Closest Town: Potchefstroom
Grading: Intermediate to difficult | Duration: 3-4 hours
Location (Area/Province): North West and Southern Region
Configuration: 32 km circuit
Start Point: Meet at the Base Camp under the big tree next to the jail and the dirt road to access the rides described.
Access: Guests only. The route is along public and private roads
Beware of: Lightning strikes in summer, they are particularly bad in the late afternoons when the storm clouds gather and summer heat.
Facilities: Self-catering and budget dormitory accommodation or a quirky stay in the Venterskroon jail.
Cell Reception: None
The dome Conservancy, just outside Parys, straddles both the Free State and North-West provinces. The Vaal River, a provincial boundary, runs through the middle of the dome conservancy. The Vredefort Dome is a unique circle of mountains formed by the deep impact of a prehistoric meteorite hitting the earth’s surface and destroying everything for a radius of 200 km.
On your bike
This route on the North-West province side of the river takes in stretches of technical singletrack, jeep track and district dirt roads. Beware of lightning strikes in summer – they are particularly bad in the late afternoons when the storm clouds gather.
You won’t find Venterskroon on any map. Established in 1889 as a gold mining town around the same time as another tiny hamlet called Johannesburg. Venterskroon consists of an old jail, a handful of houses, some cattle paddocks and a hostel. However, the hamlet is a well-known landmark in the area, and people meet at the Base Camp under the big tree next to the jail and the dirt road to access the rides described.
Leaving the Venterskroon Base Camp there is a warm-up of around 15 km, which includes a stint along the Potchefstroom road. The trail turns onto a jeep track which leads up to a national monument, the house of Totius, an Afrikaans writer and poet. The ascending jeep track then deteriorates to a barely discernable footpath, through some scratch bushveld. After every good climb, there’s an even better downhill, and this one is 2 km of singletrack heaven. For riders without the advantage of dual suspension, the next 6 km section to the Boplaas Camp via Schoemansdrift will be a welcome relief, as will a swim in the crystal clear reservoir and lunch. Riders an choose to overnight at this point or at the Bundu camp further up. The rest of the ride heading to Oudewerf and Base Camp is demanding both in terms and gradients and bike-handling skills. If you don’t like riding rocks … have a nice hike! If you’re a real mountain biker, this trail is “bitchin”.
Off the bike
There’s swimming, canoeing and river rafting in the Vaal River.
Route information: Iaan van der Walt, Dome Highland Trails
Address: PO Box 21138, Noordbrug, Potchefstroom, 2522
Telephone: +27 (0)81 407 5861
GPS: 26 53’ 12.15” S 27 16’ 09.24” E