THE MALUTI MOUNTAIN ROUTE, FREE STATE
Where nature still rules
By: Anzet du Plessis
Contrary to popular belief, the Free State isn’t flat. Well, not all of it, anyway. In the Eastern Free State’s Thabo Mofutsanyana district, lie the Maluti Mountains. In stark contrast to the rest of the province, this area is dotted with magnificent peaks and incredible, diverse scenery.
The ‘Basotho’ people’s name literally means ‘people of the peaks’, where they held out in resistance to settlers for many years. The breathtaking mountain range meets up with the Drakensberg, and is littered with sandstone. Charmingly, every second business in the various rustic towns scattered over the area is named Sandstone- or Maluti-something.
Here, fields of sunflowers and rows of ripening cherry trees alert you to seasons and climate changes. When the roads are lined with a thick wall of purple and pink cosmos, you know autumn is drawing to a close. When the Sekonyela peak has its little white ‘hat’ of snow on, it’s a sign that pipes will soon freeze and that you’d best get your heater out. The legend of Rageltjiie de Beer, a girl who blocked a cave entrance with her naked body so that her brother would stay warm inside the cave during a snow storm, wisps through the valleys on the ice cold wind, which comes down from the snow-capped peaks during winter.
Don’t disregard winter, however, as this is when it’s at its most beautiful – and a photographer’s dream.
Driving from town to town, you’ll never experience a dull moment. There’s a Cherry Festival held in Ficksburg every year (17 – 19 November 2011), and a sandstone museum built in 1922. Clarens, the famous art hub, lies in one of the most beautiful sections of the route, with Golden Gate nestled behind it. In this area you can go hiking, camping, river rafting and quad biking. Around Fouriesburg lies 27 farms with bushman rock art which you can incorporate into your hikes, and if the kids are restless, a visit to the Van Reenen family graveyard will certainly quiet them down! For the history buffs, the area is littered with battle sites and fossil footprints.
While the Eastern Free State tourism has yet to set up a comprehensive meander, you can make your own! We’ve put together a special route from Rosendal, past Ficksburg and up to Golden Gate, which readers can follow in the March 2013 issue of Leisure Wheels.
For adventure activities around Clarens and Fouriesburg, contact Kallie (Outrageous Adventures) on 083 485-9654 or Ollie (Clarens Extreme adventures) on 082 563-6242. Wild Rides Quad Biking can take you on a sun downer or even game quad bike trip, by appointment only on 082 491-9788. Go fishing on the Amohela Ho Spitskop farm (051 943-7013/083 659-1708) or horse riding at Mount Plaisir (073 150-0648/058 223 0505). Cherry Festival Info: Gavin 082 920-5551; Golden Gate bookings: 058 255-1000; or go to www.freestatetourism.org/ and click on ‘Thabo Mofutsanyana and then the Maloti/Maluti Route.