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Stoney Ridge 4x4 Trail

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20km from Weenen

-28.7665, 29.9579

15km, 10-12hrs, Grade 1-5

+27 36 354 7012, +27 73 697 5108 www.stoneyridge.co.za

Configuration: Six trails of various configurations exist.

Terrain: Steep Slopes, Rock Steps, Sand, Mud, River Crossings and Dongas.

Most of the trails are guided, but some self-drive options exist. This is also a nationally recognised training venue. You can come and drive here any time of the year. Fully catered tented accommodation is on offer while self-caterers can opt for the campsite. There are also conference facilities. There are six trails at Stoney Ridge. Five are 4x4 trails and one trail can be tackled by 4x2s. Swimming, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, birding and archery are only some of the activities on offer here.

About

Stoney Ridge is situated in the diverse KwaZulu-Natal Midlands landscape of thorny veld, rocky mountains and open grasslands. This private game farm teems with a wide variety of game and bird life lies. It’s in the wilderness of the Thukela Biosphere Reserve in the riverine forest on the banks of the beautiful Bloukranz River. There are 4x4 trails of outstanding standard on over 2 400ha of natural unspoiled bush.

This is a big one on your 4x4 calendar as you can drive for up to 200km with no human-made obstacles. All the routes use natural terrain: steep slopes, rock steps, sand and river crossings, dongas and shale slopes. Most of the trails are guided, and your experience at Stoney Ridge will be tailored to your taste, experience, time and vehicle type.

You can also opt for self-driving, though you will miss out on excellent guiding. You'll get a map and GPS points and there are escape routes should you come across a section you'd rather not attempt. If you are just not that comfortable with your GPS or not sure that you are using it to its full potential, this is the place to be. Stoney Ridge offers GPS training that covers route planning, compass navigation, GPS configuration and system faults and errors.

Stoney Ridge is first of all a recognised training venue and offers some of the finest 4x4 driving tuition available in South Africa. Owner John Rich is well known and respected in the industry. There are three levels of standard courses that include lectures and practical training. For the more advanced, a very good advanced driving techniques and a recovery course are musts. Your family can ride along for free if they don't come to the lectures.

A rustic tented camp to which you only have to bring a torch and your towel offers fully catered accommodation. If you’d rather bring your own tent, a lovely grassy and shady camp site offers several stands, showers and flush toilets, but no electricity. Meals can be booked at the Rustic Tented Camp if you wish, but this must be organised in advance. Bring wood, drinking water, mosquito repellent and swimming gear if you plan to swim in the river. And don't forget that you can go hiking, mountain biking, fishing or take up archery while you're not on the 4x4 trails.

The turnoff to Stoney Ridge is about halfway between Colenso and Weenen on the R74. Place your last phone call in one of these towns before heading out, as you will not have any cellphone reception on the way.

Zululand & the Battlefields

KwaZulu Natal

About

It was from the bush and grassland of northern KwaZulu-Natal that the impis of King Shaka emerged, sweeping down onto the other tribes of the hinterland and eventually engaging the British forces and shaking the very roots of the Empire. At the height of its power, the Zulu nation covered 30 000km2, but 60 years after it was first formed, its reign was over. In those 60 years, the Zulus shaped the future of the country and were engaged in battles with the Boers and the British, but these were not the only bloody conflicts in the region. 

After the Zulu empire was broken, the English and the Boers fought for control of South Africa, with many battles taking place in Natal. While the best-known battles in the area are undoubtedly Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, as well as the siege of Ladysmith, there is fascinating history to be had at countless other ones. 

The beauty of the scenery clashes harshly with the devastating past, while the rough terrain makes one wonder how the machines of war were manhandled across the country, and how the Zulu impis managed to cover such vast distances in a single day, barefoot.

The regions of Zululand and the Battlefields merge together and are hard to separate, stretching from the northern and western KwaZulu-Natal borders to the towns of Ladysmith and Colenso in the south and towards the Elephant Coast in the east.

Zululand has managed to remain largely unaffected by industrial expansion and much of it remains farmland, timber plantations and rural wilderness, including beautiful Big-Five game reserves and grasslands. 

On the other hand there is the industrial hub of Richards Bay, the largest port in South Africa.

Tourism revolves around the natural beauty and diversity, as well as the haunting battlefields on which so many lost their lives and which are simply fascinating to visit, especially with a knowledgeable guide, of which there are a few.

Since this is the birthplace of the Zulu nation, it is also the place to come to grips with Zulu tradition, culture and history.

A number of cultural experiences exist, where tourists can become immersed in the local tradition and culture, learning a huge amount and enjoying themselves even more.

A few reserves in the region offer good game-viewing, from Weenen and Spioenkop in the south up to Ithala in the north. The diverse ecosystem means that hundreds of bird species are present, and a few notable bird-watching spots include the Dlinza and Ongoye forests, as well as the wetlands of Richards Bay.

An area as large and diverse will always have an almost endless array of attractions, and Zululand and the Battlefields are no different, from fishing in Richards Bay to horse-riding, mountain-biking, game-viewing and bird-watching. There is even a brewery to lighten the spirits when the history gets a little heavy.

Look out for

Zululand Brewery in Eshowe is a great place to pop in for a relaxing Zulu Blonde Export Ale, a beer that has won awards and rave reviews internationally. While you’re sitting at The Happy George Bar, ask around for recommendations on what’s new to do in the area.

The Dlinza and Ongoye Forests are serious birding hotspots and both are easily accessible. In fact, the Dlinza aerial boardwalk is something that even non-birders will enjoy and appreciate.

Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift are the two seminal battlefields in the Battlefields tour and are both intensely fascinating and moving. A good guide is invaluable in bringing them to life. Ulundi and Blood River are also well worth visiting, giving different insights into the bloodshed that shaped this land.

Take a hike up Majuba or Spioenkop mountains, both of which offer sensational views in addition to stirring battlefield history. The historic O’Neills cottage, where a peace treaty was signed to end the first Anglo-War, lies at the base of Majuba.

The majestic Ithala Game Reserve in the very north of KwaZulu-Natal offers good game-viewing and bird-watching, as well as epic scenery of mountains and valleys. While there is a variety of accommodation, the pick of it is undoubtedly the bush camps that can be booked out for your group.

Every year the Zulu nation holds the Reed Ceremony near the eNyokeni Royal residence in Nongoma north of Melmoth, thousands of maidens gathering to pay their respect to their king. This happens in spring and visitors from all over the world come to watch the women dance and sing to King Goodwill Zwelithini in his ceremonial regalia.

The eMakhosini Ophate Heritage Park should not be missed by anyone with a sense of history. It is the birthplace of the Zulu clan and what is known as the Valley of the Kings. The Spirit of eMakhosini memorial and an educational multimedia centre are worth a visit, and there is also game, including the rare oribi antelope and black rhino.

Immerse yourself in the Zulu culture at a place like Shakaland and watch Zulu dancing, ask a sangoma (witch doctor) for his sage advice, sample traditional Zulu beer, listen to singing and perhaps try out a few simple phrases for yourself. Arts and crafts are also on sale and make wonderful gifts and souvenirs.

When to go

To Do

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