart. What a woman - she is a tour guide too, a mom, and a beautiful soul. She is open, supportive, and encouraging. I noticed how she speaks about people, with such affection and respect, for everyone. She notices one’s talents and praises them in the most natural, unforced way. She was a joy to be around.
Then, there were two more couples that JM invited:
His “guest list”, if you will, has me thinking that the man should be a matchmaker. I was wowed by each person he chose to be there. Not only were they just downright cool people but their talents, interests, and hobbies made for great conversation as we shared our love of the outdoors.
Nichelle and Christo Swanepoel are climbers, and more. I get the feeling that all of the adventures on my bucket list, they’ve ticked off already. They’re keen travellers and explorers, and minimalists. Thumbs up over here!
Nichelle is also a gear fundi and I took the opportunity to pick her brain regarding some of my wish list items.
Next up, Caira-lee Durand and Otto Du Plessis, another extreme outdoor couple, with ALL the gear! Otto owns Go Camping, an outdoor store where you can rent gear for your adventure. This way you get to speak to someone knowledgeable, who can make suggestions to fit your plans and style, and then trial it before taking the buying leap.
Caira-lee is originally from the Garden Route too, and her legs were covered in scratches from bundu-bashing, just like mine. That’s another thumbs up from me!
The 8 of us made up the crew who were invited to the opening of the Adventure Centre. The rest of the party was the Klein Tafelberg team, an A-Team of note.
I first met Dolf Botha, when I called him and asked if he could come and fetch me because my little chevy bakkie is no 4x4. I got stuck in the sand and it took me about half an hour to dig myself out and reverse back onto the dirt road, free of thick sand.
This only happens 100 m from the centre, and can be avoided if you listen to instructions (unlike me, clearly) by parking at the foot of the mountain and getting someone from the centre to pick you up there. Obviously, that’s only necessary if you’re not driving a four-wheel drive.
“Welcome to the Sandveld” I thought to myself as I called Dolf, the manager.
He directed me to where I should meet him, leave my car, and then drive to my cottage with him.
I arrived at the designated spot and he was greeted by a sweating me, who had relieved myself of my T-shirt. A sports bra and tights were the look of the day, after having a full workout using only my running pole to dig the sand away from my tyres. It’s a pity it was only the next day when they taught me how to be a 4x4 badass.
No wait - the real pity is that I don’t have a 4x4!
Anyway, Dolf helped me with my bags and drove me in. On the way, we stopped at the reception, where I met his lovely wife, Elize, the woman behind all of the arrangements in getting us there.
Dale, the owner of the farm, was also there, along with her daughter Kaytlin.
It was a quick introduction then, but I later got to know everyone and realized that they’re dog lovers and all about empowering women through skills, and of course, are adventure lovers. I wish I had more thumbs to put up.
I hope it’s clear that I am a fan of all who were present, but it is time for me to introduce my favourite, Arno Van Der Merwe.
Arno is a mountain of a man, no doubt above 2 metres tall, and I’m guessing about 130 kg. He looks like a soldier. He is a soldier. He looks like he could break your hand accidentally when you go in for a handshake… but then he smiles.
It turns out, he’s one of the gentlest giants I’ve ever known and it gave me the greatest joy being taken under his wing throughout my time there.
Introductions done, we hit the trails - the mountain trails to start with. Heading out on what we called a recce mission for the climbers in the group to scout out possible lines and the best climbing routes - which it turns out, there are many. There was excitement going all ways, with the different personalities in the group getting amped about various views and possibilities.
I fed off of it and smiled my way to the top of the mountain to take it all in. Two black eagles flew overhead and seemingly danced for me - I like to tell myself anyway.
I hiked that mountain two more times during my stay, once to watch the sunrise, and once at night to watch the stars. If I had the time to have done it again, I would have.
It’s a pretty straightforward climb, not technical or overly exhausting - but you’re going to sweat a bit if you want to do it without stopping.
That’s ok of course, as there are cold beers waiting for you at the bar back at the basecamp.
Not only beers, but Nomonde Ndlangisa, the CEO of Bergrivier Tourism, was also there waiting for us.
I was delighted and went to give her a big hug, after having met her a month earlier at the launch of the Aurora-Redelinghuys Gravel Circuit.
Nomonde is a woman with a vision, a hard worker, and unashamedly ethical. I found this out by spending time with her beyond work and I feel honoured for her to see value in my brand.
She is the driving force behind it all.
We enjoyed a few beers while having a braai that first evening, sharing stories and laughter, and agreed on an early start the following morning, for those who were keen on heading up to the crag for a sunrise coffee and climb.
