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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.
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.