Swartland: Not Black and White at All!! – Western Cape

Ja nee, if you come down to the Swartland today, you’re in for a big surprise.

Swartland: Not Black and White at All! - Western Cape

Who knew … SA’s so-called ‘grain basket’ stretches way beyond the Malmesbury wheat fields!? Bomb the back roads beyond Riebeek-Kasteel and Darling, and you will soon discover the joys of the West Coast. Here’s the low-down on two top Swartland circuits.

                                                                        – Photographs & Copy: Jacques Marais                                                                               

Local Buzz:

Ja nee, if you come down to the Swartland today, you’re in for a big surprise. Right now, the farms are ablaze in green and gold (well, yellow, to be honest!), with a patchwork of canola and wheat fields all the way from the craggy Witzenberg ranges to the wild(ish) West Coast.

What you want to know is that this is arguably the quickest way to get to the wildflower bloom that is happening as we speak. Yup, delightful dorps such as Riebeek-Kasteel, Darling and Yzerfontein await you a mere hour from Cape Town, and they offer a menu brimming with outdoor and leisure options.

This diverse tourism region boasts an ever-changing land of contrast, despite a rather monochromatic ‘Black Lands’ moniker. This is named for the dark patches of Renosterveld scrub, but when the rainy season arrives, the landscape is transformed into magnificent hues, characterised by sprawling grain fields, thriving orchards and vineyards, encompassing islands of wilderness and funky villages.

Should you decide to head to the coast, the endless beaches and secret breaks of Yzers should be top of your list. Yup, their ’16-Mile Beach rates as the longest stretch of unspoilt sandy shore in SA, plus you get fishing boats chasing deep-water snoek, open-air crayfish restaurants, kiff coffee shops … if you’re one of those hipsterish sea dog types, then this is a match made in heaven.

The West Coast climate is welcoming year-round, though summer winds can be hurricane strength, while the icy Benguela Current necessitates a walrus-thick wetsuit. The wildlife loves it though and the area is a haven for birds and marine critters of all kinds. Explore the indigenous flora on terra firma along the Bokbaai Vygie Trail, while watching whales and dolphins cavorting in the waves.

Believe me, there’s no better place to plug into a superb outdoor buzz than right here in Swartland! Yup, the Kasteelberg and Renosterveld meadows near Darling are already tweaking in technicolour, so grab your bike and go give it gas on your next ‘crankventure’ ????

More info at www.swartlandwineandolives.co.za and www.swartlandtourism.co.za

The Routes

Trail #1 (!Khwa ttu Trails, Yzerfontein)

The !Khwa ttu San Centre is situated on a low hill overlooking the Yzerfontein coastline and at first glance my MTB sensors did not go into Red Alert. Once you wander past the Reception and Restaurant area, things change when you notice the Trail Signage, and you’ll realise that crew has put in some serious effort here.

Kick off on a dippy little downhill with half a dozen cheeky kickers where the trail crosses old irrigation walls. Watch your air though, as the landing zone can be loose and gritty in places. Less than a kay in, you bang across a narrow wooden bridge, and then slowly contour upwards along a gentle ascent.

Best of all is that you are riding purpose-built single-track all the way with negligible sand, despite the coastal Renosterveld. The trail-builder did a great job of using contours, zigzagging you in loopy ess-bends to keep the ride edgy via the ridges.

Keep going clockwise around the hill until you summit at just on 5km, with a spectacular view over the scrub-covered plains unfolding towards the icy Atlantic Ocean. Drop down another kay and pin into a technical rock-drop through the old quarry.

It is relatively tame, but you do have the option of a chicken run if the idea a Moab-descent scares the bejesus out of you. Down into the valley you go, before knuckling up a final climb past the educational ‘Bushman Village’. Look out for zebra, eland, springbok, bat-eared fox and other game on the flats.

The last kilometre of downhill to !Khwa ttu is a play zone of note, with superb jumps along a speedy trail section. This makes for a superb 10km of family fun on the bike, with the good news that you can connect to the LIVING COLOUR Trail Centre for kickass 30km singletrack ride of note!

More info at www.khwattu.org or www.livingcolour.co.za

Trail #2 (Living Colour Trail Centre, Darling)

OK, so maybe you’re looking for something slightly more challenging in the MTB department? Well, if that is the case, go check out Wolwefontein; this Darling Farm hosts one of the original singletrack trail networks in the area, but is now even ‘lekkerder’.

Beginners should opt for the 12km Green Route. You can expect a few gentle climbs, but with only 250m of altitude gain and nothing too technical, this ride suit all levels of mountain bikers (or trail runners, if you are lacking in the bicycle department).

