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Help with self drive Graaff-Reiner - Malealea, Lesotho - Swaziland- Lower Sabi

Help with self drive Graaff-Reiner - Malealea, Lesotho - Swaziland- Lower Sabi

Sep 20th, 2006, 01:29 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 4
Help with self drive Graaff-Reiner - Malealea, Lesotho - Swaziland- Lower Sabi

Dear SA experts,

I am very excited about our upcoming trip to SA in November. It is our first ever trip to Africa and I have been working hard on a perfect SA touring itinerary. Thank you for all the great advice on this discussion board, it has been very useful! But I still need some help, specifically with the tour segment from Graaff-Reiner to Lower Sabi. This is where I anticipate some long driving days, and I hope to get some driving time estimates, tips for best routes to take, road conditions and good overnight and sightseeing spots. (I have not been able to get any direct answers from any distance tables, just done some rough calculations based on a couple of maps I have – and I don’t have any idea about the potential road conditions etc)

My specific questions are:

How long will it take to drive from:
• Graaff-Reiner to Malealea, Lesotho
• Malealea to Mlilwane, Swaziland
• Mlilwane to Lower Sabi rest camp

Preferred routes for the above?
“Do not take roads” that may look good in the maps?
Great places to have a rest and explore on the way? Sights not to miss?

We have 2 days to drive the distance from Malealea to Mlilwane. Where is a good, logical place to stay for a night to break the drive? (I have thought about Clarens, Golden Gate National Park, Harrismith or Ladysmith???) Any suggestions? Great, moderately priced B&Bs or hotels? (400-700 per couple)

kati68 is offline  
Sep 20th, 2006, 09:27 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 378

I may be able to help with the Swaziland-to-Lower Sabie portion of your trip.

I did a one-day drive from Crocodile Bride camp to Mbabane, Swaziland (not sure where it is in relation to Mlilwane), and back to Berg-en-Dal camp. I would allow about 2-3 hrs. to get from Mbabane to the southern-most camps at Kruger if you don't stop. We stopped 3-4 times and still did it over the course of a day.

I crossed through the border post at Jeppe's Reef, SA both times, passed through the town of Pigg's Peak, and on to Mbabane. That road is mountainous, steep, and curvy in places, but paved. It was my first time driving in Africa, and while the road surface was fine, I did manage to bang up one of my wheels and needed to get a fix in Mbabane (long story). My advice would be to drive defensively around mountain curves, and know that there will be livestock to watch out for. Just slow down as you get near them so that you can stop in time if they decide to suddenly cross in front of you. Traffic is light once you leave Mbabane.

I hope this doesn't scare you off. I was a first-timer and did fine, and my wheel damage was due to me driving too cautiously (I hit the road edge too fast).

