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IIt’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, with the jagged sandstone cliffs of the Maloti (also spelt 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 Malotis 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 multi-coloured, 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 Second South African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War) more than a century ago.)
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Free State Tourism: Eagle Route
Tel: +27 (0)58 713 0012
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.
The main festival along this route is the cherry festival in Ficksburg, held at the beginning of November each year.
Things to do
The many farms in the area offer great hiking trails. There is a 2-day Holhoek trail and the Boesmanskrans hiking trail, which has an overnight hut for those who arrive the night before.
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.