Closest Town: Harrismith
Grading: Difficult to Extreme | Duration: 3 - 5 Hours
Location (Area/Province): Central Free State and Free State
Configuration: Self-guided 25km and 45km loops
Start Point: Platberg Stadium
Access: Public access
Beware of: Lightning storms in summer.
Facilities: Accommodation, bars, restaurants and shops in town
Cell Reception: Intermittent cell reception
Harrismith – at the foot of Platberg, the Free State’s own ‘Table Mountain’ – gives great MTB access to the 1400ha Platberg Game Reserve. A rollicking network of 4×4, mountain bike and hiking trails await exploration, including the well-marked ‘Dirty Harry MTB Challenge’ route, which definitely rates as a stunning ride. Contact Emile de Beer to join on one of Harrismith Cycling Club’s training rides at www.facebook.com/harrismithcyclingclub.
Platberg Mountain has always announced to travelers that they are either well on the way down to the coast or nearing Gauteng. It is a timeless landmark brooding over the provincial border between the free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. The busy N3 toll road down to Durban and the small town of Harrismith are clustered at its feet.
This monolithic, flat-topped mountain, which soars to 2,394m above sea level, has a unique ecosystem at the top. This acts as a giant sponge, absorbing rainfall which seeps down and finally flows off sheer cliffs and kloofs as mountain streams and waterfalls.
On your bike
Start off with a gentle ascent along the lower slopes, with a gradual climb to the foot of Donkey’s Pass, a radical 3km ascent along dual concrete strips that will enforce granny gear or push mode! Looking back, the view of the glittering Sterkfontein Dam and Drakensberg Mountains makes for a breathtaking panorama, framed by the sheer cliffs to your right. An easier option takes you straight past Donkey’s Pass on a route parallel to the cliffs; this contour road is still pretty high and ensures excellent views.
Off the bike
Hiking, 4×4 routes and exploring the Drakensberg as well as water sports or angling at the nearby Sterkfontein Dam are just some of your options.
Route information: Johan de Bruyn, Topsport Cycles
Address: PO Box 1548, Harrismith, 9880
Telephone: +27 (0)58 623 0435 or +27 (0)82 926 0369
GPS: 28° 16.456’ South / 29° 08.201’East