by Will Edgcumbe

Scenic Drives

The journey is half the fun

Sani Pass
Scenic drives in SA
South Africa is an undeniably beautiful country. Whether you’re a fan of sea views, desert tracks, mountain passes or lush meadows, you’ll be feasting your eyes to your heart’s content – and pretty often, it can all be done from the comfort of your car. Provided your car is not in the habit of breaking down, merely driving to your destination can be a great pleasure in itself; just make sure to keep at least one eye on the road while eyeing the scenery.

Coastal beauty
Chapman’s Peak Drive, a 9km stretch of road that links Hout Bay and Noordhoek on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, is unquestionably one of the most brilliant coastal drives in the world. Winding along a cliff-face offering 180-degree sea views, with strategically placed viewpoints and picnic sites, this route is nothing short of breathtaking. The 30 ZAR toll required to take the drive, which goes towards maintaining the road and safety measures is entirely worth the truly unique experience of this scenic drive.

Nerves of steel
If you thought Chapman’s Peak was hairy, Sani Pass on the KwaZulu-Natal side of the Drakensburg Mountains is another animal entirely. With turns called ‘Ice Corner’ and ‘Suicide Bend’, the road is one treacherous hairpin after another, winding all the way up to 2874m above sea level, and high into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. This drive should only be negotiated in a 4x4 vehicle – the road is unpaved, potholed and there is no guardrail. However, the view is like nothing else – they do not call it the ‘roof of Africa’ for nothing – and you can reward your bravery with a beer at the highest pub in Africa, Sani Top Chalet.

Golden Gate
Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Eastern Free State’s Maluti Mountains lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. It is named in respect of the brilliant shades of gold that the sun casts as it shines on the park’s imposing sandstone cliffs. The drive here is beautiful whichever direction you take: from KwaZulu-Natal, the road takes you up Oliviershoek Pass and past the green-blue waters of Sterkfontein Dam; from Johannesburg, you drive through beautiful grasslands and the quaint towns of Bethlehem and Clarens.

Uncelebrated splendour
When most people think of scenic driving routes in Mpumalanga, the Blyde River Canyon usually gets all the kudos; it certainly is spectacular, but look further afield and you will find uncelebrated gems with just as much beauty to offer. The R40 ­– a road less travelled between Barberton, Bulembu and Badplaas in north-eastern Mpumalanga – is a 160km stretch traversing some of the world’s most well preserved and oldest rock formations and winds past natural forest, pine plantations, waterfalls and grasslands, with many spectacular viewpoints to choose from.
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