Heading east from Polokwane along the R71 and the landscape opens up to quaint rural villages surrounded by the bushveld.
Once out of Polokwane, "Nobody" appears – but not in the literal sense. Nobody (pronounced GA-NNO-PO-TRI) is in fact a bustling area adjacent to the University of Limpopo. There are several fascinating folk stories relating to the name's origin. Some claim that a local landowner when removed from his farm said that "Nobody" would live on the land. Others say that a body was left on the roadside awaiting a hearse to collect it for burial. When the hearse arrived, the body had mysteriously disappeared – leaving "no body." Legend also suggests that the area is a haven for witches…
Mankweng is a township 28km east of Polokwane, most famous for being the hometown of anti-apartheid hero, Peter Mokaba. Mankweng is also the home of the University of Limpopo, which in pre-apartheid days, was a segregated university for black students only. Despite this, the University of the North, as it was then called, was not only a hotbed of activism, but also produced many notable graduates.
Zion City at Moria, 33km out of Polokwane, is the seat of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC). The city welcomes almost a million pilgrims every Easter. The Star of David is the symbol of the church and one can be seen on the side of a hill in Zion City. The ZCC has its roots in Boyne, a village further east.
Haernertsburg is a charming village on northern-most extremity of the Drakensburg Mountain Range. Initially a mining town, it rapidly diversified into agriculture. There are two very scenic routes between Tzaneen and Haernertsburg:
R71 to Tzaneen - Magoebaskloof Pass
The R71 route between Haernertsburg and Tzaneen goes over the Magoebaskloof Pass on the escarpment of the Highveld. The area is named after a local chief called Makgoba, who was killed during clashes with the Transvaal Government…after which his head disappeared! A bronze bust of Chief Makgoba is on display at Magoebaskloof Hotel.
The Magoebaskloof Hiking Trails offers several trails options between 2 and 5 days long; with overnight stops in trail huts. After several hours of hiking in the De Hoek State Forest, you can head off to Debengeni Falls for a refreshing dip in the pool or 'big pot'. The falls are idyllic and many birds, including the rare Wagtail, can be spotted frolicking in the trees. Rare birds can also be sighted in Woodbush Forest; the largest indigenous forest in Limpopo.
The Commonwealth Plantation contains three varieties of Eucalyptus trees that were planted in 1914 and have soared upwards to heights of 55m. The plantation is located in the Sapekoe's Middelkop Tea Estate, on the R71 and 7km from the Tzaneen/ Duiwelskloof road exit.
R528 to Tzaneen – The Gentle Route
The R528 winds along George's Valley. Just south of the R528 is the Wolkberg Wilderness Area, a rugged mountain wilderness incorporating the Iron Crown Mountain and Serela Peak. Also known as the "Mountains in the Clouds", this true wilderness area has large open tracts of harsh land. The area is sparsely populated and not easily accessible without a robust 4x4 and a detailed map. There are many exciting chartered routes are available. Tel. +27 (0)15 276 4763
Ebenezer Dam is located between the R528 and R71 roads to Tzaneen. It has sparkling waters and the Iron Crown Mountain as a backdrop. There are two picnic spots and a public launching spot that can be reached by following the R528 to Ebenezer Road and then onto Sunset Queen.
This picturesque town is a mere 90 minute's drive from Kruger National Park. Tzaneen is the second largest city in Limpopo and is the centre for the region's agriculture. It is also gateway to some magnificent scenic areas.
The Tzaneen Museum, a quaint but highly-regarded museum, displays exhibits of ethnological items. Tel: +27 (0)15 307 2425
Tzaneen Dam is 10km north-west of the town on the Letaba River. It is surrounded by tea, banana and fruit plantations. The dam is a popular spot for bass and carp fishing and has a slipway at the aquatic club. If fishing isn't your cup of tea, you can have a picnic; watch the hippos and go bird-watching. There are more than 350 species of birds here. Accommodation is provided at a caravan and camping park.
Take the R36 to the town of Modjadjiskloof at the entrance of the northern lowveld and the end of the northern escarpment of the Drakensburg Mountain Range. The Modjadji Nature Reserve has the largest concentration of a single species of the cycad in the world. Both the town and the reserve are named after the Rain Queen, Modjaji, the queen of the Balobedu people of Limpopo and a direct descendant of a once mighty 15th century kingdom. The Balobedu believe that the Queen has rainmaking powers. The cycads have been preserved because they have been protected by each successive Queen Modjaji. Some cycads are as tall as 13 metres high.