Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

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Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

Post by iandvl »

Overview

I've had a massive case of cabin fever recently. In short: I've not been getting out as much as I'd like to. I last did anything remotely close to "gat-skuur in die bosveld" in January, where we were invited to some lodge thing along with some friends. At that point, Liana and I made a decision to head out a day earlier and at least fit in a quick camp near Modimolle. We found a jewel for camping at Lekwena (post is here: https://patrol4x4.co.za/viewtopic.php?p=117964#p117964) and took the back roads home on the Sunday - after our lodge thing. At that point in time, we both made a conscious decision to see a little more of the Waterberg, and decided to make a plan about it. I also got out a little with the NORC Hennops day in early February, but that was a half day outing - and I've had a desire for a proper break...

The Plan

So we decided to head out to the Waterberg again. With the point of view of taking all the back roads and visiting all the dives we could. Apart from the first two nights, where we were booked for camping on the Thursday night and glamping on the Friday night at Marakele, we had no set itinerary - only a set of rules about sticking to the dirt roads, and seeing as many of the local dives as possible... It was a bit of a risk to take, considering it was a long weekend and all, but it all worked out in the end... :rolling: :rolling:

How it Panned Out

It ended up panning out ferpectly. We didn't battle to get accommodation anywhere, and we managed to traverse the last bit of the Waterberg back roads we've not covered on previous trips.

The screen grabs below of our route are a little "deurmekaar", as I only switched on the GPS when we got to Brits. We've done about 850km of road, of which probably 650km were dirt. And what lekker dirt road it was. The roads up in the Waterberg are pretty much non-existent after all the rains there have been in the area. The local flora looks fantastic, although because of the dense bush, it probably is not the best time of the year for spotting the local fauna.

Itinerary was:

Day 1: Pretoria to Marakele via Brits, Assen, Leeuwpoort and Rooiberg.
Day 2: Marakele
Day 3: Marakele to Lekwena Ranch via Bakkers Pass, Jan Trichart Pass, Rankins Pass and Alma.
Day 4: Lekwena to Mabilingwe
Day 5: Mebalingwe to Pretoria via Leeuwpoort, Assen, Brits and Harties.
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Some Teasers
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Conclusion (for now)

As with all my trip reports, I'll write up a post with detailed routes and specifics as well as a few more photographs as and when I get time. This won't be today - it is the first day back at week for me and I won't have the time - but please feel free to check back here later. :)
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Re: Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

Post by ricster »

Very nice ... :goodpost:
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Re: Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

Post by andredurand »

:coolphotos:
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Re: Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

Post by Spike »

I always appreciate the sight of a not-overly accessorised, unmodified-looking, overlanding patrol. Understated = classy :thumbup:
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Re: Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

Post by iandvl »

2022/04/28 - Pretoria to Marakele via Brits, Assen, Leeuwpoort and Rooiberg
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We headed out to Brits in the morning. This choice of route because I lived there for several years and I wanted to say hello to a few friends there. I also wanted to get some sosaties from one of the butcheries there and I planned to take the dirt road up toe Marakele.

Arrived in Brits area in the middle morning and did my shopping at Impala Butchery just South of Brits on the R512. Thereafter, we headed to the local Rugby club where I met up with one or two of the folk I wanted to see. That done, we took the "WagPos" pad (the road that runs past drie-berge caravan park) out for a couple of kilometres after which we hit the dirt road at the "Dal Unie NG Kerk". 10km from there, we turned onto the dirt Lethlabile road which runs basically from Lethlabile, passed Dikhololo and Moegatle, all the way to Assen and past that to Leeuwpoort.

The road is in a rather torrid condition, but not much of an exercise for the Patrol, and we made good time. Quite a bit of water on the road, and about 500 metres of very thick mud just past Assen. Reaching the T-Junction with the tar R516 (the Bela-Bela<->Thabazimbi road). Here we turned left for a few hundred metres before turning right towards Rooiberg. Most of the backroads in the Waterberg are boomed off, and one has to have one's license scanned by security before they let you through.

Rooiberg is an old tin mining town, although the mine closed down years ago. These days, it's major source of income is with game breeding, hunting and similar. There is a very quaint pub called "Die Koekoepan" (the first bushveld dive we stopped at - although the second if we include the Rugby Club in Brits). It's a nice place - full of the generic small town dive bric-a-brac and similar. I've eaten there before just after lockdown. I was riding backup vehicle for a group of adventure motorcyclists and we had lunch there that time. The food was not fantastic although, in their defence, they were on skeleton staff at the time. We did not eat there this time, so I cannot comment on the food.

After having a beer, we continued West on the main road through the town. At the end of the town, the road becomes dirt again. One continues with this road the way to where it makes a t-junction with the tar road at Marakele. Road conditions are rough. There has been a lot of rain in the area. The road is a little washed away in parts, and in others reasonably rough sinkplaat.

