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Vleesbaai – Meet the bay

 

Meet the Bay.

Yesterday was Cold. And Wet. Grey low lying clouds hiding the mountains. We must be this close to snow. I sit on edge, waiting, like a kid, chomping at the bit to be the first to throw a snowball……

But it wasn’t to be. Instead, today dawns a balmy 3 degrees!. Sunny and clear. Perfect beach weather.

A quick call to Riekie (082 784 8238) who confirms that the clear weather extends all the way to Vleesbaai.  Time to pack. No beach towels though. Or umbrella’s. Just:-

Sunglasses. A spade. A compressor. And a tow strap.

The Forester X Lineartronic is now suitably packed and it’s time to go. Crisp blue sky and an azure sea remind me just how pretty the drive between George and Mossel Bay is.  With the vistas behind, it isn’t long before the Vleesbaai sign indicates a left turn. And shortly thereafter I’m signing my Indemnity Form in Riekies office.

Riekie owns and runs 4×4 Dune Routes. A beautiful farm outside Mossel Bay offering a beach and dune driving experience. Set on the outskirts of Vleesbaai, on the road to Fraansmanshoek, here is one of the few remaining places in South Africa that you can legally experience driving on beach sand. Not a free for all though. There are tracks one needs to follow and rules to adhere to. But none of this is really problematic.

Last night’s rain has firmed up the sand, but tyres are still deflated down to 100kpa. Firmer does not mean firm! Luckily Riekie has a compressor on hand so re-inflation at the end of the trip is easy. But now we’re off.

Some tight turns along narrow paths and then the scenery opens up around us. Hard to describe but if you’re a nature lover, it will take your breath away. On one side, large expanses of sand, scattered with plant life while on the other miles (kilometres?) of beach stretch off into the distance. Almost surreal. Wish I could paint…

A slight wiggle from the car reminds me that this isn’t a tarred road. The churned up sand provides a further hint. Sharp right hand turn here up a steepish climb. With a large dip halfway up, hollowed out by many large tyres seeking that elusive traction. I’m not stressed though. X-mode will help me through. Bit of gas and up we…..stop! What! Vehicle bogs down and progress is halted. Reverse and try again. Same thing!

Luckily I have a kindly spectator who approaches with sage advice “Turn the Traction Control” off. Thanks Martin! Rookie mistake leads to a large serving of humble pie. The traction system is designed to keep the car stable on the road and to balance driver exuberance by selective application of the brakes while simultaneously reducing the power going to the wheels to avoid spinning. Great on tar and on slippery surfaces but hugely counter-productive in the soft sand. Here, power is needed despite the slightly spinning wheels. A quick push of the button and off we go. The vehicle crests without further ado and we’re off again.

All sense of comfort is soon dispelled though as around yet another bend, we reach a climb which sees the Landcruiser ahead needing a roll back and momentum to conquer. Forewarned, I don’t even attempt it without a run up. Turn, reverse (reversing camera allows accurate placement) make sure that Traction Control is still off and away we go. WOW! The Forester climbs up without hesitation. Full confidence restored. Highlights the importance of listening to the experts though.

The rest of the drive continues in similar vane. Mostly nice and firm thanks to the previous days’ rain but with some nicely churned tricky stretches to keep you on your toes. We are now driving well above the High Tide mark on the beach and I wish I’d brought a picnic hamper along. The views are just so well suited. No fires allowed though, so I guess cheese and crackers rather than braai and boerie are the order of the day. Alcohol is neither allowed nor recommended – you need your wits about you, even more so when the sand is dry and soft.

The final long dune climb looms ahead. Again, sage advice (keep left in this instance) sees the Forester crest without any drama. Way below a matchbox sized Toyota indicates how high we’ve really climbed.

Great day, thank you Riekie. Tyres re-inflated and its off home…but not just yet.

Fransmanshoek is a local fishing spot of spectacular beauty. Just a few kilometres away. So a right turn instead of left and in no time, more breathtaking scenery. The rocks are slowly losing the fight against the relentless waves but the ragged crags indicate that the battle is hard fought. But it’s getting on and the return leg beckons.

A quick stop in Boggomsbaai – maybe a whale’s come to see me  – and it’s back to George. What a great day. What a great trip!

Rent a Subaru 4×4 – Explore the Garden Route.

Footnote:- For assistance with trips off the beaten track, e-mail george.yannakopoulos@gmail.com