The road trip from Rouxville to Fouriesburg exposes you to some of the best visual and historic elements of the eastern Free State, from driving around its vast sandstone cliffs, to visiting its cherry harvests, and to the nostalgic experience of riding in an old steam locomotive.

Did you know?

The mountain above Zastron is home to the only Cape vulture colony in the Free State.

It’s basically at Rouxville that a person begins to notice the star attraction of this 300km journey to the eastern Free State town of Fouriesburg: the jagged sandstone cliffs of the Maluti Mountains in the distance.

Over the next couple of days, as we slowly meander up the western flank of Lesotho, along its borderline, we see the Malutis in many hues of light. At dawn and at sunset the rich sun glints off the sandstone buttresses, turning them into mammoth gold structures. Hunting raptors sweep over their heights and villages cluster at their foothills.

We drive north-east to Zastron, where the ancient San left their mark in exquisite rock art in the many sandstone caves of the area. Legend has it that plains game once ruled the grasslands of this district, and that the first Boer farming family to settle here befriended the local Basotho. They shared a love of peaches, and the farmers used to store peach pips in their pockets and then plant them later as they moved over the land.

Zastron itself is quite a pretty town, but again, it’s the landscape that catches the eye. We overnight at Die Ou Stal (The Old Stall), a B&B that is said to be the original farmer’s stable. In the afternoon, we arrange for a knowledgeable Zastron local to take us on a tour of the district.

The next morning, after breakfast, we’re off to Rosendal, which is spoken of as the Free State’s up-and-coming artists’ colony. In the village, we park and stretch our legs and look around. Some of you might want to check real estate prices. Don’t worry – there are still a couple of country retreats available at good prices.

On we go to Wepener, the village that lies at the foot of Sorrow Mountain on the Lesotho border. We stay over at the Lord Fraser Guest House, a B&B based in the stately home of the legendary old trader.

The next day we go north through Ladybrand in the Caledon River Valley and up to Ficksburg. We’ve arranged something special out at Sandstone Estates: a ride in a steam locomotive. For those who like old machines and restoration, a tour of this incredible farm complex, which will boggle your mind, is recommended – the owner is a collector of note.

Fouriesburg, about 35km from Clarens, is our last stop. This little sandstone town is often overlooked by its more flamboyant neighbour, but its time is still to come. We check in at the Fouriesburg Country Inn, drop our gear and head out for a long walk through the dual delights of abundant pink cosmos flowers and sandstone.

(If you do this trip in the autumn month of April, then you'll be moving about in a world of multicoloured, though mostly pink and white, cosmos blooms. You’ll want to stop the vehicle so you can jump out with your camera and capture this roadside magic, which came all the way from South America in the feed of battle horses during the South African War more than a century ago.)

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Die Ou Stal B&B (Zastron)
Tel: +27 (0)51 673 1268
Email: dieoustal@tiscali.co.za

Lord Fraser Guest House (Wepener)
Cell: +27 (0)82 445 0346 - Melinda Lombard
Email: info@lordfraser.co.za

Fouriesburg Country Inn
Tel: +27 (0)58 223 0207
Email: fburginn@worldonline.co.za

Sandula Tours
Cell: +27 (0)83 286 0206
Email: info@sandulatours.co.za

How to get here

Rouxville is 34km north of Aliwal North on the N6 route.

Best time to visit

This route is an all-year travelling option.

Around the area

The many farms in the area offer great hiking trails – check the listed Adventure Escapades website for options.

Tours to do

Sandula Tours runs a variety of trips around the eastern Free State – see Contacts for details.

Get around

Hire a regular sedan for this road trip and drive carefully – parts of the route are either potholed or being repaired.

What will it cost

Accommodation costs along the way should run to no more than R300 per person per night for self-catering options – R400 if there’s a classic country breakfast included.

Length of stay

Set aside three days for this drive if you can.

What to pack

Pack seasonally (light clothes in summer, from October to March, and warmer clothes for nights especially in winter, between May and August), and never underestimate the sudden onset of chilly weather, especially after dark.

Where to stay

Recommended for this journey are Die Ou Stal in Zastron, the Lord Fraser Guest House in Wepener and the Fouriesburg Country Inn. There are, however, many other accommodation options – check the listed websites for details.

What to eat

Generally there will be typical country fare on offer, with some of the more upmarket guest houses providing a larger, more diverse menu.

What's happening

The main festival along this route is the Cherry Festival in Ficksburg, held at the beginning of November each year – check the listed website for details.

Best buys

Nose around the many gift shops and farm stalls along the way for mementos.