THE GARIEP DAM ROUNDABOUT
Here’s a lovely and undulating country drive that is perfectly suited for a day outing if you’re in the vicinity of the Free State's “City of Roses”. From Bloemfontein, head south along the N1 for 190 kilometres until you get to the Gariep Dam turnoff. From here, it is time to switch into cruise-control mode as you wend your way into the ironstone koppies surrounding the dam.
Turn off the N1 at the Bethulie sign and, after crossing the dam wall, continue left along the R58 towards Venterstad (34 kilometres). (If you end up in Venterskroon or Ventersdorp, you are officially lost.) Another 33 kilometres along the R390 will take you to Bethulie, from where the R701 backtracks for 48 kilometres onto the N1.
Along the way
Now here's a real dorp. This back-of-beyond village was made famous by Patrick Mynhardt’s book and stage play “Boy from Bethulie” and most visitors come here to learn more about the town's most famous son.
Stay over and rediscover the sense of tranquillity we so easily lose when living in big cities. Listen to the creak of windmills, lose yourself in a Free State sunset and pig out on good old boerekos. After all, you deserve a break from the urban jungle.
Off the beaten track
Experience the endless vistas of the southern Free State by venturing onto the gravel roads winding through the local farmlands and game reserves. Both Tussen-die-Riviere Game Farm and the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve offer day-drive options, with large herds of plains game roaming the grassland.
Out of the car
Here's a hot tip: bring your mountain bike! This is a true mountain-biking paradise, with nearly 100 kilometres of jeep tracks and gravel road waiting to be explored. A ride through the gorgeous Gariep Dam Reserve is a must, with the slip-sliding reserve roads generally following the dam's shore.
Distance: 116km (circular)
Duration: Allow four hours with stops
Road condition: This is a narrow road, and the road markings are not always up to scratch
Best time of year: Late summer and autumn
Freestate Tourism – www.freestatetourism.org
Bethulie Tourism – www.bethulie.za.net
Patrick Mynhardt – www.patrickmynhardt.com
Eastern Cape Parks (Gariep, Oviston and Tussen-die-Riviere) - www.ecparks.co.za
Gariep Dam - www.gariepdam.co.za