Highlights and insights of our recce ride to explore the route for our next Cederberg gravel adventure.
Day 1: Clanwilliam to Driehoek
We started our trip in Clanwilliam, a town in the Olifants River valley in the Western Cape, about 200 kilometres north of Cape Town.
Though less picturesque than other towns, Clanwilliam provides a good infrastructure with plenty of guesthouses, shops, and petrol stations, allowing us to stock up and prepare for the next few days in remoteness.
We headed out of town south on the ou kapse road, passing a small informal settlement, and before long, we were astounded by the beautiful view of the Clanwilliam dam to our right. We rode next to the dam for a few km, and the fantastic colours of the blue dam and the green landscape helped us destress, exhale and let go of the worries of our daily lives.
The ride for the next 15 km was enjoyable, with a smooth gravel surface and a moderately undulating terrain. We were surprised at how quickly we seemed so far away from civilization and the business of life. We listened to the sounds of the Olifants river that ran in a gorge just below our route, and we felt our shoulders starting to relax and the corners of our mouths beginning to lift: we were in the Cederberg.
The ride continued to be more pleasant than challenging, with a few short & sharp uphills but nothing of significant concern. After about 30 km, we arrived at our lunch stop. We had a picnic at the Algeria Campsite and filled our bottles with cold water.
Next was the Uitkyk pass: The 4.7 km Uitkyk Pass joins the northern and southern Cederberg Wildernessareas. It is pretty steep and true to its name (which translates as ‘Look Out’ or ‘Viewpoint’), providing endless vistas of the unique Cederberg mountains.
Having driven this pass in the car many times, it was the first time we were doing this climb on a bike. It felt very real! Incredible scenery, stunning views, quite tough, but very rewarding – definitely a bucket list climb.
At the top of the pass, we savoured the views and sent a last text message before our cell phone signal faded out for the next few days. From now on, we could enjoy the serenity and tranquility of this magical place without any digital distractions.
The last few km to Driehoek were mostly downhill, but the surface became more rocky and rugged. We were relieved and grateful when we arrived at the campsite for a swim in the cool and refreshing, crystal clear stream and a sundowner drink at the campfire.
Day 1 was epic. Can day 2 keep up?
Day 2: Driehoek to Enjo Nature Farm
Waking up at a campsite is a remarkable experience. We witnessed the changing light, felt the sun warming the air, and listened to the birds getting louder and more active by the minute. These moments of mindfulnesshave become rare for most of us in our busy daily lives.
After a strong coffee and breakfast, we left Driehoek farm towards Dwarsrivier. The first section of our ride took us on a scenic gravel road with spectacular rock formations.
After 13 km, we passed the Cederberg Winery, which has the highest vineyards in the Western Cape at about 1000 m above sea level. We didn’t stop for a wine tasting, but we plan to return on one of our tours next time.
Our ride continued on relatively smooth gravel roads, passing the Stadsal caves, famous for a vast cavernous dome that was used as shelter in prehistoric times and iconic bushman’s rock art painting.
The following 10 km were undulating with a long downhill towards the valley where the road splits. We took the left turn towards Wupperthal and Eselbank. A sign next to the road indicated “4 x 4 vehicle highly recommended for this route” made us hesitate if the gravel bikes were the right choice for this kind of trip.
As expected, the surface became more rocky, at times loose, and the gradient started to get pretty steep, so the leisurely cruise had turned into a proper workout.
As so often at the top of the climb, we were rewarded with magnificent views. The feeling of “being in the middle of nowhere” probably describes our experience best.
It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.Edmund Hillary
Stunning rock formations, breathtaking views and endless space characterised the next few km of our ride.
A quick break in Eselbank was well received, as the last part of the route was rocky, sandy and rough. We took some time to stretch our neck, shoulders, backs and hands – the body parts that interestingly had to work most over the last few hours.
Little else was happening in the quiet village of Eselbank, so we continued our ride towards Wupperthal.
Wupperthal lies in a deep valley, so our way into the town was downhill, but the way out would be up. As we descended, we could already see the long climb ahead.
“Let’s attend to this later”, we thought “First a coke and a sandwich” in Wupperthal.
We had to slow down for several donkeys and a big herd of goats on the road, but finally, we arrived at our planned lunch stop: Wupperthal.
Unfortunately, on a Saturday, this little town is relatively quiet, and the local coffee shop was closed, and so were all the shops selling drinks and food.
Using our last reserves, we shared a banana and our last water and tackled the long climb towards the Biedouw Valley without lunch.
This climb is on tar but relatively steep at times, so we had to dig deep to ignore our burning legs and rumbling tummies and to keep our sense of humour.
After the summit, the rest of the route luckily remained on moderate undulating terrain.
After 87 km and a long day in the saddle, we arrived at Enjo Nature Farm, and one thing was for sure: A toasted cheese and tomato sandwich had never tasted better.
The farm is a secret spot far off the main tourist tracks in the wild, unspoilt land of the Cederberg. It is a little oasis where you can experience the silence of the elements. We agreed this would be the perfect spot to stay on our tour next year: relax and unwind, swim in the spring-fed dam, and enjoy the incredible Cederberg night sky.
Five takeouts of our Cederberg Route Recce:
- Cederberg’s nature is overwhelmingly beautiful. Spending time here restores you, charges your batteries and makes you forget about the worries and demands of your daily lives.
- Stops to fill water bottles or buy cold drinks or snacks are rare on this route, so our support vehicle with a fully stocked cooler box will be a winner on our tours.
- The roads are rough and rocky in parts, and people not used to riding gravel bikes might miss the suspension of their mountain bikes.
- The mountain passes are mostly on tar but quite steep, and a good fitness level (or an e-bike) is required to conquer these hills.
- A cycling trip through the stunning landscapes of Cederberg is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the present moment and gain a deeper appreciation for the small joys of life!
WE CAN’T WAIT TO TAKE YOU ON ONE OF OUR CEDERBERG TOURS IN 2024.
We have two trips planned; check them out on our website or give us a call; we would love to assist you.