Jules Mornau recently undertook her first-ever Bush Run with fellow Land Rover enthusiasts and loved every minute of it.
Raw excitement and anticipation for the impending adventure brimmed over in me. And boy, was it worth all the hype! I was not disappointed in my very first Bush Run and I’m already counting the sleeps until the next one.
Locatedf around 12km southwest of Volksrust in the transitional region between the Highveld Grasslands and the northern reaches of the beautiful Drakensburg Mountain Range, the three provinces of Mpumalanga, the Free State, and KwaZulu-Natal converge and meet at a height of 2 200m in an area locally known as the “Versamelberge”.
Throughout the day and into the evening on the first day of our adventure, 14 Land Rovers from four different provinces – each carrying a cargo of avid adventurers, allweather camping equipment and loaded toolboxes – ambled their way along the gravel farm roads that lead from Volksrust to Waterval Farm, on which the 3 Provinces 4×4 Adventures campsite and cottages are located. Upon arrival at the Waterval Farmhouse, we were all heartily welcomed by Ronel and Herman Geldenhuys who own and manage the expansive property. Waterval farm is an active cattle farm that has belonged to the Geldenhuys family since 1952 and the farmhouse dates back to the 1800s.
Our group of 32 adventurers was split between the campsite, located 2km north of the farmhouse on a natural outcrop of land with a resplendent view and ample ablutions, and the rock cottages and stilted wood cabins situated 2km east of the farmhouse. Separated by a calm flowing stream and nestled in a valley sheltered by the ridge that rises above on the east to the meeting place of the three provinces, the lodgings were very cosy and comfortable.
As dusk started to fall a full moon rose, casting an illuminating glow on the dispersing, rippled cirrus clouds above. The group congregated around the welcoming fire where both the “old boys” (returning participants in the Bush Run) and newcomers such as our family were greeted heartily. This is the one thing I love most about being a Landy owner – the camaraderie and welcoming spirit. We certainly are a special breed of people and the first evening was spent around the fire with ample banter, good food, good company, and much laughter.
A crisp, cool, and cloudless morning greeted us as we assembled on Saturday morning for our first day trip. After the safety protocols, rules and regulations were discussed, the excited group set out in a serpentine formation toward the 3 Provinces 4×4 approach route, which meanders up towards the heavens between the Waterval and Schuilhoek Farms. Offering challenging obstacles on both the incline as well as the decline routes – which at times had to be navigated with the guided direction of some of the more experienced drivers – I found myself as enthralled by the sign language that assisted the driver through each obstacle as I was by the exhilaration of successfully clearing each mindboggling feat. Our family refers to our Land Rover as the “Bush Spider” and to my great awe and delight our Landy did the “turtle crawl” (a term in 4×4 driving for creeping slowly downhill through precariously deep drops) with incredible agility. After scaling the crest of the mountain, the lead vehicle encountered the first real mud along the route. What is it about mud that draws every adventurer’s inner child to play? And boy, did we play! An undulating pit of slippery black mud, as was encountered by the lead vehicle, soon became a deeply rutted quagmire of entertainment to the onlookers and drew on the skills of the vehicles and drivers at the rear of the entourage.
A short distance further we reached the pinnacle of the mountain and the site of the point of convergence of the three provinces, where we enjoyed a delightful picnic lunch. If the majestic landscape and flora that had surrounded us on the incline were not spectacular enough, the views from the top, in every direction, were utterly breath-taking.
The temperatures started to plummet as the sun set and we all drew near to the fire, revealing the accomplishments and stories of the day and forging new friendships until late into the night. Sunday morning greeted us with overcast skies that scattered by mid-morning as we traversed a 30km route in traditional Bush Run convoy style to Wakkerstroom along wide gravel farm roads. We left Mpumalanga and crossed over into KwaZulu-Natal. Within minutes the incredible sight of cascading water over the Zaaihoek dam wall came into view. Continuing south we all stopped to admire the spectacle of the high waters of the Slang River which feeds the “gravity type” Zaaihoek dam. In a broad loop, along dirt roads that changed in colour from red to pure white in places, surrounded by fields of dense cosmos, meandering river flows and wetlands that cast a fairy-tale picture, we encircled the 39.45km long Zaaihoek dam.
