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The best driving road in South Africa

The only way for an urbanite with a country heart (aka me) to stay sane, is to get out on the road as often as possible. My wife recently booked us a stay in Hazyview, on the border of the Kruger National Park, which led me to discover what is possibly the best driver’s road in South Africa.

Best South African Driving Road - R533

Driving from Pretoria, our first detour was Dullstroom. The road to Dullstroom is nothing spectacular, but this little town has made quite a name for itself as a must see destination. Trout fishing being it’s main attraction, people from the city flock there by the dozens over weekends. After a quick breakfast we were off again, next stop, Pilgrim’s Rest.

The road leading out of Dullstroom serves as an introduction of what is to come. For the next 100 kilometres, passing through Lydenburg, you will get the chance to stretch your car’s legs a little. Long sweeping turns up and down the valleys welcome you with beautiful scenery to match. And then, just before you reach Pilgrim’s Rest you are faced with Robbers Pass. Here the fun starts and the road gets progressively more advanced.

Robbers Pass presents a quick decline into the Pilgrim’s Rest valley. You are presented with fast long turns, one after the other. While not pushing your car or your driving skills to the limit, it will definitely raise your pulse a little. Do yourself a favour and stop for a quick lunch and refreshments at the Pilgrim’s Rest “museum”, you will need to be rested for what follows.

On the road again, heading towards Graskop is where you will be tested to the limit. With a very steep decline and short, very sharp turns, your full attention needs to be on this 14 kilometre piece of road. If you go wrong here, you will meet a long fall to a sudden end. It is best you attempt this stretch of road with a car you know well. You do not want your brakes fading, so a good balancing act between acceleration and braking will see you safely to the bottom. Most of these turns are blind, so do not cut into the other lane. I found my GPS to be an excellent navigational tool. Giving it a quick glance after every corner will give you a good idea of what lies ahead. If you feel your nerves getting the better of you, stop and admire the beautiful forest-like surroundings. (This will also please your passengers).

At the bottom of the pass things smooth out a little, giving you a chance to let your brakes cool and get back on the accelerator. The road leading through the Sappi plantation is mesmerising. With the trees casting shadows which cover the road, you feel like you are in a very expensive, yet cliché, car advertisement. Enjoy this, because after Graskop things go back to normal.

After spending a lovely weekend visiting various attractions and the Kruger National Park I could not resist taking the same route back to Pretoria. Doing everything in reverse, uphill presented some new challenges. This time round my 320d really came into it’s own and the torque from the diesel engine ate the inclines for breakfast. So much so that I got a good ear-full from my back seat driver, clinging for her life. If I could do this every weekend my life would be complete. What a drive!!

What surprised me most was the condition of the roads in Mpumalanga. Living in a country where potholes are the norm, this road is in excellent condition. Although there are a lot of tourist attractions in this region of South Africa, I think it is fair to say this route should be declared one in itself.

Next time you feel like hitting the road and pushing the limits, take the road from Dullstroom to Graskop via the R533. Drive cautiously and you will live to tell the tale.

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