Intermediate riders will surely be tempted by the more advanced Red Route (21km), as this is aimed at those who enjoy an exhilarating combo of singletrack descents and rocky hill climbs, with a solid sprinkling of berms and switchbacks. The elevation gain is 500m and should keep moderately fit riders in the saddle for around an hour and a half.

You will find the ‘Living Colour’ trailhead just to the left of the R315 as you make your way from Yzers to Darling. Good news is that the routes are well sign-posted with colour-coordinated arrows, mostly along singletrack, but with the occasional stretch of jeep track here and there. A circular configuration traverses the farm in a clockwise direction on either side of the tarmac road.

Expect a few culverts, ditches and wooden bridges as you blast through golden wheat fields, before passing through a second culvert to again return to the northern section of the farm. Competent riders are in for a treat as they ascend into a gritty section of challenging singletrack where you can be sure your legs will feel the burn!

Once you peak out, keep traversing the ridgeline to your left, passing through scenic fields onto what is definitely my favourite section of the ride. ‘Blue Gum Alley’ awaits, and you need to keep it tidy here, as the newly constructed berms make you a sweet and ‘rooty’ technical downhill blast into an optional ramp jump (or chicken run).

Continue to your right along the river course to finish on a leisurely ride to the finish. Both of the trails incorporate singletrack, hilly climbs and zippy descents, but you can choose whether to negotiate the trickier switchbacks, berms, stiles over farm fences and rock garden sections. Keep in mind that Gabri and Kevin will keep adding to the trail menu, with links planned to other routes in the area, too.

Bottom line, the route is 99% rideable, even for cautious riders, and you can always portage or push should the going get too tough. Trail runners are welcome, too, and a good dollop of trail etiquette will ensure that everyone has a blast on these stunning, multi-use trails.

Off the bike:

Beach walking – Yzerfontein is only about 10 minutes from !Khwa ttu and the 16km beach (longest in SA) is the perfect place to walk or run.

Plantlife – wander through the indigineous garden on your own or book a guided botanical walking tour with one of the excellent guides to learn more about the medicinal plants and the San culture.

Flower power – in spring this area is transformed into a flower paradise; explore !Khwa ttu or tackle the Bokbaaivygie walking trail along the coast (you might even spot a whale).

Get wet – the West Coast waves are a great playground for surfers, but make sure you bring your wetsuit because the water is freezing!

Eat out – the !Khwa ttu’s restaurant offers a bistro-style menu with wholesome, freshly prepared, locally sourced food. Or you can go along to the Darling Brewery’s Taste Room just around the corner – www.darlingbrew.co.za

Best Time of Year to Visit

Weather is great year-round, but expect rain and the occasional icy tempest in winter.

A Look Around

!Khwa ttu

A Look Around

Living Colour

Squirt Top Trail

Map, Elevation Profile & Flyover(s)

15/11/2021 11:25

Living Colour Trails

Copy the following HTML iframe code to your website:

  • Distance Instructions
  • Distance 18 km
  • Time 0 s
  • Speed 0.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 106 m
  • Peak 209 m
  • Climb 457 m
  • Descent 469 m

Shot on Location

[gamipress_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/cN0vT5EJVBA?rel=0″ width=”100%” height=”480″ autoplay=”no” controls=”yes”]

GRADING: Intermediate
DURATION 1-2 hours (10km)
CONFIGURATION Circular options
START POINT: !Khwa ttu San Reception
COORDINATES: 33°21’44.55″ S / 18°16’14.12″ E
TERRAIN: Purpose-built single-track; jeep track
MAP: Map boards and superb signage
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Permit upon paying entry fee
FACILITIES Ablutions, restaurant, shop and secure parking
BEWARE OF: Jumps with loose landing zones
www.khwattu.org / 022 492 2998 – speak to Michael


FAST FACTS BLOCK – Living Colour
GRADING: Easy to Intermediate
DURATION: 1-4hrs (10-30km)
START POINT: Living Colour Trail Centre
COORDINATES: 33°20’53.0″S / 18°20’28.8″E
TERRAIN: 90% single track with some jeep track
MAP: Available on www.livingcolour.co.za
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS R50 day licence available at Living Colour
FACILITIES Large bathroom facility including showers
CELL RECEPTION: Good coverage
BEWARE OF: Snakes – and loads of devilthorns – in summer
CONTACT: Cell: 072 901 2532


Getting There

!Khwattu San is exactly 70km from Cape Town city centre on the R27 (West Coast Road) on the right hand side 4 km before the R315 intersection to Yzerfontein /Darling.

Living Colour is situated about equidistant from Darling and Yzerfontein; look out for the signboards on the R315 approximately 5km before you reach Darling.

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