We briefly left the gravel roads and headed north on the scenic route to Wakkerstroom. After skirting around a rural settlement where the children greeted us with broad smiles, we began to make our way up a very steep and straight incline of approximately 400m, which plateaued abruptly at 2 146m above sea level. Here we found ourselves parked on the top of Ossewakop at the memorial which had been erected by the townspeople of Wakkerstroom in 2012. It is a joint place of remembrance, commemorating the Great Trek from 1838 to the early 1840’s and also recognising the emblem of the North Staffordshire Regiment that occupied the broad, flat valley with rich farmlands that Wakkerstroom is situated on, during the first and second Anglo Boer wars between 1880 to 1881 and 1889 to 1902.
From Wakkerstroom, when looking back at Ossewakop, one can see the commemorative rock art of the knot emblem as well as the ox Wagon and “Great Trek” dates. The knot was constructed by the regiment of troops stationed in the area in 1901. The ox wagon was an ambitious project by the local headmaster, Mr. Vercuil back in 1938. It was constructed by the local schoolboys, with the help by local farmworkers to complete it in time. The schoolboys hiked up and down the mountain over countless days under the watchful, binoculared eye of the headmaster, who coordinated the construction from below.
After heading down Ossewakop, we entered Wakkerstroom for a short refuelling stop, during which I took a brief reconnaissance walk of this quaint and culturally rich town. We made our way east for a short distance and turned off the tar road towards the Jantjieshoek pass, one of only 19 passes in South Africa above 2 000m. Continuing the loop back to Wakkerstroom along gently undulating flatland roads, with mountains and valleys surrounding us, every puddle along the route was taken advantage of. Our group of weary adventurers ended the day being spoilt by the warm hospitality and scrumptious pub food at the Mucky Duck Pub & Grub in Wakkerstroom.
As we packed up our tents and said our farewells on Monday morning, a deep sense of fulfilment for the adventures experienced and the friendships made rested warmly within me – special people indeed, us Landy owners.
About Bush Run
A group of Land Rover enthusiasts regularly undertakes Bush Runs, exploring all the beauty this country has on offer. These are some of the highlights on the group’s 2022 calendar:
Rust de Winter Bush Run: 6-8 May 2022 (4×4 day trip and 4×4 training day)
Kwalala Lodge Bush Run: 8-10 July 2022
Nooitgedacht Trout Lodge (Lydenburg): Sep/Oct 2022 (exact date to be confirmed)
*Contact Nico Denner via WhatsApp to join the group, and to get more information on the Bush Runs: +27 83 653 0864
About 3 Provinces 4×4 Adventure
Only three hours’ drive from Gauteng, near the small town of Volksrust, lies a gem of mother nature that is well worth exploring. It’s a place that has been blessed in abundance, with waterfalls elegantly finding their way to the streams below and black eagles soaring in the skies above. The farms, Waterval and Schuilhoek, are situated at end of the great Drakensberg escarpment, called the “Versamelberge”. It’s here, on top of a sheer cliff, where the boundaries of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Free State come together in a spectacle of nature.
Bring the whole family and enjoy one of the scenic 4×4 trails as a day outing or spend a weekend – or longer – enjoying all the thrills, challenges and fun family experiences on offer. Apart from the numerous 4×4 trails (there are seven in total, ranging in difficulty), there is also a whole range of other activities that can be arranged and enjoyed during your stay, including birding, hiking, canoeing, clay pigeon shooting, bass fishing and mountain biking (own bikes). Self-catering accommodation and camping are available.
Climate: The region receives about 600-800mm of rain annually, with most rainfall during the summer months. Summer temperatures range from 12°C to 30°C, while it gets much colder during the winter months, ranging between -6°C to a maximum of 20°C. Light to moderate snowfall is experienced every few years. Being a mountainous region, the weather sometimes changes quickly, and it is advisable to bring warm clothes, even during summer. Be prepared for all seasons in one day.
Landscape and Terrain: The Volksrust area falls in the transitional region between Highveld grasslands and the Drakensberg Mountain Range. Enjoy beautiful mountain scenery with spectacular views, rock formations, streams, grass flats and marshes. The terrain changes drastically between the rainy summer and the dry winter season. During summer, the landscape is covered in a lush green carpet with beautiful wildflower displays in certain areas. Winter offers beauty of a different kind, with a rare chance of snow. Another incredibly special sight on the 4×4 route is the very rare “Vingerpolle” (a type of succulent with finger-like branches unique to the area) in the mountains. There’s also a good chance of spotting breeding pairs of the Blue Crane, Grey Rhebok, Mountain Reedbuck and the Verreaux’s Eagle.
CONTACT: +27 17 735 5286 (landline) / +27 82 785 8002 (WhatsApp) | www.3provinsies4x4.co.za