Words and images by Grant Spolander
I realise it’s the wrong attitude, but I can’t help but view the Johannesburg to Cape Town drive on the N1 as a test of endurance – a task to see how many kilometres I can kill before having to stop for a Red Bull break. Recently, it’s become worse; I now see it as a 15-hour life-or-death concentration game in which I need to overtake as many trucks as possible. I drove the N1 a few weeks back and was shocked by how few cars were on the road. At times, 20 minutes would pass before I saw a fellow vehicle approach from the opposite direction. In contrast, every 90 seconds (or less) a heavily burdened truck would blast by.
(A glaring sign that our country’s railway system has gone to pot!) Perhaps everyone’s flying these days, or maybe they’ve found a longer, more peaceful route. I usually slog it out to save time, but with the painful memory of my last commute running fresh in my mind, I decided to take the long way home and pop in on a few 4×4 trails – starting with the Free State. Few provinces can top the Free State’s winter magnificence; a majestic place of leaf-filled streams, frosted rocks, and a thousand shades of amber gold.
The province also makes me think of stone-walled buildings, log fires and Old Brown Sherry, which is precisely how we were greeted when we arrived at the Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve. Roughly 40 minutes from Ficksburg (near Lesotho’s northern border), Moolmanshoek is a 3 300-hectare farm bounded by tall sandstone rock – a horseshoe mountain wrapped around a valley of grass-covered plains, underground springs and wind-rustled reeds.