Closest Town: Coffee Bay
Grading: Moderate to difficult | Duration: Depends on route chosen
Location (Area/Province): Eastern Cape and Wild Coast
Configuration: Depends on route chosen
Start Point: Coffee Bay
Access: Access, with the exception of the nature reserves, is free.
Beware of: Cowboy drivers on the Transkei roads.
Facilities: Hotels, backpackers and camping available
Cell Reception: Intermittent
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The remote and rugged Wild Coast region, languishing between the Kei and Umngazi Rivers, must rate as one of South Africa’s most undiscovered cycling destinations. No wonder, as merely getting to the numerous, secluded getaways dotting this infamous, ship-killer shoreline constitutes a major adventure. But if you rate yourself as a staunch biking brave, a pedal into the heart of Pondoland will deliver the riding experience of a lifetime.
Head for Coffee Bay if you’re keen to spliff out on the laid back calypso vibe characterising this sub-tropical coastline brimming with soaring cliffs and dense coastal forests leading onto beaches straight from a glossy travel magazine.
On your bike
The undulating topography and wall to wall views of the Wild Coast makes for inviting riding along a selection of tarmac highways, gravel byways, footpaths and hiking trails. Beach cruising, especially along the southern section of the coast above Kei Mouth, add a sublime dimension to an off-road riding adventure that is out of this world. Hluleka, Dwesa, Silaka and a selection of small nature reserves gracing the coastline offer a combination of technical riding and bike-based game viewing, while the grassland slopes are crisscrossed with cattle footpaths and hiking trails. Access, with the exception of the nature reserves, is free, but care should be taken in the area as muggings, theft and intimidation have been reported. This is the exception to the rule though and I found the local amaXhosa people to be incredibly friendly.
Tarmac:This is definitely one of those rides where one would rate the tarmac tribe as way more ballsy than the off-road guys. The Old Transkei roads are notorious for cowboy drivers who regularly take the law into their own hands, so extreme care should be exercised at all times. The safest section for a road ride is the ascent from Coffee Bay along the newly tarred route en route to Umtata, a stiff, 50km climb contouring towards Ngqungqu. Expect to work hard along the looping curves and hairpins as you crank away from the coastal plain before zigging into a whoop-it-up return ride.
If you want to ride the Wild Coast as part of an organised group, get in touch with 180 Degree Adventures (check out www.180.co.za) who operate the Wild Coast as a multi-day MTB ride. The Imana Wild Ride, scheduled annually for July or August, also allows a limited number of cyclists to cruise the coastline from The Kei to Umngazi River mouth as part of a sanctioned event. Solo rides are a dime a dozen along nearly 300km of coastline, but a good free-ride bike, topo map, compass (or preferably a GPS), ample food and water, as well as a bountiful sense of adventure, are prerequisites.
Off the bike
Visitors to the Wild Coast often succumb to a condition locally known as Pondoland Fever, no doubt linked to the sampling of an organic mountain cabbage known around the world as Transkei Gold. Mind-altering substances are no prerequisite though – all you need to slow down your world is a few days in C-Bay.
Telephone: +27 74 101 5170
GPS: 31°59′05.7″ South / 029°08′57.3″ East