In this week’s episode of the South African road trips 5 week series, we look at Bloemfontein to Durban, Sunflowers and mountains (Bloemfontein to Durban, 670km/416mi) #Roadtripping
This mission through farmlands and foothills in the heart of South Africa begins on the freeway from Bloemfontein, the Free State capital, to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. JRR Tolkien was born in Bloem, but Jack Kerouac will more readily come to mind as you zip through endless sunflower fields; the blue sky is immense, the tractors are rusty and the pastoral flatlands contrast with the mountains ahead.
From Ladybrand, with its sandstone buildings surrounded by jagged peaks, the route winds along the Lesotho border and through the Free State’s Eastern Highlands. This is one of South Africa’s most scenic drives, passing snow-covered peaks in winter, amber foliage in autumn and relaxed country villages all year round. Overlooked by the Maluti Mountains, arty Clarens is a picturesque pit stop; some 20 galleries crowd for space on the town’s main street and grassy square, alongside boutiques, restaurants and a brewery.
Nearby, antelope run alongside the road in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, famous for its sandstone outcroppings and spectacular sunsets. If you don’t fancy camping or hiking, drivable roads head high into the hills above the park’s shimmering grasslands. Leave a few days to travel from here to Durban on the coast, and meander through one of Africa’s greatest ranges, the Drakensberg. The peak-studded Royal Natal National Park is nearby, with plenty of walking trails – including a chain ladder up the 8km/5mi-long curtain of rock, the Amphitheatre.