Scenic Driving Route
Graskop, South Africa
The little town of Graskop (pop. 15,000), a timber and forestry center, is a good base from which to explore the Blyderivierspoort Nature Reserve.
Silk Farm and Weavery
South Africa's only working Silk Farm is a memorable experience. Guided tours are offered and visitors see the whole process. From the silk worm eggs, worms, spinning of cocoons and the processing of the silk. Africa Silks Farm uses only organic methods, thereby providing sustainable employment without damaging nature. The range of products include: silk filled duvets and hand-spun and -woven silk interior products like throws and scattercushions.
3km/2mi north of Graskop on R 532 a side road (R 534) goes off on the right (in 15km/9mi rejoining R 532). 1.5km/1mi along R 534 a road on the right leads in 200m/220yd to a parking place above the precipitous scarp of the Drakensberg. From here there is a view of the Pinnacle, a free-standing granite crag rising out of a densely wooded gorge.
A must is God's Window, a viewpoint at an altitude of 1,829m/6,000ft from which the prospect extends northward over the Blyde River Canyon, eastward over the lowveld, 1,000m/3,300ft below, and the Kruger National Park to the Mozambique border and westward over forest-covered mountains.From the parking place there is a well laid-out track to other viewpoints. One particularly rewarding trip (following signs to the Rain Forest) is on a path which winds its way through evergreen tropical rain forest.
R 534 runs in a wide arc to rejoin R 532. Just under a kilometer (.75mi) south on R 532 a side road (2km/1.25mi) goes off on the right to the Lisbon Falls, where the river plunges down in a series of steps to a depth of 92m/300ft.
1km/.75mi north of the R 534/532 junction a side road (2km/1.25mi) goes off to the Berlin Falls (80m/260ft high), named after a farm which once stood here.
Bourke's Luck Potholes
At the confluence of the Treur and Blyde Rivers are Bourke's Luck Potholes. There was once a small gold-mine here called Bourke's Luck. There are now paths and bridges leading to viewpoints from which the potholes can be seen. They were formed at a time where the river had a stronger flow of water and carried down great quantities of sand and detritus which in the course of many million years carved the softer basement rock into the bizarre formations to be seen today.There is a small visitor center which gives information about the origin of the canyon and its flora and fauna. For those who want a closer view there are two trails, each 5km/3mi long, starting from the Bourke's Luck Potholes, the Interpretative Trail and the Bushman Nature Trail.
Running parallel to Blyde River Canyon, are particularly spectacular views. Another magnificent viewpoint is the Three Rondavels View Site, reached on a side road (3km/2mi) which goes off R 532 on the right 13.5km/8.5mi beyond Bourke's Luck Potholes. Above the 700m/2300ft deep gorge rear the Three Rondavels and Maripeskop (1944m/6378ft), the highest peak in the Transvaal Drakensberg, named after a Pulana chief named Maripe who in the early 19th C fled with his tribe to the mountain, from which he successfully beat off attacks by the Swazis.Far below, at the inflow of the Ohrigstad River, glitters an artificial lake created by the damming of the Blyde River.R 532 then continues along the edge of the Blyderivierspoort Nature Reserve for a few mi, passing Odendaal Camp, a well equipped holiday village, and then turns west to join R 36. Here there is a choice of routes. To the north are a beautiful pass and a reptile park; the direct route runs south.
Abel Erasmus Pass
A road (signposted to Tzaneen) leads to the Abel Erasmus Pass (1,224m/4,016ft), climbing 700m/2,300ft with numerous bends and fantastic views.
Swadini Reptile Park
50km/30mi north of the junction of R 532 with R 36, on R 527, is the Swadini Reptile Park with snakes, lizards and crocodiles from the region and from all over the world. Interesting presentations and commentaries and, for those so inclined, the chance of handling a snake (under supervision) make a visit to this park a memorable experience.
The road, signposted to Lydenburg, comes in 1km/.75mi to the Echo Caves (on the right of the road), an extensive system of stalactitic caves in the local dolomite. Material found in the caves shows that they were occupied by Stone Age man. Rock paintings and other objects from the caves are displayed in the Museum of Man.
Ohrigstad, South Africa
Ohrigstad, 23km/14mi beyond the Echo Caves, is a village established in 1845 but abandoned soon afterwards because of epidemics of malaria. This fertile valley was reoccupied only in the 20th C, after the elimination of the mosquitoes. There are some ruins of the original village.
Ohrigstad Dam Nature Reserve
18km/11mi beyond Ohrigstad R 36 runs into R 533. A short distance along this road to the east a side road (4km/2.5mi) goes off on the right to the Ohrigstad Dam. Round the lake is the Ohrigstad Dam Nature Reserve, a popular camping and picnicking area.
Mount Sheba Nature Reserve
The Mount Sheba Nature Reserve has preserved its natural forest cover.
Pilgrim's Rest, South Africa
Visitors staying in the Transvaal Drakensberg region should not miss the chance of seeing the little town of Pilgrim's Rest, at the foot of the Mauchberg (2,115m/6,939ft).In 1873 Alec Patterson and William Trafford struck gold in the little stream now known as Pilgrim's Creek, and the news of their find brought other prospectors flocking to the area. Over the years their claims were bought up by mining companies, and eventually the Transvaal Gold Mining Estate was established. Pilgrim's Rest meanwhile grew into a small town with a church, a school and its own newspaper. Mining operations finally ceased in 1971.Pilgrim's Rest, now preserved in its entirety as a national monument, retains the atmosphere of gold-digging days.In 1972 the town and the gold workings were bought by the provincial government and carefully restored, and this old gold-diggers' town is now an open-air museum, with many houses containing authentic furniture and furnishings, shops, the Royal Hotel (still offering accommodation for visitors), a bank and the office of the "Pilgrim's Rest and Sabie News". A plan of the town showing all the most interesting buildings can be obtained from the information center in the main street.