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Welcome to the Eastern Free State
As you explore this region of scenic tapestries, which change dramatically with each season, the beauty and tranquility that surrounds you is palpable and almost overwhelming. Majestic mountains with sandstone cliffs, fertile valleys of crops that stretch as far as the eye can see, fields of Cosmos flowers and the golden yellow hues of Sunflowers, are just a few of the enchanting sights that are waiting to greet you, but there is so much more….
Battle sites and memorials left over from bygone wars, ancient fossil footprints from a prehistoric era, a wealth of art and craft and the renowned Golden Gate National Park makes the Eastern Free State Dihlabeng area an exceptional destination to explore. The Eastern Free State is home to the peaceful and music loving Basotho people who have lived here close to nature for generations. They have a deep appreciation for the environment and take the distinctive shape of their traditional headgear from the nearby hills. A unique and distinctive feature of each town is the sandstone architecture, which have been beautifully crafted from hand hewn blocks taken from the nearby cliffs.
Bethlehem is situated on the N5 route between Bloemfontein and Durban, and is the principle town of the Eastern Free State. Set amidst magnificent scenery Bethlehem was founded in 1864 on the farm Pretoriuskloof. Its Biblical name means “House of Bread”, which is most appropriate as Bethlehem forms the centre of a fertile wheat-growing region. Agriculture plays a vital role in the economy of the area and the main Centre for Wheat Research in the country is situated 10km north of the town. Other crops include maize, asparagus, yellow peaches and apples.
The town is an interesting mix of old and new. Early settlers hewed the warm-coloured local sandstone from nearby cliffs to create a proud legacy of fine buildings, many of which are proclaimed monuments like the Dutch Reformed Mother Church, Strapp Building, Town Hall I Civic Centre & St Augustine’s Anglican Church. Browse in up market boutiques or gift and craft shops with a more local flavour. Mealtimes in Bethlehem are a treat with a choice of excellent restaurants and coffee shops.
Accommodation available includes numerous luxurious Bed & Breakfast facilities, self-catering units, chalets and hotels. Be sure to visit the Nazareth Mission Church Museum where delicate costumes, porcelain, well-worn leather and wood and antiquated kitchen utensils and farming implements are patiently waiting to be used. The beauty found in the wealth from the past is continued and reflected in the well-tended parks and gardens with a mild climate, invigorating air and the flourishing of art and music. The Jordan River meanders right through the town where Pretoriuskloof Nature Reserve offers lovely walks alongside the river banks amidst Willow trees and towering krantzes.
The Wolhuterskop Game and Nature Reserve is on the outskirts of town where an abundance of wildlife grazes on the rolling hills and under the shady pine trees. Whether you are game viewing by car or following the hiking trail (with a stay in an overnight hut), you will see large numbers of zebras, rooihartebees, eland, springbuck. impala, black wildebees and many other antelope species. Game viewing on horseback is an added attraction. Hunting packages are available during the open season for details contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 058 303 5732 x 2269. A variety of water sports can be enjoyed on any one of the four dams situated in the vicinity of Bethlehem. The National Hot Air Balloon Championship and Air Show takes place during late May/June and the Maluti Classic Cycle Tour during October
Nestled in the majestic Maluti Mountains you will find the “jewel of the Free State”, Clarens. Clarens and the surrounding valley boasts a range of activities for everybody from abseiling and white water rafting to just sitting and enjoying a hearty meal or a refreshing sundowner in one of the towns cozy and diverse restaurants and pubs. With fly-fishing becoming an ever popular sport worldwide; Clarens can claim fame to some of the best still waters and small streams in the Country.
Most of the fishing is controlled and managed by the River Rangers, who are available as guides on the various waters. For the fun seeking, adventurous types, Clarens offers some of the most challenging 4×4 routes, existing quad biking, horse riding, clay pigeon shooting, archery, mountain biking, abseiling, golf, squash, tennis, bowls and fly fishing. With 18 art galleries in town the art lover is certainly guaranteed to find what they are looking for whether it be pastels, watercolors or oils.
Founded in 1892 and situated on the R26 Fouriesburg was named after a local farmer Christoffel Fourie, and was one of the strongholds of the Boer forces during the Anglo Boer War. Surrender Hill is a memorial to fallen British soldiers & Boers. Four thousand Boers surrendered here and the majority was sent to India as prisoners of war. Visit the sandstone church, the blockhouse (only 2 of it’s type in the country) & museum, where former commandos camped Pres Steyn House -the lowly dwelling of the former Free State President.
