1. Total distance of route and date of ride?
More or less 1 700km. I rode this route in October 2012.
2. How long did it take to complete? Were you going fast or travelling leisurely?
It took four days. Heavy rain on day two caused trouble and I could only ride 200km. I had to make up some time on day three, but otherwise I took it easy.
3. Why do you recommend this route?
This will be one of your most amazing trips ever. The roads are challenging and the weather will often make it worse. But the scenery is splendid, as you will ride high up on the Maloti and Drakensberg mountain ranges all the time. For kilometres on end you will be the only soul around.
4. Tell us how the route runs
I rode from Bloemfontein to Clocolan to start there, but you can start from any point, e.g. from Underberg, if you want to start from the KZN’s side. Or start at Rhodes if you want to give it a go from the Eastern Cape.
From Clocolan I took the gravel road that heads into Peka Bridge border post’s direction. A few km’s before Peka I took the dirt road turning to the right, towards Ladybrand. Just before Ladybrand I turned off to the left, towards the Maseru border post. You’ll get to the N8 where you have to turn left and just before the border post turn right on a dirt road again. Follow this all the way to Hobhouse. From there take the R26 to Wepener. From Wepener take the gravel out to Sepaphus border post. Continue with this road to Zastron. From here take the R726 towards Telle Bridge. From there you’ll go with the R393 over Lundean’s Nek and reach the R396 which will take you to Rhodes.
Outside Rhodes follow the dirt road up to Tiffindell ski resort. Just before Tiffindell turn right through the gate and follow the jeep track. This will take you back to Naudé’s Nek on the R396. Continue with the R396 to reach the R56 which will take you to Mount Fletcher and Matatiele. Just outside Matatiele on the R56 turn left on the gravel. You can continue with this till you reach the R617 to Underberg, or turn left and take a further loop to the R617. From the R617 you can turn left towards Boesman’s Nek. This gravel road will take you to Underberg.
From Underberg continue to Himeville. Pass straight through Himeville and you will reach a gravel road that goes past Lower Loteni and stay all along the border of the Ukahlamba Drakensberg Park. This road will later take you to Estcourt. Just before Estcourt you can turn onto the R600 and go to Bergville. From Bergville take the road past Woodstock Dam. This later joins the R74 that will take you past Sterkfontein Dam. Take the R712 through Golden Gate and just before Clarens turn left onto the R711 to Fouriesburg.
Just outside Fouriesburg turn towards the Caledonspoort border post. After a few km’s on this road turn right onto the gravel road. This will join the R26 to Ficksburg later on. From Ficksburg you can go straight to Clocolan or turn to Peka Bridge and do a gravel loop to Clocolan.
Do consult a map for more detail as some of these roads are of the less-travelled variety.
5. What kind of motorcycle is the route suitable for?
An adventure bike. Most of this route is on gravel and dirt, and there are rough stretches close to the border. I did it on a 2012 BMW F 800 GS with suspension upgrade kit and it handled everything with ease.
6. Please name significant points of interest along the way.
The Rhodes Hotel is a lovely place to stay. The food is great too. And their middle of the week special for R250 per person, breakfast and dinner included, is a real bargain.
Resthaven Guesthouse in Matatiele is another pleasant overnight stop and very biker friendly. Buffet breakfast and dinner are available. They also have a coffee shop that serves almost anything during the day.
Lemon Tree Bistro in Underberg is a great place to eat if you’re passing through. It’s on the main street.
Bingelela just outside Bergville is an awesome place to overnight, hang out and eat.
And near Clocolan Zuikerkop Country Game Lodge is a good place to rest horse and rider.
7. Are there petrol stations along the way? Do you know of any motorcycle repair shops along the route or in the area?
There are more than enough petrol stations. The only place with limited fuel is Rhodes. The only bike shop on this route that I know of is the Yamaha dealer in Himeville, tel: +27 33 702 1356.
8. Are there any dangers along the route?
As a great deal of this route runs on roads that aren’t in frequent use, you have to be careful: there are few road markings or warning signs and anything can happen. The weather can get ugly in this parts of the country. I had a lot of rain. In winter you will most likely see snow. The locals near Sterkspruit and Telle Bridge can get nasty at times. On two occasions bottles were thrown at me. Take it easy through that area and watch out for taxis and donkeys.
9. What did the trip cost?
10. Did you use any special gear, e.g. fuel bags, that made your journey possible, easier or more enjoyable?
Nothing special, but I got new respect for my aluminium top box. It kept my camera bag safe and dry through everything. Even when I had a crash in the mud. And it was easy to access.
11. Any must-do activities on the route?
Well, if you want to see heaven without “crossing over”, take the dirt track from Tiffindell all along the border to Naudé’s Nek. It’s quite rough and even worse when wet, but it’s glorious. Pop in at Tenahead. It’s a little luxury lodge and something special so high up in the mountains.
The gravel loop to Underberg via Boemans Nek is also beautiful.
12. Do you have any other comments or advice about the route?
The winter will probably not be a good time to go. If you love freezing temperatures and snow, it will be. Best seasons are spring and autumn.
13. Are there any doctors and/or hospitals in the area that you know of?
Matatiele Private Hospital – 039 737 3088
Harrismith Hospital – 058 622 1111
The rider – Willem van der Berg