Day-tripping to Weenen

The rather stupendous view from the Umtunzini picnic site. Pictures: Garth Johnstone

Garth Johnstone and Nerissa Card took a Sunday drive to Weenen Nature Reserve near Colenso.

We’d heard for a long time about the little gem that is Weenen Reserve and decided to spend a precious weekend day finding out for ourselves.

The last time we tried to visit the reserve a vicious storm the night before had made some of the roads impassable and we were told it was closed and we would need to try again another day.

Nerissa Card reluctantly poses for a picture at the entrance to Weenen Nature Reserve.

Other than enjoying some time in nature and hoping to spot lots of wildlife, we had an ulterior motive. After much saving and planning, and hunting for the right vehicle, we recently found a great deal and purchased a Toyota Hilux diesel 2.5 4×4. There was method to our madness, the Toyota tank was bought specifically for off-road tripping and to make our dreams of visiting big African game parks a possibility. Anyway, we used our trip to Weenen to give her a run and try out the 4×4 capabilities, but more about that later.

Now read: Putting foot under African skies

It was an ideal opportunity to put the ‘new’ Toyota through its paces.

While we didn’t have the best of luck with animals on the day, this is really a stunning reserve. The terrain is characterised by thornveld, scrub and grasslands, with hills and the odd stony outcrop. On a sunny day (a welcome break from the gloom of Nottingham Road), we sat back and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, abundant birdlife and peace and quiet. We did manage to spot ostrich, the odd zebra, eland, kudu, a couple giraffe and, best of all, a pair of blue cranes strolling across the grassland. What an elegant bird this is.

Black and white rhinos

For the record, some of the other animals you have a chance of seeing at Weenen are black and white rhino, hyenas, jackals, steenbok, bushbuck, reedbuck, warthog and porcupine.

Sanctuary is a lekker spot for a picnic. A few families were taking advantage to enjoy their day out in the bush.

We stopped at two picnic sites, Sanctuary and Umtunzini, where we sunned ourselves and enjoyed the peace and quiet. We had a picnic at Sanctuary and drank in the stupendous views from the view site at Umtunzini. The reserve is compact and can easily be driven around in a day but there are camping facilities for those wishing to overnight. The roads are in decent nick and for those with a sedan, it appears that most of them would be drivable unless there’s been lots of rain.

Regarding current health concerns, Covid-19 protocols are being strictly followed at the entrance gate.

Garth Johnstone hiding behind his mask, as the SA flag flies proudly in the background.

Look out!

And back to the new baby. It’s a Toyota Hilux, of course it’s awesome. It makes driving on dirt a breeze and we didn’t really need the 4×4, but gave it a run anyway. Thanks to YouTube for the “how to” videos! The tank performed exactly as we hoped and so much better. Namibia, Botswana, look out here we come!

**The route: From Nottingham road we took the R103, through Mooi River to the Hidcote turn-off. Drive until the Hidcote on-ramp to the N3, which you take, and then carry on in the direction of Harrismith until the R74. Take the turn-off, go right over the bridge and drive in the direction of Colenso. Not long after Aloes shop, Google Maps will tell you to turn off. Again, go right over the bridge. Weenen Game Reserve is about 20km down the road (total trip a little more than an hour).

Post lockdown, getting back to the Berg


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