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The Road Unknown, The Road To Hell (NORTHERN CAPE)...

Updated: May 15, 2020

What started as a nice adventure turned into somewhat of a rescue mission. We headed for the Namakwa Eco Route for the Easter Weekend, all geared up and ready for action. Our whole route planned, and a few tweaks made as we went along.

We started our journey in Kakamas, headed to Riemvasmaak, and from there we went to Pella to start the route. Our whole route set out, loaded on to the GPS and we are off, The first time for me driving the route but my fathers second time.

We go through Pella and follow the GPS, my first encounter of what is to follow. A low water bridge, with no last known maintenance and the need to put the Prado into low range. All good and fun, that is why i am here after all.

The next few km's are smooth sailing, going over Charles' Pass with a few sharp rocks and up and downs, but nothing to get excited about. On we drove on our adventure, stopping where we must and seeing the beautiful landscapes. For some reason, we missed our overnight stop at Groot Melkboom, onward we went to Kamgab camp site. A site to be seen, the road down to the campsite is in the river run and i would say certain sections are up to a grade 3. It is a mixture of loose sand, water and big boulder outcrops that need to be crossed.

Below is a few sections, took from a GoPro video.

This camp site was probably the most remote one i have camped on to date, making it the most fun and most unique. The view we had of the stars and the night sky was extraordinary. Below is a image of the fire burning, and the moon rising.

One evening spent at the Kamgab camp, and off we went. Driving the route and seeing the sites. As we have missed Groot Melkhout as we were driving i told my father, we are not far from The Road To Hell lets try the route out. He was in for the adventure as always, and we headed in that direction.

As the whole of that area in the Northern Cape is, so was the road to to the start of The Road To Hell, rocky and bumpy and us thinking we are already on the route. We got to a section where my father said he has to unhook the trailer, as he is scared he wont be able to continue further then this point, it was a wise decision as we learnt later. Driving through the landscape and at last getting to the start of The Road To Hell route. The main section of the route is only 4km long but your descent is steep and when you head back its a steep ascend.

The road less traveled, the first 100m down the route with a spectacular view of the valley. The way down was easy, as is most trails if you go down. A few bumps and scratches along the way through the rocky sections, and then you are in the river run that is a sandy track with a lot of turns. The sandy sections making up for all the slow driving and bumps down. Then you get to the spectacular view of the Orange River, seeing that makes the whole trip worth it. As this certain area is not seen by a lot of travelers.

The view from where we stopped, a pity we did not have all of our supplies and tents with us as this would have made a spectacular spot to spend the evening. Done admiring the beauty we head back on the route ready to tackle the ascend back to the top.

Through the river beds we go and everything is running smoothly, we get to the start of the 4km trek of rocky section. The first few km's go well, the steeper it gets the more we stop, checking our driving lines and packing stones where needed. At last it feels like we are close to the end, the terrain gets more difficult even tough we came down. Funny how things change when your vehicle is pointing in the opposite direction.

We get to a standstill, a rocky section where i am struggling with the Prado. My father and step brother helps to guide me, helping to pack rocks to get better clearance. I catch a bit off speed, hop hop rear right wheel in the air and still not over. Reversing back i hear a clunking sound from the rear, stop go forwards again and clunk clunk it goes. Stop get out and look for any visible damage, nothing to be seen. There is a small section where ,y dad reverses in to, i reverse past him clunking noise still being heard. We decided no more moving around for the Prado. Parked the Prado on the trail, no one can pass and luckily for us there was no one else driving there that day.

Now we start pondering and investigating, we decide the only thing it can be is the rear diff. Right here we go and start loading all necessities from my Prado to my Fathers 76 Cruiser. Done and dusted, secure all front wheels of the Prado, jack it up and support it with the biggest rocks we could find. Start stripping the prop shaft, rear wheel assemblies, rear diff cover and finally we saw the problem. Crown wheel stripped teeth, alright here we go again bull the side shafts loosen the Diff and pull the entire assembly out completely. Load it up and off we go, the 76 loaded up all 3 diff-locks locked climbing up slowly to the top.

When we reached the top, my father wrote a note put it in a bottle and we packed rocks to close the route. Anyone who wanted to go down would see the note and realize not to attempt it as there was a vehicle standing, broken down. We finished our camping, still enjoyed the landscape for the next day and packed up heading home. When we got home, the search started how to repair the diff, where to find parts and who can do it. As usual the dealers were expensive, no parts in stock, and the diff had to be shimmed and spaced. My father said i must phone N1 4x4 in Johannesburg and listen if they maybe do not have a complete assembly. Phoned them, they got back to me and yes they had one.

Picture of the stripped crown wheel.

I got everything to them they needed, my father organized the courier and they let us knew that the part was picked up and on the way. We will have the part by Friday at around 12h00, then we can leave that day still and fix everything up. Friday came and no diff arrived, new time Saturday morning. The diff at last arrived Saturday, we drove through to my fathers house and packed everything we needed to carry out the repairs. High Spirits we were on our way, getting there around 6 Hours later and setting up camp for the night. The next morning we got up early, walked down with all the spares just as we could not reverse down the trail. All the parts down, busy repairing and everything is going smooth. We repaired the Prado and then the sports began again, packing rocks and stone to make it easier. A few hours after going down with all the spares, we made it to the top continuing with the adventure we left here.

The Road To Hell trail is not for everyone, i learnt how tough it is and i will do it again. It is that short type of i want to kill your vehicle trail, handle it with care and know your vehicle for the best result. At that time i was also running AT tires, and have since moved on to MT tires which i am sure will handle the trail better. It was worth it as the adventure turned into another adventure. As for with who i do it, as long as i can still do my adventures with my father i will keep on travelling.

You only live once, live life to the fullest.

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