Closest Town: Groot Marico
Grading: Difficult to Extreme | Duration: Around 3-4 hours
Location (Area/Province): Central Region and North West
Configuration: 28km main circular loop
Start Point: At the Homestead
Access: Private property. Day visitors by appointment. No fixed fee: phone and ask the owner, Ronnie Stanton
Beware of: Heat in summer
Facilities: Draaifontein guest cottage sleeps ten. Remote campsite (4x4 or high-clearance bakkie required to access it)
Cell Reception: None
Welcome to the world of Oom Schalk Lourens, arguably one of South Africa’s best-known mythical literary anti-heroes. If you’ve read about this veldskoen-wearing character with his larger-than-life mampoer habit, Groot Marico (less than 2hrs from Gauteng) will certainly be a worthy weekend destination. Magnificent Bosveld sunsets and rural tranquillity comes as part and parcel with any visit to this little dorp on the Botswana border, a place seemingly forgotten by time.
Mountain bikers will perk up when they hear that the area offers some of SA’s best technical riding during annual MTB races such as the Marico Mountain Bike Classic (August) and the Marico Bosveld Mile Festival (www.maricomyl.co.za), in September. One of the venues for these events is the farm Draaifontein, a spreading bush veldt estate of more than 3.000ha, with meandering rivers, rugged mountains and the spectacular Langkloof.
Situated just 28km from the quirkiness that is Groot Marico, and thick green bush veldt vegetation clustered like green veins along perennial water courses will immediately differentiate the immediate area from the surrounding, bare-topped Highveld hills. You had better be sure to bring your mountain bike, because a rambunctious network of gravel farm tracks and footpaths are just begging to be explored.
On your bike
The actual route grading vary from intermediate to extreme, but anyone looking to crank some easy miles will have never-ending gravel district roads and farm tracks to ride throughout the area. Draaifontein’s main circuit measures 28km, but can be extended with an additional loop if you want to super-size your workout. Much of the routes are along man-made and natural single-track, but with some jeep track heaven through rocky and technical terrain in places. There is no way around the steep climbs, so sometimes you’ll have to return the favour and carry your bike!
It’s a good idea to warm-up before setting off from the homestead as the ride goes straight into a 800m-long climb with a gradient that is often over 1-in-4. Once this done, take time to catch your breath and enjoy the anticipation the off-road treat ahead. As you continue your crank, beautiful kloofs, dense savannah woodland and challenging water crossings await against a backdrop of rugged, rolling hills.
Get lost within the valley, where you will be swallowed up by the welcome shade of the verdant riverine vegetation. Stick to the roughshod jeep track to blast again and again through nearly a dozen water crossing (you’ll probably need the cooling off)! Round about now you can decide to either head home or tackle the second loop … Keep in mind that the winter nights get icy, but that there will be some genuine Groot Marico mampoer to keep you warm and cosy around the fire!
Off the bike
For scuba diving and swimming “Die Oog” is a natural spring, a dolomitic eye and the actual source of the Marico River. Draaifontein Farm has 4×4 trails and hiking trails. For genuine South African culture, in March Groot Marico hosts the Summer Sounds Jazz Festival. In October, The Herman Charles Bosman Literary Society celebrates the work of this famous writer in the form of plays, readings and poetry.
Draaifontein Farm has 4×4 and hiking trails with excellent birding, and you can even get pampered with a massage, facial, manicure or pedicure. Take in nature’s beauty and be sure to take advantage of the naturally formed rock pools for a revitalizing swim.
Telephone: +27 (0)82 337 7781 (Michele Stanton)
Web site: www.goingwhere.co.za/riverbend
GPS: 25°44.16.4’ South / 26°21.54.0’ East