Adventuring in the Wolkberg

For a drive high up among the clouds, point your vehicle in the direction of Wolkberg Wilderness Area, says Johan Heyneke. This unspoilt mountain reserve near Haenertsburg is a real gem.

Limpopo’s Wolkberg Wilderness Area is a 22,000ha reserve of craggy mountains, dense woodlands and rolling grasslands. Why Wolkberg? In these parts, the typical blue Limpopo sky can quickly change into mist and clouds enveloping the peaks. In fact, the Wolkberg is a northern termination of the Drakensberg mountains. That means cold fronts can make their way along the range right up to the Wolkberg.

Even though I have lived in Polokwane, some 70km away, for 28 years, I had never been to the Wolkberg Wilderness Area before this trip. For some time now, I’ve been wanting to explore my own province and discover its hidden gems. Wolkberg is undoubtedly one of these; hikers refer to it one of the country’s best kept secrets. Since I was planning a day trip, it made sense to choose a place close to home. Again, Wolkberg fit the bill.

Gravel roads and views for days characterise the Wolkberg. Pictures by Johan Heyneke

Plotting the route

Since I knew where I wanted to go, my first step was typing “Wolkberg” into the Tracks4Africa online trip planner. Zooming in, I could see there are many viewpoints in the reserve. So to make the most of the scenery, I decided to build my trip from viewpoint to viewpoint. The online map showed that I could travel much of the way from Polokwane to the Wolkberg Wilderness Area on gravel. Great news for me, because I far prefer gravel over tar. I even found a viewpoint on the access road that would be perfect for watching the sunrise. 

The route for exploring Wolkberg Wilderness Area on the Tracks4Africa online trip planner.

Because I wanted to spend as much time as possible in the Wolkberg itself, I opted to return home on tar. On the trip planner I could see a road leading through neighbouring Agatha Forest Reserve and connecting to the provincial road. I was intrigued by the “Impassable Mud Hole” in the Wolkberg reserve, but it was too far off my intended route – perhaps another time. With the route clear in my mind, I went ahead and built it on the trip planner. (See steps below on how to do this.) This online tool is great because it gives you accurate travel times for each segment of the route. I could also view the trip on my Tracks4Africa Guide App and export it as a GPX file for Garmin GPS.

Into Wolkberg

I do much of my driving alone but for this trip I invited a friend, Ignis Mare, and also took my three-year-old daughter along. We left Polokwane before dawn so the first stretch on the provincial road towards Haenertsburg was nice and quiet. After Driekuil, I turned off onto a good gravel road that leads south and swings through the northern tip of Bewaarkloof Nature Reserve. With the sun just cresting the mountains, it was time for breakfast at the first viewpoint for the day. Using my Bush Baby gas plate, I made a quick fry-up so we would have energy for the road ahead. 

This is scenic driving, perfect for a day trip.

The road unwound between pine plantations, every now and then offering glimpses of the Wolkberg’s foothills. The anticipation built as we entered the stone gate to the reserve. Whereas the road leading in was mostly in good condition, the road inside the Wolkberg Wilderness Area is not maintained to the same degree. It is very overgrown and at times it felt like we were driving into a tunnel of green. Ignis also had to get out of the vehicle on occasion to move aside a branch obstructing the way – the joys of being a passenger! 

Exploring the wilderness area

Wolkberg is a wilderness area, which means that aside from a couple of roads and a handful of hiking trails, it is undeveloped and wild. Hikers are free to walk anywhere they want. There are some shy mountain antelope, but no dangerous game. 

We found the roads pretty wild too. Washaways had exposed big ruts and large rocks littered the track so we crawled along slowly. Although the road doesn’t pose technical challenges, you do need a high clearance vehicle. We came across two water crossings on our route, both of which were shallow and easy to cross. However, if there has been heavy rainfall in the area, these could become a problem. 

Inside Wolkberg, the road is rather rugged and the going can be slow.
Pretty cascades give a taste of the waterfalls deeper in.

The road wound through dense woodland, the shade offering some cool against the heat of the day. Every so often the scenery would open up, offering views across grassy hillsides and wooded valleys down below. As the road dipped to the valley floor, we entered an indigenous forest. We passed little cascades that hinted at the beauty of the waterfalls deeper in, accessible by hike. Since this is a wilderness area, there are no picnic sites with benches and shading. But we stopped at the viewpoints to stretch our legs and take in the scenery. The day’s drive was varied and it was impossible to grow tired of the landscape.

The verdict

The trip was worth it for the sight of the rolling hills, lush green valleys and expansive views. But the road inside the reserve is almost a no-go due to the lack of maintenance. If you want to protect your vehicle against bush rash, best give Wolkberg a skip. As at all times when travelling in Limpopo, keep an eye out for stray farm animals on the way there and back.

Watch a video of Johan’s trip on YouTube.


How to build a trip

  1. Go to the Tracks4Africa online trip planner and log in or register with your email address and password. This allows you to save the trip.
  2. Begin by creating and naming your trip: click on the plus sign next to “My Trips”.
  3. Use the search bar in the top right corner to find points of interest (POIs). 
  4. Add your own waypoints by clicking and holding to add a pin. Give it your own name if you want.
  5. To explore POIs in the area, click on the blue waypoint icon top right. This shows a range of POIs (e.g. fuel, lodging) that you can toggle on and off.
  6. To build the route itself, go to Routes in the left sidebar and click on the plus sign.
  7. Add waypoints from your selection of POIs. Use the plus sign next to each POI to add it to the route. You can also click on the POI on the map and select the grey Route button.
  8. Once you have added two or more waypoints, the trip planner calculates the distance and travel time for each section.
  9. Export the trip in GPX or KML format for use on a Garmin GPS.

Video of the T4A Trip Planner

Wondering how best to use the online trip planner? Our YouTube video explains the features and how to build your first trip. Watch the Tracks4Africa Trip Planner video now.

How to view a trip in the T4A Guide App

For both Android and iOS apps, first log into the app with the same email address that you used on the Trip Planner website.

For Android

From the menu, select “My Trips” and refresh by clicking on “Read trips from trip planner”.

A list of your trips will be displayed and you can click on the ones that you wish to download or refresh. Then click the checkbox next to the specific downloaded trip you want to follow to allow it to be shown on the map. The box must turn orange for it to be activated.

For iOS

Click on the Trips icon in the top menu bar to open the My Trips menu and then click the “Get Latest” button to refresh the list of trips from the Trip Planner. Now you can click which trips to download and activate the trip by using the slider once it is downloaded. If the slider is in the green position, then the trip is active.

For both apps you can toggle trips overlay on the map by clicking the trips icon in the bottom content category bar.

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