Closest Town: Newcastle
Grading: Moderate to difficult | Duration: 4-7 Hours
Location (Area/Province): Berg, Bush & Battlefields, and KZN - Natal
Configuration: 91km circular route
Start Point: Start and finish at Mullers Pass General Dealer
Access: Public district roads
Beware of: Strong winds on Normandien Pass
Cell Reception: Occasionally
This is an ideal ride for a taste of “bike packing” or genuine endurance training. The circuit is very scenic, meandering through the foothills of the Drakensberg.
On your bike
Except for 21 km of tarred road at the end of the pass, it is all along secondary dirt roads, known only to the local communities. The circuit starts and ends at the Mullers Pass General Dealer in KwaZulu-Natal, but includes a 30 km stint through the Free State. At the Mullerspas shop, turn left onto dirt. The climb up Mullers Pass begins at the 7.8 km mark, and is the first of many ups and downs.
After the turn-off to Memel, it’s a roller coaster ride to Normandien Pass along the S783. Normandien Pass is definitely the highlight of this ride. At 57km be sure to stop and admire the incredible view from “Noah’s Ark”, a large rock near the top of the Pass which is vaguely shaped like a boat. To the left is the Holkrans Mountain ridge, covered with a vast expanse of indigenous forest. To the right is the ‘Berg. Ahead of you lies Newcastle and the shimmering Chelmsford Dam. The reward is a 7 km flight down the pass. This descent is technically demanding and very steep in some sections, so make sure your brakes are plush. Turn left and ride the last 21 km on tar, back to the Mullers Pass General Dealer.
By road (57 km): For all those caught somewhere in between MTB and road cycling, this road route follows the perimeter of Ntsingwayo (Chelmsford) Dam. The dam is 25 km outside Newcastle CBD and can be accessed by exiting town along Scott Street.
Off the bike
The Chelmsford (or Ntshingwayo) Dam is perfect for relaxing, fishing and birding, while hikers and horse riders should head for the Grey Goose Game Lodge (www.greygoose.co.za).
Route information: Chris van der Linde, Triathlon Cycles
Telephone: 082 417 0303
GPS: -27º52’28.7″ South / 29º48’43.7″ East