Reach new heights
There's off-road magic in the Free State - you just need to know where to look. TYSON JOPSON went serching for it the new Nissan Navara.
Whoever said the Free State is flat should be tied to a flagpole, and then hoisted skyward. From there they’d see two superb mountain ranges that give the eastern part of this province a profile that’s just right for a bit of 4x4 fun. On a weekend out testing the handsome new Nissan Navara LE 4x4DC, I found two spots you have to try. One is for the tough, and one for those who want to take it easy.
Lesoba 4x4 trail (the tough ONE)
Appearing at the side of the R711 from Clarens like some sort of mirage, a dirt road to Lesoba Guest Farm takes you right to the foot of a spectacular sandstone ridge. It’s part of the Maloti Mountains and in either direction this iconic range stretches as far as you can see, marking the border with Lesotho. There are three 4x4 trails here. I picked the second, a one-hour loop that starts with a technical, rocky climb and then threads its way along the foot of the mountains past increasingly beautiful viewpoints, braai spots and rock formations. It’s tough in places – you need your wits and a spotter – but the Navara’s large approach and departure angles, (the SA release has an impressive 229mm ride height) made lining up the tricky sections a breeze. R100 per vehicle. 079-525-0401
Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve (the EASY ONE)
Back on the R711, I took a left at Fouriesberg onto the R26. About 20 kilometres in, the gravel S385 caught my eye. Rounding the southern end of the Witteberg I got to properly test the biggest departure for the new Navara: its multi-link coil-spring rear suspension system which replaces the more common leaf-spring design. Unladen at decent speed, the ride quality is superb. Over loose gravel and corrugations it sat firm, not once hinting it might step out. A right onto the gravel S384 got me to Moolmanshoek where a 15-kilometre off-road route wends its way through this game-filled reserve and into the Witteberg. It’s an easy but stunning route (allow at least three hours – you’ll want to stop a lot for photos) with two small stream crossings and plenty to see. R250 pp for staying guests. moolmanshoek.co.za
Descending the rocky trail at Lesoba was a cinch with the DAC (Downhill Assist Control) active.