The Lowveld is an area rich in gold, history, culture and much more. The Lowveld is like a mine of awesomeness. Our soil holds many secrets. If these rocks would speak.. and I am not only referring to the rocks at the soccer ball water tank, or the rocks at the cross on the mountain, that have seen many a passionate night..
There is one specific route where the rocks speak out. Albert Einstein said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”. To understand ‘better’.. Start your rocket, fill your fuel tank, pack some cash (for lunch), and get ready for some tar and gravel.
The route starts in Mbombela, and takes a drive out to Barberton, on the R40. Remember to stop at Suikerbossie Tea Garden for the best breakfast and best cakes, you can’t leave town without the right foundation – breakfast! The R40 has a lekker pass with a few tight turns. The views are incredible! Shortly after the pass, you will see Barberton Nature Reserve on your right – make a mental note to visit there – continue straight towards Barberton.
Barberton welcomes you with bright coloured rocks that represent the bright, rich and colourful community of Barberton. The mining of gold in South Africa began in Barberton, where Tom McLachlan found the first traces of alluvial gold in 1874. Since then, gold fields flourished as fortune seekers flocked to the area in search of gold. Today, the town has several gold mines that are more than 100 years old and still in use.” (Taken from SAhistory.org.za)
Continue straight on the R40. You will reach the foot of the Makhonjwa Mountains and start to climb this historic masterpiece of a moutain. This road may seem like the Kyalami of Mpumalanga – with its beautifully cambered turns, its knee scraping opportunities and it’s adrenalin pumping possibilities – but it is much more than a petrolhead’s dream road. These mountains hide the secrets of the beginning of earth! You will note that the roads are also marked ‘Genesis route’ or Barberton Makhonjwa Geotrail. The route whispers secrets of the beginning of time, to those who choose to listen.. These rocks are of the oldest rocks on earth! The discovery on the mountains behind Barberton has become known as ‘the history of our planet cast in stone’.
There are very few places on earth where rocks of the Archaean period are visible. Every other site is so far removed from civilisation, on desolate back roads, as to be unreachable. But in Barberton they are right next to the road.
There are numerous Geosites where you can stop, read the info boards and take gorgeous photos of your motorcycle with the De Kaap Valley or the majestic mountain as the perfect backdrop. One of the Geosites have rock samples with a short description and even an open air lavatory where you can think about the awesomeness of life, nature and motorcycles.
After approximately 40km on this road, look for the board that says OSHOEK BADPLAAS and turn right. This is where the tar ends and your gravel road adventure begins! You are now deep in the mountains, very near to Swaziland.
This trail is one of those trails where the beauty is indescribable. This is raw nature, as fresh as it gets, this is undecayed beauty. Crispy mountains, lush green pastures. This place is not just good; good would explain a smoked ham sandwich. This road is enticing, mesmerizing. The best part is, this road leads to a Ghost town, Msauli.
MSAULI / DIEPGEZET
The town of Msauli, also known as Diepgezet, is situated about 14km from the Oshoek/Badplaas turnoff. This beautiful forgotten town has a golfcourse, hospital, church, a primary school, army base, post office, ferris wheel, a waterfall, a dam, a river, a mine, workshops and about 100 houses! This town was a successful land claim in 2010, but not much has changed since everybody left about 15 years ago. Msauli was an asbestos mining town. Recently a lovely family opened a restaurant and a guesthouse with very competitive prices and good food. Remember to have cash on hand. For bookings or functions, management can be contacted per SMS on 079 603 6678, or email on firstname.lastname@example.org. I wonder who would be the first to have a wedding in this special town..?
As you exit the town, you will cross the Komati river. Ngoneni will be the first small town on your right, continue straight. You will pass through Ekulindeni. The Songimvelo Nature Reserve where Msauli is nestled in, will now be on your right. Continue past Tjakastad’s turn off. This is a tar road, with a gravel section, which becomes a tar road again. When you reach the T-junction near Badplaas, turn right towards Barberton. Just past Cradle of Life, a sanctuary for many animals, turn left on the R541 towards Machadodorp, now known as eNtokozweni . Don’t forget to keep an eye open for ‘Old Mac’, the painted rock in the mountains. Several waterfalls are also visible from the road.
Machadodorp is a historic little town. First named Geluk (the farm it was built on), later Machadodorp to honour the Portuguese Major Joachim Machado, an engineer who had surveyed the land for the proposed Oosterlijn, the Pta-Delgoa Bay railway line, and later changed to eNtokozweni, the place of happiness. During the second world war, the Transvaal Volksraad made Machadodorp their temporary seat and used the railway carriages as their offices.
The hills of Machadodorp, or eNtokozweni, are terraced with thousands of stone circle walls which form part of a vast complex of settlements, fields and roads. Some tour guides describe these as South Africa’s “real” lost city (BaKoni Ruins).
Anthropologist, Hindu-expert and linguist, Dr Cyril Hromnik, postulates that Dravidian traders, originally from the Gomti river in India, mined and inter-married with the Kung during the first millennium AD and that their descendants were responsible for building the terraces and stone circle dwellings.
Continue straight until you find a turn off that says Lafarge and Hydro Baths Hotel(25°39’29.0″S 30°15’20.0″E). This 15km gravel 2-spoor road starts with loose stones and gravel. It follows the ‘Oosterlijn’ rail way line and crosses the line near the old Goedgeluk train station (25°38’49.2″S 30°17’13.7″E). It also winds along the Elands River. You can admire the beautiful stone-built train bridges on the way, the river and a waterfall. You might even pass a train! This road will lead you to Waterval Boven, now known as Emgwenya (25°38’40.5″S 30°19’24.4″E)
From Nelspruit to Barberton, Barberton to Msauli, Msauli to Badplaas and Machado to Waterval Boven along this route, would estimate to 220km and a whole day of eNtokozweni (happiness!). Be on the lookout for Cattle and goats on the road.
This route is worth doing 1000 times! Expect a lot of eNtokozweni (happiness) every time you ride.
Ride hard and be safe