BRIDGET HILTON BARBER‘s favourite Limpopo road trips
America may be famed for its iconic Route 66, but Limpopo’s lonesome lanes snake through ancient bushveld, a baobab forest and sexy mountain passes. In Limpopo it’s pretty much up to you to determine the route, pace, mood and moment.
And whether you hit the trail in your auntie’s old Mazda 323 or in the latest SUV with a built-in GPS, the joy of road-tripping means you can take scenic routes and stay over on a whim.
It’s not the destination, remember, it’s the journey.
Here are the best road trips in the province:
- The Misty Mountain Trail: The 40km long Magoebaskloof Pass along the R71 from the wacky hamlet of Haenertsburg to Tzaneen. This is one mother of a pass! The road descends from Highveld to Lowveld through dense forests in a series of corkscrew bends – at one stage it drops 600 metres!
- The Get your Kicks Trail: Welcome to the R36! This awesome beauty takes you up the legendary Abel Erasmus Pass and through the Strijdom tunnel. Yeehaa! Ascend over 800m towards the tunnels and emerge from the cool reptilian darkness into views 1000m above the Olifants River valley. Dramatic? Hell yeah!
- The Waterberg Wander: The R33 from Bela-Bela to Vaalwater is a haunting and evocative drive through the heart of the Waterberg. Former stomping ground of vast herds of springbok; and Eugene Marais, author of Soul of the Ape. Excellent at sunset.
- The Venda Bender: From the N1 before Louis Trichardt, turn right onto the R578 to Elim. This route takes you through the heart of ancient Venda. Stop and visit sacred Lake Fundudzi, place of birth and creation, and the holy forest of Thatho Vonde, home to Venda’s ancestral spirits and royal burial sites. Rolling green hills, good voodoo.
- The Biltong Run: Stock up at the best little butcher shop in Alldays – and barrel out towards Pontdrift. If you’re after sweet bushveld solitude, this is your road. Pontdrift is the border between South Africa and Botswana. Depending on the river level, you cross the mighty Limpopo in your car. Very African.
- The Bandelierskop Boogie: Few people know about this little scenic gem. Take the R36 (yes, the R36) and travel from Modjadjiskloof to Bandelier kop, via Mooketsi and Morebeng (used to be Soekmekaar) Takes you through mountains and farmlands, and ends up meeting the N1 near the Tropic of Capricorn, which is commemorated by a giant spray-painted stone.
- The Valley of the Olifants Route: Take the R40 from Phal-Phala (Phalaborwa) to Mica, through the scenic heart of the region they call the Valley of the Olifants. Great beauty, wild atmosphere. You pass through the famous Selati, Klaserie and Balule wilderness areas. Check out the surreal granite outcrops and road signs saying Beware Elephant Crossing.
Don’t leave home without:
- Water and a map. Remember men don’t like asking for directions and women don’t like getting lost. And don’t forget that long and winding road to the Far North used to go Warmbaths, Nylstroom, Naboomspruit, Potgietersrus and Pietersburg, to Tzaneen. Today the same road heads through the Bela-Bela, Modimolle, Mookgopong, Mokopane and Polokwane.
- Padkos. An essential part of any Great South African Road Trip. Biltong, sandwiches, fruit, chips – pack it all into a picnic basket with cups & glasses. And a decent cooler box, with those blue thingies that keep cool drinks cool. And tequila, for later.
- Your granny never travelled without one. And these days you can get amazing designer thermos flasks that keep coffee hot all the way from Modimolle to Mookgopong and way beyond.
- Sunglasses. A sexy pair of sunglasses is a must.
Check out www.roadsideamerica.com. The site is an American state-by-state guide to weird, wonderful and kitsch roadside installations. Most inspiring!