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Buffalo Gorge 4x4 Trail

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39km from Middelburg MP

-25.5142, 29.5668

18km, 4hrs, Grade 2-3

+27 13 245 1049, +27 83 528 9586 www.buffalogorge.co.za

Configuration: A circular route with a 4x2/soft-roader option and the possibility to head back home halfway.

Terrain: River crossings, dongas, rocky ascents and descents, muddy sections and grassy slopes.

This is a self-drive trail; no guiding is needed. 4x4 training can be organised on site. You can drive here throughout the year, but the rainy season will increase the route's difficulty grading. A tented camp, boma and campsite are available for accommodation at Buffalo Gorge. There is another, shorter obstacle course at Buffalo Gorge. A host of activities is possible. You can choose between mountain or quad biking, hiking, birdwatching, abseiling, rock climbing and horse riding.

About

Though Buffalo Gorge is in Mpumalanga it is only a short drive from Pretoria; north of Middelburg on the road to the Loskop Dam. The routes here will take you through grasslands, wetlands, bushveld and riverine forests. They cut through dense indigenous forest past interesting rock formations, crossing several streams and into deep dongas. On the way you could see kudu, klipspringer, duiker, warthog and baboon, but this is not a nature reserve so they won't be standing on the trail.

The trail starts off quite easily, making its way to the top of the escarpment where you will drive through open grasslands and along the edge of some cliffs offering stunning views over the adjacent Avontuur Valley. Don't miss the lunch picnic spot where you can braai and enjoy the views or chase your heart rate up a notch by abseiling down a 50m cliff. You can also step out onto Ryk's Klip for a nervous photo session.

After the break you can opt for the 4x4 section or one of the other shorter, easier options. You will have a chance to test your rock crawling skills over a rock bank and sit tight down a steep and narrow eroded descent. You’ll then return to the campsite past a deep donga and a dam - both must-stop spots for eager birdwatchers.

The Buffalo Gorge trail is quite mild, so if you want to play around some more and test your skills, you should head out onto the obstacle course. Although it’s a short route, the interest factor is relatively high - the route traverses the Bobbejaanloop River 16 times.

Some of the crossings are only rated 2 and could be done by a 4x2 bakkie, but some of them get serious, crossing over rocks, boulders and up slippery banks with grading going as high as 5. Complete trust in your co-pilot over the log bridge and up some sections will be necessary.

A rustic bush camp offers tented accommodation in a 14-person tent, four spacious 6-person tents and 14 four-person dome tents (mattresses supplied). There are also 20 grassed stands for own tents or caravans. There are flushing toilets and hot water showers, as long as you keep the “donkey” going, and a bamboo boma with electricity.

This is a true eco-adventure destination and it would be pity not to participate in some of the other activities. Three beautiful hiking trails, mountain biking trails, quad bikes and several horse riding outings can be tackled. The adrenalin junkies can head for the abseiling and rock climbing sites.

Buffalo Gorge is 36km north of Middelburg. Follow the N11 towards Groblersdal for about 20km before turning right onto the Elandshoogte road. Travel for 8km turning right at the Buffalo Ranch sign. Turn left after only 50m at the next Buffalo Ranch sign. After another 2km turn left again at the next sign.

Heartland & Highlands

Mpumalanga

About

The Highlands region of Mpumalanga is sometimes called ‘Trouteng’, because it’s the preferred fly-fishing haunt of Gauteng weekenders. It’s also referred to as ‘The Edge’, because of the sense of sky and space that takes over when you reach this particularly dramatic edge of the Mpumalanga escarpment.

This is fishing, hiking, climbing, strolling and romancing country. It’s famed for its lakes and dams and mountain scenery; for its cold winters, roaring fires and fishing stories.

The Highlands region is also now called the Emakhazeni region and it includes the towns of Emakhazeni/Belfast, Enthokozweni/Machadodorp, Emgwenya/Waterval Boven and Emnotweni/Dullstroom. Emnotweni/Dullstroom is the most well-known of the Highlands towns. A popular weekend destination, it has convivial country hotels, holiday homes, dams and great trout fishing.

The Elands River Gorge near the historic town of Emgwenya/Waterval Boven is recognised as one of the top 10 climbing destinations in the world. Emgwenya/Waterval Boven is a small and charming town with many historic buildings and monuments. These include such as the Old Tunnel and Five Arch Bridge, as well as President Paul Kruger’s official residence where he lived in 1900 before going into exile in Europe.

