Closest Town: Rhodes
Grading: A hard ride which borders on extreme during wet, muddy and icy winter conditions | Duration: Anything from 4-8 hours in the saddle
Location (Area/Province): Eastern Cape and Northern Region
Configuration: A circular ride along public roads - 81km
Start Point: Rhodes Village Main Street
Access: Public roads, so no fee is payable
Beware of: Carlisle’s Hoek holds the record for the most broken collarbones during a race … you’ve been warned!
Facilities: Various accommodation establishments in Rhodes offer all the mod cons
Cell Reception: Limited
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Crank out of Rhodes along a gently undulating road, but don’t be fooled – after a moderate 10km warm-up ascent, all kinds of mind and body alarms will kick in as you hit the lower reaches of Naude’s Nek, the highest and meanest pass in the country
On your bike
A public gravel road from Rhodes climbs to the top of Naude’s Nek, the highest pass in the country. Grind your way to the mythical summit, 22km away. From here, the route branches left to leave the main dirt road. The trail then heads off northwards to dip through streams and valleys parallel to the escarpment above the Maclear and Mount Fletcher districts. Pass the Cairntoul Police Station and follow the Lesotho border in a westerly direction. If you thought the hard slog up Naude’s Nek was tough, wait until you start grinding up the hellish jeep track to Lesotho View, the highest point on the route at 2 732m.
Dead legs, hallucinations of ice-cold beers and panoramic vistas across Lesotho will keep you company as you summit and then drop down onto the Ben Macdhui Flats (muddy as hell after the rain) until you join the Carlisleshoek Road just below the Tiffindell Ski Resort. Follow this towards Rhodes, traversing the plateau before blasting down the infamous Carlisleshoek Pass. This dual-track, concrete strip careens along impossible hairpins to drop more than 300m in less 3 km. The gradient hits 1 in 3 in places. At speed, this rates as one of the hairiest MTB experiences in Africa.
If you survive this adrenalin rush, bomb along the gravel road contouring down into the valley. Another steep section, incorporating two more hairpins, awaits but then you’re home and dry as you cross the river to crank back into the village.[/div2]
Off the bike
Flanked by Ben MacDhui (3,001 metres) and Bonnyvale Peak (2,633 metres) Rhodes is renowned for its cold climate, sub-alpine topography and meandering trout streams. Winter snowfalls annually attract snowboarders and skiers fro around the country to local slopes. South Africa’s well-known Tiffindell Ski Lodge is found here. Major draw cards in the area include fly-fishing with the Bell’s Whisky Wild Trout Fly-fishing Festival held in March each year. Quad-biking, hiking, alpine flower viewing, rock art, horse-riding and wing-shooting are also on offer. Nearby Maclear boasts exposed, fossilized dinosaur footprints believed to be 200 million years old, as well as superb rock art sites.
Tel: +27 (0)45 974 9290
GPS: 30°47′44″ South / 27°57′51″ East