There are getaways, and then there are get-completely-off-the-grid-aways … Nuwerust Rest Camp in the Red Karoo Cederberg Park is one of the latter options, and the biking there is pretty much off the charts and their 17km circuit is just one or your options in the area.
Nuwerust Rest Camp holds the recipe for riding fun: dramatic landscape + hectic topography + single-track + seemingly endless riding options = MTB Orgasm. Or something like that, anyway. This 66 000ha Conservancy remains largely unexplored here at the southern tip of the Cederberg ranges, and at the heart of it all, you will find the exquisitely wild Nuwerust Rest Camp. This is very much a working farm with an eco-adventure focus, dominated all round by craggy, blood-orange mountains and with juddering dirt roads all round.
The great news is that the neighbouring farms have also bought into MTB as a major tourism driver, thus allowing riders to access an extended circular route without trespassing. Your top-of-the-morning ride starts from the Nuwerust farmhouse and allows you to immediately bang onto a 3km stretch of single-track winding past the camp site to cross the river.
On your bike
Follow the trail left below the imposing Rooiberg amphitheatre, traversing above the river course. Small, square brown signs point the way along the trail (some may be obscured by high brush), but there is also packed stone edging to help keep you on track. A wooden stile pops you over a fence to the Cederberg Oasis Backpackers and Restaurant (3km), the only place to boast a meal or cold beer for miles around (www.cederbergoasis.co.za)
Turn left at The Oasis onto the main Ceres gravel road and crank like a speed freak along the downhill bombing back towards the main Nuwerust entrance (5km). Then toughen up and get ready for a dose of ‘suck it up, cupcake’ as you climb for the next 5.5km along the grinding ascent up Grootrivierhoogte. When you eventually summit at a cattle grid (10.6km), a bad-ass wilderness view of epic proportions across the Koue Bokkeveld section of the Cape Winelands will make it all worthwhile.
The best is yet to come, bru. Explore past a disused quarry to your left (just before the grid and around 30m off the road) and you’ll discover a marked section of single-track zigzagging back towards Nuwerust. The trail basically s-bends along the side of the gravel road all the way back into the valley.
You need regulation-size cojones to handle this teeth-gritting trail, as there are a good few steep drops, super-slide bends and loose shale to conquer. Keep it tidy, though, especially where you sneak back onto the road for 50m, and also where you cross under a gate fence that will garrotte your head clear off your body if you don’t focus.
In the end, the descent is 99% rideable (even for Ballies like me) until you bottom out to loop around a little dam and back to the road. Cross at the Nuwerust sign (16km) to high-tail the final 1.4km back along fast-and-flat gravel.
Off The Bike:
The Nuwerust camping site is set along the banks of the Breëkrans River, with lekker swimming holes and fishing spots, and with the Rooiberg cliffs towering above your camp. This is a paradise for trail runners, hikers and rock climbers.
Best Time of Year:
Year round, but summer heat is extreme, so you’ll have to time your riding.
How to Get There:
From Cape Town make your way to Ceres and then follow the R303 to Op-Die-Berg for 30km. 200m past Op-Die-Berg, turn right at the Cederberg/Ceres Karoo sign and follow the tar road for another 18km until it turns to gravel; you will reach the Nuwerust turn-off to your right 45km later.
Web site – www.cederbergexperience.co.za / Tel +27-27-482-2813