Welcome to bikers paradise, the Eastern Transvaal!

When you mention to fellow bikers that you are going to the “Eastern Transvaal” for the weekend on the bike, you normally either get a look of envy or hatred. This is mainly because every single biker out there knows just how awesome this place is for riding. It’s any motorcyclist’s idea of paradise.

Planning our trip

I have been going to this area for the last 4 years, and every single time it has been an amazing experience. It has sort of become our annual getaway weekend where a group of friends head out on the open roads to find a little piece of riding heaven in this crazy country of ours.

The first year we went we stayed at a friends house in Malelane, right at the bottom of the Kruger Park. The second year we stayed at the Hazyview Cabana’s, which we kind of gate crashed since it was booked for a friend’s birthday party. The third year we stayed at Crystal Springs, on the road just passed Pilgrims Rest.

This year we decided to stay a bit closer to the action and therefore looked for a place close to Sabie. We eventually found Sabie Star Chalets. The lodge is located about 2 km outside of Sabie on the 22. Perfect!

Bookings were made and people started getting amped up!

Highway to heaven

johannesburg to sabie

Finally the day arrived and it was time to hit the road. Five riders all filled with months on anticipation. The ride to Mecca awaited us. It was time to lay down some rubber between us and home.

We left at exactly 9AM on Saturday morning from the north of Johannesburg. I cannot really describe the feeling when we finally started rolling. I guess it is like when you are a kid and you are about to open that Christmas present. You know, that feeling!?

The N4 highway quickly lead us past OR Tambo, through Boksburg and out towards Witbank. Once we went past Benoni lake the road opened up and the fresh air filled the helmet. The highway is perfect, smooth and pothole free. Our first stop is the petrol station just passed the Middelburg toll plaza.

In the excitement of getting there, I ride out in-front of our group and was the first to pass through the toll plaza. On the other side I waited for the rest of the group. I waited for 10 minutes and only one other joined me. I check my phone and realized that we have encountered the first (and luckily only) mechanical failure of the weekend. One of the bikes decided it was not that keen for the lowveld, and gave up with a blown gasket.

Backup was called in and the bike was picked up. He continued further on another bike. We stopped for fuel and continued our journey towards Dullstroom.

MP – Moerse Potholes

Once we reached Belfast, we got off the highway and turned the handlebars in the direction of Dullstroom. On this road you can start to enjoy the beautiful countryside, however the roads here seem to be the major let down. I know for a fact that there are probably other roads in South Africa that are worse, but damn, you literally cant take your eyes off the road because as soon as you do, you will end up in a pothole.

It is like this all the way to Dullstroom and seems to get even worse afterwards on the road to Lydenburg. If you take this road, please be careful.

We stopped in Dullstroom at the Duck and Trout restaurant for some lunch. As always, the food and scenery is excellent.

After lunch, we continued on to Lydenburg, very slowly.

The roads are absolute shite here. Even in Lydenburg there are massive potholes, some so big you literally cant go through them, even with a car. I seriously don’t know how the local government can care so little about basic infrastructure.

Luckily as soon as you start heading out of Lydenburg towards Long Tom pass, the quality of the roads improve and we can enjoy the riding again.

Long Tom, you big bastard

Just before Long Tom pass there is a garage on the left. This was to be our final stop for fuel before we entered the holy grail of riding.

Long Tom pass is probably the only place which has pieces of road that is quite frighting to ride . The reason for this is simple. There are sheer vertical drops right next to the road. Which means that if I make one mistake, brake to late on a corner, hit an oil spill and go down, I literally will go down a couple of hundred, maybe even thousand feet on the side of a massive mountain.

longtom pass

The roads twists and turns all the way up, a total of 682 vertical meters. Once you get to the top, the most magnificent vistas open up and you can see the Mpumalanga mountains and plantations for many kilometers.

I definitely recommend that you stop at the top (right by the cannon after which the pass is named) and just take some time to take in the scenery. There aren’t many other places in the world like this.

Coming down the pass is just as scary. If you are not exactly a fit person, you will by now start to realize how much the mountain is punishing your body. Once you get to the bottom of the pass, you will go past a sign that says “10km to Sabie”. You will probably swear a little.

My wrists, back, neck, thighs, everything is in pain at this stage. Obviously this will depend on how fast you are doing the pass, but I think even if you are taking it easy you will probably also start to feel some strain, especially if you are on a sport bike.

Do take it easy over this pass, as it is easy to make a mistake on a bike and end up in a seriously bad way. I know of people that this has happened to and they are unfortunately not able to ride anymore. It is just not worth it.

Sabie

Finally, after many hours of riding, you roll into Sabie. Beautiful, green, Sabie. After +-350km of riding in one day all the way from Johannesburg, to another province, over a massive mountain pass, the feeling of hitting Sabie is like a fat kid opening a box of donuts.

sabie

Some refreshments were in order and we made our first stop at the famous Woodsman pub. Once you are there and take the first sip of an ice cold beer, you know you have arrived.

We also met up with the rest of the crew who drove through in the car.

The next two days was going to be awesome!

