Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Land of silver mist: Magoebaskloof

Limpopo province has less than 20 passes in total, but among those are some of the finest scenic passes in the country. Trygve Roberts of Mountain Passes South Africa explores one of the province’s classics, Magoebaskloof.

One of my favourite passes for a scenic drive, Magoebaskloof climbs 446 vertical metres to the summit at 1 400m above sea level, producing an average gradient of 1:17 with the steepest parts being at 1:9. The pass is tarred – albeit littered with potholes – and is suitable for all vehicles.

Starting on the eastern approach on the tarred R71 route, the pass starts at an elevation of 954m above sea level where sub-tropical vegetation with cycads, palms and waterfalls are in abundance. The lush mountain scenery is a photographer’s dream, while the range of guest cottages in the kloof make exploring this area an ideal weekend getaway only four hours from Jozi. Halfway up the mountain you will find the popular Magoebaskloof Rest Camp, which features panoramic views over the lowveld. Thatched rondavel-type accommodation is on offer here, set in lovely gardens. The summit of the pass is at a lofty 1 400m altitude where mist and clouds make visibility poor – so drive with caution. Although often described as an easy, relaxing pass, you should never take this pass lightly as there have been many fatal accidents over the years. Drive with due caution and switch your lights on at all times.

Some 15km further to the west is the small town of Haenertsburg, while Tzaneen lies 70km to the East. Magoebaskloof is a beautiful mountainous area at the very north-eastern tip of the Drakensberg mountain range. Fondly called “The Land of the Silver Mist” by historians and locals alike, the mountains and valleys of the area are regularly shrouded in a soft mist. This mist belt has resulted in the lush Afro-montane forests that make the area a welcome green oasis in the Limpopo bushveld. The name means Magoeba’s Valley, but the Magoebaskloof is in fact a series of valleys named after a tribal chief who was decapitated by warriors serving under the Boer commander Abel Erasmus in 1895.

The indigenous forest is thick and tangled, full of lianas, fungi, ferns, and spliced by crystal-clear streams that flow through rock pools. It is home to Woodbush State Forest, the largest indigenous forest in Limpopo Province. These forests host popular birding, hiking and mountain biking routes, and The Crying Rock – a strange rock that makes a sound like a gong when you hit it. The area is also home to the De Hoek plantation, Dap Naude Dam and the spectacular Debegeni Falls, of which the latter two have picnic sites.

The Magoebaskloof Pass runs between Tzaneen and Haenertsburg on the R71 and offers stunning views over the kloof. The pass leads from the highveld down the escarpment to the subtropical Lowveld, dropping about 600m over just 6km. Many ornamental gardens on the pass are open to the public, hosting plants more suited to colder climates like Japanese maples, flowering cherry trees and azaleas. These gardens are spectacular in spring and autumn when the vibrant colours are displayed. As a result of the climate, the area has become home to commercial forestry plantations of pine, eucalyptus and various fruits including avocados, raspberries, blueberries and kiwi fruit. This, of course, leads to timber trucks often using this pass, which can dramatically slow down traffic. Regardless, this is a stunning pass and a perfect spot to test your vehicle’s climbing and gripping abilities around tight corners.

Fact File

GPS START: S23.855451 E30.021179

GPS SUMMIT: S23.885921 E29.994909

GPS END: S23.885921 E29.994909

AVE GRADIENT: 1:17

MAX GRADIENT: 1:9

ELEVATION START: 954m

ELEVATION SUMMIT: 1 400m

ELEVATION END: 1 400m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS: 446m

DISTANCE: 7.6km

DIRECTION – TRAVEL: South-West

TIME REQUIRED: 20 minutes

SPEED LIMIT: 40-80km/hour

SURFACE: Tar (R71)

Things to do in and around Magoebaskloof

Adventure:

Situated on the Georges Valley Road, Magoebaskloof Adventures uses the area’s untapped natural resources to offer visitors adventure activities on the Letaba River. Whatever it is that will give you that adrenaline rush you need to face another hectic week, you will be sure to find it here, including tubing, canopy tours, kloofing and abseiling. An upcoming highlight is the Magoebaskloof Adventures Trail Festival planned from 9-10 April 2022.

CONTACT: +27 83 866 1546 | www.magoebaskloofadventures.co.za

Fishing:

A visitor to the area may purchase a permit for one rod for the day at R150 or R600 for a week, entitling them to fish at Lakeside Dam, from the Haenertsburg Trout Association. The usual etiquette for trout fishing applies, and only non-spinning artificial lures may be used. The bag limit is two rainbow trouts only, with catch and release for any others caught and released. No brown trout may be bagged.

CONTACT: +27 83 290 1962 (Poppie)

Mountain biking:

The Magoebaskloof area is fast becoming a mecca for mountain bikers. The Magoebaskloof Tourism Association, in conjunction with various establishments, has developed five mountain bike trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. Permits are required to use these trails and are available at Cheerio Trout Lodge and Magoebaskloof Adventures for R40 per day. Kids under 12 are free.

CONTACT: +27 72 650 2366 | www.magoebasklooftourism.co.za

Horse Riding:

In the Company of Horses offers a diverse range of horse trails and adventures in and around Haenertsburg and the surrounding mountains. From 1.5-hour trails for first timers or less experienced riders to full day explorations of the famous Iron Crown for more seasoned horse riders. CONTACT: +27 76 577 1936 | www.inthecompanyofhorses.co.za

Hiking & Birding:

Short and medium hiking trails are available, including the popular Lesodi and Louis Changuion Trails. Some guest lodges also have short hiking trails on their properties, and the Dap Naude Dam and Woodbush Birding Route is a particular highlight.

CONTACT: + 27 82 377 8955

*The area offers a wide variety of accommodation options from self-catering, hotels, camping and quaint little B&B’s scattered throughout. Check out www.magoebasklooftourism.co.za for more info.

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