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  • Lisa Martus

MAGOEBASKLOOF MOUNTAIN PASSES & PLACES TO STAY





The rugged grandeur of mountain peaks and the winding passes through them has an irresistible allure. Each pass tells a story, a narrative woven not only in its geological artistry but also in the history of the people who have lived in the area and crafted these roads.  The scenic beauty of the Magoebaskloof area attracts many tourists, often driving from Haenertsburg down one of the zigzagging routes to Tzaneen and on to the Kruger National Park. Booking accommodation on a mountain pass rewards travellers not only with unparalleled vistas but also the opportunity to hide away from the world in a secluded spot like Timeless Farm’s Tree Top and Vista cabins on the George’s Valley pass.  Tucked into a bend on the Diggers Rest dirt road down to the timber mills in the valley below, Diggersrest and Lind End lodges feel a million miles away from the world.  And, on the other side of Magoebaskloof, Graceland Eco Retreat offers a stylish retreat on the mountain road winding its way through the spectacular Kudu’s River Valley down to Mooketsi.    


The most commonly used route into the lowveld, however, is also the steepest mountain pass in South Africa.  The Magoebaskloof Pass on the R71 road winds its way down from the highveld of the Haenertsburg area to the lowveld of Tzaneen, falling approximately 560 metres or 446 vertical miles in altitude from 1400 ASL in less than 7km travelled.  The dramatic twisting and turning S-bends offer tantalising glimpses into the distant valley below. If you are brave enough to take your eyes off the road for a minute, switchbacks give you a beautiful view of the hairpin bends cutting a swathe through the thick forests below.  


After the Anglo-Boer War, this route down the mountain was built close to a bridle path through the Woodbush Forest used by woodcutters. Construction went well until workers downed tools in 1915, refusing to cut down some of the towering trees and the route was altered to spare them. It is said that Kgoshi Mamphoku Makgoba, the powerful BaTlou chief who defied the Boer invasion of his land, was buried in the vicinity after he was captured and killed in 1895 and that his restless spirit still wanders the mountains nearby.


Mountain passes serve as gateways to breathtaking landscapes and booking accommodation located on the winding Magoebaskloof Pass offers visitors panoramic views from a diverse range of venues in secluded retreats where you can immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings like Frida’s View, Herb Cottage, Olivia’s Secret or the Magoebaskloof Birders Cottages.  Or larger options bustling with fellow adventurers like Magoebaskloof Getaway or Magoebaskloof Mountain Lodge, an iconic venue tucked into a curve of the pass down into the lowveld.  The comfortable, fully-equipped family rondavels set in beautiful gardens create a village atmosphere with all the creature-comforts of guaranteed power, your own fully-equipped kitchen, lounge, WIFI & TV. 


The fact that it was the first lodge in the area makes Magoebaskloof Mountain Lodge a historical landmark in the area but extensive and ongoing upgrades through the years have made it a popular option for visitors passing through on their way to Kruger Park as well as business travellers or families wanting to explore the area.  People love the convenient location on the R71 pass which not only makes it easy to find and get to but also to head off to favourite spots like the canopy tours or Zwakala Brewery.  Co-owner Walt Katze says that, ‘the true beauty of Magoebaskloof lies in the natural areas like the champion trees, Debengeni waterfalls or World’s View where you can get out of your vehicles and explore on foot.’


The Magoebaskloof Mountain Lodge belonged to Zelda Katzes parents before it was sold to the Makgoba community whose chief gave the area and the pass its name.  Walt and Zelda took out a long-term lease in 2016 and have been passionate about people-development not only within their own staff but also in empowering, upskilling and employing student chefs some of whom have contributed to the reputation of their a-la-carte restaurant for the extensive menu, generous portions and magnificent 270 degree views all the way down to the lowveld at the bottom of the Magoebaskloof Pass.  Contact: 015 305 7906 |  082 571 2555 | www.magoebaskloofmountainlodge.co.za.


