The Lubombo Tourism Route, Piet Retief, South Africa
Starting at Piet Retief drive on the R543 Road towards the Mahamba Border Control. The entire drive towards the Mahamba Border Control is 33.8 Km out of Piet Retief. Do note that the Mahamba Border Control opens from 07:00 to 22:00. If you go there before or after that time you will need to wait to go through the border towards Swaziland.
After driving through the Mahamba Border you will drive continue to drive East on the R543 and continue for 170m on the MR9 after 4.7 Km turn left onto an unnamed road towards the Mahamba Protected Landscape. After viewing this spectacular landscape turn around and drive back towards the border. Turn left back onto the MR9 Turing left at MR13 passing other sections of the Mahamba Protected Landscape and the turn left onto the MR9 towards the town called Nhlangano.
From Nhlangano to Big Bend to routes
Longer route to the Big Bend, 144 Km
Head northeast on the MR9 past a Hlaitkulu passing the Ngwempisi Wilderness Area, on your left you will see spectacular sights of the Mkhondvo River along with a beautiful mountain range, Further on the road will go over the Lusutfu River, which should definitely be admired. After going over the bridge you will turn right onto the MR8 road towards Sidvokodvo, where you can definitely stop and stretch your legs at. This is however a farming town so don’t expect to go on a shopping spree there! After you have relaxed a little you can continue travelling towards the town called Siphofaneni. Once you reach Siphofaneni and you continue on your journey you will pass the Mkwaya Game Reserve. Further on you will pass the Mhlosinga Nature Reserve where you can check in and then you can further your journey to the Big Bend, making sure that you make a pit stop at the Hendrick Van Eck Dam. Spending the night at the Mhlosinga Nature Reserve.
After spending the night at the Mhlosinga Nature Reserve you will continue the route on the MR8 towards Siphofaneni however turning right at the MR16 road towards the town of Sieki. You can either decide to stay over in that town of in either the Mlawula Nature Reserve or the Mbiluzi Conservancy. Just before crossing the border at the Namaacha/Lomahasha Border Control, which opens at 07:00 and closes at the 22:00.
The next part of the journey takes you into Mozambique, a place with natural beauty and hot, humid days. After you pass the border take the EN5 and the EN2 to Maputo. This is a coastal town filled with some interesting local food and a sub-tropical ocean, so take of you shoes and enjoy a splash in some of the best waters in the world. You can spend the night in Maputo or you can simply pay the town a visit. The road here is a bit better but beware, it still goes through some rural areas so potholes can be found everywhere.
After your stay in Maputo get on the EN1 and aim you bike at the Xai-Xai District that is on the coast. The road follows the coast and you will be able to see some of the ocean when you reach the right hills. The Xai-Xai district is known for its breath taking beaches and the hospitality of the locals. Simply find a good spot to camp for the night and enjoy the stars over the ocean while you listen to a local story about the legends of old. The EN1 is a road that shifts from smooth tar to thick and lose sand roads, be sure to let some air out of the tyres where needed.
After a visit to the Xai-Xai district you can take the road to the Maxixe district. Driving on the EN1 you will pass the Lagoa Poelela which is a beautiful lake that has views over the ocean. This is a good spot to simply take in the views and reflect on the journey so far. When you arrive at Maxixe you can enjoy some of the local past times including fishing, something everyone has to try at least once, as well as go diving to see some of the beautiful fish that frequent these tropical waters. The EN1 is still a rough road and you should be careful when you approach anything strange.
The next stage of the trip will take you the area around Inhassoro, a magnificent place filled with opportunities of adventure. From the beach at Inhassoro you will be able to see some of the surrounding islands and the shoals that connect them. You can walk from one island to the next and then all the way back to the mainland. This all creates some of the most beautiful scenes imaginable. Camping on these islands is a lot easier than anywhere else, because of the heat there is no need to make a tent. Simply get a hammock and enjoy the night sky above you, if it rains the water will be extremely hot. The EN1 continues to be a tricky road here and riders should be aware of any sudden road changes.
After some beautiful islands you will take several roads to spend the day at Beira. Follow the EN1 until the turn off for the 428, take that road until you reach the 427. Turn East on the 427 until you reach the 214, simply follow the 214 North, when you reach the EN6 you can drive straight through to Beira. The small town is built around a river mouth that will show you some of the amazing animals, bird life and fish you can enjoy in Mozambique. These roads go through some of the most rural areas in the country so be ready for any kind of off-road experiences as well as animal on the road.
The next stop is at Nampula, a small town that gives you the chance to see how the people of Mpumalanga live. The easiest way to get to the town is to get back on the EN1, when you are leaving Beira get on the 213 which will connect you to the EN1. After several kilometres the EN1 changes to the 7 road which changes to the 104. The 104 will take you directly into Nampula. The small town has a few things to offer along with the culture and food. The roads that you take to Nampula are all a bit worse for wear, however once you reach Nampula and you have set up camp you will get the chance to enjoy the mud and sand with your bike.
When you leave Nampula you will be heading straight for Cuamba as well as a small celebration. You have reached the halfway point of the trip and the perfect spot to celebrate this is at Cuamba. The drive should be short and easy, simply get on the EN8 and follow it all the way into town. Cuamba is a small city that has some of the best views in the area. The roads here are more than likely all dirt roads so be careful and enjoy getting splattered with red mud.
The next stop on the trip is famous among wildlife scientists as Mount Google. The real name of the mountain is Mabu and it has one of the oldest and most diverse forests in Mozambique. Simply follow the 474 until you reach a certain gravel road. It is this part of the journey where you really need a GPS, the roads to Mt. Mabu are all unnamed and they will be hard to navigate unless you have a GPS. After several kilometres you will reach Mt. Mabu where you can camp for the night, this is an old growth forest which means that it is actually several hundred, almost thousands of years old. Make sure that you bike has enough fuel for the trip and that you can handle these rough roads.
After Mt. Mabu you will travel to Chimoio a small town that will provide you with some time to relax. The roads to the town are a bit longer than the others and you will have to be ready for a long ride. From the mountain get on the 229 until you reach the 472 (also known as 7) you will drive on this road until you reach the EN1 again and you can enjoy the scenes along the road all the way until you reach the 215. This is the road that will take you directly to Chimoio. The town is laid back and you can spend a few nights recovering some of your lost energy here.
There is only one stop left before you reach the Kruger National Park. The Parque Nacional de Zinave has a wide variety of species that should get you excited for the bigger Kruger National Park. Follow the EN1 until it reaches the 425, the 425 goes around the park so you can enter as soon as you reach the entrance gate. The Park has a lot of animals that will keep you entertained.
FFrom the Parque Nacional de Zinave, simply take the 412 until you reach the 423, the 423 will take you to the Pafuri Border Control post. From here you should be able to go into the Kruger National Park. The Park is quite large and there are accommodation spots and camp spots set throughout the park. When you enter the park expect to be limited to 20km/h as the animals will run across the street. Be sure to keep your eyes out for any lion, leopards and cheetahs.
Safari Mappers. (2007). Lubombo Tourism Route 1 Route Details.Available: http://routes.safarimappers.com/routes/Mozambique/Lubombo-Region/Lubombo-Tourism-Route-1/details.aspx. Last accessed 2014/10/17.
Geo Group. (2013). Lubombo Conservancy. Available: http://www.thekingdomofswaziland.com/pages/attractions/the_attraction.asp?AttractionsID=42. Last accessed 2014/10/17.