Magoebaskloof/Haenertsburg is a beautiful mountainous area at the very North Eastern tip of the Drakensberg mountain range in the Limpopo Province. Fondly called “The Land of the Silver Mist” by historians and locals alike, the mountains and valleys of the area are regularly shrouded in a soft mist. Historically, this mist belt has created lush afro-montane forests in the river lines and fire protected locations with grasslands outside of the forested areas.
Haenertsburg is the village on the mountain whilst Makgobaskloof refers to the valley created by the Politsi river which flows into the Letaba River to the Tzaneen Dam. The Makgobaskloof is named after the tribal chief who was killed by warriors serving under Boer commander Abel Erasmus in 1895.
The area was first planted to pine and eucalyptus plantations. Recently various fruits including avocados, raspberries, blue berries and kiwi fruit have replaced many of the plantations.
The climate allowed for the development of ornamental gardens, open to the public. Plants like Japanese maples, flowering cherry trees and azaleas more suited to colder climates thrive in these gardens. The gardens are spectacular in Spring and Autumn when the vibrant colours are on display.
The Magoebaskloof Pass runs between the towns of Tzaneen and Haenertsburg on the R71 and offers stunning views over the kloof. The pass takes one from the highveld down the escarpment to the sub-tropical Lowveld, dropping about 600m over a distance of just 6km.
Haenertsburg was born in the Gold Rush days and is now more than 125 years old. The village, named after Carl Ferdinand Haenert who hailed from Eisenach in Germany, has seen its fair share of excitement and romance, including the Makgoba War and the Anglo Boer War. The township of Haenertsburg was proclaimed on September 13, 1887 and was measured out in Cape Feet with each erf being only 50 sq feet – enough space to put up a tent or a small shack. In 1890 a census showed that Haenertsburg had 186 inhabitants, of which 16 were adult women and 131 adult men.
Haenertsburg has a colorful history. Visitors can visit the open-air museum in Mare Street above the Municipal Offices. Descriptive plaques tell the history of the area dating from the Makgoba War to the Anglo-Boer War and the more recent involvement in the Border Wars of the 1970s. There are also remains of the last Long Tom gun. A collection of memorabilia including items from the Anglo Boer-War can be seen in the museum at the Pennefather Complex. Various books have been written by local historian Louis Changuion and are available at the Memory Hold-the-door book shop in Rissik street.
Known as the capital of the Land of the Silver Mist, Haenertsburg lies between Polokwane and Tzaneen on the slopes of the Wolkberg. Turn off the R71, 60km from Polokwane into the village which nestles under the granite massif of the Iron Crown Mountain. Surrounded by lush plantations and forests, the village offers visitors a rare opportunity to really unwind – a luxury in today’s hectic and busy life.
Haenertsburg has a population of about 500. It has three churches – the Mount Carmel Catholic Church, St Paul’s Church (inter-denominational) and the Haenertsburg Christian Church
Haenertsburg is fast becoming a hub for food lovers, book lovers and anybody who want to experience authentic village life. The shops offer a variety of gifts, antiques, collectibles, second-hand books, Afrikana, jewellery and clothing. A good selection of restaurants and coffee shops will supply refreshments and good food. The village also has a well stocked grocery store, ATM, post office, bottle store, petrol station and café for those last minute purchases.
The Berry Festival in February, the Haenertsburg Food, Wine and Beer Festival at the end of April and the Spring Festival in September are becoming increasingly more popular and visitors are treated to a rare experience of fun, high quality goods and a wonderful festive atmosphere.
For the energetic, the Louis Changuion Hiking Trail offers an exhilarating walk through the unique Haenertsburg Grasslands. The cemetery above the village is also worth a visit. Not only is the view of the surrounding area spectacular, but there are many historic graves to be seen.
The grasslands around Haenertsburg are officially known as the ‘Woodbush Granite Grasslands’. They are the most threatened vegetation type in Limpopo Province, and the highest conservation priority, according to SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria). This means that no forest, tract of bushveld or wetland in Limpopo is more important botanically, or more threatened, than these grasslands. They have an amazing diversity of plants and animals, with many medicinal plants which are used by traditional healers. Rare birds, mammals, amphibians and insects are found here too.
Friends of the Haenertsburg Grasslands (FROHG) is a group of volunteers dedicated to conserving the grasslands around Haenertsburg.
FROHG members help to maintain the Louis Changuion Hiking Trail, which is frequently used by tourists. They have begun rehabilitation work, with the support of Haenertsburg Rotary, on a large donga which periodically gushes mud into Georges Valley Road and which is steadily eating back into the grasslands resulting in the loss of plants and topsoil. They remove alien invasive plants and litter from the grasslands. They engage with traditional healers in matters concerning plant extraction and utilization, and are investigating ways to place plant utilization on a more sustainable footing. This may involve building a greenhouse/ nursery, with the help of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). More information on: https://www.frohg.org/
The Woodbush State Forest is the largest indigenous forest in Limpopo Province. The Swartbos Forest at the top of the Magoebaskloof Pass can be accessed by the Swartbos Trail. These forests are full of liana’s, fungi, ferns, and spliced by crystal clear streams. These forests have excellent birding showcasing many difficult to see birds.
The Drakensberg mountain range meets the Strydpoort Mountains in the Wolkberg Wilderness area with great vertical quartzite krantzes, countless kloofs, cool, deep and densely forested ravines, massive buttresses and folded and interlocking spurs. The reserve extends for almost 22,000 hectares with extensive indigenous forests and pristine grasslands.
The range forms a high plateau reaching up to 2126 m in height at the Iron Crown above Haenertsburg. Other conspicuous peaks are the 2050 m high Serala, 1838 m high Mamotswiri, 1667m high Magopalone and 1611 m high Selemole. Access to the reserve entrance at Serala Forest station requires a high clearance vehicle. There are no trails and hiking should only be undertaken by experienced hikers.
The Wolkberg is the source of many small mountain streams, as well as the Mohlapitse and the Ga-Selati River tributaries of the Olifants River. However, the major river for which it is a source is the Great Letaba River. This is the major feature of George’s Valley and at its southern end the gorge through which the river flows is breath-taking. As the gorge is largely inaccessible, a visit to Magoebaskloof Adventures is a must to see the dramatic cliffs and waterfalls on a hiking trail or adventure activity.
George’s Valley runs North East from Ebenezer Dam to Tzaneen Dam. It is named after George Denys who built the road (the R528). The road is considered an alternative to the R71 to travel from Haenertsburg to Tzaneen. It is an equally scenic trip and linking the two for a round trip is well worth the drive. New Agatha State Forest is also accessible from the R528 (high clearance vehicle required).