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The Drakensberg Escarpment: Three Passes Explorer‘s 4×4 Route

N3 Gateway / The Drakensberg Escarpment: Three Passes Explorer‘s 4×4 Route

The Drakensberg Escarpment: Three Passes Explorer‘s 4×4 Route

Van Reenen Info Centre
Call us anytime Montrose Travel Centre - Information Centre 072 629 8694
Core Activity:4X4 Route Type:Self-drive Duration:4 days 3 nights Budget:No Gate entry required. All public roads. No permission needed to use them, but your vehicle must be road-licenced and roadworthy. Accommodation and meals: 3 nights R350 to R900-00 per night depending on style and cost of accommodation chosen. Fuel: average 150 km per day for 4 days on rough back roads and steep passes. Low speed, low gear a lot of the way. When to Go:Recommended months for the most beautiful green landscapes and generally good weather. Other:This route can also be used by trail bikes, quad bikes and very fit active mountain bikers. Be prepared for what nature throws at you. At any time of the year there is always a chance of heavy rains or extreme cold and snow. Always take clothes for all weathers. Pack emergency drinking water containers, and food in case you are stranded. Always discuss your next day’s route with your host the night before, so that they know where to look in the event that you get stranded. Vehicles to use: Preferably 4X4 or 4X2 vehicles. Take all normal vehicle equipment such as jacks, etc. GPS is essential. Cellphone contact erratic away from the N3 Toll Route. Parts of the route are extra rough and challenging, but not beyond the capabilities of a competent driver. This is not an off-road route: This is a “back-road, rough-road” route. Stay on the public roads. Do not enter private property unless given permission by the land owner. If you are worried about driving alone across an empty remote landscape, arrange to go with a group of friends in two or three vehicles. It will be more fun in any case. Fuel: Fuel can be bought in Swinburne, Van Reenen, Verkykerskop, Memel and Newcastle and at the border between Free State and KwaZulu-Natal on Botha’s Pass, (the tar road between Newcastle and Memel). Make sure to fill your tank at each place you sleep. There are no garages on the gravel road passes. Maps: Click on this link to map PDF Other Activities:Photography and Mountain Biking Points Of Interest:The entire route is interesting. It goes through wide-open rolling grassland, mountain and wetland scenery. Wilge Vlei, the source of the Wilge River, the most important source of water for the Vaal River system other than the Vaal River itself, is a magnificent highland wetland extending for many kilometres. Lone mountains such as Nelson’s Kop, Tandtjiesberg and others rise starkly out of the rolling grassland. The landscape is wide, sweeping and largely empty of any signs of civilisation apart from a few settlements or “kraals” dotted about. Road users are the occasional local farmer, horseman, cyclist or pedestrian going about their business.Van Reenen and Swinburne, at the start of your route, are both historic villages with various choices of accommodation, hospitable pubs and restaurants, interesting shops and friendly local people. You will be made to feel very welcome.Verkykerskop is a small settlement with a very interesting store, post office and hotel, rustic, festooned with antique signs and decorated with objects from the past. It is a popular spot, and people come from Harrismith and elsewhere just for their Sunday lunch. The owners can offer more detailed information about local routes, and other interesting facts about the area.Memel is a historical Voortrekker town up in the mountains, far from anywhere. It is worth a visit in its own right, but the Seekoeivlei Wetland Reserve next to the town is becoming a well-known and popular venue for birders and nature lovers. Very undeveloped and a good place for 4X4 enthausiats. The hotel is a typical Free State small-town hotel patronised by the locals and visited by growing numbers of tourists. It is comfortable with a well-run kitchen. The owners offer a wealth of local lore and information about other routes you can explore while you are there.Accommodation list for the area:ON N3 TOLL ROUTE CLOSE TO HARRISMITHCyara B & B 082 928 5360 ; La La Nathi Country Guest House 058 623 0282SWINBURNE ON N3 TOLL ROUTE 20 KM SOUTH OF HARRISMITHAppin Farm Lodge 084 516 6820 ; Montrose Protea Hotel 058 672 1011 ; Mount Olive Stables Cottage 073 272 3708 ; Riverview Country Inn 058 672 1033VAN REENEN ON N3 TOLL ROUTE 30 KM SOUTH OF HARRISMITHGreen Lantern Inn 058 671 0027 ; Mike's Cottage 072 156 1401 ; Llandaff Lodge 072 156 1401 ; Oaklands Country Manor 058 671 0067 ; Pyramids Motel 082 523 3241 ; StrawCroft 083 426 8423 ; Nudawun House 083 645 9486 ; Wyford Farm 072 149 0608Verkykerskop Hotel 058 625 0071Memel Hotel 058 924 0740ON KwaZulu-Natal SIDEChelmsford Dam Resort 033 845 1000 ; Horseshoe Guest Farm 082 691 0822

4×4 route across three escarpment passes at Van Reenen, Verkykerskop and Memel. Can also be used by trail bikes, quad bikes and  very fit active mountain bikers.

Day 1:

Arrive in the afternoon in the Van Reenen/Swinburne area on the N3 Toll Route. From Johannesburg or Durban this is approximately 300 km on a fine double highway.

Explore local shops, pubs and restaurants in and around both villages. Sleep in your chosen pre-booked accommodation venue.

Day 2:

Use the Van Reenen Tourism Office and use it as your start point (GPS 26° 22’ 13” S  29° 22’ 14”  E).Take gravel road past info office, across railway line, past Oaklands Country Manor, 12.5km to T- junction (GPS 28°16’34.3”S  29°24’52.4”E). Turn left at junction. Travel five kilometres to “Derelict Store Crossroads” (GPS 28°5’02.8” S 29°22’35.9” E). Turn right at crossroad. Travel 25km to Collin’s Pass T-Junction turn right. Travel 12km down Collin’s Pass to Large Dam on left. Turn LEFT on road next to dam.  Travel 40 km to Normandien, a very small settlement near the large KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife Chelmsford Resort. Continue up very steep, winding  Normandien Pass, 20km to top.  Continue 35km through Free State Highland grasslands to Verkykerskop (GPS 27°55’16.1” S   29°16’45.4” E). Spend night two at Verkykerskop.

Day 3:

Travel 55km from Verkykerskop to Memel (GPS 27°40’88.3” S 29° 33’ 80.8” E). Explore Seekoeivlei SA National Park Wetland Sancturary close to town. Rough roads, birding and resident hippos can be expected.  Explore local short routes (get advice from the hotel owners). Spend night three at Memel Hotel.

Day 4: End of excursion

From Memel travel approximately 60 km down Muller’s Pass to Newcastle. From Newcastle return to Johannesburg via Volksrust-Standerton  on the N11 or back to Durban via Ladysmith on the N11, or back up into the Free State on Botha’s Pass (tar road) to Memel-Vrede-Villiers-Johannesburg.

Van Reenen Info Centre

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