I seem to remember taking about an hour or so to go from Lower Sabie Camp to Croc Bridge Camp. I think you will find driving in the Kruger to be very relaxing.
Gritty is offline  
Sep 20th, 2006, 01:43 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 36
Sutikassana?? If so, I'm sorry that I could not get back to you on Smithfield. I still do not have the information.
1) Graaff-Reinet to Malealea.
The quickest route would probably be up the N9 to Colesberg, then the N1 to Bloemfontein, then the N8 to Maseru and backtracking southwards through Lesotho to Malealea. But I do not think it would save you very much time and I would personally choose to take the by-ways via Middleburg, Steynsburg, Aliwal North, Zastron and Wepener crossing the border at van Rooyensnek. I have not done that route myself, but have been on sections of it over the years and do not believe you will have any problems. I guestimate that it would take about 5 or 6 hours - 300km to Aliwal North plus another 130 km to Wepener plus the stretch within Lesotho.
3)Mlilwane to Lower Sabie.
But first: Crocodile Bridge to Lower Sabie - the stretch within Kruger - is a mere 36km, but should take you at least an hour (if you are very unlucky)and anything up to 2 1/2 hours if you are lucky. Lucky enough to spot game along the way. On one occasion on that short stretch of road we had seen the Big 5 by the time we got to Lower Sabie. So try to get to Crocodile bridge by 3:30 pm at the latest (gates close in November at 6:30pm.)
From Mlilwane, which is very close to Mbabane, it is about 200km to Crocodile Bridge - an easy drive of, say, 3 hours.
But I would rethink Mlilwane. I have given it some thought and although I know why you decided to stay there, I am not so sure that it is a good choice for you. It will not be the authentic village experience that I think you are looking for. The camp accommodation did not impress me (I did not overnight there, but did have a quick look around) and I think it is a bit iffy. The animal life (such as it is)is not important as you will be on your way to Kruger, but I believe the birding is good there. An alternative place you might cosider in Swaziland is Phophunyane Falls lodge, some 3 kilometres from the Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino. The lodge used to be (and probably still is)a lovely place to stay. Refer to http://www.phophonyane.co.sz.
But that would mean a slightly longer drive for the previous two days.
2) Malealea to Swaziland.
The quickest route would be to exit Lesotho at Maseru bridge, head north and west to Bethlehem and Harrismith, thence to Ladismith and along the N11 to Ermelo and the N17 to Oshoek border post. My choice for a stop would still be Witsieshoek. Or the Royal Natal National Park (Mont-Aux-Sources and the Amphitheatre. However, if you are British and interested in the wars that were waged in Natal in particular, then you may want to stop in the region of Dundee and visit some of the battlefields in the area.
Either way time should not be a problem.
Hope that helps a bit.
RKR is offline  
Sep 21st, 2006, 01:42 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 4
Thank you Gritty and Rudi!

Gritty, you didn't manage to scare me Good to hear that a first timer can make the drive!

Rudi, don't worry about Smithfield accommodation. I decided to take your advice from your second replay and drive directly from Graaff-Reiner into Lesotho and spend 2 nights at Malealea. The ponytrekking sounds good...

About Witsieshoek -do you have any further information about the accommodation there? I have tried to google Witsieshoek Resort, but find only some articles mentioning the place, nothing to get solid informaion or make a booking? I am a Finn living in Australia so not terribly familiar with the "battle" history although I am generally interested in historical sites too... However, mountain based stop in this case is probably my preference.

kati68 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2006, 12:00 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 36
My wife has just drawn my attention to an advert in the latest Getaway magazine. It might be just what you are looking for. Check out http://www.tintasafaris.co.za You would have your stay in a beehive hut in the heart of Zululand and you can then forget about Mlilwane and head on to Phophonyane instead. Located at Ulundi it is also a comfortable distance from both Witsieshoek and north-western Swaziland. My route would be as follows: Witsieshoek, Harrismith, Ladismith, Dundee, Melmoth, Ulundi. (Approx 400km) Then next day: Ulundi,Vryheid, Piet Retief, Amsterdam, north on N33, west to Oshoek on N17, Piggs Peak.(also approx 400km.) I have not travelled that route, but it seems to me that except for the short stretch around Witsieshoek and possibly at the Tinta resort, the roads all seem to be tarred. Ulundi is in the heart of Zululand and some people are still a little nervous about driving through that area. I am not one of them and cannot imaging you experiencing any problems, but feel that it is only fair that I mention their worry.
Now back to Witsieshoek. We stayed there some years ago and the accommodation consisted of two types of room - the old and the new. The old ones were not worthy of consideration; the (then) new ones were little chalets and seemed very nice. The road to the resort/hotel from the township of Phuthaditjaba is frustratingly difficult to find and is (was) a reasonably good gravel road. I cannot find a web-site for them, but will do some more searching for contact info and get back to you.
I have this morning received the contact details of "Smithfield House" B&B. The email address is [email protected] <[email protected]>
Now I am getting excited about your trip. I think I will plan to do a similar trip for next year. Hermanus, Oudtshoorn, Storms River, Graaff-Reinet, Malelea, Witsieshoek, Ulundi, Phophonyane, Lower Sabie. Fabulous.
PS When you contact Malelea please check that the roads are suitable for your vehicle to get there.
RKR is offline  
Sep 29th, 2006, 06:27 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 4
Thanks Rudi!

I am getting excited too! Only 5 weeks to go... I better start reseaching your suggestetions, and continue with my trip planning after a week away from the internet...

kati68 is offline  

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