R74 route condition

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Attention all Gauteng Runtheberg-ers.

As most of you know, the primary route to the Northern Berg from the Highveld takes you on the N3 past Harrismith and onto the R74 that runs alongside the spectacular Sterkfontein Dam and down the equally spectacular Oliviershoek pass on to the mountains. Sadly, as many of you will already no doubt be aware, the section of the R74 that runs along the dam has fallen into terrible disrepair over the past few years as the apparent result of a dispute between the Free State Provincial authorities and contractors. This road, which should in fact be a national treasure has sadly become a national disgrace. That being said, it IS driveable, and this past weekend (12 & 13 July) I took my city slicker old BMW 330 down to the Berg from JHB and from the Bergview 1-Stop Engen garage in Harrismith (the huge Wimpy / Nando’s / Mugg & Bean / Spur complex) compared the two main routes in and out.

Route 1 – the long way round via Bergville

From Harrismith Bergview 1-Stop get back onto the N3 towards Durban. Continue on the N3 for approximately 75km to the Bergville turn-off, and follow the signs to Bergville (a further 35km). As you get into Bergville look for the signs that direct you to the Northern Drakensberg / World Heritage Site / Drakensberg Resorts / Nondela, and drive for another +-29km to the turn-off to the left into the mountains (the signs indicate all of the Drakensberg Resorts (including The Cavern, Montusi, Alpine Heath etc.) and the Royal Natal National Park). From there it is another 11km to the Race Village at the All-Out Adventures Adventure Centre.

Summary: 150km; 1hr29min; easy driving (the odd pothole)

Route 2 – the direct way past Sterkfontein Dam and Oliviershoek Pass

From Harrismith Bergview 1-Stop get back onto the N3 towards Durban. Take the N5 turn-off towards Bethlehem and then after a couple of km (or a few – but it’s obvious) the R74 to the left towards Phuthaditjhaba. After another couple of km (or another few – again obvious) turn left again staying on the R74 past the Sterkfontein Dam towards Bergville and the Drakensberg. This is 18km from the 1-Stop in Harrismith and this is where the roadworks begin. FROM HERE THE ROADWORKS CONTINUE FOR 17KM, PRETTY MUCH ALONG THE LENGTH OF THE DAM, AND DRIVERS MUST PROCEED EXTREMELY SLOWLY AND WITH CAUTION. YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DRIVE AT MORE THAN 20KM/H – 40KM/H FOR THIS ENTIRE STRETCH. IF DRIVEN VERY SLOWLY, HOWEVER, IT IS DRIVEABLE, AS EVIDENCED BY MY LOW CITY-STREET-ORIENTED CAR. BUT IF YOU TRY AND RUSH IT, I KNOW OF MANY BIG 4X4’S THAT HAVE LOST MULTIPLE TYRES!! AT THE REQUIRED VERY SLOW SPEEDS SECTION SHOULD TAKE YOU ABOUT 27-30MIN TO COVER THE 17KM.

R74 route condition

The roadworks end near the end of the dam, and you continue along this road down the steep and windy but spectacular Oliviershoek Pass for another 20km beyond the end of the roadworks (watch out for potholes and bumps here), until the turn-off to the right into the mountains (the signs indicate all of the Drakensberg Resorts (including The Cavern, Montusi, Alpine Heath etc.) and the Royal Natal National Park). From there it is another 11km to the Race Village at the All-Out Adventures Adventure Centre.

Summary: 66km; 1hr04min; scenic but stressful; if you go too fast on the derelict road section you WILL be looking for new tyres instead of running in the mountains

The choice is yours. If anybody has any questions please feel free to speak to me directly. Drive carefully either way 🙂

Durban entrants you have it easy. Via Bergville.

49 thoughts on “R74 route condition”

  1. I drove this road on Monday 9 Nov 2015. the detour of about 20kms[my estimate] of gravel is very rough with hard ‘rocks’ protruding most of the way that compelled me to drive very slowly and carefully ,mostly in 2nd gear,as I feared for my low profile tyres[Renault Megane CC]. It was very tedious.I will not go back that route.The portions of retarred road that one goes over,or sees in the distance[but is not allowed to use] look excellent… when completed it should be great.

