If you’re driving the popular Clarens to Furiesburg route (one of the recommended self – drive/sightseeing routes on this website) why not make a short detour and drive the Caledon Loop.
From Clarens, take the R711 to Fouriesburg. About 18k from the Clarens Golf club look out for the turnoff left onto S1356/S505, then stay right on the S505, a gravel road which winds down to the Caledon river valley floor. This road is in excellent condition and easy to drive in any vehicle.
We drove this route in autumn and were treated to typical Free State views – with splashes of autumn colour here and there. Across the river one looks out over Lesotho and the Maluti mountains. (I can’t wait to do this drive again in Winter when they are covered in snow.) Every now and again one catches a glimpse of the Caledon river – at this time of the year looking rather quiet and unimportant. (The river rises in the Drakensberg, near Witsieshoek, from whence it flows south-west – marking the border between Lesotho and South Africa up until just north of Wepener where it then enters the Free State. From here it flows westerly to join the Orange River near Bethulie. The Caledon river is Maseru’s main water supply.)
The section of river along the route is in fact an international boundary line between South Africa and Lesotho. A line which has historically been the subject of much dispute, and which is often-times ignored by local inhabitants despite attempts at enforcing it by the SNDF. Just one glance across the river one begins to understand the border’s porosity, and the on-going to-ing and fro-ing between the two countries.
We passed an abandoned old Free State style sandstone farmhouse (a photographer’s dream) and disturbed a beautiful Blesbok lying in the front yard, before turning towards Fouriesburg where the road runs alongside a massive outcrop at the end of which Queen Victoria can be clearly seen sitting on her throne. (If you would like to take a look at her turn left on the road to Lesoba.) You rejoin the R711 a little further on. The loop may be short (only 28k) but given the views, it certainly gives you a chance to capture that indescribable “Free State feel” .
Article and photographs by Toni B Walters
Clarens News: June 2014