For domestic and international visitors looking to experience the true and untamed natural beauty of highveld South Africa, whether on a basic or sophisticated budget, a drive from Johannesburg to the North West province provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to feel truly immersed in South Africa’s rural heritage.
A world apart from a coastal, cosmopolitan city like Cape Town, the scenic drive along the N4 and R556 through the Magaliesberg, over the Hartbeespoort Dam and past scores of villages, is a cultural introduction to life amid plains of African bushveld and wildlife.
The opportunity to visit the North West came during a media tour hosted by SA Tourism during World Tourism Week, where I, along with several journalists, travelled from Rosebank to Sun City. It’s a 2.5 hour journey by car, first encountering bushveld terrain on the outskirts of Joburg.
Before you know it, you are driving through the Magaliesberg mountain range on a road that was carved through the mountain.
Once through, the Hartebeespoort Dam appears in the distance, showing off its magnitude as among the country’s largest dams.
It is near here where one can make a pit-stop at a local mall or shop.
The Hartebeespoort Dam is also the perfect place for those with an adventurous spirit to sign-up for activities.
The Leeto Experience is a good option for any kind of activity including boat cruising and quad biking.
As you drive further into the North West towards Sun City, you will travel past the Marikana Mine (Lonmin), the site of the 2012 massacre.
The mine, along with several other platinum mines, are scattered across the North West.
There will be many koppies, or small rock hills along the route, that are quintessential North West.
You will also pass several villages, in which all residents received parcels of land from the chiefdom, therefore making them landowners - a phenomenon not present across western and southern South Africa.
As you continue driving, Sun City will pop-up as if in the desert, with its lush green grass entrance after kilometres of arid terrain.
Not far from here there are a plethora of cultural experiences to soak in.
There are local pubs and shebeens to enjoy, with locals extending their warm hospitality.
A visit to Rustenburg should also be on your list of places to experience when in the North West, with many accommodation options that allow you to “sleep between the Magaliesberg mountains”.
Just a short drive along the Pilanesberg leads you to the
Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela Museum at the Mphebatho Cultural Museum, showcasing the history and culture of Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela nation.
Here you can do traditional beer tasting and cycling or quad-biking, among others.
• This trip was sponsored by SA Tourism