At Marakele, we checked in. We'd booked a camp-site at Bontle campsite for the evening, so we drove through and ran into Dirk (aka: Offroadbiker) who was also camping there. We set up camp. Some dutch guys who were touring camped in the opposite camp and ended up joining us at the fire. We braaied and ate dinner and chatted until reasonably late. Probably had waaay to much beer and wine, but it was good company and it was out first night, which means we were both probably battling with that "Arrival Anxiety Attack" thing... :rolling: :rolling:
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Re: Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

Post by JohnBoyZA »

Hi Ian

thanx for sharing, some awesome pics too!
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Re: Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

Post by iandvl »

2022/04/29 - Marakele and Thabazimbi
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We broke camp and did a leisurely game drive in the morning, although we saw nothing spectacular. A few girafee, a few zebra, lots of rooibokkies and a zebra or two. In the large game side of the park, the road was littered with broken branches and Rhino and Elephant manure - some very, very, very fresh - but we saw nary a thing. The vegetation is so dense (all the rain in the area) that large animals could be standing right next to the road. It was a little disappointing. At the bird hide in the central section of the park, I noticed how filthy the truck was from the previous day's drive on all the muddy roads

Road conditions in Marakele, as with the rest of the greater Waterberg area at the moment, are not good. In fact, the nicest roads in the park currently are the so-called 4x4 routes. The roads designated as (apparently) good for platkarre are in a sorry state.

We called an end to our game drive at about 11h30, and headed to Thabazimbi to do some shopping and refuel. Whilst there, we stopped at the local dive - "Die Plaas Japie". Those familiar with Thabazimbi will remember a pub there called "Squirrels" which was a rocking hot spot back in the late 90's. I recall a few fantastic evenings spent there back in around 1998, I reckon. "Die Plaas Japie" is the old Squirrels. It has a very interesting boma outside made out of old pick heads. On the way back to Marakele, we stopped at the "Khaya Kwa" pub and had a beer there too. This is opposite the entrance to the National Park and is also a nice spot.

We returned to the national park, where we checked in for our second night. This time though, we were glamping. We'd booked one of the Safari tents at Bontle camp. They are fantastic. Braaied rib-eye that evening, served with berry jam and camembert. Delicious. There was quite a bit of rain during the night, so I was rather happy about our accommodation decision for the evening.
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Re: Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

Post by Steele »

Love your trip reports Ian - you always give cool extra information :goodpost:
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Re: Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

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2022/04/30 - Marakele to Lekwena via Several Passes, Alma and Modimolle
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The third day saw us pack the truck and head out into the yonder. This day would see us do Bakker's Pass, Jan Trichardt's pass down to Rankin's Pass. From there, Modimolle via Alma - pretty much all dirt road. Bakker's and Jan Trichardt Pass are dirt road passes in the Waterberg. The former (Bakkers) is a fairly steep, windy ascent (when travelling in an Easterly direction) up the escarpment, after which it is a relatively straight dirt road with a few windy and steep descents. Jan Trichardt Pass is a windy descent down to the Waterberg uplands. Rankins pass is not a pass at all... :)

When exiting Marakele, we turned East (left) instead of towards Thabazimi (right). After a few kilometres, the tar road past Marakele becomes dirt road where one clears yet another security check point.

Bakkers pass in a bit of a sorry state at the moment, but great fun. It will probably improve shortly as we found a bunch of local farmers repairing the road right before the final bend at the top. The road is very scenic, relatively steep and has fantastic views South. Once at the top, one has fantastic views of the tops of the Waterberg mountain on the left. Large plains on the left host a chunk of very interesting animals. About 35km, there is a turn off to the left to Vaalwater. We carried on straight. Another security checkpoint later, and we were winding down Jan Trichardts pass towards Rankins Pass. According to T4A, there is a museum (Swaershoek Museum) in the middle of the pass, but when we arrived it appeared to be a VoorTrekker camp ground / event venue and it was closed. 10km after the checkpoint, one reaches a T-junction where one turns left to Rankin's Pass.

Rankin's Pass is not a pass. It is flat and boring. It consists of a Police station, a general dealer, a church and a fast-food join / local shebeen. In keeping with our tradition of visiting the local dives, we stopped at the local shebeen to have a beer. Don't feel to eager for choice - in true shebeen style, they pretty much only have Black Label quarts. Whilst at the shebeen, we met the owner. He was a very nice guy, and chatting with him we realised he was probably a big-shot in the Sasol / Petro industry prior to retiring to the Waterberg. Something struck us as odd, and I made a note to check up on the stuff later. It turns out that this same guy was a massive heavy-weight at Sasol and PetroSA but left under a huge cloud (anybody remember the oilgate scandals?). I am not going to mention his name here, but I really don't like unethical people... The town itself is apparently named after a Brit friend of Paul Kruger. He was approached by Oom Paul to create the ZAR police service after which he ended up staying in ZA. He is buried in Rankin's pass.

