When we left Pilanesberg, we thought: we are so close to Sun City, let’s give it a go. It had most probably been a few decades since last we had been there and maybe it could turn into a nice outing. When we rocked up at the gates however, we found out it was closed for day visitors. Only VIP residents were admitted. We considered to book accommodation, until we saw the prices! One night here would equal about 10 or 15 nights in a caravan park! No way, Jose!
So we needed to move on. We looked at the map and saw various camping grounds alongside the Magaliesberg Mountain Reserve. Websites were not really that informative but we decided on Kgaswane Nature Reserve on the north side of Magalies berg. After a few wrong turns into a suburban area, we found it but were disappointed once again. Although it seemed to be open for day visitors for game drives, the camping and picnic facilities were closed.
By then it was afternoon (that’s why we were looking for an overnight spot in the park) so we turned around in search for another spot. We continued over the Olifantsnek Pass and as we had cleared the crest and were on our way down, we saw the Olifantsnek Dam on our left. A short distance later we saw a small track turning towards the dam and thought: why not!
It seemed to be private property of the local angling club, but the guy at the gate was more than happy to let us park and sleep at the dam for a small fee. We set up and Stefaan started his Belgian style-French Fries-cooking-procedure in the Dutch oven on the gas stove. The sky however turned darker by the moment and just as the first lot of French fries were in the pot, the skies opened up with a deluge. Our potjie stood lonely in the downpour while Stefaan hopped in and out of the truck to check on the cooking process. When the biggest rain had passed and some lonely sun rays peeped through the clouds a wonderful rainbow appeared over the dam. Guess what stood on the end of OUR rainbow: our Belgian style French fries!
Between the exciting cooking process in the midst of this massive cloudburst we had forgotten about the windows… especially our roof vent above the bed. When we park that’s usually the first thing we open up to create a draught through the house in combination with the other windows. So yes, … our bed was wet! After supper, Stefaan transformed our dining nook into the spare bed- usually the privileged sleeping spot for the grand children- and slept there that night. Comfy enough for me and a bit on the cramped side for Stefaan but dry!
When we left the dam the next morning we aimed to cross the mountain on a dirt road going to Marikana (according to a very official looking road sign). Just as we had turned onto the track, we realised that – on the map- it seemed that Cradle of Humankind was not too far away. We had been there with Erika and Patrick a few years ago and thought it cool to get Trokkie there too… the place where mankind began! It turned out a bit farther than anticipated, but hey… we’re not really in a rush.
Signage was a bit confusing though: initially the typical big brown (tourist) signboard indicated a right towards “Cradle of Humankind”, but afterwards nothing anymore. We passed a “Maropeng” turnoff to the right and a bit further turned left to the Sterkfontein Caves. Unfortunately the entrance looked a bit “worn”. Even though it looks pretty cool with the little concrete blocks depicting human evolution, the sign board itself looks a bit weather worn and faded. When we drove in there, we saw they were closed: only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Bummer! When we checked on Mr. Google what the confusion was between Cradle of Humankind and Maropeng was, it seemed that it is actually the same. Confusing signage to say the least! If we as South Africans get confused what about overseas travelers? As we typed in Maropeng on Google Maps, the voice told us that Maropeng was most probably closed today. When we checked the website, it was indeed also only open on the weekend. Bummer again! (Yes, we we’re still the dumb ones to drive “spontaneously”… read: unprepared! we still forget to do research and find out stuff prior to heading somewhere. We should have learned by now that Covid19 puts a spanner in the wheels on very many occasions. On the other hand we’ve also experienced that many government run parks, historical places and caravan sites just use the Covid 19 as an excuse not too operate. Kudos so far to all the SANPARKS: they have been great, friendly, clean and helpful wherever we’ve visited) )
We turned back to our original plan: the track over the mountain: Maanhaarrand (Lion Mane Ridge) or Breedsnek Pass. The skies had turned very dark by then and even before we turned off from the tar road, the rain came down like a curtain. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive about tackling an obvious muddy and slippery road in such a torrent! Never seen such non stop lightning spiking down from the dense cloud mass! But we took it VERY slowly. Certain parts of the track were more stream than road and we inched our way up the mountain. Down on the main road an official road sign had indicated that this was the way to Marikana on the other side of Magaliesberg. It didn’t take us long to realise that, despite the official road sign, not too many vehicles take this as an official road. Wow… that road was bad: deeply rutted where rain storms have carved gaping trenches alternated with unyielding and slippery rocky surfaces where we had to crawl over centimeter by centimeter.
By about 4pm the mist had come down and settled over the mountain and we decided to rather park along the roadside and sleep there than take unnecessary risks.
Quite surprisingly, a vehicle came up the road. It was a mountain club member and it seems the mountain club manages access or use of that particular pass… so we thought we were in trouble. Fortunately we weren’t. It was funny though that their SUV got the same name as our truck: Trokkie! Such a coincidence!
After our morning cup of coffee the next day, we hit the road again. We started off reasonably good with views over a still misty valley from the highest point of the pass but then it went downhill from there, literally and figuratively. And if we thought the previous day was full of dodgy moments, the new day proved to be even more challenging: more places for me to get out of the truck because I felt very uncomfortable and more places where my heart almost got to a standstill at the wobbly crossing of Trokkie over difficult terrain. Stefaan decided it would be better to put the camera onto a tripod because there were moments my hands just shook to much!
At a few points the road was so badly washed away that we had to get to work and fill up the trench with rocks and boulders to make sure Trokkie could pass without sliding in the trench.
Eventually, at our penultimate very dodgy crossing, we met some locals and they suggested that- after the hard physical work of dragging around rocks- we take a walk to a little waterfall just down in the valley.
And that’s what we did. We lost the track a bit, but with a few detours we eventually found our friends down at the waterfall: not very big but flush and flowing nicely. Chatting to our new found friends we were told that this waterfall (like several we have seen in the past) is a place of prayer for them: the strong fall clears the head and they build a nice fire to heat up rocks and splash water to enjoy their ‘bush sauna’ as part of the cleansing and invigoration ritual. And just like at other waterfalls in the past we could see the burned candles on the rockface all around the waterfall.
We left our friends to their prayer session, walked back to the truck and continued towards Pretoria, via massive farms sitting side by side by the mining industry.
Getting closer to Pretoria we made a stop at Hartebeespoort Dam. Although Trokkie was too heavy to be allowed on the dam wall, we parked, got out and took a walk onto the wall. We have driven over the wall a few years ago when the dam was much lower and it was in a way nice to see how clean the water was. The dam being so full and flowing strongly prevented the green algae and water hyacinths to proliferate and create lumo-green scum to float on the water. Close to the dam was a little craft market and we were reminded of our children in Jamaica!
As we had to bring in Trokkie for her 20.000km service in the next few days, we decided to camp for a few days at Joos Becker caravan park in Pretoria, which was cool, because we had the whole place to ourselves! Lucky us!
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