George's Valley Road (R528)

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Haernertsburg at the western end of the pass Haernertsburg at the western end of the pass - Photo: Wikipedia

This well designed pass is a safer, shorter and faster alternative to the better known Magoesbaskloof Pass (R71) as a connecting road between Haenertsburg and Tzaneen. George's Valley runs north-east from the Ebenezer Dam to Tzaneen Dam. It is named after George Denys who designed the road (R528). He was convinced he could design a better road to Tzaneen than the Magoesbaskloof traverse. Georges Valley Road is an equally scenic drive and linking the two passes for a circular trip is well worth the drive. New Agatha State Forest is also accessible from the R528 (high clearance vehicle required). At the time of publishing many reports have come in of bad potholes developing on the R528.There is no indication from the authorities when the road is scheduled for maintenance.

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Digging into the details:

From Haenertsberg head east on the R71, but take the first tar road to the right (R528) just outside town. The tarred road heads south following the curve of the Ebenezer Dam on the left with the dense forests of Allandale on your right. After 2 km the road curves 120 degrees to the left. From here you will get good views of the highest peak in the area - the solid granite Misty Crown. The views are grand all along this section with a mix of tranquil blue waters and green clad hills with dense forests. The road heads E-N-E for the next 2 km with beautiful views of the lake and the Mountain Yacht Club can be seen far below, whilst the densely wooded Asgard Forests smother the mountains to the right. Just before the road heads south again at Tweefontein, one gets a glmipse of the Ebenezer dam wall.

Soon the road crosses the Great Letaba river and hugs the eastern bank of the valley for 2,5km, then swings around the nose of the ridge to head north-east to Tzaneen. On this major bend is a gravel road which leads off to the right. It goes to two farms Vaalkop and George's Valley. The R528 is truly a well designed road with easy gradients and well planned curves - 44 of them in total. The entire road offers wide views over the valley which widens as the road progresses. It is very different to the Magoesbaskloof traverse, yet offers a completely different mood and is equally as enjoyable.

The next few kilometers of the descent offer lofty views to the left where the granite peak of Misty Crown is clearly visible. Views to the right show glimpses of rock pools and waterfalls amongst dense forests as the Great Letaba river works its magic all the way down this beautiful valley to finally do service a second time round by feeding into the Tzaneen Dam. Keep a lookout for the turn-off to Magoebaskloof Adventures, which is domiciled  next to the river and a waterfall, where you can try your skills out on the zip slide or just go for a hike. The name of this outfit might appear to be something of a misnomer, as Magoebaskloof is on the western side of the mountain. As the Letaba Gorge is largely inaccessible, a visit to Magoebaskloof Adventures is a must - to see the dramatic cliffs and waterfalls.

Just before the road crosses the river two farms appear in succession on the right - Stylkop and Letaba Drift, whilst the final farm - Lucerne marks the northern end of the pass. It ends at the point where the road crosses the Great Letaba river. It is another 17 km of fairly flat, but twisty driving to Tzaneen. Technically, this second section is also very much a part of the George's Valley Road, but the gradient is so insignificant that it doesn't qualify as a pass. One way or the other you will need to complete the entire drive of 35 km till you get to Tzaneen.

Edenezer dam WallThe beautiful Ebenezer Dam offers a range of water sports. / Photo: Willie@7CumLaudeThe Drakensberg mountain range meets the Strydpoort Mountains in the Wolkberg Wilderness area with great, vertical quartzite krantzes, countless kloofs, cool, deep and densely forested ravines, massive buttresses and folded and interlocking spurs. The reserve extends for almost 22,000 hectares consisting of extensive indigenous forests and pristine grasslands. The range forms a high plateau reaching up to 2126 m in height at the Iron Crown, above Haenertsburg. Other conspicuous peaks are 2050 m high Serala, 1838 m high Mamotswiri, 1667m high Magopalone and 1611 m high Selemole. Access to the reserve entrance at Serala Forest station requires a high clearance vehicle. There are no trails and hiking should only be undertaken by experienced hikers.


The Wolkberg is the source of many small mountain streams, as well as the Mohlapitse and the Ga-Selati River, tributaries of the Olifants River. However the major river for which it is a source is the Great Letaba River. This is the major feature of George's Valley and at it's southern end the gorge through which the river flows is breath-taking.

