Closest Town: Piketberg
Grading: Intermediate | Duration: 4 days
Location (Area/Province): Bergrivier and Western Cape
Configuration: Gravel road, jeep track, tarmac road
Start Point: Aurora Village
Access: Public roads
Beware of: Heat in summer, snakes (especiloy September - March)
Facilities: Google various stop-overs for details
Cell Reception: Intermittent
This is superb gravel riding terrain, with quiet roads and jeep tracks dust-lining along the Piketberg slopes and surrounding plains. From Aurora, head southwest towards the R399 (16km), and then turn left for 14km of fast tarmac cranking to the Goedverwacht turn-off.
On your bike
This picturesque mission village awaits approximately 11km along this gravel road, with a range of accommodation options, including camping at Januariesfontein (total riding distance of 43km) and premium self-catering at Retreat Guest Farm (49km). You’re in for a solid ascent from Goedverwacht, so this is not a bad place to break out some cold beers and chill after Day One of your ride. Retreat Farm boasts a superb MTB Trail, so bump up your ride with a kickass 24km of singletrack addition!
Your second day starts with an exhilarating downhill ride as you pedal the quiet tar road plunging back down to Piketberg. Negotiate the side-swiping ess-bends of Versveld Pass (10km) before you T-bone onto the R366 (15km), where you will pass the turn-off to Eendekuil (R365) to your right after another 24km. Keep the pedals turning as the R366 curves southwards to Redelinghuys (80km) where Affieplaas awaits with excellent accommodation and meals.
Welcome to Day 3, people! A rather corrugated and sandy (in places) stretch of gravel road awaits as you crank off towards Aurora. Look out for a turn-off to your left towards Danielshoogte Private Nature Reserve after 25km, with proper climbing as you attack the western ascent up Piketberg Mountain. The 9km uphill to Danielshoogte is gritty, but you have another 8km before you top out. Either return to Danielshoogte (51km) or bomb all the way back down to Aurora (63km) where you can book into the Rooi Granaat for some R&R.
Anyone for a Bonus Day in the saddle? Here goes … from Aurora, head southwest for 2km, then keep left for another 15km to the junction with the R399. Keep left again for 3km to the next left as you begin to undulate up the scenic Kapteinskloof valley, passing Banghoek Private Nature Reserve just on 38km into your ride.
You will rejoin your old friend, the R366, again after a total distance of 55km; turn right here towards Piketberg for a fast 40km tarmac crank. Piketberg offers a bunch of accommodation options, and after nearly a 100km in the saddle you will surely need cold drinks, good food and a comfortable bed! I’d check out Lemon Tree Cottage as a starting point!
All in all, you’re in for a 40/60 mix of tarmac versus gravel, with long and undulating stretches and a few gruelling climbs. The northern side of the mountain brims with loads of jeep-track for those keen to explore off the secondary roads, but be aware that you will be riding through farming areas and that all gates should be left in the position you found them.
Keep a look out for jackal- and steppe buzzards, black eagles, bat-eared fox, steenbuck and other small mammals. Leopards are often spotted in the high-lying mountain wilderness, but your chances of seeing them are unfortunately not brilliant. The vistas towards the Cederberg and West Coast, however, will more than make up for that!
Off the bike
The village itself offers a range of accommodation options and fine dining, though its historical route is probably a must-do for all visitors. The construction of the imposing Neo-Gothic church started in 1880 and to this day forms the focal point of the town. You can’t miss it, but also take some time to wander by one of the oldest houses, 16-18 Main Street, that was built in 1844 or up towards Piquet Hill and the old Coach House. The Piketberg Museum is perfect last stop to fill in the gaps.
How to Get There
Take the R399 from Piketberg and turn right to Aurora.
32º 42′ 05″ South / 18º 28′ 52″ East
Best Time of Year
Aurora has a Mediterranean climate, with most of its rainfall in winter