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Bergwoning 4x4 Trails

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16km from Clarens

-28.5093, 28.5632

6km, 2hrs, Grade 3

+27 82 396 7595 www.bergwoning.co.za

Configuration: This is an out and back trail.

Terrain: Rocks, loose stone, moss-covered boulders, river crossings, mud, sandstone rock obstacles.

The 6km route is self-drive; no guide needed. You can ride here any time of the year, but the challenge will change with the seasons, from possible snow in the winter to treacherous muddy summer tracks. There is self-catering accommodation, camping, a tea garden and a kiddies' farm. There is only one route at Bergwoning, but several other 4x4 trails are in the region. Many other adventure activities are on offer, such as abseiling, quad and mountain biking, hiking and horse riding.

About

Bergwoning Farm is situated in a tranquil valley between the beautiful Maluti Mountains, bordering the Golden Gate National Park. It’s surrounded by characteristic sandstone and basalt formations. If you've enjoyed the majestic mountain scenery of the Eastern Free State once, it will lure you back time and time again.

The scenic 6km trail starts gently enough before a series of steep ascents, descents, river crossings and some tricky rocky sections claim your full attention. Depending on the season this trail can get quite tough. Moss-covered boulders, mud and swollen rivers in the wet summer months make low range vital as the route becomes unpredictable. In dry winter conditions you might get away with a 4x2, but check this with your host before setting off. The trail follows the course of a river to a flattish spot on top of a small hill. From here it is back along the same route, but don't be fooled: the obstacles on this reverse roller coaster present a totally different challenge from this angle. However this really technical section, where diff-lock, momentum and suitable tyres are needed, can be avoided if you are just here for the beautiful views.

Lovely 3-star self-catering accommodation is available with optional B&B if you wish. The Crowther guesthouse is a well designed farmhouse that sleeps 14. Mickey's Finn Cottage is a beautiful cosy little cottage with a breathtaking view over the trout dam and Maluti Mountains - sleeping 2-4.  Stonefly Hut is a sandstone `rondavel’. This is a unique little sleeper for two people that also has a lovely view over the trout dam and mountains. The beautiful, well-appointed, secluded mountainside campsite will take your breath away. There are ablution facilities as well as a camp kitchen, and power points are available (25 persons maximum). A host of adventure activities will keep the whole family busy abseiling, quad biking, hiking, mountain biking or fishing<

From Clarens, take the R712 to the Golden Gate National Park for 15km before turning in at Kiara Lodge. Follow the signs to Bergwoning Guest Farm.

Thabo Mofutsanyana

Free State

About

The northern and eastern sections of the Free State, commonly referred to as the “eastern Free State”, nudge up against the borders of Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Kingdom of Lesotho. Officially the region is called Thabo Mofutsanayana.  Mofutsanyana, born in QwaQwa, was a leading light of both the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party until his death in 1995.

Geographically, this region bucks a trend. While most of the Free State is flat, the eastern reaches tower up as the Drakensberg and the Malotis come into play. The landscape climbs and soars, leaving impressive cliffs and buttresses of sandstone, and hidden caves in its wake.

Nowhere is the scene more striking that at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park near the village of Clarens. The maze of sculptured rock formations here is almost too much to absorb.  Sunset colours the cliffs in shades of ochre, hence the reference to gold in the name of the park.

These higher altitudes, of course, do wonders for the eastern Free State air, which is crisp, clean and bracing, conducive to a feeling of good health.

Clarens is one of the villages that lie in the foothills of the Malotis. With its mountainous surrounds, it is said to be reminiscent of the Swiss village of Clarens, where President Paul Kruger lived out his exile.

A town of sandstone buildings set amidst farmland, it has undergone something of a reincarnation in recent years as an artists’ colony. Just three hours or so from Gauteng’s big cities, weekenders come down to roam its galleries and craft shops.

The principal town in this region is Bethlehem. Once again sandstone buildings are characteristic of the town, which is the centre of a farming community that produces the lion’s share of South Africa’s wheat crop.

It has both built and natural attractions, including a flat-water slalom course for canoeists on the Ash River. Bethlehem is also the location of an annual national hot-air balloon championship.

Also set against an imposing Maloti backdrop is Ficksburg, renowned for its annual Cherry Festival in summer. A gateway to Lesotho and its Katse Dam, the town’s environs offer much in the way of adventure activity, such as 4x4 trails, quad-biking, abseiling, trout-fishing and game-viewing.

Other Thabo Mofutsanyane towns are Arlington, Clocolan, Fouriesburg, Harrismith, Kestell, Lindley, Marquard, Memel, Paul Roux, Petrus Steyn, Phuthaditjhaba, Reitz, Rosendal, Senekal, Vrede and Warden.

Look out for

Golden Gate Highlands National Park – This park is a theatre of natural, towering sandstone formations, named “golden” for their colour at sunset.  At that time of day, the best place to appreciate the beauty is the highest point in the park, Ribbokkop.  The former QwaQwa National Park was incorporated into Golden Gate in 2005.  Horseriding is a popular outdoor pursuit in the park, which is valued for its plant, animal and bird life.  A number of accommodation options are available.

Basotho Cultural Village –  South Sotho architecture, arts and crafts, herbal medicinal remedies and cuisine can be explored at the Basotho Cultural Village near Phuthaditjhaba.  Song and dance folklore shows can also be enjoyed.

The Sentinel – Also near Phuthaditjhaba, it is the access point for a series of trails that lead hikers to the rear of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre and some of the country’s most magnificent scenery.  Geographical features to view are The Sentinel, Devil’s Tooth, the Eastern Buttress and the Tugela Falls.

Discovering cherries, Ficksburg  - The annual Cherry Festival in Ficksburg takes place in November.  It is a three-day event that attracts thousands and entertains with fun activities such as horse- and camel-rides.  Cherry farm tours, however, take place throughout the cherry season, which is in October and November.  Locally made cherry liqueurs, brandies and schnapps should be tasted to complete the experience.

Clarens – A host of things to do and see in Clarens includes the Artist Amble, a route of galleries open to the public; rock art on Schaapplaats Farm; sandstone formations such as Mushroom Rock and Titanic Rock; dinosaur fossils at Sue’s Zoo; fly-fishing as well as bass- and river-fishing; hiking and horse-riding.

Sterkfontein Dam, Harrismith – The third largest dam in South Africa, the Sterkfontein Dam is a popular venue for water sports and angling.  Predating the Lesotho Highlands project, the water that fills the dam is pumped up from KwaZulu-Natal.  It is then released into the Wilge River, from where it flows into the Vaal Dam.    The Sterkfontein Dam’s banks are surrounded by a nature reserve where strange rock formations are just as interesting to view as buck and raptors.  Camping and chalet accommodation is available, as well as hiking trails.

Salpeterkrans – At Fouriesburg you will find Salpeterkrans, one of the largest sandstone overhangs in the southern hemisphere, shaped by wind erosion.  It not surprising that it is considered a sacred site where ancestral worship and fertility rites take place.

Rosendal – like the town of Clarens, Rosendal is known for its arty vibe. There are numerous art galleries in and around town, as well as quaint shops and restaurants. The Meerkatkolonie Art Gallery is a must. Rosendal is a popular weekend getaway destination for those who live in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

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