Garden Route Gold, Western Cape

South Africa’s renowned Garden Route slumbers peacefully along the Indian Ocean shoreline, with the forests between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna rated as prime ‘trail estate’. The coastal-belt woods here brim with ancient indigenous hardwood giants, and offer a full gamut of MTB and gravel-bike options for free-ranging riders.

Garden Route Gold

 

 

FAST FACTS BLOCK
Harkerville MTB Route
GRADING: Easy to advanced
DURATION: 1-4 hours
DISTANCE:
Options of 12-24km
CONFIGURATION: Circular
TERRAIN: Gravel road and lots of single track
START POINT Garden of Eden Kiosk
GPS COORDINATES: S 34°02’04.8” / E 23°11’55.0”
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Permit from Garden of Eden or Knysna Cycle Works
MAP With permit; route marked (4 colour-coded options)
CELL RECEPTION Good
BEWARE OF: Super slippery roots and bridges; trees across route

 

 

                                                          – Photographs & Copy: Jacques Marais

Local Buzz:

Cali-Africa – Yip, that little stretch of Garden Route between Knysna and Plett is surely as close to California as what you will find here in SA. Sun, pristine white beaches, indigenous forest, world class restaurants, palaces up in the hills and people straight out of an Instagram selfie.

The exceptional natural beauty gives one the impression of moving in an outdoor gym, so it is always playtime here. There are dozens of things waiting on visitors, but it always helps to have a friend who knows this perfect al fresco paradise.

Over the past year or two the shark problem cast a slight damper on blue-water activities, but the local Shark Spotters are ensuring that people can still safely surf, scuba and paddle. Keurbooms River offers an amazing playground for those looking for freshwater fun, as well as miles and miles of running or cycling routes.

And then there is the Garden Route National Park, with single-track paradise of the Harkerville forest halfway between Knysna and Plett. Isolated trails wind between the emerald heart of the indigenous forest, and you can ride for hours through Gouna or on Kom-se-Pad.

Hidden footpaths among ancient giant trees make you feel as if you are wandering in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and the countless tracks indicate bush pigs, caracal, bushbuck and Cape Leopard, lurking in the deep shadows. If you are lucky, you may even stumble upon a heap of fresh elephant dung, because there is still one solitary tusker hiding here.

It is little wonder that Plettenbergers are striving to establish the town as one of SA’s top adventure destinations. There is fun and adventure for all ages, and best of all, you can have fun year-round in Plett – check out www.plett-tourism.co.za

The Routes

On the bike

Harkerville’s MTB routes are one of SA’s ‘Golden Oldies’ and there is no way anyone will ever get tired of riding here. There is stoke for everyone, from beginners to grizzled vets, with diverse singletrack and paths winding through the evergreen plantations, coastal fynbos and indigenous forests.

The Yellow Route (14km) offers a comfortable ride along gravel roads and is perfect for those who still need to work on their fitness. It is also the only route that will be open during wet conditions. Crank along the Blue Route (12km) if you are looking for a stretch of single track through the forest which is not too challenging.

Next up is the Green Route (15km), and this will suit more experienced bikers. Follow the signboards clockwise all the way to the coast before following the climb back through the forest to the starting point at Harkerville. Fitter cyclists can add the Red Route (24km) for a more challenging ride with awesome stretches of singletrack along the coastal cliffs, with dizzying vistas over the Indian Ocean.

Other trails

The outstanding Plett MTB Park offers MTB Routes in a family friendly setting. There is also a jumping track where you can pull stunts on your bike before enjoying a cappuccino and homemade carrot cake – www.cairnbrogie.co.za

Sky Park’s MTB route north of the N2 is a new addition to the MTB options in Plett. Riders can get permits and easy access at The Hub, right next to the Old Nick Complex – www.mtbtrailpass.co.za

Garden Route National Park – Harkerville MTB Routes on Trailforks.com


Off the bike

Excellent hiking along the multi-day routes such as the Otter and Outeniqua await experienced hikers. There are, however, dozens of other trails to tackle, from a half hour walk to the Great Tree or a challenging day hike along the coast or through the forest – www.sanparks.org/gardenroute

Go birdwatching with Tim Carr, a highly acclaimed guide, and search for the amazing variety of birds hiding in the indigenous forest and fynbos. Species such as the narina trogon and Knysna Loerie are the ones to look out for – WhatsApp him on +(27-71) 683 4133

For ocean excitement, go on a 100% proof sea adventure with Ocean Odyssey and their excellent guides. There is no way you will get closer to whales, dolphins and other sea creatures than on one of these eco outings – www.oceanoddyssey.com

Best time of year: The Garden Route has perfect weather year-round, although the winters can on occasion be cold and wet. Most of the time, however, the Mediterranean climate is mild with windless days and sunny skies.

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