If you ever wondered how a small rural community keeps itself healthy, then go on the Matlakeng Herbal Trail out at the Basotho Cultural Village in the Eastern Free State and learn all about the natural cures and remedies the medicine men and women have used over the centuries.

Did you know?

Nearly 120 species of beetles live on the oldwood shrubs in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

On a breezy summer's day, the 60-odd grass species of the Eastern Free State ripple as if dancing to their own inner music. Hidden within these grasslands is a wealth of medicinal plants. They are what you hunt for on the Matlakeng Herbal Trail.

In the eastern section of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is the Basotho Cultural Village. The locals know it as Matlakeng − place of the Cape vulture. And in the evenings, you can sometimes catch the downward swoop of this majestic bird of prey as it returns to its sandstone castle after a day spent riding the thermals and hunting for food.

It's a living cultural village, celebrating the South Sotho way of life. Once you've met the village captain, stepped into one of his wives' homes to see her working the corn, and listened to the songs of the two-man band, it's time to join the local healer (ngaka) and a social ecologist on the Matlakeng Herbal Trail.

Your two-hour walk will take you through the sourgrass veld below the sandstone cliffs, past running streams and exceptional scenery until you return to the village. En route, you will find boontjiesgras (bean grass) used by the Basotho to make traditional tea. You might also encounter Artemisia afra (African wormwood in English, Lengana in Sotho) with its feathery green leaves. It smells like eucalyptus and cures coughs, colds, influenza, earache and loss of appetite.

You might also find the cancer bush, the parsley tree, the Bushman poison bulb, the veld orchids, daisies, gladioli and agapanthus − some used for medicine, others for pure beauty that heal the soul.

You will learn about how these grasses, roots, herbs and barks cure everything from a sore tooth to an infected eye. And if you want to ward off a summer lightning strike up here in these natural cathedrals, there's even a certain kind of plant for that.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Basotho Cultural Village
Tel: +27 (0)58 721 0300
Email: asotho@sac.fs.gov.za

SanParks Central Reservations
Tel: + 27 (0)12 428 9111

Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Tel: + 27 (0)58 255 0012
(If you cannot get through to the Basotho Cultural Village, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park will direct you there when you visit.)

How to get here

The Basotho Cultural Village lies on the R712 from Clarens through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

Best time to visit

Autumn: April − May; Spring: August − September.

Around the area

The various Clarens information centres will give you all the routes and options available.

Get around

Self-drive to the village, on foot from there.

What will it cost

Entrance to the Basotho Cultural Village: R50 for adults, R30 for children. Matlakeng Herbal Trail: R50 for adults; R25 for children

Length of stay

Half-day

What to pack

Comfortable walking shoes/boots, hat, sunscreen, water

Where to stay

There are three two-bedroom self-catering rondavels in the Basotho Cultural Village, chalets in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, or all kinds of accommodation in Clarens village.