This is a story about a route in the making … Right now, the #Wines2Wilderness Route is a ‘mountain biking dream in progress’, but do not let this put you off from exploring the Bergrivier Region. Read on and you’ll find out how to navigate those rambunctious back roads on your bike, all while discovering how all the various trail nodes fit together.

You aways need a good spot from which to start an adventure, and what better place could you wish for than a wine estate with award-winning food? Piekenierskloof Wines slumbers atop the eponymous pass, just beyond the Paleisheuwel turn-off, and is famed for their great vintages and delectable meals.

The Paleisheuwel road – traversing the spine of the mountain range – descends steeply westwards towards the coast, and would make for a fast roadie-style ride if that is your cup of herbal tea … A speedy 32km T-bones you onto the R365, where you turn right to Sandberg and Leipoldtville. These back roads are generally quiet but look out for agri-traffic (tractors and Isuzu bakkies) as you pedal all the way to the coast at Lamberts Bay for an 86km cruise.

Yeah, yeah, I know … you brought your mountain bike, and don’t feel like tar. Here’s what you do: right where the Paleisheuwel Road junctions with the N7, is an access point where you can get onto the old Piekenierskloof Pass, basically following the curves of the N7. Pin your ears back and follow your front wheel!

Some navigation will be required to get you through the farm roads at the base of the Winterhoek mountains, but if all else fails you can follow the R365 back in the direction of Porterville for around 70km in the saddle. A few avid mountain bikers in the area are working hard to gain open access to a recreational MTB route, and the negotiations with local farmers will hopefully pay off.

22 Watervalle

Your first trail node is a hidden secret: the ‘22 Watervalle’ Camp Site, approximately 5km out of town. It makes sense to camp overnight here if you want to add their 15km MTB trail to your tick box, but the real gem is the extensive hiking route taking you past no less than 22 waterfalls – it is truly breathtaking, but you will need at least 4-5hrs to complete the hike.

The mountain biking route is rather rough-and-ready, with lots of loose stones and sharp corners blitzing along the mountain side. Some pushing may be required here and there, but the higher (and rather technical) Red Route eventually gets you onto a kickass section of the trail berming via the lush indigenous forest and to one of the most beautiful cascades imaginable. Well worth it.

Beaverlac …

I suggest another overnighter here – first you need to get there, though … From 22 Watervalle, roll for 4km back to the R365 and turn right. Pay attention, because after 2km you turn right again at a sign to Dasklip Pass, this time onto a gravel road, with a turn-off to the pass itself (on tar) 16km into your ride.

Dasklip is a pretty cool climb, if steep in places, with exceptional views over the Sandveld farmland to the west. You eventually reach the Beaverlac turn-off to your left after a solid 7km ascent, with a steep 4km drop into the camp site to follow. Pitch your tent and get ready to explore: I suggest a swim at either Secret or Main Pool to get rid of the dust, and to slake your thirst on the sweet Ratel River waters.

Two main route options await from the camping area, so head out over the concrete causeway crossing the Ratel (or Badger, if you want) River. The Yellowfish / Flatrock / Africa Cottage option bears left immediately, passing a big shed before tripping into Beaverlac’s wild heart.

You could explore by bike along the short Flatrock Trail should you have the technical skills, or otherwise head into the hills towards the course of the upper Olifants River along a sandy 2km stretch (and boy, is it worthwhile)! The main gravel road continues slip-sliding amidst the incredible Stone Temple landscape, passing Africa Cottage 7km into the ride.

Unfortunately, a gate signifies the start of a neighbouring farm after a further 1.5km, with the crossing through the scenic Olifants River only a tantalising kilometre away from here. There’s a R500 fine for ignoring the sign, and I’m nearly of the opinion that you should bite the bullet and pay the fine, it is so beautiful. Maybe it’s best not to make the farmers angry, though; if they opened up this route to riders, you’d be able to pedal all the way to Citrusdal from Beaverlac, maar nou ja!

There is also the steeper and more eroded ‘Extension Road’ if you turn right after the Ratel River causeway. This heads into high ground via Old Testament rockscapes and – if you are going to be lucky enough to bump into klipspringers, lynx or Cape mountain leopard (it can happen!) – this is where you need to keep your eyes wide open. We spotted three black eagles, and countless other bird species.

Wilderness …

The Groot Winterhoek Reserve is situated 12km from the Beaverlac turn-off, so this makes for a 32km return ride to this vast wilderness area should you have the energy to go and partake in one of their many day hikes. It truly is a mindblowing outdoor arena, and in my opinion is on par with wilderness areas such as Swartberg or the Baviaanskloof … Yup, it would be sad to miss out on this special kind of magic.

For our full-length blog post on the Wines2Wilderness Route, please click here.

15/09/2022

Wines2Wilderness Route, Porterville, Western Cape

The Groot Winterhoek ranges above Porterville must surely rate as one of South Africa’s most under-utilised mountain biking destinations. This is about to change with the local Berg Rivier Tourism Region’s initiative, a ‘Wines to Wilderness’ Route.