Beautiful scenery along the passKnock -out scenery along the Georges Valley Road / Photo: evakralovahmHaenertsberg is a fascinating little town with the aura of an Austrian Alpine village. There is plenty to do including a visit to the international arboretum, which is sited in the Market Square or take a scenic drive along the R71 to the Dap Naude Dam and if you like watersports, a visit to the Ebenezer Dam is a must, with it's magnificent setting and sparkling waters backdropped by the imposing Iron Crown Mountain, the highest peak in the Wolkberg. This summit can be reached in a 4x4.


For the hiking fraternity, you can tackle some of the country's best-organised and most scenic trails through the Magoebaskloof and closer to town. These include SAFCOL Magoebaskloof Big 5, Louis Changuion, Lesodi, Cheerio Gardens and Wegraakbos Farms. The Serala Reserve forms the largest wilderness area in the province. A Blue Gum tree Eucalytus Saligna, standing in the reserve, estimated to be 82,5 metres high is the tallest tree in South Africa.

Try the Zip SlideZip sliding over the waterfall is great fun. / Photo: Haenertsburg TourismHistory abounds in this mountainous village. The famous Scottish writer, John Buchan, later Lord Tweedsmuir, once resided in the Magoebaskloof area and based his novel Prester John on the area. You can visit the John Buchan Memorial in town as well as the O'Conner Memorial in honour of the the former District Officer for the Woodbush district. The War Memorial was erected in memory of local residents who died in the Makgoba War.There is a very large rock on the north side of the George's Valley road with an inscription from the author (Prester John - The Thirty Nine Steps) - secretary to Lord Milner and later the Gov-General of Canada.

Magoesbaskloof,  is a beautiful mountain pass packed with complex curves and magnificent views. it is featured separately on this website. It links Haenertsburg and Tzaneen on the R71 route. It is named after King Makgoba, leader of the Tlou Tribe. If you still have energy left there is a maze of mountain biking and horse trails as well as  fly fishing with a vast selection of lodges with private waters and guided fishing trails. The Wegraakbosch Dairy offers  tours and cheese tasting, where visitors can watch cheese being made in the age old traditional Swiss manner.

How green is my valley?George's Valley / Photo WikipediaThe charming little village of Haenertsburg is an absolute must-see tourist attraction situated on the edge of the great escarpment. Embracing the slopes of the Wolkberg and the northern side of the Drakensberg, it is located on the R71 between Polokwane and Tzaneen, just over three hours from Gauteng and an hour and a half from one of sunny South Africa's biggest tourism draws – the Kruger National Park. Known affectionately by the locals as 'the mountain', this dainty little village with its many delightful dwellings gracing the misty slopes has only one main road running through it. The lush forested area in which Haenertsburg happily sits is in stark contrast to most of the surrounding Limpopo landscape. The usually dry Limpopo bushveld expanses are replaced with verdant vegetation, afromontane forests, rolling grasslands, and unusually prevalent mists, mostly due to the high rainfall on the mountain. The stunning Haenertsburg scenery, complete with majestic mountain peaks, crystal clear waterfalls, and tranquil lakes, make the region an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and keen photographers – its highlight undoubtedly being the Magoebaskloof Pass, which is the 18th steepest pass in South Africa.

Haenertsburg was founded in 1887 and named after Carl Ferdinand Haenert, a German farmer and big game hunter who discovered gold in the hills. The remains of some of the old gold mines can still be seen today. Although tourism and farming are major activities on the mountain, forestry is the area's main endeavour. Unfortunately, due to this, large patches of rare and diverse vegetation have been removed in favour of timber but steps have been taken to conserve Haenertsburg's botanical diversity. The area still boasts a tremendous variety of flora and some of South Africa's most exquisite indigenous foliage, including cabbage trees, mammoth yellowwoods and stinkwoods, and numerous incredibly eye-catching orchids.

Wind your way down the pass - all 44 cornersThe pass winds it's way for many kilometers through 44 turns - Stay sharp! / Photo - Panoramio
















[This pass was submitted by Andrew MacKenzie of Cape Town, who also supplied some information]


 

Fact File:

GPS START 

S23.939820 E29.947220

GPS SUMMIT

S23.966157 E29.958327

GPS END 

S23.927577 E30.042392

AVE GRADIENT

1:31

MAX GRADIENT

1:10

ELEVATION START

1372m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1489m

ELEVATION END

857m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

632m

DISTANCE

19,8km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

North-East

TIME REQUIRED

20 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

60 - 80 kph

SURFACE

Tar (R528)

DATE FILMED

04.10.2014

TEMPERATURE

28C

NEAREST TOWN

Haenertsburg (1 km)


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Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
 

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