Harrismith, self proclaimed ‘Jewel of the Freestate’ is located in the Freestate province, roughly 300km between both Johannesburg and Durban. The town sprang up primarily as a convenient stop in along transport routes and to this day it remains a favoured layover and refuelling stop for truck drivers. This scenic little town is worth a much longer visit, however.
The Sterkfontein Dam
15 minutes out of town lies the Sterkfontein dam, the third largest dam in the country. The dam offers great opportunities for fishing, swimming and other water sports. The Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve offers excellent hiking trails and camping facilities. The reserve is also known for its birdlife, including the African Fish Eagle – very similar in appearance to America’s Bald Eagle.
Mont Aux Sources & The Tugela Falls
Mont Aux Sources is a mountain range forming one of the highest parts of the Drakensburg. From here, you can hike up to the highest peak of the Drakensberg range, Sentinel Peak. The range got its name from French missionaries in 1836, christening it ‘mountain with fountains’. Indeed, many of the areas major rivers begin here, including the Caledon River and the Eland. It is here that the Tugela river begins, becoming the Tugela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the entire world- although some would argue it deserves the winning title currently held by Angel falls.
The Dirty Harry Mountain Bike Race & the Annual Platberg Mountain Race
One of the best things about Harrismith is the outdoor sporting opportunities it offers. The Dirty Harry is a mountain bike race held annually during September or October, and forms part of the South African National Mountain Bike Series. What better place to cycle than alongside the majestic Drakensburg Mountains? October is also when the Platberg Mountain Race takes places- a grueling 15km running race up the Platberg mountain. It has been described by South African endurance athlete Wally Hayword as “the toughest marathon in the world”. If you’re not feeling brave enough, there are also many more leisurely walking trails in the area.
Where to stay:
Harrismith has many excellent accommodation facilities. MacFarlane’s Country Retreat offers self catering cottage accommodation is located on the edge of a lake. Swimming, canoeing and fishing are all offered, and the estate boasts thriving bird life and small wildlife. De Oude Huize is a rustic guesthouse where you can experience the hospitality of a family who strive to create the feel of the ‘old days’ with home cooked meals. If you need a place closer to town, Tom’s Place, the Shady Pines and Lali’s Guesthouse are all in the town itself.
MacFarlane’s Country Retreat: http://bit.ly/RDYSBF
De Oude Huize: http://bit.ly/1tpy4RU
Tom’s Place: http://bit.ly/1k5IvJu
The Shady Pines: http://bit.ly/1mICzpT
Lali’s Guesthouse & Tea Garden : http://bit.ly/1riZxch