Words and Pictures by Grant Spolander
Our GPS map looks like kindergarden art as roads trail off in every direction. Many of these tracks criss-cross one another and abruptly end in blankness. We’re trying to make sense of the sand-road network north of Sodwana and I finally accept that northern KZN has no official 4×4 trails. Despite my best efforts, I failed to find a formal 4×4 route in northern KZN, the kind where you arrive at an office, pay a fee, sign an indemnity, and drive a well-mapped trail that usually follows a circular path. I even questioned the locals for an inside scoop, hoping they’d have details on a brand – new trail in the area, but the response I got was the same: “Nah dude, the 4×4 roads here are free, man.”
And so, after stubbornly speaking to countless beach bums, divers, deep-sea fisherman and roadside curio crafters, I accepted that northern KZN has plenty of 4×4 tracks – which are all free – and that the best route to drive is the Eastern Shores of Lake Sibaya trail. The route is a public one; folks have been driving this sandy track since 4x4s forged the roads here. But as far as trails go, it’s a must drive route and a hallmark attraction for off-road enthusiasts visiting northern KZN.
Although the trail’s well known, you won’t find many details on the route itself, specifically the road network that takes you there. If you’re in a rush to get to Lake Sibaya, you can hop straight on the D1848 and head directly to the southern gate of the Lake Sibaya coastal reserve. However, half the fun of this trail is getting there along the spider-web network of tweespoor tracks that burrow through coastal forest.
The trail kicks off just 700 metres northeast of the Sodwana Bay Lodge. At that point, you’ll find a road to the right of the main drag. Take the road eastward and follow the signs that lead to Maginty Lodge. The road quickly shifts from high-range gravel to deep sand – which may require low-range gearing when the sand is soft. This section of the route is mostly rural; you’ll see plenty of small dwellings, rickety fences and lazy cattle barricading the road. As mentioned before, the road network is a labyrinth of T-junctions, forks and dead ends.