Mankele: Man Up in Mpumalanga …
10/06/2021
George Trails (Witfontein), Western Cape
25/06/2021

Namaqua National Park Cranking

The wide-sky plains and gritty gravel passes of the Namaqua National Park make it the perfect pedalling destination

                                                                                            – Photographs & Copy: Jacques Marais

Local Buzz:

Most people instantly think of flowers in full bloom when you mention the Namaqua region. Me, not so much … I conjure up day dreams stringing together endless gravel roads, tortuous enduro downhills and the lazy zig-zag of single-track looping along a distant Sandveld ridge.

The 141 000ha national park brims with endless mountain biking opportunities, and one of the best things about it is that you will have the roads mostly to yourself. Plus, the Northern Cape as a whole is safe, affordable and famed for its hospitality, not to mention excellent food.

The Groen-Spoeg section was integrated into the national park in 2008, protecting one of the few unspoiled areas of the Namaqualand Coastal Duneveld vegetation type remaining. Vygie viewing is excellent during the flower season, and birders will have a great time at both estuaries, while the Spoeg River caves present great historic and archaeological interest.

There are no formal MTB trails, but visitors can crank on more than 200km of roads and tracks open to the public, including the 180km Caracal Eco Trail. Note that the Coastal Section would be too sandy for normal mountain biking, and would necessitate a fat-bike.

The Routes

Trail Low-Down:

Here are my top rides in Namaqua National Park …

Skilpad Rest Camp Return

Here goes if you want to commit to a return ride with some serious altitude attitude! Exit the Rest Camp road and turn right towards the coast, immediately pinning your ears back as the downhill kicks in; except for the occasional up, it is a wild ride as you plummet from the escarpment onto the coastal plains (9km). Settle into a gravel-grinder ride as you continue on to Soebatsfontein (26km), where you can grab a cold drink before cranking into the massive return climb.

Total Ride Distance – 52km Return
Fitness / Skills Level – Intermediate
Duration – 3-5hrs

Wildeperde Hoek Pass

Don’t spare the horses as you ride wild along this 4.8km pass in the northern part of the park. It makes for a short, sharp and scenic return ride if you have a back-up vehicle to get you in and out, and you can link it to the Messelpad Pass (17km) to super-size your ride.

Total Ride Distance – 44km return
Fitness / Skills Level – Easy to Intermediate
Duration – 3-4hrs

Caracal Eco Route
This well-marked 4×4 route constitutes a solid 180km, mostly navigable by mountain bike. A good idea would be to focus on the section to the coastal town of Hondeklip Bay, around 84km from Skilpad Rest Camp.  The first part of the route follows the park roads to Soebatsfontein, before you turn right onto the well signposted Caracal Eco Trail (16km).

Total Ride Distance – 84km One Way
Fitness / Skills Level – Intermediate
Duration – 4-6hrs

Groen / Spoeg Coastal Section
There are two reasons why this could turn into a suffer-fest of a ride: firstly, there’s serious corrugations on the section of gravel road south from Hondeklip Bay, and secondly, you will be subjected to sections of soft sand. You can choose to suck it up and carry your bike, or instead swap your MTB for a fat-bike. This would be a perfect choice along the sandy coastal sections, where you can soak up the tranquillity of the park at the many stunning, remote camp sites.

Total Ride Distance – 67km
Fitness / Skills Level – Intermediate to Difficult
Duration – 3-5hrs

More info on Namaqua National Park atwww.sanparks.org/parks/namaqua/

Best time of Year
Most people choose to visit during spring for the flower season, but it is a good year-round destination.

FAST FACTS BLOCK

GRADING: Easy / Intermediate / Difficult
DURATION: Various
CONFIGURATION: Interlinked tail network
START POINT: Various
COORDINATES:
Skilpad, main reception – S30°09’53.76”; E17°47’54.48”
Groenriviersmond office – S30°49’39.18”; E17°34’48.75”
TERRAIN: Gravel and sand
MAP:
Available on website
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:
Entry fee per vehicle plus daily conservation fee
ACCESS: Gravel and very sandy in sectionds: 4x only inside the Coastal section of the Park
FACILITIES: Self-catering accommodtion at Skilpad Rest Camp and various camping options along the coast
CELL RECEPTION: None
MORE INFORMATION:
Go to www.sanparks.org/parks/namaqua

Getting There

You can reach Groenrivier via Hondeklip Bay, or by turning west on the N7 near Garies (both routes require 4×4 vehicles). It is about 60km of gravel road from Hondeklip to the mouth and takes a good 2-3 hours.

 

 

 

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