Staying for the weekend at accommodation on a mountain pass provides more than just a place to rest your head, it's an immersive experience where you can follow the rhythms of nature whether it's waking up to the first light casting a golden hue over the peaks or enjoying a starlit sky without all the light pollution of a town. The Diggers Rest Pass (H-road) is a 7km dirt road which is seldom used except by locals so accommodation here offers a tranquil retreat which feels remote from the world. 





Diggersrest Lodge is a quirky and comfortable venue set in beautiful gardens with a swimming pool and breathtaking views.  Sleeping up to 20, it is a perfect option for a festive family get-together or for a group of friends.  Four en-suite bedrooms in the Main House can be booked as independent units or together with the two cottages for bigger groups.  It is a short distance from the neighbouring Lind End Guest Farm which can comfortably accommodate up to 14 people in three venues, a combination which makes it perfect for a celebration in the countryside where you can have a group of over 30 adults, kids and dogs romping around without disturbing anyone else.  


Diggersrest Lodge has that home-away-from-home feeling with the four en-suite bedrooms, communal, well-equipped kitchen, lounge and dining room of the main lodge forming a picturesque courtyard embracing the sociable swimming pool and the views beyond from the sunrise deck.  The two self-contained cottages tucked away in lush gardens, are completely separate but still in close proximity to the main house if you want to book out the whole place.  





The gardens attract birds like the gregarious Cape Parrots or Knysna Turaco and have a resident pair of Verreaux Eagles so it is perfect for nature lovers and birders but is also a wonderful working retreat for creatives who can stay for longer and get to enjoy the sense of community on ‘The Mountain’. It is also ideal for a family attending a happening at Stanford Lake College or a group of friends participating in one of the many sporting events in the area.  Although it feels remote, it is a short drive to access all the outdoor activities Magoebaskloof is famous for or to pop into Haenertsburg village for lunch.


Diggersrest and Lind End were both family homes turned into lodges.  The Westerveld family bought Diggersrest 26 years ago as a warm-weather alternative to their base in the Netherlands and although Frans and Mirjam were both practicing physiotherapists, Frans had always had an interest in hospitality and felt excited about opening it up for visitors who would love the views, serenity and sense of remoteness as much as their own family did.  Their son, Johannes, who is managing both Diggersrest and neighbouring Lind End, is often mentioned in reviews as being friendly, welcoming and thoughtful to his guests even to the point of sharing the organic farm eggs and avocados with visitors on arrival - a wonderful surprise.  He says, ‘the sense of space and serenity allows you to truly unwind and quieten the mind but the space also lends itself to socialising.’  






Nearby Lind End Guest Farm also has the perfect set-up for both a getaway or a get-together.  Surrounded by afro-montane indigenous forest, eucalyptus and pine plantations, with majestic views as far as the eye can see, Lind End is a tranquil escape.  The main house is perfect for a family or group of friends with its large open-plan dining and kitchen area centered around a double-sided wood fireplace while the sunken living room stretches out through a wall of sliding doors onto a large wooden deck with unencumbered views into the valley. The en-suite King-bedroom has an adjoining room for 2 kids and there are two double rooms upstairs next to the comfy family room - perfect for a lazy day together.  





The cute and compact open-plan studio next door is great for a private add-on to the group at the main house while the 4-sleeper cottage can be included in a bigger celebration, but can also be booked as a private venue with its cosy living room leading out onto a patio overlooking the garden with braai facilities under a pecan tree. Guests can follow the garden path down to the lovely rim-flow infinity pool and fire-pit area shared by all three venues.  As the owners, Silvia and Poya Rasekhi say, ‘whether you enjoy outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, birding, fishing or are simply looking for a breath of fresh air away from the city and a place to relax and renew, then you have come to the perfect place to rejuvenate your body, mind and soul.’  So whether you choose for a sociable family getaway or prefer to simply relish in the solitude of nature, Diggersrest and Lind End lodges offer an ideal option. Contact Johannes Westerveld at 071 590 1648.

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