Anyways, local dive done, we continued to Alma - about 17km away. Alma consists of silos, a co-op, a bottle store, a spares shop one or two house and a large chunk of informal housing. It is apparently Naas Botha's stamping ground. There is nothing there - not even a local dive we could have a beer at. So we turned east at the intersection at Alma to go travel the 35-odd km to Modimolle - joining up with the tar R33 about 5km from Modimolle. In Midomolle, as restocked on beer, bought firewood and then visited the local dive - Insimbi Country Saloon. It's clean enough, but I would prefer not to be there when the sun goes down. I presume it's one of those places which have nicknames like "Veg Kop" / similar...

From there we back-tracked on the tar road, but took an earlier dirt road turn off as we were heading down to camp at Lekwena ranch at the Bateleur Private Game Reserve arriving there about 14h00. Always a pleasure camping there as the place is rustic, fantastic, has no powered camp-sites or cell-hpne reception, and I like the owners. There were other campers closer to the ablutions and other facilities, but we opted for sites 1 / 2 which are the furthers from the ablutions, have nice grass and shade. We made pizza on the cobb that evening - which worked well as there was quite a bit of rain.
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Re: Waterberg Walkabout: In Search of the Bushveld Dives

Post by iandvl »

2022/05/01 - Lekwena to Mabalingwe
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We had quite a bit of rain the previous evening, so we broke camp later than normal in order to let the roof-top tent and awning dry a little. After that, we cleaned up at the ablutions and hit the road. From Lekwena, we headed South to the tar road to Bela-Bela. At Bela-Bela, we got some nosh for the evening and, since it was the first of the month, attended to some banking whilst we had reception. Whilst wrapping that up, I also managed to get a spot for camping at Mabalingwe for the evening. Thereafter, we headed out West on the R516 (Bela-Bela <-> Thabazimbi road).

Liana has a thing for "padstalle", which I don't always get, but since we so our first stop was Peet se Padstal where Liana wanted to browse a little. That done, we continued a few hundred metres down the road to our first dive of the day. Jakkalsgat. What a dive it was - they don't get much better than this... Goats, ducks, geese and cats have the run of the place. The place stinks of goat urine as you enter from the road. The pub itself is filthy. And full of bric-a-brac. From old ZA flags hanging from the ceiling, to a gazillion of those little pieces of wood that people write on to put up behind the bar. The dust is probably a few metres deep in places. And there is no way I would ever eat anything prepared in that place. I'd not even use a glass - if I ordered anything to drink I would want it in its own glass or aluminum receptacle and I would want it opened before me... Anyways, it has a sort of rustic pub type attraction that appeals. I can imagine that one could get stuck there quite badly after a few Jaegermeisters. From the inscriptions on various little boards stuck behind the bar, I guess that happens often... After finishing our beer without contracting Hepatitis, we headed further West and checked in at Mabalingwe.

It was faaaar too early to set up camp, so we decided to go for a game drive first. However, with the dense undergrowth, game viewing was not successful. After driving around the park for a while, we found ourselves at dive number two. The Kalahari Oasis. It was quieter here than it was the last time I was at Mabalingwe. I approve of the fact that the bar is made out of the bodywork of some Landrover Defender. I am glad somebody decided to put the poor thing out of its misery so that it would stop pissing oil all over the planet. But the fact that they have a Toyotaholics-branded fridge behind the pub speaks volumes about the type of people who frequent the place.

The Kalahari Oasis is an anethema for me - for several reasons.

1: It's a massive kuier plek in the middle of a game park with big game.
2: It's not in the Kalahari.
3: It's signature drink is Rum and Raspberry. But it's not Moz.

After having a beer or two (I did - Liana opted for the RnR), we headed back to the caravan park and set up camp. We built the braai fire, had a few beers and chilled to the sound of Kurt Darren pumping from one of the many Toyotaholics vehicles strewn around the camp site. Despite Kurt, we were still visited by one of the camp-site's local antelope. The poor thing - being subjected to Kurt on a pretty much permanent basis... We also watched the monkeys raid the provisions from people camping across from us. I originally tried to chase them away, but after the 30th time, it got too much for me. What was I to do ? Lock all their stuff up in my car ? There are warning signs of the monkeys all over the place - I have very little sympathy... I did warn the folk about the broken glass lying all over their groundsheet (the monkeys) when they got back from the pub.

This was the last evening away. We braaied late-ish, and then turned in.
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