Trip 3: Roadtripping through the high Drakensberg

Posted by Anita Froneman on 28 February 2022

Drakensberg? It’s not only about Champagne Castle and the Midlands Meander. There’s another Berg, higher, wilder, an ideal place for an epic road trip. Getaway and Mazda headed out to Witsieshoek with mural artist Giffy Duminy to find adventure, paint an awesome mural and seriously enjoy themselves.

Mention the Berg and most people think the lower Berg, the easily accessed area around Howick and Underberg. But for a change of view, Mazda teamed up with one of Durban’s finest mural artists to explore the less travelled area around Phuthaditjhaba, Qwaqwa and the Golden Gate National Park. The aim was to discover new roads, put the CX-30 through its paces and find a place to paint and celebrate the bearded vulture, one of South Africa’s most iconic raptors, endemic to the area and now endangered.

So where is the high Berg?

The high Berg? It’s the area above the escarpment essentially – if you’re standing in the Amphitheatre, looking up, that’s the high Berg. To get there from Durban it’s a four-hour drive up the N3 to Harrismith, then a left turn to Phuthaditjhaba, the capital city of the Qwaqwa region. Keep going down the R712 and you get to the Golden Gate National Park. But we were headed for the escarpment’s edge, chasing those killer views and the spirit of the bearded vulture, so we turned left again, through Phuthaditjhaba towards Witsieshoek, right on the edge of the drop-off.

Witsieshoek and the land of the bearded vulture

Once through the town, things get really interesting. As a road trip it has everything; the route winds through sandstone gorges, emerald green valleys and past enormous buttresses. The CX-30, Mazda’s mid-sized crossover, is engineered to entertain as well as carry four people and their luggage and it was in its element – sharp, responsive, immediate, eating up the passes, loving every challenge. At the end of the road – literally – is Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge, the only accommodation in the area, right on the lip of the escarpment. The idea was for Giffy and the Getaway team to locate the bearded vulture (Witsieshoek has a vulture feeding station) and then choose a site to create a mural of the regal bird. Weather permitting, there might also be time for a trek up to The Sentinel and onwards to the Tugela Falls.

A great wall and plenty of challenges

Alas, the birds and weather weren’t playing ball. The vultures were strangely absent and there’s a reason for all that green up there. KwaZulu-Natal has had record rainfall this year. But – hallelujah – the clouds cleared long enough for Giffy to choose his wall and get to work on the mural. How long did it take? Check out the time-lapse sequence here.

Playing in The Golden Gate National Park

In the meantime there was time to assess the road conditions. From the lodge there’s a ‘road’ up to the Sentinel carpark that looked more like a Himalayan goat track after all the rain. Definitely a no-go in anything other than a tractor, so sadly the CX-30 had to go elsewhere to play. That neighbourhood proved to be almost as interesting – Golden Gate National Park is often forgotten, but rates as an astonishing playground for keen drivers. A network of spectacular roads – all tarred – link the cliffs, precipices and valleys. The CX-30’s excellent roadholding proved a boon out there. So too did its bulletproof build quality; on roads like these, where potholes and patchy repairs quickly sort the true-blues from the pretenders, there was not a squeak or rattle. It was a reluctant team that turned east again and headed back to Witsieshoek to pick up Giffy and make tracks for the coast.

The fast road home

Mural finished, the team headed home to Durban, late as it turned out (planes wait for no one). It was an ideal opportunity to test the CX-30’s touring pedigree. Turns out the naturally aspirated, two-litre Skyactiv-X engine is a real revelation. Mazda’s engineers have managed to perfect a powerplant that creates significantly more torque than most two-litres while notably improving fuel efficiency. On the winding R713 and hectically busy N3 that translated into effortless overtaking and peerless, very silent, high speed cruising. A real class act, the CX-30.

Airport reached, last words were for Giffy. “What an amazing strike mission into the Berg. Learning has always been important to me, having a curious mind. We’ve seen some special places, painted that epic wall. We live in an incredible country. Just get out there. Explore it. Enjoy it.”


Competition (CLOSED)

Win with Mazda, Getaway and Legacy Hotels and Resorts

Follow the Mazda Change Your View series and stand a chance to win a Legacy Hotel and Resorts weekend getaway for four.

Indicate one of the destinations of the three Mazda Change Your View trips and stand a chance to win a Legacy Hotel and Resorts weekend away for four.

How to enter, below

List one of the three destinations in the Mazda Change Your View series.

Provide your name, address and contact details.

The Prize

A weekend at Bakubung Bush Lodge in the Pilanesberg.

WIN: A Legacy Hotel and Resorts weekend away for four

The prize includes accommodation on the basis stated, and the stated extras for four people.

It does not include airfares or other travel expenses.

The competition closes on 11 March 2022.





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