Tag Archives: Self drive routes from Clarens

10th January 2014: Driving Around

Table of Contents:

  • Driving Around;
  • Self drive routes – Ash River route;
  • A great time of the year for hiking;
  • The butterflies are back;
  • Clarens Skies –  Phoenix;
  • Plant of the week:  Zantedeschia albomaculata;
  • The Twitcher;
  • Other Events;
  • Classifieds;
  • Not on the mailing list?

White_Water Raafting on the Ash River Clarens

Driving Around

The best way to explore the Ash river from Clarens is undoubtedly to go by River Raft. (Read about White Water rafting on the Clarens News website Adventure Page :  White Water Rafting.) Alternatively, you can access parts of the river by road.   Read Mary Walker’s description of the route we took this week.  Highly recommended to visitors looking for something less strenuous to do.


Self drive routes from Clarens – Ash River route

Self-drive from Clarens Ash river loop map


Self-drive from Clarens Ash River Outfall








A short distance from the village of Clarens is the Ash River Outfall.  The word ‘outfall’ refers to water being ejected from an underground tunnel into a weir before it flows into the Ash River.  Clarens was well known during the nineties for the part it played in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, and the Ash River Outfall bears testimony to the project’s ultimate success.  A self-drive tour of this area will provide you with a fascinating couple of hours of splendid vistas as well as access to the visual legacy of this acclaimed engineering project.  In addition, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of white water rafters bouncing down the rapids.  Leave Clarens on the main tarred road north towards Bethlehem, route R712 (on some maps R711).  On the left, just before the majestic Titanic Rock, you will see the Maluti Mountain Lodge, which was the favoured “watering hole” of tired construction engineers during the nineties.  As you rise out of the valley over the Naauwpoort Nek, the Free State farmlands stretch before you, framed on the right by an imposing flank of Mount Horeb running away to the north east.  Further on are some examples of free-standing sandstone rock formations, so typical of the Eastern Free State landscape.  Read more



A great time of the year for hiking

This is a great time of the year for hiking – especially early in the morning or in the late afternoon during the cooler hours of the day.   There are excellent hiking trails in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve, within easy access of the town.  Hiking in the nature reserve is free, and the trails are well marked. Some of the trails are easy enough to suit even young children, whilst there are also more challenging trails for those in search of adventure.   Maps of the trails are available from the Clarens Village Grocer, the Old Stone Bottle Store, Bibliophile, Mountain Odyssey and Maluti Tours.  You should also look out for the Clarens News Plant of the week column  (written by head ranger Damien Coulson) which looks at the various plants found in the reserve.   (You can access all these articles on our website) Should you wish to become a member of the Clarens Village Conservancy and support the excellent work done in the nature reserve.  Click here for your membership form.

Falko Bushke sent us an email from chilly Belgium.
Falko has uploaded some great information on hiking trails in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park on his website:  The Solitary Ecologist.

Falko has given Clarens News permission to upload information to the Clarens News website:  I‘ll be grateful if as many people as possible have access to this information.

You’ll find more information on these trails as well as the many other hiking trails available in the area on the Clarens News website hiking page.

The butterflies are back

It’s also that time of the year when we are inundated by butterflies.  Craig Walters wrote Butterflies Flutter by for Clarens News exactly a year ago, and since our present editorial staff cannot come up with anything better…..here it is again.

Belenois aurota, photo by Avril de Montille

Butterflies Flutter by… Single minded things these flutterers flapping fecklessly by. Single minded and of a singular mind and direction. White, brown veined and photo shy. I have tiptoed through tulips and lain among the daisies armed myself with lensed cameras and hunted these connected petals for 2 days now, and when finally one deigned to alight on a flower in front of me, with the focus finally in and the lighting almost acceptable, the battery died… I can tell you that they are of a species called Belenois aurota aurota or otherwise brown veined white butterflies and there are reports of this migration from as far afield as Nairobi in Kenya. Apparently it is not a true migration as they do not return to their place of origin, but instead gun it on a one way mission to the beach, and beyond. Although the entire species seemed programmed on a Journey To the East, some few have been reported to exhibit Durban’s inherent craziness, and these fly against the flow, Westward Ho. Apparently the wind has nothing to do with their direction, and some of them have been reported in Madagascar, impressive since they apparently start in the Kalahari area… There is another species in Asia, but they aren’t this quality, despite being a lot cheaper. I will upload the one or 2 pics if  I manage to capture somein the next couple of hours, but in the meantime these links have some beautiful pics, especially http://momsmeanderings.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/brown-veined-whites-belenois-aurota/ 

