Closest Town: Parys
Grading: Easy to Difficult | Duration: Various
Location (Area/Province): North West and Southern Region
Configuration: Numerous trails of varying difficulty
Start Point: Various starting points
Access: Limited numbers of day visitors. Entry fee payable; please phone ahead.
Beware of: Hot summer temperatures and thorns.
Facilities: Self-catering, River house, Cabins, swimming pool, jacuzzi. See webiste for maor details.
Cell Reception: None
Various routes from Otters’ Haunt loop along back roads, jeep tracks and footpaths onto adjacent farms, so it is important to book your ride in advance to ensure access. Distances and terrain will vary depending upon access.
On your bike
Tweezer Rocks (15 km figure-of-eight circuit): While Otters’ Haunt is in the North-West province, the Tweezer Rocks ride crosses over the Vaal and takes place on seldom used public paths and back roads on the Free State side of the river. This 15 km ‘breakfast run’ trail, east of Parys towards the airport, gets its name from the amazing silhouette of rocks atop a koppie where two upstanding boulders hold a third between them. The trail goes around the koppie containing the ‘tweezers’. Apart from one moderate gradient up a track, most of the riding is easy, suiting even adventurous novices, due to a variety of terrains encountered, from tar to jeep tracks and footpaths.
The trail affords excellent views of rolling Free State and North-West grassland interspersed with boulder-strewn slopes and scenic koppies crowned with granite blocks. The Parys township Tumahole is seen spread out on the horizon to the south-west, with the Vaal River valley’s thick green riverine fringes off to the north, while the hills of the Dome Bergland beckon to any rider on the northwest horizon. Stop off in Parys for nosh.
Oupa se Plaas (6 km return): Prior booking through Otters’ Haunt is essential for this easy to intermediate Bergland trail, which is accessed 10 km outside of Parys on the Potchefstroom road. The route leads to a quaint farmhouse and by sticking to farm roads, this ride is suitable even for child bikers.
Small Circle and Quarry (15 km circuit or return): Cycling directly from Otters’ Haunt over farm properties gets you to the Lion’s Head quarry. Otters’ will arrange permission for you to enter. This trail offers fun and tricky riding, ending with a fast return on tar all the way back to Otters’.
Kopjeskraal Ascent: This 19km return takes you up via wild olive and acacia woodland to the first ridge of the Dome Bergland. Relatively fit riders will handle it, but expect to walk on the final, very steep hill. The view across both the Dome and Vaal Valley is spectacular, and there are ancient Tswana stone ruins at the top. Prior booking is a must.
Off the bike
Otters’ Haunt is popular with on-road and off-road cyclists, fly-fishermen, birdwatchers, canoeists and whitewater rafters. Otters’ Haunt organizes mountain biking group outings, rafting trips on the exciting Vaal rapids, as well as hikes and runs through the Bergland mountains of the blast zone. Here too get information on battlefields from the Boer War and the Great Trek, as well as prehistoric archaeological sites. The village of Parys is popular with art and antique lovers, containing many knick-knack shops, coffee bars and restaurants.
Route information: Karen and Graeme Addison
Telephone: +27 (0)56 818 1814 or +27 (0)82 475 8767 or +27 (0)84 245 2490
GPS: 26°54’35.62″S 27°25’43.06″E