Ithala October 2017

Tell us about your recent trip. Please add some photographs.
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ROOKIE
High Range 4WD
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Real Name: PAUL
Location: Durban

Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:07 pm

Ithala – Doornkraal – A brief trip report.

Friday 20th – Day 1

Due to work commitments on Thursday I only started packing my vehicle on Friday morning. It meant an early start and I only left home at 08h30 with a brief stop off at the Cato Ridge BP ultra stop to fill the tank and to get some coffee. The rest of the travelers had left ahead of me and I would meet them at the entrance to Ithala.

For a change of pace, I decided to follow the R33 that runs from Pietermatizburg, through Greytown to Dundee where it turns right and heads to Vryheid.

It was a NOT a good idea. All was fine to Greytown but from there the roads deteriorated till near Tugela Ferry they were abysmal. Virtually no tar, just one big pothole with patchy tar. Average speed through this section was about 35km/h. The roads along with some idiot drivers made the drive quite unpleasant. About 30km on the other side of Tugela Ferry, the condition improved. Nevertheless, I decided not to follow that route home.

After a quick top up in Vryheid, I headed to Louwsberg and the entrance to Ithala where I met up with the rest.

A note here:- The decent from Louwsberg to the gate is steep and I was not paying attention and rode my brakes down the hill instead of selecting a lower gear in the gearbox to assist in controlling the speed. The result of that is when I arrived at the gate, there was a very strong smell of HOT brakes.

Time to unwind, windows down, aircon off and we took a slow drive to the campsite, game spotting on the way. It takes about and hour and a half from the reception to the campsite.

Doorkraal is a gem, right on a stream at the bottom of a valley. There is no power and few taps but we were rigged to be self sufficient. The silence of the camp it was makes it so attractive to myself. That and the fact it is quite small. On this visit there were 2 other groups in camp besides us and we were horrified 

It was not long till we had set up camp and the first beers were opened. That night we had the first of many braais.

Day 2

Today we decided to have brunch at the Pongolo River Picnic site and take the Ntshamanzi 4x4 track to get there. We travelled at a leisurely pace, with some good sightings especially of Rhino.


The 4x4 track was enjoyable, challenging enough to need attention, but not so challenging you miss the scenery. The most challenging section was a climb up a hill of about 300m with loose rock / shale. Previous drivers were perhaps less skilled or with lesser vehicles and had spun holes in the track. The Hilux didn’t flinch, the ranger bent a side step and the GV tested its traction control properly. It was the first time both the Ranger and the Suzuli were used in off road conditions so both drivers were learning the limits of the vehicle. By the time we got to the picnic site, we were all pretty hungry and in short order, breakfast was made and consumed.

After breakfast, I headed to the main camp to see if I could buy some soap and ice that I had forgotten. From there we travelled along the Ngubhu loop back to the campsite, arriving in mid afternoon. Deciding we could all do with a nap we headed off to our tents. We were not there long before the rain started and it continued well into the evening

Day 3.

Today dawned sunny and bright. We were going to do the Bivane 4x4 route. We wanted to let the track dry a bit before attempting it, so we went up onto the plateau and the Mhuluumbela view point to get some photographs after the rain. Along the way we got some good sightings of Rhino, which look liked they had been dehorned, and Kudu.

After that we headed back to camp to get provisions for lunch as we planned to braai at the end of the trail and headed off. The trail did not disappoint, taking about 1h30 to complete. It certainly is not boring, with some rock hopping, steep climbs up rock steps and equally steep declines. From the campsite, you climb out the valley, travel along the ridgeline and drop into the next valley and the Pongolo river.

The track is pretty overgrown in the last third of the route, and there is some risk of bush rash from the thorn trees. At the end, we found some shade and had a braai. After lunch we did not hang about as the weather was closing in and we made it back to camp just as an afternoon shower made itself felt. Luckily it did not last long, and that evening the stars were visible from camp.

Day 4. Home time.

We had a fairly late start today as we hung about giving the tents as much time as possible to dry off. Today was very sunny. We left camp at 10h00 that morning

I decided to travel home via Ladysmith and it was a good decision. The roads were in good condition and were only busy in the 20km section where the R602 from Vryheid joins the N11 between Ladysmith and Newcastle. Overall, the road was in better condition and the drive was less stressful than the route through Tugela Ferry.

We filled up in Ladysmith and had an uneventful journey back home, arriving back at 16h30.

In conclusion:-

It was a nice weekend away. Anytime n the bush, beats time in the office. 

Admittedly, I did feel I needed another day in Ithala to just hang around camp would make the trip there and back worthwhile, but I loved the time there. I will be back.

Be prepared to be self sufficient. While there is water in the taps, I have my doubts on the purity thereof.

It gets VERY hot in the valley. Bring shade as not all the sites are blessed with an abundance of shade.

Bring costumes. The river is awesome. It was fairly shallow being somewhat drought ravaged and flows over volcanic rock. It would be a fantastic place to spend a few hours in the summer.
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09 4.0 V6 Auto 4x4.

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FIRSTGEER
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Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:03 pm

Glad you had a great time Paul and thanks for sharing with us and the pics are great.
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pietpetoors
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Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:39 pm

Thank you for sharing, seems like a nice place, pity it is a bit far from us.
You took some really nice pictures.
Only Dead Fish Go With The Flow!
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1999 Hilux 2.7i 4x4 Raider DC. Rear diff-lock, Red Peppor Bull Bar and rock sliders, 31" Cooper ST, Snorkel, Alu-Canopy, VHF Kirisun radio, West Coast Rust, Mikem Rear Suspension, Ball Joint Spacers in front, 25watt LED Spots

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ROOKIE
High Range 4WD
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Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 2:12 pm
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Real Name: PAUL
Location: Durban

Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:38 am

Thank you!, though no credit can be given to the twit behind the lens. All credit to the gear and the photogenic models.
09 4.0 V6 Auto 4x4.

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