4x4 Roads At Bakkrans Reserve - February 2010

 
Dear Reader,

“Cederberg Accommodate” is our Red Cederberg monthly newsletter, which now also appears on our website. 

We cover a variety of topics ranging from Cederberg people, to conservation issues, research projects, community initiatives, Cederberg accommodation, events & happenings, and much more.  Our letters are always written in the same way as we speak and not from a scientific base, but rather as a reflection of how we daily observe nature and events around us.

We get lots of comments about our roads at Bakkrans. So, in this edition we tell you about our approach and methods for maintaining our 4x4 roads in the reserve.

A bit of our road history

For many years in the past all the roads leading to Bakkrans, as well as some roads inside the reserve, were graded with mechanical graders. To maintain the surfaces of these roads, great holes were sometimes bulldozed into areas with suitable gravel, never to be rehabilitated again. At best, this was a very destructive way of dealing with a sensitive environment. But, this was the way it was done everywhere and an acceptable practice all-round. During times of flash floods from summer thunderstorms, these roads often acted as great water runways, resulting in much destruction to the roads and the surrounding veld. 

One of the first things we did when we acquired Bakkrans about 12 years ago, was to determine if we could rehabilitate some of these roads, close some of them entirely, and introduce more appropriate road linkages in certain areas. Fortunately, at that time, the roads had not been graded for many years and in most places they had taken on a two-wheel track semblance. We ended up closing large tracts of roads permanently.   

How we built and now maintain our roads

The new road linkages we introduced had to be sensitive environmentally and have as light a footprint as is possible. For this, we set the following guidelines for ourselves:

  • The roads had to be handmade, using only hand tools, such as wheelbarrows, spades, picks and crowbars. By using manual labour and hand tools, we also created local jobs within the Cederberg community.
  • The roads had to be nothing more than two wheel tracks, with only the tracks cleared. As little as possible vegetation had to be removed along the sides and from the middelmannetjie (central ridge), i.e. you had to “drive” the road into being a road.
  • The roads had to follow the natural contours of the mountainsides, i.e. steep shortcuts had to be avoided.
  • The roads had to be much less prone to flood water damage and had to be easier and less expensive to maintain.

I think it is safe to say that we were able to achieve most of our objectives. After one year, all the roads looked in most parts as if they had been there for many years, with only the narrow tracks visible. Now, after a few years our roads have such abundant growth that one sometimes finds it difficult to drive over the spring flowers growing on the middelmannetjie. 

Some startling stats

Many landowners maintain their roads by using a grader or dragging a heavy iron bar behind the tractor. They, therefore, clear the vegetation on the middelmannetjie entirely, as well as at least a ½ meter on either side of the road. This works out that for every meter of road length, they remove at least 1 square meter of vegetation.

If we had graded our 4x4 roads at Bakkrans, we would have removed the equivalent of more than 7ha of vegetation this way. Yes, 7 hectares! This is astonishing. Put another way, we can also say that we saved 7 ha of sensitive Succulent Karoo vegetation by only having roads with two wheel tracks.

If more landowners who grade their roads made this calculation, they would be astounded. Surely, they should have a rethink about their methods of maintaining their roads.

Our wonderful 4x4 visitors

Most of our visitors drive 4x4 vehicles and we make a point of explaining to them our preferred method of driving. We always drive our roads in permanent 4x4, with diff-lock engaged, thereby ensuring that we do not churn our roads. One also saves fuel and your tyres this way.    

We have never had any visitors who have abused our roads, which is absolutely wonderful. Amazingly, we have had 4x4 visitors who would grab their spades off their vehicles to do some road maintenance when they had spotted places that needed  fixing.

But our roads are not just for vehicles. They now serve as natural footpaths and corridors for many different animals. Also, our visitors love riding their mountain bikes on these natural roads. But what we find to be the biggest compliment of all, is that many of our visitors spontaneously use our roads as hiking trails.

Greetings from the Red Cederberg.
Johan van der Westhuizen.

“Cederberg accommodation where you don’t have to share your facilities, privacy or space
 with any other tourists!”

 

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At our Red Cederberg accommodation destinations you don’t share your facilities, space or privacy with any other tourists. When you or your group visit any of our tourist destinations, it is allocated to you exclusively, at no additional cost above our normal rental rates.