Closest Town: Fort Beaufort
Grading: Intermediate | Duration: 2 hours
Location (Area/Province): Amatola and Eastern Cape
Configuration: Circular or return, 22km
Start Point: Katberg Estate Reception
Access: No day visitors
Beware of: Extreme erosion, roots; mountain weather changes lightning fast (mud, fog, cold)
Facilities: Self catering accommodation, bar, restaurant, pool
Cell Reception: Intermediate
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Hogsback is old news to most mountain bikers heading into the Eastern Cape’s Amatole Region, but only a handful of out-of-towners have discovered the nearby Katberg area. If you’re up for a serious bout of big mountain wheezing, there are dozens of day rides bombing the Winterberg ranges here. Expansive plantations and indigenous woodland blanket the slopes, with great riding along dirt roads and a few singletrack sections.
The Katberg Ecological Golf Estate, situated close to Fort Beaufort on the Amathole Scenic Route, is an excellent base from which to explore the imposing ranges looming all round. A mix of primary montane forest, DWAF plantations and mountain grassland serves up route options to suit just about every taste, with options including anything from sidewinder gravel to white-knuckle forest blasts.
On your bike
Head out of the gate and turn left onto the gnarly Katberg Pass, turning left again after 1.4km to bomb the contour roads cruising through the Langfield pine forest for a rollercoaster ride. While you’re there, keep your eyes peeled for some scattered and unusual exotic trees, such as the Himalayan cedar and North American redwood. Crank across mountain rivers and past waterfalls, ascend grassy summits or bomb a mix of forested ravines and sweeping plantations while bush pig, bushbuck, touraco, rare Cape parrot and samango monkeys play in this dip-diving dirt paradise. A few hiking trails will entice those with singletrack tendencies into helter-skelter heaven.
Your second option is to bang straight into the thin air zone on a gritty climb past Boesmanskrans and onto the plateau. Slog it out up the 15km+ Katberg Pass snaking along the slopes above the hotel, and you will be rewarded by breathtaking views across the distant Winterberg. You can ride for ever up here, but pack a good map or GPS and the requisite gear to sit out an emergency.
Off the bike
Rock-climbing, horse trails, fly-fishing, golf, tennis and hiking are a few of the available outdoor options, while museums in Fort Beaufort and at Fort Hare (the alma mater of Nelson Mandela) are worth a peek. Nearby Hogsback is a must, with artists, carpenters and craftsmen congregating in this magical village to gain inspiration from the lush forests and cascading waterfalls. The game reserves of Mpofu, Tsolwana and Double Drift are but an hour’s drive away.
Teephonel: +27 40 864 1010
GPS: 32°29’20.6” South / 26°40’53.9” East