See also http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/article-30514/butterfly-migration-spectacle-cityhttp:/



Clarens Skies –  Phoenix

Genevieve Blignaut


Constellation of the Week
Johann Bayer, a German lawyer and astronomer, depicted the modern constellation Phoenix, for the first time in 1603. The constellation was named after the mythical Greek creature, the Phoenix. These birds are said to have lived on aromatic herbs, the like of Frankincense, Myrrh and Cinnamon.

When the bird reached the critical age of 500 years, it set about to build a nest on the top of a palm tree using the mixture of aromatic herbs. Once the nest was built to the bird’s satisfaction, the Phoenix itself would set the nest alight. Shockingly the bird would die within the burning nest, but miraculously a young pheonix would appear from the ashes and continue to live its life cycle of 500 years.

 Read more

Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Plant of the week:  Zantedeschia albomaculata


DamienDamien Coulson

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a monocotyledonous species of the Araceae family that many of you may already be familiar with and could probably recognise growing in your own garden. Heck, many of you may have probably even planted it there intentionally!

Zantedeschia albomaculata  (the Arrow-leaved Arum in English; Witvlekvarkoor in Afrikaans and mothebe in Sesotho), is a deciduous plant that obtains an average height of 750 mm. It is usually found growing in moist or marshy soils or on moist rocky mountain slopes at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.L. Rather unusual is the fact that the so-called “petal” is actually a modified leaf called a spathe, in botanical terms. Minute male and female flowers are carried on one central column or spadix. 8 endemic species occur in S.A., of which 2 species have been recorded occurring in the Eastern Free State.  The word maculata means “spotted with white” or “white-spotted”.

The author has often observed small creatures stowed away in the relative safety of the spadix. These include but are not limited to the Arum-lily Frog and an assortment of bees, beetles and other such animals. This unusual little plant is widespread throughout S.A. all the way to Central Africa.   Read more


The Twitcher

I promised you birds last week, and birds you shall get.  Well, a few anyway.  First, the baby Ostriches over the Nek are not so little any more.  Half the height of their parents, they are looking positively adolescent and quite chubby, in the irritating way that adolescents have.  Point is that the Ostrich population in the immediate neighbourhood seems to have doubled overnight and, save a raid by the valley’s surviving jackals, may be competing with us for space on the Square.  And if they have R50 for a year’s trading licence and the phone number of the Dihlabeng Economic Development Forum, their presence is a certainty.
More parochially, I literally tripped over a Piet my Vrou in the garden last weekend, having never laid eyes on one before.  Like every other resident of Clarens, their call rings in my ears year-round, but for some reason I haven’t actually seen the little buggers before.  So, glass of wine in hand as I perambulated about my little corner of God’s green acre, I swung past a gum tree to confront the little fellow leaping about in search of food or some other social adventure.  I was with guests who masquerade as Twitchers in a neighbouring country of limited economic significance (just saying), and they brightened visibly at the sight of what was for them also a first sighting.  I have to say, as first times go, it didn’t rival my sexual debut a century ago, but was still rather satisfactory.  Read more

Other Events

Farmers Market: Be sure to visit the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. This is the place to buy fresh local produce, home baked goodies, and lots lots more.

