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The Great North Road - part of colonial visionary Cecil Rhodes's planned 'Cape-to-Cairo' route - cuts through the middle of the region, linking the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria with the Zimbabwe capital of Harare and points beyond. On the way it crosses the Limpopo River, which forms the international border between the two countries. 

Most of Northern Province's few towns lie along the route. Pietersburg/Polekwane, the regional capital and largest centre, straddles the road at about the halfway mark - a pleasant, fairly substantial place with a busy airport, and a Nature Reserve that hosts rhino and a fine selection of antelope.

More intriguing, perhaps, is the game sanctuary near Potgietersrus/Mokopane, some 60 kilometres down the road to the south-west, where exotic wildlife species - including llamas, hog deer and pygmy hippos - are reared.

Other towns along the highway include Warmbaths (noted as a mineral-springs resort), Nylstroom, Naboomspruit (renowned for its bird sanctuaries), Louis Trichardt (named after one of the first Voortrekkers) and, the last stop before the border, Messina/Musina. 

To the east lies the misty and magical Magoebaskloof range of hills, the tropical settlement of Tzaneen; the nearby and quite splendid Wolkberg wilderness area; the richness (and beauty) of the Great Letaba River Valley; the mysterious realm of the Modjadji, the Rain Queen, and, eventually, the northern reaches of the famed Kruger National Park.

Two rather lovely mountain ranges straddle the region. Not too far north of Pretoria lie the gentle, moist slopes of the Waterberg, sometime home to the mystic Eugene Marais, author of 'The Soul of the White Ant' and 'My Friends the Baboons'.

In the far north are the densely wooded uplands of the Soutpansberg, where you'll find patches of yellowwood, stinkwood, wild fig, Cape chestnut, ancient cycad, tree fern and other lovely trees.

The Kruger - or rather, the park's northern segment - is by far the province's most valuable tourism asset.  The great spaces to the north of the Waterberg and west of the highway are drawing an increasing number of visitors.

This 16,000-square kilometre expanse of rugged bush terrain once supported a magnificent complement of wild animals, but then the ranchers moved in. Now much of the land is reverting to properties, which  are converted into game farms whose lodges and camps rank among the country's more rewarding game-viewing destinations.


Louis Trichardt

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North West Province Mpumalanga Province Northern Province - Polekwane region