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Moolmanshoek 4x4 Trail

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19km from Rosendal

-28.632, 27.9998

50km, 2-48hrs, Grade 2-5

+27 51 933 2220 www.moolmanshoek.co.za

Configuration: Circular routes in different areas of the reserve.

Terrain: Sandstone, streams, dongas, mud, grassy plains, rock plates.

All the trails on Moolmanshoek are strictly guided. You can drive here any time of the year, but don't come in winter if you're not up to some snow and freezing temperatures. A 4-star lodge offers fully catered accommodation at Moolmanshoek, while self-catering accommodation and camping are available at Langesnek. There are three routes at Moolmanshoek, but also several other 4x4 trails in the region. A host of adventure activities such as abseiling, high ropes, fly-fishing, mountain biking, hiking and horse riding are on offer here.

About

If you consider yourself a 4x4 aficionado and have not yet been to Moolmanshoek, then you should get packing. This private nature reserve guarded by the dramatic sandstone formations of the Witteberg Mountains is set in a beautiful horseshoe valley. Covering an area of 3 300ha it is home to a variety of game like black wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbok, blesbuck, zebra, steenbok, mountain rhebok, eland and gemsbok.

Some of the other common residents are black-backed jackal, caracal, porcupine, mongoose and meerkats. There are more than 230 bird species, including black eagle, jackal buzzard, bald ibis, grey heron, red-billed woodhoopoe, rameron pigeon and eagle owl. There are also 300 horses.

The four trails at Moolmanshoek will allow you to experience sandstone splendour at its best. A minimum of three vehicles and a maximum of 15 are allowed on the trails at once. Although day visits can be arranged, they are not encouraged. Frankly, it would be a shame to rush this visit.

Visierskerf is the longest trail at 32km and should keep you driving for up to 8 hours. The track starts easily enough over grassy plains before it passes under the Witteberg sandstone overhang and heads up into the mountains. Things get interesting as you start battling your way over sandstone plates and attacking crazily angled rocky ascents. Jaw-dropping views are worth the sweat over tricky streams to reach them. Once on top of the plateau you can relax a bit before hitting the descent and new adrenalin highs.

Langesnek is also a real beauty at 10km in length. It will take 2-3 hours to drive. The trail starts out over the wetlands and some rock plates before tackling a steep and rough climb up the plateau over sandstone plates and grass ledges. Some heart-stopping moments will once again be compensated for by panoramic views. Drivers will have ample opportunity in this near lunar landscape to pit their skills against the solid rock before attempting the near-vertical descent back to flatter lands.

The third trail, Kiepersol Garden, is 8km long and also takes 2-3 hours. An easy track through the grassland traverses some rock plates before reaching a short, steep and rough climb to a lookout point over the Kiepersol Garden. The trail winds through streams and dongas, past lovely old trees and an impressive cave.

The Moolmanshoek Lodge offers outstanding 4-star, fully-catered accommodation in 20 rooms. Self-catering accommodation is available at the Langesnek Leadership Centre only 2km from Moolmanshoek. Camping can also be arranged at Langesnek. Moolmanshoek is renowned for its hiking trails and horses, but also offer a host of other adventure activities such as abseiling, high ropes, mountain biking or fly-fishing. The Meerkat Experience is also a must do.

Moolmanshoek is situated between Rosendal and Fickburg. Follow the R70 from Rosendal to Ficksburg. Exactly 10km past Rosendal, turn left onto the S384 gravel road at the Moolmanshoek sign. Continue for another 7.5km until you see the Moolmanshoek sign and entrance gate on your left.

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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