Music lovers are in for a treat at the Bethlehem Kine on January 13, 2014:  wine, apperitifs and movie:  Behind the Candelabra : The Life of Liberace


Do you have a house you want to rent out?  Need a job? Want to try a totally different gastronomic experience.  Remember to check out the classifeds section.
Advertising on the classifieds section of Clarens News is free.  All you need to do is to email  your advert to:

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3rd January 2014: Welcome to a New Year


Mary photo

Table of Contents:

  • Self drive routes – An Introduction;
  • Clarens Skies –  Pleaides;
  • New Year’s Resolutions;
  • Plant of the week:  Kniphofia ritualis;
  • The Twitcher;
  • This weekend – Music;
  • This weekend – Weather;
  • This weekend – Other Events;



Self drive routes from Clarens – An Introduction

Mary WalkerSituated just east of the central regions of South Africa, Clarens is well placed as a stopover on many of our long distance travel routes.  A mere two and half hours  from Joburg, Bloemfonten and the the Natal midlands, Clarens is has become a weekend destination of choice.  With many of the overseas tour operators passing through the area now, Clarens is also becoming one of South Africa’s hot destinations in the overseas market.  Overseas tourists on self drive tours around our country are increasingly seeking a night or two in the area and, with southern Africa’s Mountain Kingdom, Lesotho, right on our doorstep, the scope to drive, explore and experience what’s on offer in the area is almost without limit.
Clarens News is developing a website portfolio of Self Drive Routes in the area.  A new route will be introduced each week, with a small map of the route, a photo and information about the route, featuring any interesting bits and pieces about history, natural features, culture, interesting characters, guest facilities or activities on offer, and so on.
The Eastern Free State Highlands, quite apart from its spectacular natural beauty, has a host of interesting features.  The sandstone buildings are one of its hallmarks, and a number of historically significant sandstone structures dot our towns and landscapes, and are well worth visiting.  Our mountain ranges, and there are three of them forming a virtual triangle of the whole area, shelter fascinating valleys and afford views that rate amongst the most photographed scenery in the central parts of the country.  While the area has a fair rainfall in the summer months, and occasional snow in the winter months, for the most part you will be able to take advantage of big blue skies and dry weather, making this an ideal area for outdoor pursuits, for both adrenalin junkies and the more laid back.
When driving around the routes of the Eastern Free State Highlands it is important that one remembers to take the normal safety precautions relevant to our country.  While the area is reputedly friendly and safe with few incidents reported, local and current advice is invaluable and shouldn’t be dismissed.  Of course, being largely a rural and mountainous area, cell phone signals are sometimes unreliable.  Travellers venturing around our countryside should ensure that there is someone who is aware of the route planned and the intended time frame of the outing.
So we invite you, over the next few months of this new year, to check out our Self Drive Routes Portfolio on the website, and to pick up a route that interests you, take yourself out on a little excursion, and discover the things that you might have missed before, or discover places completely new to you.
Look out for the first Self Drive Route due to be published in next week’s issue of Clarens News.  And have a great 2014!


Clarens Skies –  Pleaides

Pleiades 1

Genevieve Blignaut

Many have been hypnotized by the lure and beauty of the Pleaides, a constellation that have inspired writers, artists, kings and noblemen alike.

About the Pleiades
The seven mountain nymph daughters of the Titan Atlas, were under the guidance and leadership of their sister Maia. Hermes was to be born to
Maia and Zeus and a life with the gods inspired the other sisters so, that five of them continued to enjoy the affection of the gods. These five sisters would become the ancestresses of various royal families such as that of Troy and Sparta. Unfortunately the lustful Orion could not contain his fascination with the sisters, and therefore Zeus thought it best to finally give the nymph daughters a rightful place in the skies. The seven-starred constellation is known as the Pleaides meaning “plenty”.

Only six of the seven sisters are visible. Many account this to the fact that Elektra left the circle of dance and her beloved sisters, due to the fall of Zeus and Troy, choosing to mourn forever more in the Arctic circle. Others agree that Merope, the sister that married a mortal, feels ashamed by her choice of a mortal lover and so hides her shame and face in dimness.  Read more

New Year’s Resolutions

Group 2 Rangers uniforms

We live in a fabulous town, in fabulous surroundings with fabulous people.  Let’s keep this town and its surroundings the safe, clean and beautiful destination that we have all come to love, by supporting The Clarens Village Conservancy, the Clarens Fire Association, Fire and the Ratepayers Association.  (Only one subscription for all three) and the Clarens Sector Policing Forum.
Click here for your membership form for the Clarens Village Conservancy.    
Click here to sign up and support The Clarens Sector Policing Forum

Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Plant of the week:  Kniphofia ritualis


