Moolmanshoek 4×4 Eco Routes
101 Trail Guide | 2010
Moolmanshoek 4×4 Eco Routes
Moolmanshoek is a private nature reserve of 3 000 hectare in the Witteberg Mountains of the Eastern Free State.
It has three primary trails: Kiepersol Garden, Visierkerf and Langesnek. A fourth trail, Suikerhoek, is only for groups of experienced drivers, led by qualified 4×4 guides. All trail excursions are accompanied by guides on horseback and no self-drives are allowed.
Kiepersol Garden is 8 km, and is essentially a nature drive that should take you 2-3 hours. It is mostly an easy grass track that traverses a wetland area, and alternating grasslands and rock plates, before a short, steep climb to a lookout point, and then a mountain descent. Kiepersol offers twists and turns between oldwood trees, through streams and dongas and over sandstone rock plates.
The second trail, Visierkerf, is the big one; it is 28-32 km long and takes 7-8 hours to complete. It covers predominantly sandstone plates, interspersed with rock climbs up crazy angles, to gravity-defying lookout points that are only reached by fording tricky streams. The plateau leisurely traces the mountain top, offering views over the plains below. Precision driving and care is required at all times, and the trail will test your vehicle’s abilities as well as your own feel for tight turns and gear selection.
The third trail, Langesnek, is a natural off-road test track – nature’s Gerotek, if you will. At 14 km, it will take you a good 4 hours as it spews forth every conceivable obstacle – from side slope and camber to incline and decline – one after the other. It starts off innocently enough but unlike the other tracks, this one just keeps climbing higher and higher. It winds through tight turns along the edge of the plateau and over mounds of bare rock, to a series of lookout points where you can catch your breath.
What you need to know
The four-star lodge at Moolmanshoek has 20 fully-catered rooms. For those who prefer something less formal, Langesnek Trail has nine self-catering dorm rooms and camping facilities for 15 vehicles.
Once you’re done 4×4-ing, you can try their hiking trails (with overnight huts), high ropes, abseiling, kloofing, horse riding, fly fishing and birding. It also has a chapel, and wedding and conference facilities.
Nearest town: Rosendal (20 km)
Best time to go: All year, but weather-wise February to June is best.
Trail distances: 8 km, 28-32 km and 14 km
How long will I be driving? 2-3 hours, 7-8 hours and 4 hours
GPS: S28.63140 E27.99900
Full Review |Dec 2009 – Jan 2010
Leading from the front
Off-roading among game with a horseback guide is just one unique feature that sets Moolmanshoek apart. Having spent a few days there, Philip Sackville Scott explains why he was forced to revaluate all trails he had done before.
After a few days at Moolmanshoek it’s obvious all things were not created equal – its trails are unlike anything I have ever experienced.
At first glance this private nature reserve of 3 000 ha in the Witteberg Mountains of the Eastern Free State seems like most other good trail destinations.
It’s a well-rounded off-road destination that offers a first-class experience, top-class accommodation, warm hospitality, and a wide array of activities. And to top it all, it’s set against the dramatic mountains of the Eastern Free State.
But what sets it apart is this: You can drive off-road in a game reserve among large numbers of game and horses, with the opportunity to get in some fly fishing or bird watching; saddle up and ride off into the sunset; and sleep in a four-star award-winning lodge where you can savour cordon bleu meals.
All of this while you’re getting in a bit of abseiling or doing team-building.
And of course if you want to try 4x4ing with the novel dimension of a horseback guide, then Moolmanshoek is the place for you.
No horsing around
Set in a cauldron of sandstone cliffs and dominated by the Visierkerf Mountain, Moolmanshoek has three primary trails: Langesnek (14 km, 4 hours), Visierkerf/Kloof (28-32 km, 7-8 hours) and Kiepersol Garden (8 km, 2-3 hours).
A fourth trail, Suikerhoek, is only driven by groups of experienced drivers, guided by qualified 4×4 guides. We did not drive it for this review.
The normal practice is to drive Langesnek after arriving at midday on a Friday, spend the whole of Saturday doing Visierkerf and finish off with Kiepersol on Sunday morning, allowing sufficient time to drive home.
All trail excursions are accompanied by guides on horseback and no self-drives are allowed.
With over 300 Arabs and Boerperde, there is no shortage of “cowboys”.
The more vehicles in the group, the more riders will accompany you. Interspersed throughout the convoy, they constantly advise, assist and train drivers, keeping an eye out to ensure that the land sustains no unnecessary damage.
As Moolmanshoek is not really a day destination, day visitors are not encouraged − you can’t do it justice in anything less than a full weekend anyway.
Trail 1: Kiepersol Garden
In the northeast of the reserve, Kiepersol is essentially a nature drive. It is mostly an easy grass track that traverses a wetland area, alternating grasslands and rock plates, then a short, steep, rough climb to a lookout point, before a mountain descent.
The trail offers twists and turns between oldwood trees, through streams and dongas and over exposed sandstone rock plates.
We drove past a cliff overhang where there is a cave so large, said owner Willie Nel, that people lived there during the Anglo Boer War. Later, over 400 goats were kept there through winter.
Trail 2: Visierkerf
Visierkerf in the southeast of the reserve is the big one, the one enthusiasts come from far afield to drive. It has everything: streams, dongas, mud, rock, inclines and declines, scenery and great photo opportunities.
This route is accessed by driving east from the reception area across the reserve. It is well thought out, building in intensity from grassy plains to mountain peaks.
The first half of the trail traverses predominantly sandstone plates, interspersed with rock climbs up crazy angles to gravity-defying lookout points, only reached by fording particularly tricky streams.
Precision-driving and great care is required at all times.
