Pretoria to Golden Gate Highlands National Park - 360km, four to five hour drive.

Today's ride is a longish one through an area where there are little or no accommodation for nature tourists, so bite the bullet and push through to the park and know the destination will make up for the longish and sometimes boring drive. Apart from all the other offerings of Golden Gate, it offers a wonderful stop on the way to the three Capes.

The towns passed:

Pretoria, the city of departure, offers the nature tourist quite a number of places to visit, namely the National zoo, the largest zoo in Africa. This zoo is really something and if you are into zoos, this is a must-see for you.

Others are the Austen Roberts bird reserve and the National Botanical Gardens.

Benoni has the Korsman Bird Sanctuary that is of interest to nature tourists.

Near Heidelberg, the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve features birds, animals and plants that can be enjoyed by nature lovers, especially on one of the several hikes offered by the reserve.

Villiers This town's economy rests on corn and beef production, not like you can drive into town and find a wonderful beef or corn shop, since the producers of this area actullay sells only through their established channels and does not really think about tourists passing their townlet. So, give the town a wide berth and let me know if you hear of or detect some tourism initiative here.

Frankfort With Frankfort, it is very much the same as with Villiers, just pass by and move on to the fun and beautiful places.

Reitz Very much the same as with the two previous towns. These people are doing well enough without having to bother with passersby like tourists and their needs, so lets leave them to their devices and pass on to greener pastures nearer to the Golden Gate Highland National Park, which is where we are heading. If you are hungry, bite the bullet until you reach Clarens, which is built for that kind of thing.

Bethlehem does not know whether it wants to be town or a city, because it is neither since it will forever be an agricultural place until they decide to add industries other than those that you put into the soil and reap somewhat later. Let's hope some intitiative find fertile soil in this very promising town.

Clarens. Ok, so here it is. The fun town of the Free State where lots of people go from the home province, as well as others from Gauteng. And then, of course all those from Europe, America Asia and elsewhere who discovered South Africa as a prime destination. Here you can choose from a whole lot of restaurants, offering a wide variety of dishes. Here all the initiative lacking in other towns have come together to create a little town with wonderfully tourism-centered ideas and small businesses.

Golden Gate,where we will sleep tonight. We chose the Basutu Cultural Village instead of camping for the night, since we wanted to experience the Cultural Village. We expected something very rustic and maybe somewhat ramshackle, but were pleasantly surprised with the luxury of the rondawel accommodation. Definitely a lot of cuts above some other so-called Cultural Villages we have seen and experienced before. To top it all, we were the only visitors there and we had the whole place for ourselves.

To satisfy visitors' need to learn more of the culture of the Basutu people, they have a central place where one can experience their traditions.

A new vulture Hide has been opened in the park near the existing vulture restaurant. Here the highly endangered Bearded Vulture as well as the Cape Vulture can be seen and photographed.

A popular challenge takes place yearly around October when participants cover some 73km with the well-known Ribbok hiking trail forming a large part of the route. This trail run is widely accepted as one of the toughest runs in the country.

To read more and to make reservations, visit their website