Words by Kerry Fraser. Pictures by Kerry Fraser & Micheal Barton
It crossed our minds that we’d bitten off a sizeable mouthful when Ronel handed us a leaflet on the 3 Provinces 4×4 trail, detailing all the danger areas. “Surely it’s not that bad?” I thought. Ronel then proceeded to make a great number of circles on the glossy route map. “Take extra care here, here, here, and, definitely, here,” she said. We nodded knowingly, all the while marvelling at what potential hazards were lurking in these previously friendly-looking rolling hills. The route up to our campsite, under the dark starless sky, bred a gaping chasm of concern. We climbed steadily to the top of the koppie, but when the rough got tough, we opted for the trailer friendly route − we still had to set up camp; it was already cold, and I could feel the wind speeding up. I was looking for any excuse not to admit that this might be too much to handle.
After brooding over coffee and rusks the following morning, we bit the bullet and set off on the Main Route, which would then lead us to a beacon where we could walk in all of three provinces: KZN, Mpumalanga and the Free State. A mere 800 metres from the campsite, we encountered the first of many gut-clenching challenges: a steep and rocky incline. Low-range was engaged and the bakkie slowly crept up the hill. It was only when the magnificent panoramic view came into sight that we finally breathed a sigh of relief. With renewed confidence, we set off across the magnificent mountain tops − their slopes ebbing to the sides as we rumbled across their spines.
We’d been warned about the route to the waterfall, so we decided to stop at the T-junction and stroll the track beforehand. I use the word “stroll”, but what we actually did was slip ’n slide down the valley − it seemed quite likely that a vehicle’s rear wheels might feel inclined to overtake the front wheels on that downhill. After a healthy and enthusiastic climb back up, we set off once more − after we’d caught our breath and slowed our pulses.
Once we’d passed through a few gates, a treacherous and steep track burned an orange trail down the hill in front of us. A sign to the left indicated that the Main Route led away from this trail, and, halfrelieved, we passed around the bottom of this hill, following the northern loop. Michael insisted that we would skip it altogether, although my entrails knew with absolute certainty that we’d be taking the van down that track in the not-too-distant future.