By PG Jonker

[Published in Leisure Wheels, March 2011]

One Saturday morning four families (including us) met at the Huguenot museum in Franschhoek, en route to Stettyn, via Villiersdorp, for a bit of 4 x4 and a sleep-over in nature, while putting our vehicles to the test at the same time.


From Franschhoek we travelled in convoy on the twisty road to Villiersdorp. The Stettyn 4×4 trail is located on the farm Stettyn between Villiersdorp and Worcester, at the foot of the Stettyn mountain range. The trail provides some nice challenges, we were told, and the views and terrain are magnificent, with a variety of fynbos and proteas.

Arriving at Stettyn, we found our way by following the directions to a nearby silo, which served as the admin building.

Inside the silo we signed ourselves in, unassisted.

On the walls inside the silo there are aerial pictures of the 4×4 route. They show the 12 hairpin bends you will encounter on your way up a climb that will take you 1300m above sea level.

Up, up and away

After a good brunch we deflated our tyres, and off we went.

It is a steep climb, and we travelled mostly in low range, second gear.

After an hour my bakkie’s temperature gauge started climbing too. We stopped a few times, but none of these stops made much of a difference to my bakkie’s temperature. The route is such that you cannot simply pull off and let the others pass. If you stop, no-one behind you can go anywhere!

So I kept going with the grumbling of the big six 3.4 litres in my ears, and the temperature steadily climbing (mine too). 


I later switched the air-conditioning on, as this should activate the electric fan. However, after a short while I noticed matters were getting worse, so I switched the air-con off again. Eventually the temperature gauge got to the red line, when suddenly the temperature started dropping dramatically down to normal. I’m not sure whether it was because we entered the shadow of the mountain, or whether the viscous fan actually kicked in. If it was the latter, then it means that the viscous fan only kicks in once the needles starts nudging the upper limits of the temperature gauge.

I later found out that my electric fan had actually been burnt out and did not come on when I switched on the air-con. Which explains the rapid deterioration in temperature once I put the aircon on, instead of improving matters! I had to have this fan replaced afterwards, but I asked the auto electrician to add a toggle switch so that I could activate the electric fan without switching on the air conditioner. I’ve needed this device only once since, fortunately. That was in Chobe a few years later when I kept my bakkie running all the time because I was not sure how quickly an elephant could cover 50m! I also had the viscous fan replaced after the mechanic had the bakkie idling for a long time without any hint of the fan kicking in. So I’m still not sure whether it might actually have been working on the Stettyn trip, but only kicked in once the gauge reached the red line.

These days I’m not taking any chances. If that gauge just looks like its going up, I switch on my electric fan, simply because I have it.

Beating the bends

But back to the driving. Low range seems essential on this route. Steep inclines and rocky areas sometimes cause wheel spin that requires a diff lock to retain traction. At two of the hairpin bends the vehicles couldn’t turn, as there was not sufficient space, so we needed to do the bit that followed in reverse. At this spot, the Isuzu was coming up the incline, with the Toyota moving away from the camera – quite a classic scene, but you needed to be there to appreciate it.

The scenery was magnificent. The Brandvlei Dam could be seen in the background for kilometre upon kilometre.

Judging from the time display on my pictures, it seems that it took us some three hours (with stops) to reach the camping site 9km from the starting point. We eventually reached a point where we were able to look down at the campsite.

We made ourselves at home and enjoyed the facilities.

From the map in the silo office, we knew there was another campsite a further 3km away from where you can climb to the top and see Table Mountain in the distance. A rock cabin has been built there. However, we only went as far as the first campsite.

The camp site offered running water – from a tap and hosepipe, that is, apart from the stream running past the camp site.

A roofed area with cement floor and a low wall of about a meter high offered good shelter to kuier, with braai facilities. Proper ablution with donkey heated water also enhanced the experience to a very civilised level.

Stettyn is abundant with lovely varieties of fynbos. We didn’t see any animals, but were told that there are duikers and klipspringers and other antelope around. Leopards too, apparently, but we were not actively looking for one.

A game of touch rugby was set up with the ‘elderlies’ against the teenagers. It should be mentioned that the game was lost by the teenagers (rather than won by the ‘elderlies’), in spite of one of the ‘elderlies’ having been on his way to have a second hip replacement done!

By late afternoon the clouds had gathered around us, and by evening we found ourselves inside a cloud, leaving everything foggy and wet. Although it was not raining, everything got soaked.

This, of course, could not deter us from having the custumory braai the evening.

I was becoming slightly concerned about the weather. We left next morning in a thick mist (or was it a cloud?). For the first part of the return trip, visibility was severely restricted by the fog.

Whereas it had been very hot the previous day, it was now rather chilly, and in the conditions there was not much reason to stop.

The trip down, therefore, went somewhat quicker than the climb, but once again there were those hairpins.

Down at the registration point we inflated our tyres again and headed home — into a fierce storm in Cape Town that left many houses flooded.

With the rain and hail coming down in buckets, we received a concerned call from the owner of Stettyn to enquire whether we were still on the mountain, and whether we needed to be rescued. Fortunately we were safely back on tarred roads by then!


The Stettyn Disa 4×4 route is situated on the farm Stettyn, about 15km’s to the North (roughly) of Villiersdorp, and about 90 minutes’ travel from Cape Town. However, upon recent enquiries it turned out that the route has been closed.


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