Limpopo Tourist AttractionsMariepskop Mountain Pass
Where? Leave the R40 at the Klaserie One Stop and head south and then west.
It takes an effort to reach the top of Mariepskop Mountain - the highest mountain peak in the eastern Drakensberg Escarpment. The peak stands with its back to the Blyde River Canyon 1945 metres above sea level; Maputo and the Indian Ocean visible on a clear day.
To reach the summit there is a network of roads, both gravel and tarred. It is probably a good idea to acquaint yourself with a route to the top before venturing forth.
Leave the R40 at the Klaserie One Stop and head south and then west, the pass rises up the mountainside, crossing the boundary between Limpopo and Mpumalanga twice. Once up at the top it feels as if you are on the edge of the world with incredible views.
On the summit is an SAAF radar station, a microwave tower and forestry fire look-out posts. Development in the area, because of this military presence, has been limited over the years and as a consequence much of the area is wilderness, protected as a nature reserve.
The mountain has a unique biodiversity with an incredible plant, animal and bird life.
The pass proper starts as a gravel road alongside the southern bank of the Motlasedi River, which it crosses via a small bridge before heading deep into forest. The road takes several sharp hairpin bends before opening up on the left to grasslands, whilst the forest continues on the right.
After a while the pass heads north, ascending rapidly in a series of twists and turns before reaching the village of Mariepskop Forestry Station. The road bypasses the village, reaching the tarred section of the road at a y-junction. The final leg of the pass is particularly steep as you ascend the country's second biggest pass, rapidly gaining 1100 metres in altitude.
As the pass ascends the summit it is often shrouded in mist which, together with the thick forests, creates an otherworldly atmosphere. As the forest gives way you realise you are literally on top of the world.
Up here are hiking trails and patches of fynbos and forest popular with birders. There are breath-taking views over the Blyde River Canyon, the lake and the Three Rondavels.
Mariepskop's plant diversity exceeds that of Table Mountain with over 1 400 floral species and 2 000 plants. The mountains foothills rest in Savannah biome, whilst its slopes are scattered with montane forests in pristine condition. The Klaserie River has its source on the mountain.
To get back down, retrace your route.