Responsible 4-wheeling is about finesse. Other features and driving techniques assist in the overall safety of your off-road outing, but finesse is the first and most important portion of your driving repertoire to acquire.
[Credit: Arrive Alive]
- It’s important always to drive within your ability. There are times when in soft sand speed needs to be moderate and flotation through mud and snow needs to be kept up, hence “within your ability.” Usually taking your time on the trail will allow you to pick a smooth path and allow you time to react to the varieties of terrain you can encounter like moving rocks and logs under the tyres. If you have a ground clearance deficiency, going slowly helps here in that, if you do hit a rock with the differential or another rock grabber, it will usually stop the vehicle on impact or you will lightly scrape over it. If you were going too fast and hit a rock or other obstacle, it could knock a hole in the oil pan, differential, or even knock off the oil filter.
- Avoid surprises by surveying the road ahead before you encounter it. Make sure the trail goes beyond the obstacle, doesn't become a bottomless quagmire, has no backside to the hill (cliff?) or just ends. You can get a good idea where to place your tyres and the differentials to have a plan of approach. Follow through to beyond the obstacle.
- Driving diagonally = Rollover. Always drive straight down hills or steep terrain. Know your approach and departure angles, the bumper to tyre distance. Some trails will require off-camber driving. In situations like this, it’s best to go slow, keeping the tyres on the tracks. Make every attempt to avoid losing attention and ascending up a rock or stump on the upside of the hill. 4x4's will tend to slide sideways before rolling over – the tyres will slip sideways a little. Stop if the slide puts you off the edge of the track. If it is clear downhill and a rollover is imminent, immediately turn the vehicle into the slide and drive it down. If that is not an option, and you are going over, turn the vehicle off and hold on to your seat-bottom while hoping that the seat belt works properly.
- Reducing tyre pressure will increase traction on gravel and sand. For most 4-wheeling purposes, a tyre pressure of 1 to 1.4 bar will be adequate. Highway pressure is another consideration altogether. The tyre is marked on the side. Depending on the weight of the loaded vehicle and the size of tyre, a tyre pressure of between 2 and 2.4 bar works in most on-highway applications. Never overlook the importance of reading the manufacturer’s label. The air pressure difference between the front and rear is due to the tyre and auto manufacturers’ experimentation for over/understeer and load variances.
Focus on Ladybrand
Part of our effort in boosting tourism to some of South Africa's smaller towns is via this newsletter and our social media platforms. This week we take a closer look at Ladybrand. The pretty town of Ladybrand, sometimes spoken of as a sleepy border town, is surrounded by the undulating hills of the eastern Free State, almost midway between the towns of Hobhouse and Ficksburg; virtually on the edge of the border with Lesotho.
Ladybrand also lies in the Caledon Valley, believed to have been man's stomping ground for tens of thousands of years, where the likes of Rose Cottage Cave, a Middle Paleolithic cave on the Platberg, roughly 3 kilometres east of Ladybrand, dates back more than 50 000 years.
This area is also one of the world's prime rock art regions, where the 'first people' of this country, the San, left thousands of paintings on rock about their lives - an inspiration to artists today. Over 300 sites occur in and around Ladybrand and Tandjiesberg is one of 12 rock art national heritage sites in South Africa.
Ladybrand lies on the Maloti Drakensberg Route, a route that straddles the borders of South Africa and Lesotho including parts of the Eastern Cape, Eastern Free State and the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg. It passes through the towns of Ladybrand, Hobhouse, Wepener, Vanstadensrus and Zastron, and the route features the beautiful Maluti Mountains and a series of mountain passes. It includes highlights such as sleeping in a mud hut, the Basotho Cultural Village, scenery beyond description, the Eye of Zastron and camping at Egmont Dam.
It's located just 18 km from Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. Founded in 1867 following the Basotho Wars, it was named after Lady (Catharina) Brand, the wife of the president of the Orange Free State, Johannes Brand.
The settlement of Ladybrand was created by Voortrekkers to give them control over the territories conquered and captured after the above-mentioned Basotho war. In 1900, during the Second Anglo-Boer War, Ladybrand came under the control of the British.
Today, it is a cosmopolitan town serving as a trade and business centre on the border of Lesotho as well as being the administrative centre of Mantsopa District Municipality which include the towns of Tweespruit, Excelsior, Thaba Phatswa, and Hobhouse. Many of the inhabitants commute daily to work in Maseru which is 18 km away.
Ladybrand especially is an economically bustling town with high property prices and sometimes being popularly referred to as the ‘real capital’ of Lesotho.
When visiting Ladybrand, stop for a tasty treat at the whimsical Living Life Station Café. Situated at Ladybrand's old Railway siding, Living Life is an authentic farm style restaurant-café where you can enjoy delicious food prepared with the freshest ingredients, plenty of old-school outdoor entertainment for the kids, and quirky hand-crafted Living Life Products that make the perfect mementos or heartfelt gifts. Alternatively, Little Rock Holiday Resort is open to the public at a small fee and is a lovely spot for picnics and swimming.
Some of the attractions found in this area include the fossilized Dinosaur Footprints, Rose Cottage Cave where early man lived for at least 110,000 years, Iron Age settlements, Battle sites including the Lifaqane wars, British/Basotho wars, Boer/Basotho wars and the South African War/Anglo Boer War, the Cave Church at St. Augustine`s, the Grave of Prophetess Mme Mantsopa and the fountain/spring believed to have healing waters.
This area is also home to historical buildings built from sandstone and many are declared National Monuments. Most of these unique sandstone buildings were designed by the famous Sir Herbert Baker who also designed the union buildings in Pretoria.
Pass of the week
Our associate up north, Murray Cubitt, has been hard at work filming passes and we feature one of those today. This is a gravel pass for the purist! With a major altitude gain of 651 vertical meters over 7,2 km, the average gradient is a steep 1:11 - but wait, there's more....... You will be dealing with gradients of 1:6 along certain sections of the pass and if it's raining, prepare yourself for some slippin' n slidin' if you're not in a 4x4. The road traverses the deep valley carved out by the Umkomaas River, which is also known in Zulu as the Mkomazi River.
* * H E L A H E L A P A S S * *
Upgraded passes this week:
Waterfall Hill (KZN) - A short,easy pass in KZN. Murray Cubitt refilmed this one recently.
Silly Questions: "Does pushing the elevator button more than once make it arrive any faster?"