The Fouriesburg Country Inn is steeped in history and the facades are taken from historical railway buildings. The underground wine cellar is also an unique feature. Meiringskloof, a picturesque reserve, includes the 5 day Brandwater Hiking Trail and a cave where women took refuge during the Anglo Boer war. The largest sandstone overhang in the southern hemisphere, Salpeterkrans, is still used for ancestral worship by local tribes. Don’t miss the Fouriesburg Carnival, the Surrender Hill – marathon – qualifier for the comrades & cycle race, the ultimate trainer for the Argus which all take place on the last Saturday in February.
One visit is not enough to take in the magnificent scenery and Fouriesburg will always lure you back. The Caledonspoort border post to Lesotho is 12km away for easy access to the ski resort.
Surrender Hill Marathon
This is a qualifying race for Two Oceans and Comrades. It takes place every year, the last Saturday in February. Bruce Fordyce & Frith vd Merwe are regular participants,. Contact Bethlehem Marathon Club. There is a new Chair Person every year.
This takes place in March. It is an event where the skills of man, horse and hound are combined.
Contact Margie: 011 – 804 1614
The last weekend in September. For more information
Contact Jaco Venter: 082 560 2957
Although this is held in Ficksburg, the event draws a lot of people in the area.
Contact Johan du Toit: 082 823 0215
Situated on the N5, between Bethlehem and Senekal. Rev Paul Roux founded the town with its sandstone buildings in 1909. There are caves in the area which gave woman and children shelter during the Anglo-Boer war. There are also ruins of historical rectangular houses which were mud plastered to be seen. Historic dinosaur footprints can be found on a nearby farm. The Holhoek Hiking trail can be found 17km from this little Eastern Free State town. Turn east and follow the gravel road, do not complain, open your heart and let the untouched beauty flow through you and just continue until you reach an unusual gate with a round hole in the stone wall HOLHOEK home to caves which were inhabited at some stage by Iron Age farmers.
There are two huts built against the back wall under the low overhang of the roof, which are close on 200 hundred years old. Holhoek is the is first and thus far the only hiking trail for the disabled – wheel chair access right to the mountain top. Bushman rock paintings of the ancient “San” peoples most sacred animal, the eland can also be seen (they believed that the eland had supernatural powers which would help them survive).
Rosendal is a small picturesque town in the Eastern Free State. It is situated in a valley surrounded by the Witteberge that forms part of the Drakensberg range. The area is on average 2408m above sea level. Winters are bitterly cold with severe frost and occasional snowfalls. Summers are mild and cool with temperatures rarely above 30oC. Summer rainfall are normally high, and showers also occur during the winter months. The area are known for heavy rainfall, windy conditions, hail storms and fog.
The mountains add to the natural beauty of the area. Quite a few peaks can be seen from town, “Swartkrans” is the third highest peak in the Free State. The mountains were formed 2 million years ago with lava being deposited over the Tafelberg sandstone deposit. The lava is up to 500m thick in places. The lava is deposited in layers – evidence of eruptions taking place periodically. Rooikraans is an example of red Molento sandstone in the Tafelberg deposit. The deposits consist mainly of dolerites. The geological beauty of the mountains is one of the main attracWelcome to the Eastern Free State
As you explore this region of scenic tapestries, which change dramatically with each season, the beauty and tranquility that surrounds you is palpable and almost overwhelming. Majestic mountains with sandstone cliffs, fertile valleys of crops that stretch as far as the eye can see, fields of Cosmos and the golden yellow hues of Sunflowers, are just a few of the enchanting sights that are waiting to greet you, but there is so much more… Battle sites and memorials left over from bygone wars, ancient fossil footprints from a prehistoric era, a wealth of art and craft and the renowned Golden Gate National Park make the Eastern Free State an exceptional destination to explore.
The Eastern Free State is home to the peaceful and music loving Basotho people who have lived here close to nature for generations. They have a deep appreciation for the environment and take the distinctive shape of their traditional headgear from the nearby hills. A unique and distinctive feature of each town is the sandstone churches, which have been beautifully crafted from hand hewn blocks taken from the nearby cliffs.