Living Conditions

As mentioned, for this trip we stayed over at the Sabie Star Chalets. The place is located about 2km from Sabie on the 22 road. Therefore they are located in the perfect place for anyone going there for the sole reason, to ride their bike.

sabie star chalets

We were initially worried about the dirt road leading from the main road to the chalets, but it proved no problem for us. It can easily be managed by any motorbike.

The chalets are located right next to a small river, surrounded by beautiful mountains all around.

Each unit is very comfy, providing all the basic necessities that one would need for a few days away. We enjoyed the small bonfire areas just outside the front door, which also doubled up as the braai. There are few things in life as awesome as coming back from a long day of riding the twisties and then sitting around then fire with a cold beer and mates.

sabie star chalets

There is also a very nice swimming pool, and for those keen on exploring off the bike, you can talk a walk to the waterfall nearby.

The Green Loop

sabie - graskop - hazyview - white river - sabie

On our first full day there, we decided to do the main loop between Sabie, Graskop, Hazyview and White River.

We headed up to Sabie and from there to Graskop. This is one of my favourite roads in this area since it starts of with long straight roads, and from about the half way point near the Mac Mac falls you get the twisting sections. You finally pass the turnoff to Pilgrims rest, but we continued to Graskop.

gods window

From Graskop you need to take the road to Hazyview. This is where the MP’s (moerse potholes) start appearing again. This road could actually be one of the best because of the big, fast corners, but because of the many potholes, it is just not worth it to go any faster than 100km/ph.

From Hazyview we took the road to White River. This section has always been absolutely amazing because here there are no potholes in the road, the road has big, very big, corners which you can almost take flat out.

You pass through forest areas, a dam and many more awesome sights, so its definitely worth doing this section.

In White River we filled up and started the last part of the leg back to Sabie. The road initially starts out quite bumpy, but soon we were be back in the plantations on wide open roads, twisting and turning through the mountains. Bliss.

gods window 2

Finally back at Sabie we ended up at the Woodsman, and reminisced about the awesome route we just completed.

The entire loop takes about 3 hours to complete, if you stopped at each town along the way like we did.

The 22

The famous 22

Every single motorcycle rider in South Africa will have heard of the magical 22. The 22 is a section of the road between Sabie and Hazyview which is exactly 22km starting from Sabie.

In this 22km of road, there are 66 turns, winding through the lowveld mountains. The road is perfect with no potholes or anything that might cause problems for a rider.

It is almost impossible to describe it, as the only way to truly experience the 22 is to actually ride it. On any weekend you will find motorcyclists, from super bike riders to Harley riders on this road, pushing there limits or simply enjoying the riding. Here is a link to a video of other riders taking on the 22.

Once you get to the end of the 22, you simply turn the bike around and do it all again! What better way to spend an afternoon with your biking mates?

After we got back home, another night around the bonfire was spent enjoying some ice cold beers.

Exploring further

graskop - ohrigstad - lydenburg - sabie

The next day we decided to go up to God’s Window, just past Graskop and check out the amazing view from the top of the mountain. This was followed by a quick brunch back in Graskop at the famous Harries Pancakes.

gods window 3

From there we decided to try a new route, one which we having done before. We headed up past God’s Window again on the R532 towards Ohrigstad. This road starts off with a few potholes but it clears up eventually. The road also winds its way through the mountains, and the scenery changes from forest plantations to bushveld. You can actually feel a complete change in temperature, from a cool Graskop to a warm Ohrigstad heat.

Just before you get to Ohrigstad, the R532 that you were on meets up with the R36, which is where one would take a left. There are some road works on this section, and even an area where we had to ride on about 1km of dirt road, but again, this was easily manageable.

At Ohrigstad we filled up and headed to Lydenburg where we went over Long Tom pass again. As we got over the pass, we stopped off at the Sabie Brewing Company for a refreshment. The pass again showed us it is the boss, since we were all completely knackered after the long ride.

sabie brewing company

This is definitely a route you should explore if you are in the area.

Heading home

sabie - n4

The final day arrived, and it was time for us to pack up all our crap and head home.

It is always a sad day, since we know that once we are back home, the roads near Joburg just wont be able to compare with what we have just experienced. It is almost as if there is no point to get on the bike until the next time we do this trip.

But pack up we had to. We decided to take another new route back to the highway, one which we haven’t done before.

This time, we headed up from Sabie towards the Long Tom pass, but just before the pass actually starts we took a left and headed towards the N4 highway on the R37.

About 30km into this road, we took a right on the R539. This road is also awesome with a lot of twists and turns.

We finally got to the N4 where we turned right on the highway and headed towards Johannesburg.

A stop was made at Milly’s for some brunch, and to fill up. From there, it was easy (albeit boring) cruising all the way home.

millys

Conclusion

As you can gather, we spend 4 days in paradise. These are the best roads in the northern (and eastern) parts of South Africa when it comes to riding.

I am not even going to give this trip some stars, since there aren’t enough stars. If you have a bike and you have not done this trip to the Eastern Transvaal yet, pack up your shit and go there now!