  2. Would like to travel the R74 route on 19/11/2015, are there still dirt road detours? If so, have there been any heavy rainfalls to deteriorate the dirt sections? Thanks

  3. Hey Colin, The situation is looking quite stable. There ARE still the dirt road detours, and there have been no big rains for a while. Hope this helps. PS the speed bums in the speed bump section must be taken seriously. Slow down properly for them.
    Regards,
    Warren

  4. Looking to travel this road next weekend on the 3 December.Is there any updates on the road condition ? Will i be able to drive it with my Mercedes Benz E class?

    1. Hey Ashley, just received some feedback from the locals and they reckon the whole road may be open by 6 December. Even if it’s not fully open you should be absolutely fine in your Merc – I’ve driven it very recently in my BMW 3-Series and it was fine. Just go slow on any of the dirt sections, (very slow if there’s wet weather), and very slow over the speedbumps if they still take you through that section. Hope this helps. Drive Safe.

      Warren

  5. Hi Warren

    Thank you for your update

    This has always been one of my highlight routes between JHB and Durban and i was very saddened when the road deteriorated
    .

    I did the trip on Sunday 6 December from Durban to JHB and the roadworks are still underway.But besides the 20 min dirt road divert,its very easy to get past doing 60km in a normal car. Unfortunately you do miss out on the spectacular views of Sterkfontein dam

    Being a ex Bergville resident I am very excited to report that the new road looks fantastic and i can not wait till its fully operational
    .

  6. I am driving down from JHB to Cathkin Park on 03/01/2016 in a small Honda Jaz how is the Oliviershoek Pass looking.
    Thanks Richard

    1. I spoke to a lady at ATKV Drakensville this morning on 02/01/2016 and she told me that the r 74 can be used as it has been repaired and reopened on the 11/12/2015.Safe travels.

  7. The R74 is now open. used it today,from Winterton , Oliviershoek pass,Sterkfontein Dam to Harrismith and it was fabulous. Now how to keep the 27 wheeler trucks off the R74. The road was not built for heavy trucks.

    1. Agreed. The Free State stretch is done and it’s lovely, but the big trucks have really damaged the KZN side. (Done yesterday in driving rain)

      Cedric Cullingworth

  8. I drove from bethlehem, up the Sterkfontein road, passed Little Switzerland and the road is great. There is one very small stop and go, but it’s just for one or two final patches that should be finished in a few days. But the road is brilliant. I have low profiles and not one problem or pothole or lose stone.

  9. Just drove the R74 past Sterkfontein Dam. Roadworks are nearly complete. One stop and go but took less than 5 minutes to pass through. Really very beautiful and definitely worth it.

  10. Hi guys,
    I am planning to use the R74 from Bloem down to PMburg. Driving a Honda civic (very low) . Any improvements on the road. I’ve got time on my hands

    Regards

    Jean

    1. Thank you very much Warren for this latest update on the R 74. I will be on it on the 3rd of June and greatly looking forward to it.

      Kind Regards

      Andrew

  11. How does the R74 look from Harrismith to the N3? Thinking of travelling down from Harrismith in Sep? Doing the.trip in a 4×2 Chevy Captiva .

  12. Hi Warren

    Thank you for all these great info. I will be traveling to Port Edward from Johannesburg on June 23rd.
    Planning to take the R74 from Harrismith to Winterton.

    May you suggest me how to continue on an interesting route all the way down to Port Edward? Possible overnight stop half way? We will be traveling in A Polo Vivo 1.4

    Many thanks

    Kind regards

    Nira

  13. Hi everyone.
    I want to go the R74 route to Winterton from JHB and skip the Engen for lunch, the one just before Harrismith. What other lunch/brunch options are there along this route to Bergville/Winterton?
    Thanks for time to reply.
    Q

    1. We want to go to Little Switzerland in the middle of October 2016, how is the Road from Bergville to Little Switzerland now. Please let know by e-mail. thanks. Brian

      1. The post above was about abandoned roadworks in 2010. Work eventually resumed and was completed. This was on the section of the R74 in the Freestate. The section you refer to was not affected.

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