South Africa – Driving the Magoebaskloof

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South Africa has an excellent system of roads and highways, making it a great destination for people who like the independence of touring a country by car. You can go wherever you want to go, and follow your own schedule. But because South Africa is a large country, it’s a good idea to plan your road tour in advance. One part of the country that is well suited to automobile touring is the Magoebaskloof.

Superb Touring Country

The Magoebaskloof was named after a legendary 19th century chieftain, called Makgoba, who rebelled against white authority. It is part of South Africa’s Limpopo Province, and it is super touring country. You go on a circular drive that leads through misty hills and green forests at the northern fringes of the Drakensberg Escarpment, then to the Rain Queen region, and back to the lovely Letaba River Valley. The drive starts and ends at Haenertsburg, and covers 190 km (118 miles). It can be done in a day, but to enjoy the experience to the fullest, give yourself two.

Home of Spirits

From Haenertsburg you drive 34 km (21 miles) over and down the Magoebaskloof Mountains toward the Tzaneen Dam Nature Reserve. Your route takes you past stands of pine, giant redwoods, yellowwoods and ironwoods. About 25 km (15.5 miles) along the way, you’ll come to the Debegeni Falls of the Ramadipa River. This is a great place to stop for a swim. Keep in mind that you might have company though – like so many places in South Africa, the waters here are believed to be the home of revered spirits.

Rain Queen

Drive on to the Tzaneen Dam reserve and follow the signs that take you to a dirt road which leads to Ga-Modjadji. This is the home of the Rain Queen, a mysterious figure said to be immortal. The legend dates back many generations. Even the Zulu warrior king, Shaka, one of the most powerful men in South Africa’s history, was said to fear the magic of the Rain Queen. British author H. Rider Haggard based the protagonist of his 1886 novel “She” on a runaway princess named Modjadji, who was the original Rain Queen. The current Rain Queen lives in a modern house in the village. During dry spells many local farmers, black and white alike, come to ask her to use her powers to bring rain. This area has some lovely walking trails and picnic spots, as well as some terrific views if it’s not a misty day.

The Conquest of Malaria

Go back to the highway, and continue on to Tzaneen, the largest town in the area. This was once the research headquarters of Dr. Siegfried Annecke, whose pioneering work helped to vanquish one of the most dreaded scourges of South Africa, malaria. In the middle of Tzaneen, turn onto the Agatha Road, a stunningly beautiful scenic drive that takes you through the New Agatha State Forest. You also have the option of taking another route and going to the Rooikat Nature Trail. When you head back to Haenertsburg, take an alternative route that follows the Great Letaba River Valley. The views of the Wolfberg Massive are marvellous. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for the drive. Summer is hot, and there are frequent thunderstorms.

By Rachel Hill