Driving the Magoebaskloof Pass

Posted on 24 March 2014

Reminiscent of a funfair ride, the series of twisting S-bends and hairpins on Magoebaskloof Pass, between Tzaneen and Haenertsburg, offers plenty of thrills for motorbikers as well as drivers.


The Magoebaskloof Pass

Reminiscent of a funfair ride, the series of twisting S-bends and hairpins on Magoebaskloof Pass, between Tzaneen and Haenertsburg, rapidly rise 558 metres over 6,5 kilometres, offering plenty of thrills for motorbikers as well as drivers. It’s fringed with pine and eucalyptus plantations, leaving just a few tantalising glimpses of green valleys and Afromontane forests, the most extensive in South Africa after the Garden Route.

Base yourself in the cooler climes around Haenertsburg and do a recce drive down the pass in the atmospheric morning mist. Stop for brunch at the family-run Wheelbarrow Farm Stall outside Tzaneen, then motor back up the recently resurfaced pass in sunshine, stopping at the two view sites (on the left driving from Tzaneen).


What you ’ll see on the Magoebaskloof Pass

The R71 road from Tzaneen meanders casually up the fertile Magoebaskloof Valley for the first 13 kilometres, past avocado orchards and tea plantations. Dark green pines are reflected in the Magoebaskloof Dam on the Politsi River; the ‘beware of the hippo’ sign is no joke and these waters also harbour crocodiles.

Mist and fog warning signs indicate the start of the pass after the road crosses a small stream and starts to ascend. Passing lanes are provided on some sections, so you won’t be stuck behind big timber trucks for long. The first S-bend-hairpin combination is followed by a mossy picnic site with benches and tables.

Next up is a long horseshoe bend, then a short straight stretch at Magoebaskloof Ruskamp. From the deck at its restaurant, you can glimpse switchbacks snaking between thick foliage below.

At the second picnic site, where a historic metal sign from the old pass has been retained, you are almost directly above the first hairpin many metres below. Another long S-bend brings you to the top of the pass, just beyond the turn-off to Woodbush Forest. From here to Haenertsburg, the land undulates past plantations and sparkling lakes.

Building the Magoebaskloof Pass

After the Anglo-Boer War, a new route down the Magoebaskloof Mountains was built close to a bridle path used by woodcutters through Woodbush Forest. Construction went well until workers downed tools in 1915, refusing to cut down what they called God’s trees. In the end, the route was altered to spare the trees. It’s thought that Chief Mamphoku Makgoba, the powerful Tlou chief who defied the Boer invasion of his land, was buried in the vicinity after he was defeated in 1895 and that his restless spirit still wanders the mountains around the pass, named after a corrupted version of his name.


Making the most of the Magoebaskloof Pass

Combine a drive along Magoebaskloof Pass with a little outdoor adventure in Woodbush Forest and the surrounding plantations: mountain-biking, hiking, birding and fly-fishing. The area is also famous for its magnificent show gardens, at their best in spring when the azaleas and cherries are in full bloom, and in autumn when the deciduous foliage turns red and orange. Picnic next to Debengeni Falls on the Politsi River or have lunch at one of the restaurants in the area. Sandford Heights Nursery and Tea Garden (tel 082-808-2450) at the top of the pass serves light lunches and is famous for its fluffy waffles, or tuck into a whole baked trout and marvellously refreshing home-made iced tea at The Red Plate (tel 083-305-2851).


Where to stay in the Magoebaskloof area

Take a weekend to explore the Magoebaskloof area around Haenertsburg – here’s our pick of places to stay.

Kuhestan Organic Farm Cottages

Self-catering from R550 a person sharing, www.kuhestan.co.za.

Cheerio Trout Fishing & Holiday Resort

Cottages from R400 to R1 400 a night, www.cheerio.co.za. Book a stay here.

Sequoia Gardens

Units from R400 to R1 400 a night, sequoiagardens.wordpress.com.

The Pennefather

Self-catering from R330 a person a night sharing, www.thepennefather.co.za. Book a stay here.

Magoebaskloof Hotel

B&B from R799 a person a night sharing; self-catering apartments from R1 999 a night, www.magoebaskloof.co.za.

Visit www.magoebasklooftourism.co.za and www.mountaingetaways.co.za for more information.

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