Damien Coulson
Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a striking monocotyledonous plant of the Asphodelaceae(Red-hot poker) family that is just now coming into flower.
Kniphofia ritualis (leloele-la-Lesotho in Sesotho), a hardy perennial, ranges from around 0.8-1 m tall. The name Kniphofia is derived from the Surname of a Professor of medicine JH Kniphof. Ritualis refers to the fact that the plant is used by Sesotho girls in Lesotho during traditional initiation rituals.
K. ritualis is generally solitary, occurring on wet grassy slopes or in loose damp soil at altitudes of between 1800-3000 m A.S.L., and is endemic to the Eastern Mountain Region from the Free State to KZN.
The leaves of K. ritualis are 400-900 mm long by 12-24 mm wide, soft, v-shaped and the margins are finely toothed. Running ones finger against the grain may result in a papercut that although superficial is painful nonetheless. The inflorescence range from 90-140 mm in length by 40-50 mm wide. The buds are a bright orange and the flowers a bleached yellow – 25-35 mm long. This striking plant flowers from  late December through to March.   Read more



The Twitcher

Well, a little passé perhaps, but Happy New Year to all our faithful readers!
Assuming you survived the fireworks of course.  We are used to Kgubetswana lighting up, come midnight on Old Year’s Night, but having the Clarens Square turned into the Edinburgh Festival with 86-decibel sound effects was a new experience.  Great fun, notwithstanding the bangs, and may introduce a new tradition to the village calendar.   The village dogs may not of course agree; ours had a shared bowel collapse and hid behind the loo all night.  Perhaps the compromise is limiting the level of noise and controlling the time of the event, this 2014 New Year.  The good news is that we aren’t living in the maelstrom of Durban, which rivals the First World War for explosive sound and light – although the acrid stench of mustard gas is replaced by the curry aromas of mince samoosas and bunny chows!The curious thing about Clarens though is its failure to do anything about Christmas.  Nary a light on the square, or for that matter in most shops and restaurants.  Your faithful scribe is not, for the record, a Christmas tree hugger or much into Carol singing, but the sight of our square without a car in sight on Christmas Day, no festive trappings and almost no shops open really begs credulity.  If we aspire to being a holiday destination, we have to review our approach and remember that our clients and customers expect us tobehave like a tourist attraction.  I have a creepy feeling that many (most?) retailers and restaurateurs will contest this view, but perhaps a debate on the subject is long overdue.  After all, who do we blame if our Clarens Christmas season slowly fades and dies?  Our annual rate of retail and accommodation growth is probably four- or five-times higher than that for the rest of the country, but we need to wake-up to the fact that this can turn on its head if our visitors go cold on us.  About as cold as we were over Christmas, actually.
But enough banter: 2014 has started in grand style with idyllic weather.  Post-Christmas tourists are gambolling happily along the trails, packing out the Brewery and spending with gay abandon.  I even saw two farmers smiling, so the rain must be good.  But perhaps best of all, we haven’t had a newspaper to speak of for over a week, so the mood of the town has skyrocketed: No Zuma, no Nkandla, no E-tolls, no politics.  If that’s not a seasonal gift from the Gods, I don’t know what is.  Next week, birds, birds, birds.  Until then, blessings for the New Year.

This weekend – Weather


This weekend – Music

Saturday: 4th January 2014
Friends: 20h30:  Slipstream
The Grouse and Claret:  20h00:  Fumadores (Denzl & Hensie)


This weekend – Other Events

Farmers Market: Be sure to visit the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. This is the place to buy fresh local produce, home baked goodies, and lots lots more.

Wolfgang is having a garage sale on  4th January 10h00 at 733 Van Zyl Street (next to Clementines). Items include TVs, Fridge freezer, tables and desks, tools, electric motors, wood working machinery, camping gear, old rifles, camping gear and much much more. Phone Wolfgang 083 6000 746  Visit Classifieds on the Clarens News website. ClassifiedsDo you have a house you want to rent out?  Need a job? Want to buy a generator?  Remember to check out the classifeds section.  Advertising on the classifieds section of Clarens News is free.  All you need to do is to email  your advert toeditor@clarensnews.com



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