Cape Town - There are many corners in SA that can represent the country as an adventure hub, and the eastern Free State is certainly one of them.
The perfect getaway for city slickers from Johannesburg, the area is a haven for tranquillity seekers who find peace in the long stretches of emptiness.
Adventurers return time and time again for the pleasure of exploring the Drakensberg Mountains, surveying the slopes of the Maluti Mountains or discovering where the Ash River leads.
Here's what makes the eastern Free State one of endless adventure.
White water river rafting
A short two-hour drive will take you to the foothills of the majestic Maluti mountains, a stone's throw from Bethlehem and the mountainous Lesotho, to the little arty town, Clarens. Often visited for a tranquil weekend away exploring art galleries and unwinding, some might look right past the opportunity for an adventure! But with the Ash river's year-round flow, a river rafting adventure beckons!
Enjoy exciting Grade 4 rapids as you make your way down the Ash in your raft. The views of the Eastern Free State Highlands are worth leaving home for, but that's if you can spare a moment to look up...
You can also head off to Parys and go white water rafting down the Vaal River - it's loads of fun and, like on the Ash River, you're guaranteed to get soaking wet. Fun!
If you need something a little less thrilling, the Gariep Dam is the ultimate mecca for watersports in the province. Why not grab a kayak and head out to explore the vast body of water and abundant birdlife in the area.
Caving, rock climbing and fossil hunting
The Motoulong or Fertility Cave in the Dihlabeng Rural area of the Free State is a unique tourist attraction to the area, providing an insight into the combination of ancient African tradition and modern day religion.
The cave is beneath an awe-inspiring, overhanging sandstone structure, where visitors can meet the local inhabitants of the cave - traditional herbal and spiritual healers.
If you're in serious need of an adrenaline rush in the midst of all the tranquillity of the Free State, look no further than Thabo Mofutsanyana or eastern Free State where the rugged mountains and golden sandstone cliffs offer fantastic abseiling opportunities.
Clarens X-Treme Adventures offers abseil experiences at Swartland, a 50m high sandstone rock face overlooking Clarens. The abseil involves an easy hike up the back of the cliff and a vertical drop at the front, and offers breathtaking views.
A smaller abseil at Bokpoort is also available, offering a 25m cliff drop.
If you prefer a more laid-back approach, the Free State has rich deposits of fossils, and fossil hunting expeditions are all the rage in this part of the world.
Some of the fossils found here date back some 200 million years. Head out in search of there wonders.
One of the most spectacular experiences you will ever do is exploring the Golden Gate Highlands National Park on horseback. The beauty of the area only hits you as you come over a sandstone rift at the top of (what seems like) the world, and you realise why exactly they call it the 'Highlands'.
Expert guides and well-trained horses add to the wonderful experience.
If you're after a one-stop shop for all your adventure needs, in fact, you can't go wrong by booking into the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
Visitors to the park can do abseiling, canoeing, game drives, nature walks, horse riding or swimming, and the park also welcomes motorcycle fanatics.
You can break-away from the Free State without too much hassle too. Pony-trekking adventures are big news in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho. Pack you passport and trek over the Free State border for a different experience...
ALSO READ: Lesotho pony traditions: 4 outdoor treks to take in your stride
Quad biking is a wonderful way to experience the Free State - with the wind in your hair and an open-air vantage point to see the sights. Quad-biking safaris are on offer near the popular little town of Clarens, which makes for a great pit-stop afterwards to down a cold beer.
Clarens X-Treme Adventures will organise the entire experience - from strapping up your boots to the beer afterwards. The two-hour quad bike trips are guided, moving along the outskirts of town toward one of the town's koppies.
The trip boasts spectacular views of the Golden Gate area and the mighty Maluti Mountains in the backdrop.
Hiking and Trail Running
Hiking in the eastern Free State encapsulates the essence of the diversity found in this rural province of wide horizons and blue skies. The best part of hiking in this region is the utter ‘wildness’ of the surrounds.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- 60 + Hottest trail runs to conquer in SA in 2017
- SANParks broadens horizons with new unfenced visitor experience
- ALERT: Hikers advised of changes to popular Cape Town hiking trail