I’d already had a hectically busy few days in the Cape, and now I was landing at OR Tambo in Johannesburg for a week-long assignment. But fatigue goes out the window when there is a top-of-the-range Range Rover Autobiography waiting for you.
I had 400km without a caravan to experience the pure joy of driving this sleek, luxurious 5.0-litre supercharged V8. I was soon gliding out on the highway, driving north to Polokwane. From there, I turned east to Haenertsburg, where I hitched up a Gecko Off-Road caravan.
I was heading for the nearby mystical area of Magoebaskloof in a supreme tow car, pulling an exceptional caravan.
Locals call Magoebaskloof ‘The Mountain’ or ‘The Land of the Silver Mist’. It certainly not hard to see why, when you are heading up the R71 from Polokwane before descending to the little Swiss-like village of Haenertsburg. It’s a landscape of indigenous Afromontane forests, sweeping grasslands and the towering sentinel of the Wolkberg massif in the background.
As you travel along the edge of this Great Escarpment, moving into the land that once belonged to King Makgoba, the Chief of the Sotho Tlou tribe, it seems to get just more and more beautiful. It’s also the world of Modjadji, the Rain Queen: a land of forests, waterfalls, mist and hidden magic.
Haenertsburg is a picturesque rural hamlet. Activity in the small town is concentrated along Rissik Street, where you’ll find restaurants, a lekker pub called the Iron Crown and Bistro, a well-stocked food store, a bottle store, and at the top end, a collection of old corrugated-iron buildings reminding you of those early pioneering days.
There is really good bookshop with a praiseworthy Africana collection, a small museum, a restaurant and accommodation for tourists.
There are two main tar roads to Tzaneen from Haenertsburg. The first is the R71 through Magoebaskloof, with all its small side arteries. This road is a must-drive for first time visitors. The other road is the George’s Valley Gorge Road, the “adventure road” of this area. Offering kloofing, quad biking, fly-fishing, mountain biking, and abseiling, it’s probably best known for its magnificent forests and safe (but exciting) ziplines through the forest canopy.
The Ebenezer Dam, some 386 hectares in size, is also along the George’s Valley Gorge Road. The dam and offers water sport, fishing, boating and birding.
The Ebenezer Dam banks are pretty steep, so most of the fishing is from a boat − but it does offer good fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, carp, barbell and kurper. I reckon Haenertsburg can give Dullstroom a run for it money in the trout fishing stakes. The Haenertsburg Trout Association keeps many of the dams and rivers stocked.
The small town is also well known for its festivals. Don’t miss out on those like the Berry Festival, the Spring Festival and the Haenertsburg Food, Wine and Beer Festival.
I am biased when it comes to the Gecko caravans – I’d previously towed one (see January 2016 issue), and was smitten. Designed for two people, this home on wheels really is one of the most comfortable, simple to set-up off-road caravans that I’ve towed over the years.
I had never met the family behind this great van – Keith and Alison Teubes, and their sons Stephen and Jeff – who’d put the Gecko together in the small historical town of Haenertsburg. On this trip, I met the whole team, and spent some time in the factory watching a unit being put together. The total attention to detail and quality of the workmanship is superb.
The Gecko motto is QLS, which stands for Quality, Luxury and Simplicity. And the products certainly live up to this.
and spent a good time wandering around the Gecko Off-Road factory, so luckily my first campsite wasn’t very far. Magoebeskloof Ruskamp is right next to R71, as it winds through the thick forests on its way to Tzaneen.
In those short miles, there were hills and valleys, dams and rivers, a small pub (the Pot and Plow) and roads signposted to the Ebenezer Dam on the one side, and on the other were signs to the Cheerio Valley.
Would I have time to visit them all? I would give it damn good go!