The KwaZulu Natal Four Passes Traverse
Gus was in KZN towards the middle of last year for his annual kite board factory shutdown and since his CRF250L was already here, we decided to head out and conquer four of the passes that climb the Eastern Drakensberg between KZN and the Freestate – namely Muller’s Pass, Normandien Pass, Colling’s Pass and finally Middledale Pass.
Day one of our four day adventure took us from Hilton to Weenen along as much gravel as we could find. Soon after leaving Howick we enjoyed great gravel through the Karkloof, past the Mbona Estate on the P141 until the gravel T boned the R622 at Rietvlei. The trail then went on to the Craigieburn Dam. The going had been good – so far…
Then, we hooked a left and followed what appeared to be an old enduro route… Oh dear – some very challenging riding on a seldom used path littered with many rocks and drop offs.
This is not recommended for the faint of heart or a rider of limited skill… Enjoyable nonetheless, although a riding companion is advisable! We somehow linked up with the P174 and made our way to Middelrus soon after which we took the P176 on to the R74 where we hit some blacktop for a short distance to the Owl & Elephant B&B. The B&B turned out to be a real find and we enjoyed a great dinner accompanied by a cold beer while watching the sunset at the end of a good day’s adventure riding.
Day one basic stats: Distance covered about 132km, fuel used about 4.1 litres.
Day two saw us making for Memel via Muller’s Pass. We took many “P” and some “S” prefixed gravel roads , crossed the R602 and N11 main roads to get to the P207 turn off which led us to the first of our targeted passes – Muller’s Pass.
One of the old towns we passed through was Wasbank. Sadly this town was almost a ghost town and there didn’t appear to be much of a future for anyone living here. Luckily we were able to top up the CRF250L’s tanks at small local garage – 7,5 litre tanks make one very aware of fuel consumption and tank range!
Muller’s Pass turned out to be a great ride as we climbed the escarpment, enjoying fantastic views and stopping often to take photos.
On our arrival in Memel we made directly for the Memel Hotel, took possession of, and drank a welcome cold beer after a long day on the bikes. Once settled into our rooms and after a necessary shower we proceeded to the pub where we engaged with Chris, the hotel owner, who is a mine of information about the area and its many adventure biking routes. Memel is a “must do” destination for any adventure biker.
And so to bed after a lekker pub supper in good company.
Day two basic stats: Distance covered about 232km, fuel used about 7 litres.
Our planned overnight stop for day three was Geluksberg – a small hamlet at the foot of the Drakensberg. We departed Memel at around 9:45 after a leisurely breakfast. The plan for the day was to conquer two passes – the Normandien and Collings Passes.
After back-tracking for a short distance on the P207 we struck out to the right at the S472 turn off and followed this 4×4 track down to the P270 and the Normandien Pass. A great ride! Taken at a reasonable pace and with many stops for photos and then more stops simply to take in the majestic views we all too soon, found ourselves at the spot on the map called Normandien. Here we turned right and headed to the turn off to Collings Pass and the P263.
This time the good gravel road took us back up the escarpment and back into the Freestate. The weird thing was that at the exact point at which the Garmin Etrex showed us crossing from KZN into the Freestate the fine gravel road morphed into a magic 4×4 trail…
We took this trail all the way to Swinburne where we enjoyed a brilliant burger and a hard earned break at the small River View pub/restaurant away from the madding crowd at Montrose – the manic bus stop for folk traveling by bus to the bright city lights…
After lunch we mounted our trusty CRF250L’s and headed off for Geluksburg along even more sublime gravel roads across the Freestate. Pretty soon we found ourselves cruising gently down the Middeldale Pass (tarred) into Geluksburg and our stop at Gina’s. As there was no restaurant available we prepared a simple meal in the self-catering chalet and turned in after the customary ale and chinwag with a fellow traveller camping nearby.
Day three basic stats: Distance covered about 186km, fuel used about 6.4 litres.
Our final day turned out to be really interesting with some extreme bush riding thrown into the mix. We decided to simply follow the “purple line” on the Etrex…
After starting out at 8:30 from Geluksburg we made our way on tar to Bergville and on to a turn indicated by the Etrex somewhere along the P10-2 (I think…) After much “bundu bashing” and gnashing of teeth (by me!) along a vague track, we climbed a small ridge and found ourselves staring at the basalt wall of the mighty Darkensberg! What a glorious reward after the all the effort! We then proceeded to the White Mountain Inn for a snack after which we high tailed it down to Nottingham Road for a late lunch at Rawdon’s Hotel before the final leg back to Hilton.
This was a really great outing on our small Honda CRF250L’s and revealed in no uncertain terms the complete suitability of these little machines for a simple slow paced adventure away from the maddening recklessness of life on our busy roads!
Day four basic stats: Distance covered about 213km, fuel used about 6.5 litres.