Special attention should be paid to the area’s geology, as the different rock types dramatically affect your driving style. The porous, smooth sandstone provides good traction even when wet. But the extremely hard and brittle basalt crumbles easily, providing little traction on the steep inclines and declines.
The plateau offers some respite for the nerves as it leisurely traces the mountain-top, offering Serengeti-like views down onto the grass plains below, before returning to base camp.
The trail is
a thorough test of your vehicle’s abilities and the driver’s feel for tight turns and gear selection.
Trail 3: Langesnek
One of the most special off-road experiences I have ever had was at Langesnek, in the west of the reserve.
Accompanying a convoy of eight vehicles, with Willie’s son Wiesman as our guide, I was given a taste of what 4×4 groups experience when they are guided on horseback.
Willie describes the route as a natural off-road test track – Nature’s Gerotek, if you will. As it spewed forth every conceivable obstacle – from side slope and camber to incline and decline, one after the other, I was inclined to agree.
It starts off innocently enough as just another leisurely grass track up the mountain slopes, past fascinating Boer settler relics.
However, unlike the other tracks this one just continues climbing, higher and higher over sandstone plates and grass ledges. It winds through tight turns, along the edge of the plateau and over undulating mounds of bare rock to a series of lookout points.
There are some heart-stopping moments on this rugged track to the top and blindly following the hand directions of a man on a horse just doesn’t come naturally to a townie.
What’s more, at times all you can see over the bonnet is blue. You daren’t look left or right. The one time I did just that made the situation worse as there was nothing to see there either!
Bottom line: a horse’s backside is not the easiest thing to focus your attention on. And that’s beside the fact that the damn things don’t stand still. This animal has a mind of its own and a questionable temperament. At least my Cruiser does exactly as I tell it to.
Drive Out says: I loved it – so will you. I promise.
What you need to know
WHY SHOULD I GO?
Set in mountain surroundings, it’s one of the ultimate 4×4 trail destinations. And don’t forget about the host of other activities.
How long are the three trails?
14 km, 28-32 km and 8 km, respectively
How long will I be driving?
4 hours, 7-8 hours and 2-3 hours, respectively
Maximum number of vehicles?
Minimum 3, maximum 20
Do I get a map?
No, you get a guide (on a horse).
Will my car get scratched? No
Should I remove my running boards? Yes
Should I take a compressor?
Yes, you’ll have to deflate to 1.2 bar.
Can I turn around halfway? Yes
Can we have a braai en route? No
Best time to go?
All year, but weather-wise February-June is best.
Can I take my family along? Yes
Just for the day or the weekend?
Preferably a long weekend
Are there ablution facilities for day visitors?
Yes, but day visits are restricted to approved groups.
Can I see game?
Yes, 14 species of plains game – in large numbers.
The nearest town?
Rosendal (20 km)
How do I get there?
From the Ficksburg/Fouriesburg road, turn left on the R70 to Rosendal and continue for 29 km. Turn right on the S384 and continue for 7.5 km to Langesnek. Turn off at the Langesnek sign, some 300 m before the Moolmanshoek entrance.
The nearest fuel?
Rosendal (20 km) – but it’s closed on Sundays!
WHERE CAN I STAY?
Moolmanshoek’s 4-star lodge has 20 fully catered rooms.
If you prefer something less formal, Langesnek Trail has 9 self-catering dorm rooms and camping facilities for 15 vehicles.
Must I take anything special?
Take food and water on the trails as you could spend an entire day on it.
What else can I do there?
Hiking (with overnight huts), high ropes, abseiling, kloofing, horse riding, fly fishing and birding. It also has a chapel, conference facilities and wedding facilities.
R200 per vehicle per trail
• Package 1: R970-R1060 pppn sharing (DBB & all activities included)
• Package 2: R700-R790 pppn sharing (DBB included)
• Langesnek Leadership Centre – Rooms: R150-R250 pppn
• Dorm rooms: R65 pppn
• Camping: Phone 051 933 2220 for more information.
Willie or Wiesman Nel:
Tel 051 933 2220;
Full Review | ROLL OF HONOUR
Drive Out TOP TEN: 2001, 2004, 2005
Contact Willie Nel
Tel 051 933 2220
Cell 082 788 6623
Nearest town Ficksburg (35km)
Best time of year Year round
Maximum vehicles Minimum 3, no day visitors
Route distance Four trails totalling 50km
GPS Points S28 37 55.3 E27 59 59.3
If you take a weekend to drive Moolmanshoek’s four 4×4 trails (Langesnek Route, Visierskerf, Kiepersol Garden, Suikerhoek) – owner Willie Nel will be right there with you… on his horse! And that speaks volumes about Willie’s attitude towards nature, as also indicated on their website:
“It is our privilege to be stewards of more than 3000 hectares of the breathtaking Moolmanshoek valley.”
Set among the trout-rich sandstone ravines of the Koranaberg region, Moolmanshoek offers genuine 4-star accommodation and a restaurant at the lodge, but campers can be accommodated at a neighbouring farm.
The reserve is home to the Free State’s highest mountain, Visierskerf (2407m).
One of the biggest attractions, however, has to be the abundance of game in the valley – including eland, black wildebeest and oryx – so you can enjoy that self-drive game-viewing experience that makes spotting the animals that much more special.
What you should know
Wiesman & Willie Nel
051 933 2220
4 trails: 50km | 2 hours - 2 days
Moolmanshoek is a 3 500 hectares private mountain reserve in the Witteberg mountains.
Full review to follow.
Moolmanshoek boasts a four-star Sandstone Lodge with 15 en-suite bedrooms, good views and a restaurant. Most suites have fireplaces or Queen Ann stoves. There are also a pool room, honesty bar, library and a sun room for lodge guests. For more information visit www.moolmanshoek.co.za
For more information visit www.moolmanshoek.co.za