Author:  Des Jacobs

 

To me, one of the most scenic roads that very few people know about, is the one up to Mariepskop in the Hoedspruit area. Mariepskop – at 1,945 metres above sea level – is one of the highest peaks in the northern Drakensberg, and the highest point of the Blyde River Canyon.

There’s not a lot of people who are aware of this road winding up to the very top of the mountain, as well as into the heart of the Blyde River Canyon up to a very scenic picnic spot right next to the Blyde River that runs through the canyon. You can visit the top of Mariepskop and enjoy a picnic, all in one day.Mariepskop itself will leave you breathless with its dramatic views. Standing on the edge near the towers gives you a few of the Kruger Park up to Phalaborwa. From here everything below looks very tiny indeed.

The route is very scenic indeed, as it offers you the experience of driving through a tropical rain forest and you will find yourself expecting to see a gorilla peeking through the dense vegetation at any moment. Although there aren’t any gorillas, you might spot some bushbuck, and some visitors even reported sightings of the odd leopard on the way up. The mountain peak is very rocky but it boasts a wide variety of plant species. Make sure that you visit all the marked viewpoints on the route.

To get there you have to follow the gravel road from, a small village between Hoedspruit and Bushbuckridge. There are a small shop and filling station next to the main road where you turn off onto the gravel. Stay on this road for approximately 30km. The route becomes very steep at places and I would suggest navigating it in a 4×4 or a vehicle with high ground clearance. When it’s misty or rainy it can become very slippery up there and the 4×4 may come in handy, especially during your descend to the picnic spot. You need to pay an entrance fee near the top of the mountain where you will be issued with a permit to visit the peak and the picnic spot. The gates usually open at 08:00 in the morning and close at around 16:00 daily. Make sure you are out before closing time to avoid a fine and having to spend the night on the mountain.

The weather here can be very unpredictable and it can become overcast and misty very quickly, especially in the summer months. On a clear day though, you will be awarded with great views and awesome photo opportunities. Please note that there are no barriers on these sheer cliff faces and this can pose a challenge if you are not careful. Please stay well clear from the edges, especially if you have small children with you. Always walk in groups.

Afriscapes conduct landscape photography expeditions and tours, and one of these expeditions include this very mountain as well as the rest of the Blyde River Canyon. Please visit www.afriscapes.com for more info.

Please browse through my photos on my website at www.desjacobs.com

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