Chapter 11: The Golden Gate

After spending some time on, arguably, the most iconic mountain pass in all of Southern Africa, we headed further north to the Free State as we edged closer to home. Our first destination was a small town roughly East of Sani Pass, close to the National Mandela Capture Site, called Howick, known as the home of many waterfalls.

Arrived, got some supplies and then immediately headed north to the magnificent Drakensberg Amphitheatre. You’d be forgiven for assuming that this was an events venue but it is actually called this because of the geographical features of the Northern Drakensberg mountains.

We travelled to the next closest town called Bergville, situated in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains. We checked in at ATKV Drakensville in Jagersrust, which is a suburb of Bergville. We got there just in time for sunset and managed to see the beautiful amber glow of the sun, as we stood overlooking the Drakensberg. It was a magnificent way to end the day.

Unfortunately, at this time of the year, the view is quite hazy due to all the veld fires that happen because of the heat. This is quite a dry part of the country so we couldn’t really see the mountains very well but it was still a lovely view from that vantage point regardless. The next morning, we headed out through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park into Clarens. The park is nestled in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, bordering the northern side of Lesotho. We settled down in Clarens for the morning because, as it so happens, one of our team members, Peter, happened to know someone who owns a farm in the area called St Fort and we asked to go trout fishing in one of the lakes.

We then decided to go back to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park and drive around a bit to test the Special Edition Karoo Bakkies on more grassy terrain. So far, we’ve driven on tar roads, gravel paths, dunes and rocky mountain ranges, but never on a grassy road so we were delighted when the bakkies proved, once again, that they can take on any challenge. In the morning, we drove out to Clarens again. There is another farm in the area called Old Mill Drift that has an awesome 4×4 trail that runs along the banks of the Caledon River, on the edge of Lesotho. We crossed over into Lesotho about 20 times while we drove the 28.6km long offroad route because there aren’t any physical borders here.

As we drove, we noticed some kids coming out of the mountains from afar who were enthusiastically cheering us on so we stopped and greeted them and ended up playing a bit of soccer and rugby with them. Afterwards, we continued for about 30kms further into the riverbed and swam in the Caledon River. It wasn’t a long swim, however, because the water was extremely cold! But a nice way to wake up and we drove on to our next destination.

We drove up into Bethlehem and ended up staying over in a small farming town called Petrus Steyn (or Mamafubedu, as the locals call it) between Tweeling and Kroonstad. The following day, we went to the Mahindra Bloemfontein dealership. This is the oldest Mahindra dealership in South Africa and was actually the first one that opened when Mahindra launched here in 2004. After the dealer event, we went to Parys where we stayed for the night. We made a nice fire, had a lovely braai and broke out the wine to reminisce about the trip as we anticipated the road back to Joburg.

Join us for the final part of our ongoing blog series as we explore all that Southern Africa has to offer as we Unleash The Explorer in You!


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