At the base of the escarpment is Emgwenya/Waterval Boven’s baby sister, Waterval Onder, a small village on the banks of the Elands River below a dramatic 228m-high waterfall.

The town of Emakhazeni/Belfast is one of the coldest places in South Africa, but it has a warm heart and its friendly people have made it a popular weekend spot. Belfast is an established cattle, dairy and sheep farming district. Its cold rivers, streams and well-stocked dams provide excellent fishing. Enthokozweni/Machadodorp is a small town through which the Elands River runs. Also a popular weekend destination for Gautengers, Enthokozweni/Machadodorp has natural springs that are said to have healing properties. 

Mashishing/Lydenberg, perched at the top of the Long Tom Pass that leads down to the town of Sabie, is famed for its fishing opportunities, friendly people and glorious escarpment views.

While the Highlands region offers a wealth of weekend pleasures and outdoor adventures, the Heartlands region is more developed and industrialised.

This region includes the towns of Middleberg and Emalahleni/Witbank. It is best known for the cultural produce of the local Ndebele people, whose beadwork and geometric art have been exhibited and sold worldwide. There are some interesting community-based tourism projects here.

Curious travellers can visit villages like Kwaggafontein, Matibidi, Waterval and Twoline for a glimpse into rural South African life.

Look out for

Emnotweni/Dullstroom - South Africa's fly-fishing mecca and a much-loved weekend spot. Emnotweni/Dullstroom is a charming spot with beautiful buildings, excellent country hotels and restaurants, and great arts & crafts. It is also home to some of our subcontinent's rarest birds and Africa's only breeding community of wild black leopard. They hunt in the wild mountain ravines typical of the Highlands habitat. At Velorenvlei Nature Reserve on the outskirts of town, you can the fascinating Crane Breeding Project. It’s an unusual breeding programme for South Africa’s national bird, in which chicks are raised by a human mother in a crane outfit.

Fishing - Fishing is by far the most popular outdoor pursuit in the Highlands region. The best spots are in and around Emakhazeni/Belfast, Enthokozweni/Machadodorp, Emgwenya/Waterval Boven, Emnotweni/Dullstroom and Mashishing/Lydenberg. Most lodges and hotels have fishing gear and are all too happy to assist beginners and pros alike.

Emgwenya/Waterval Boven & Waterval Onder - These two historic towns offer travellers a choice of adventure – ranging from gentle train rides through historic spots to serious adrenalin-pumping outdoor action. You can hurtle yourself into thin air from aeroplanes, bridges or cliffs, go gorge swinging or ride a zip line. The cliffs and crags here are considered by climbers to be amongst the world’s top 10 destinations.

Botshabelo Cultural Village - Step back in time to a Victorian village with a museum complex, parsonage and church, and an authentic Ndebele village. This village has an open-air museum which aims to showcase and preserve Ndebele culture. The Ndebele are known for their colourfully painted huts, bright clothes and amazing artwork (especially beadwork). The Botshabelo Cultural Village is also home to a strong population of Lanatus cycads, which are endemic to the region and create an amazing spectacle when they flower.

The Lily Festival, Roossenekal village - Ten out of ten on the scenery scale, this village-style festival of fun, food and funk celebrates the incredible mass displays of local yellow arum lilies in spring.

Music, food & wine - The highlands area is home to some wonderful festivals, like Baroque in the Bush. This classical music festival is held under the stars in the Kruger National Park. It’s a celebrated event for wildlife lovers who love music and vice versa. The Dullstroom Arts Festival is a quaint highland village festival held in December. It showcases artists, sculptors and musicians, and features fine wining and dining. In March there’s the Tonteldoos Country Festival, near Emakhazeni/Belfast. This is a charming country lifestyle experience featuring wine, organic fare, arts and antiques.

Nature & the great outdoors - The Highlands region is criss-crossed by a series of hiking and walking trails, ranging from easy rambles to seriously tough scrambles. The region is also one of the country’s most popular mountain biking destinations. The Mankele Mountain Bike Park is one of the region’s most popular spots. Enthusiasts also flock to the annual Big Induna mountain bike race - a 75km-long ride through rolling mountains, thick forests, along dirt tracks and grassy trails. It involves a total of 1 820 metres of climbing.

Romancing - With its pretty landscape, moody mountains and convivial country hotels, the Highlands region has long been considered an excellent spot for romantic weekenders. Think misty mornings, roaring fires, gentle strolls and lazy decadent dinners. The region is peppered with chapels and churches and wedding venues, and many a honeymoon has been enjoyed in these hills.

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