An ancient river

Mayaputi Gorge is a breathtakingly scenic route on the Upper Orange River near the Lesotho border. The river snakes between high sandstone hills in a valley probably formed by glaciers aeons ago. To the East lie the Maluti Mountains, to the West the open plains of the great Karoo.

Between the mountains

We meet at Zastron where we camp overnight. Next day we get in above the Mayaputi bridge (built 1934) which has withstood numerous floods. Here the Orange is embedded in a deep trench between polished black rock walls. The channel soon opens out and we drift downriver between thickly bushclad mountains where the call of the Piet-my-vrou (a cuckoo) echoes between the cliffs.

Fast flowing water

Rapids bar the way, runnable in rafts and 2-seater crocs, kayaks and even tubes. None are more than Class 3 (moderate) at normal flow levels. The water can be chocolate brown after rains, signalling the serious soil erosion in Lesotho. We camp for four nights on grassy terraces, beaches or rock shelves and put up the tarpaulin to shelter us from sun and rain.

Wildlife and cave paintings

Along the way we may see bushbuck, kudu and many species of birds. Also, there are colourful Bushman paintings in some of the rock shelters. Towards the end we enter the spectacular Lichtenstein Gorge, named after the early 19th century traveller who explored large parts of South Africa. The river is placid and we wend our way towards the farmlands where we pull out.

Zastron-Sterkspruit-Aliwal North
Share by: