Closest Town: Harrismith
Grading: Difficult | Duration: Various up to 3 hours
Location (Area/Province): Bush & Battlefields and KZN - Natal
Configuration: 16km return ride
Start Point: At Little Switzerland Resort
Access: Guests of Little Switzerland Resort only
Beware of: In summer, thunderstorms can turn this into a mud bath. Sharp drops
Facilities: Accommodation at Little Switzerland Resort. Health and Beauty Spa
Cell Reception: None
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Little Switzerland Resort, situated on the Oliviershoek Pass just as you leave the FS to enter KZN, is the first true Drakensberg resort you reach en route from Gauteng. Road conditions have deteriorated to such an extent that owner Chris Mumby recently closed his hotel operations for the time being, currently focusing on conferences and the self-catering units. Although there has always been riding on Little Switzerland’s 3000ha of mountain land, a dedicated MTB track now offers 23km of stunning cranking to the fat track tribe.
On your bike
Sometimes you have to commit to drastic measures to make a specific route work, and in the case of the Little Switzerland MTB Trail, these measures include a grunt of a climb up the Oliviershoek Pass. Yes, you heard right – there’s 4km of tarmac with your name on it, so get over it.
I mean that in the literal sense, as you’ll climb into the wind to the very top, where you turn left onto gravel at the Caterpillar & Catfish B&B (4.2km). Let the good times roll as you continue a gradual gravel climb onto the plateau past the green rainwater tanks and keeping left through the gum trees at the first local kraal (huts – 5.1km) you get to.
Follow the track through an old rusted gate (6.5km), dropping along a gnarly dual-track into a grassy valley and passing two gorgeous old stone ruins (Settler’s Cottages on the map – 8.5km). The climb out is probably a carry if you’re not Burry Stander, but keep going as you top out with a gorgeous trout dam waiting below you in the next dell.
We saw a posse of Cape vultures circling above from the dam (10.6km), but they were probably just waiting for some old Ballie to expire in the gorgeous Alpine surrounds. A couple of kays later you reach the cement singletrack the Mumbys constructed to make the route more rideable year-round.
Crank up the first steep stretch (11.9km) to the highest point along the route (1892m) before you start a 600m drop over 3.5km onto the jeep-track below. Most of this is along sweeping cement singletrack, about 30cm wide, and you need to keep your wits about you if you don’t want to come a cropper.
At 16.5km, you dog-leg left onto the gravel track towards Little Switzerland Resort. This is mostly level riding, but with enough loose rocks and erosion ruts thrown in to keep you on your toes. At 22.8km you sneak back into the resort grounds along a wooden board walk, just in time for a frosty. (No matter the time of day – you’ve deserved it)!
Rated by : Jacques Marais
Off the bike
Outdoor options at Little Switzerland abound. Swop your iron steed for a sturdy mount and head into the mountains under ‘horse power’, or tramp onto one of the stunning waterfall hikes. There is also tennis, bowls, putt-putt and a host of activities to keep other members of the family happy. The Coyote Café must be the top foodie spot in the region; I’ve never had Jamaican Jerk Chicken or Prawn Curry this good. Plus, their Flat Whites and carrot cake rate at least 11/10.
Route information: Alenore Ruiter, Reservations
Address: Private Bag X1661, Bergville, 3350
Telephone: + 27 (0)36 438 2500
GPS: 28°34’50.4″ South / 29°02’59.4″ East