At 05h30 the next morning, a few of us jumped onto the back of Dolf’s Landy, and made our way to the start of the trail, in the darkness.
We hiked for about 20 minutes before arriving at the point that Christo had decided would be ideal for sunrise climbing shots, and he and Nichelle started setting it up.
Myself and Densen were on coffee duty.
Ok, mainly Densen, while I took in the sunrise.
It was magic up there, as darkness turned to light and the sun rose over the mountains in the distance.
Epic sunrise: check.
Time for breakfast: let’s get it checked!
The full team from Bergrivier Tourism, which includes Piketberg Tourism and Velddrif Tourism, was there when we got back to the basecamp. With croissants and coffee!
We fuelled ourselves and then we deflated our tyres, in preparation for the 4x4 track.
It’s not just any 4x4 track - it’s been voted South Africa’s number one 4x4 trail, with 20 km available to enjoy.
I got lucky, with JM needing to be outside of the vehicle in order to capture it, I got to get behind the wheel of his new Isuzu DMAX.
Man, what an absolute blast. It was my first time driving an actual 4x4 track and I was like a kid on Christmas eve behind the wheel.
I’m not sure how to explain it fully. It’s next-level driving. It takes skill to get through the routes and the thrill of executing it, and then bouncing around as you go - it’s gnarly man. Good gnarly, obviously.
I was not expecting to love it as much as I did because the truth is, I like going fast and I envisioned a slowish, bumpy ride.
I was right, but also so wrong in my assumption that it wouldn’t get my adrenalin revved.
That slowish bumpy ride is serious fun.
The day was going well. Hiking/ climbing/ 4x4 - all done before 13h00. Impressive, yes - and the day was about to get even better…
A shooting range!
They have a variety of guns, both “real”, as well as airsoft guns. Of course, Arno and Dolf oversee everything and make sure that we are handling the weapons correctly and safely.
A few friends have since commented on my shooting stoke, with more than one saying “I didn’t take you for the gun-type”.
Guys, I was shooting rocks.
I’m not about to start hunting. I’m still a vegetarian. I still love everyone. This was just a bit of fun. A lot of fun, in fact.
I appreciate the focus and skill required to be a good shot, and mostly - the excitement. So much amp.
After wrapping things up at the shooting range, we enjoyed a late lunch together, before everyone headed home.
Everyone except me. I had my eye on the climbing wall and Arno agreed to take me the next morning, so I was staying put.
Come morning time, it was overcast and cold, and we took our time in getting there.
I swallowed my anxiety regarding the mounting admin that I was neglecting, reminding myself that the joys of being a freelancer are that I can do it in my own time.
The morning was spent chatting over coffee and sharing an appreciation for life in all its glory and agony too. Life is a gift, made all the more special by unexpected encounters with kindred spirits.
Alas, the time to play arrived. We geared up and made our way up the ladder of the wall. Arno pulled some Houdini stunt to get through the gaps as we ascended because as I mentioned before, he’s a mountain of a man and had tens of metres of rope wrapped around his shoulders. I followed, cheerily.
When we got to the top, he got everything ready and went through the motions with me, explaining what I should do, showing me that I was safe and what would happen if I slipped.
I hopped over the top and at first, hesitantly let go with my hands.
Once I did and felt at ease with the rope holding me, I started abseiling down, gaining speed as I went along. By the time I reached the ground, I was fully confident with the setup and ready to go again.
This time though, I opted to climb up the wall as opposed to the ladder in order to get to the top.
Sheesh, it wasn’t easy. I was of course still connected, and safe, although at first, I tried not to rely on the rope at all and to climb up myself.
That didn’t last all that long and as Arno saw me struggling, he told me to just relax and hang for a moment, resting my arms, and then to start again. I listened.
I restarted a minute later, still struggling. Arno said “let me know if you need help and I’ll pull you up over those difficult sections”, it didn’t take me long to say “help please”, haha.
When I got to the top, I was greeted with High 5’s and the next delight - repelling down the scaffolding.
Climbing adventure complete, we had one last drive around. First, into Redelinghuys where we got some petrol for my bakkie (I can’t always be Sharpe) and a bonus was seeing the beautifully painted houses all around town. It's a quaint village, with the friendliest people. Added to the fact that there are
To finish, Arno showed me the land on which they plan to home baby orphaned animals. Big babies.
By the time I said my goodbyes that afternoon, my adrenalin and gratitude cup were both full after having spent 3 days with wonderful people, doing epic things.
It’s what makes me happiest.
Thank you to everyone.
Can we do it again soon?
www.kleintafelberg4x4.co.za for details and to book.
www.bergriviertourism.co.za for all things fun in the region.