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.

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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.

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