R74 Alternate Routes

Hi, The R74 repairs are complete. The road is open. Safe travels.

This post reminds us of dark days when the R74 repairs were abandoned.

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Dear Guests,

During July 2012 the company which started the roadworks on the R74 have gone into liquidation. As early as May 2012, they withdrew their staff from the stop/go sections. As a result the road was closed.

However you can use the route. There is a 14 km section where the roadworks were abandoned. Along this section, travel with caution as there is two way traffic where there is space for only 1 vehicle to travel at a time. There are many pot holes.

Alternate routes

Due to the ongoing problems, we provide the following summary of alternative routes between the N3 Harrismith and the Northern Drakensberg turn off at foot of Oliviershoek pass.

Note – for the 3 routes indicated below, the comparison is between the N3 off ramp at Harrismith, and the turn off into the Northern Drakensberg at the foot of the Oliviershoek pass. The rest of your journey is excluded.

Heading colours correspond to the route colour on the Google maps image attached.

PDF map of the Routes.

Original Route

This is still the prefered route of locals

  • 1 – Harrismith to Northern Berg turn-off on R74
  • Take N5 exit to Bethlehem
  • Travel 5km West toward Bethlehem (Bloemfontein)
  • Turn Left Towards Phuthaditjhaba
  • Travel 9.2 km
  • Turn Left and ignore the road closed sign
  • Travel 14km through the roadworks with caution
  • Travel 18km to the foot of the pass
  • Turn Right to the Northern Berg

Northern Berg to Harrismith

  • Arrive at R74 from Northern Berg
  • Turn Left
  • Travel 18km North
  • With caution, travel 14km to T junction
  • Turn Right
  • Travel 9.2km to T junction
  • Turn Right
  • Travel 5km to the N3
  • Take glide on towards Johannesburg

Route Statistics

  • Total 46km
  • Average Speed 75kph
  • Time 30 – 40 minutes (depends on the traffic)


  • Tar (mostly)
  • Time probably still faster than the the alternates
  • If you are mentally prepared, then the stoppage is an advantage.


  • massive potholes
  • very slow speeds for 14km

Alternative 1 – Dirt

2.1 – To Northern Berg via some dirt

  • At Harrismith Take the N5 Exit (Bethlehem)
  • Travel 1.8 km West
  • At the 4 way stop, turn left (WilgePark)
  • Travel South 14.6 km
  • Turn Right
  • Travel South Westerly 10km to a T junction
  • Turn Left
  • Travel South for 7km to a T junction
  • Turn Left
  • Travel 16.2 km south down the Oliviershoek Pass
  • Turn Right to Northern Berg

Getting Back to Harrismith on dirt

  • Arrive at R74 from Northern Berg
  • Turn Left (North)Travel 16.2km
  • Turn Right (Kerkenberg)
  • Travel 7km North to the Side Junction,
  • Turn Right
  • Travel 10 km North Easterly to a T junction
  • Turn Left
  • Travel North 14.6km
  • At the 4 way stop, Turn Right
  • Travel 1.8km and take the Johannesburg on ramp onto the N3


  • Total 50km
  • Average Speed 60kph
  • Time +/- 50minutes
  • This route is suitable in vehicles with good clearance. Fancy cars with low profile tyres are not suitable.


  • No Stoppage


  • Takes longer than the original route
  • Narrow dirt roads
  • Slow speeds
  • There are some small patches without cell phone coverage
  • No signs

Route to Northern Berg – N3 via Bergville

N3 to Bergville, back to Northern Berg

  • Drive on toward Ladysmith (N3)
  • After 53km follow the original N3 not the alternate route
  • After another 17km take the off ramp and turn right toward Bergville
  • Drive 33km to Bergville
  • Turn right toward Harrismith
  • Drive 30km to the Northern Berg turn off
  • Turn Left

Northern Berg to Harrismith via Bergville and N3 toll

  • Arrive at R74 from Northern Berg
  • Turn Right to Bergville
  • Travel 30km
  • At Bergville turn left towards Ladysmith
  • Travel 33km
  • At N3 take left on ramp to Toll N3 North
  • Travel 17km
  • Pay Toll
  • N3 joins the alternate route from Ladysmith
  • Travel up Van Reenens Pass
  • After 53km arrive in Harrismith and continue your journey


  • Average Speed 105kph
  • Time 75 minutes
  • Distance 133km


  • No stoppage


  • Increased Cost (engine running longer)
  • Toll R56.00
  • 20 to 30 minutes longer journey
  • 85km longer than original route
  • It was reported that road works have comenced on the R616


During normal traffic, there is no advantage to the alternative routes. The time saving on the dirt road is not significant, and it is significantly longer to travel down Van Reenens pass on the N3. Add the toll and the increased cost of the car running longer, and it increases the journey cost.

However, should you decide to use the original route, use caution. The road has deteriorated and low speeds are advised for the 14km section where the road works were abandoned.

People with expensive cars or low profile tires are not advised to use the R74, and should rather use the route down Van Reenens pass. During high volumes of traffic, like over long weekends, we do believe the congestion will add to frustration, and danger, and under those conditions the alternatives may be a better bet.

71 thoughts on “R74 Alternate Routes”

  1. Hi. Any updates or progress this far. Travelling to Clarens and Durban. Thank you

    1. Hi Shameema, The roadworks continue. Traffic is diverted onto a dirt road for 11km along the 2nd section. I would use the N3 to Durban.

    1. Hi Ian, The roadworks continue. If your vehicle is suitable for dirt roads, then the route is OK. If you drive a low sports car or have low profile tyres, then you should drive around via Van Reenens and Bergville.

  2. Hi. We’re travelling from Bloem to Drakensville on 16 Dec. What is the status re the R 74? We will see you for pizza while there.

    1. Hi Imelita, Some locals have planned a braai for the constructors on Tuesday. The rumour is that the route will be open to traffic on tar in time for Christmas. Lets see what happens…

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