There’s a new thrill in the Lowveld. It goes by the name of Toboggan. It is situated between Sabie and Lydenburg at Misty Mountain and became operational in March 2016. It might look like a rollercoaster and ride like a rollercoaster but it isn’t a rollercoaster. Toboggans are defined as long, light, narrow vehicles, typically on runners, used for sliding downhill over snow or ice. So what on earth does it do here in the Slowveld? Someone by the name of James Sheard had the bright idea of building a track on a downward slope in the Long Tom Pass and put a toboggan on top of the track.
Maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration to compare the Toboggan to a fear-inducing, adrenaline-rushing, life-threatening rollercoaster ride but it’s hard not to see the similarities. There’s the cart. We affectionately dubbed it the Toboggan “Wagen”. It’s a yellow plastic cart with only a seatbelt to keep you from flying off into oblivion as you turn through corners. A cloth blanket serves as a bum shock absorber. There’s also a brake lever positioned between the passenger’s legs. The steel track is anchored to concrete foundations spaced out roughly every five meters apart.
The thought of careening down a mountainside in a little cart was too good to resist. After a quick excursion to Pilgrim’s Rest the previous evening and a hearty breakfast at the Potluck Boskombuis the following morning we made our way to Misty Mountain. The previous evening’s rain cleared the haze which caused the mountains to look pin-sharp.
Disclaimer: this photo was superimposed by Eksteen, for safety reasons there is usually a 2 min gap between each toboggan, so in real life you will not have two toboggans in one photo.
The Toboggan’s ticket price is R250 per person. Before we could order a nerve calming drink, Michael Head, the Toboggan’s manager, rounded us up and drove us up the hill to the starting platform. The Toboggan track is 1.7 kilometres long and in my estimate falls about 100 meters in altitude from starting point to finish. Michael said the building of the track took almost two years. “The track has been in operation for two months now and public interest is really picking up since we started doing some marketing. We couldn’t start marketing until we were 100% happy with the safety aspect of the track and all the insurance has been put in place.” The Toboggan is an Austrian design and complies with international safety standards. “Safety is everything,” Michael elaborates, “we’ve been testing since the building of the track started.”
Disclaimer: this photo was superimposed by Eksteen, for safety reasons there is usually a 2 min gap between each toboggan, so in real life you will not have more than one toboggan in a photo.
“So how is the ride?” you may ask. In three words: Weird, rough and brilliant. The cart is not capsule-like, as you sit on the top of it with nothing, apart from the seatbelt, keeping you inside. There is quite a bit of vibration on the track and it’s definitely not a smooth ride. Cornering does pump adrenaline through your veins though with sharp direction changes. Although the turns aren’t really G-force inducing the fear of being flung out of the Toboggan is very real.
We had a competition to see who could go down the track in the fastest time and as I suspected the heaviest occupant won the contest hands down with a time of three minutes and twenty four seconds. For once I was pleased not to win. The scenery along the track is fabulous, starting off with the Long Tom mountain range to the north-west and then changing to an alpine-like landscape as you near the end.
After our successful descent a celebratory drink was in order on the Misty Mountain bar deck where there is a magnificent infinity-pool view. If breweries are high on your priority list you’re spoilt for choice with Hops Hollow Brewery just further up the Long Tom Pass or The Sabie Brewing Company in, yes you guessed it, Sabie.
This is a great addition to the Lowveld’s already impressive list of adventure activities you can partake in. I’ll go as far as to say you have to do this at least once in your life. You’ll only have fun.
Disclaimer: The writer’s Toboggan ticket was self-financed.
Telephone: 013 764 3377
Open: 09:00 – 17:00 all week
Ticket price: 7 years and older at R250. Children who are younger than 7 years are not allowed on the Toboggan.