In search of new off-road biking routes for our mountain biking clients, we went on another spectacular AWOL adventure. We designed a new itinerary with a route that connects Montagu to George with our already existing Garden Route/Karoo tour. The highlight of the trip was to ride the (in)famous Attakwaskloof, a historical mountain pass that tested our climbing skills.
Monday morning five of us met in Montagu, a quaint old agricultural town in the western Klein Karoo and started our ride to Anysberg Nature Reserve. This time we were very lucky to have a support driver, meaning that we did not have to carry all our food, water and spares. On today’s leg of the Tour de Attakwas there was one mountain pass to be climbed, then there was a long downhill and lots of ups and downs once we entered the gate to Anysberg Nature Reserve. We spotted wildlife along the way, such as the beautiful Gemsbok and other antelope species.
The light of the rising sun falling on the majestic Cape Fold Mountains with its deep valleys and gorges is a stunning sight and makes for beautiful photographs. But it was also very very cold this morning, I felt pins and needles in my legs when we started cycling at 5°C…later in the day the temperature climbed up to 35°C! This is normal for the semi-arid Karoo desert, and when packing your bag you should by no means forget your arm warmers!
The next destination was a mere 65km away, so we did some detours trying to get more distance in for training, and got to chat to some Karoo farmers with big intentions to open mountain biking trails on their farms. We were very lucky to spot an African wild cat crossing the path.
Awesomely, we only crossed two tar roads today, the rest was all dirt road and more descent than ascent. A perfect rest day for our to-be clients. From our bicycle seats we had a good vision of the Towerkop (2189m), a well-known peak in the Klein Swartberg range situated near the town of Ladismith. Towerkop means “Magic Peak” in Afrikaans and legend has it that an angry witch thwacked the peak with her broomstick, splitting it in two. En route Bevan impressed some peacefully grazing cows with his wheelies.
On the third day we arrived at Rooiberg Lodge, a hidden gem in a valley surrounded by “red mountains”. We received a very warm welcome and were told that there is a 16km long very technical and rocky single track…and after a quick coffee we were back on our bikes to try it out. Sally managed to ride most of it, but for the rest of us it turned out to be a bike-hike, responsible for some sense-of-humour failures.
After 5km and 500m of ascend we decided to turn around as there was no end of climbing in sight. However, the views were amazing and kept me in a good mood, as well as the stunning fynbos surrounding us. Sally’s parents and kids came to join us for the night at Rooiberg Lodge and with the help of her Dad, an avid motorbiker, we found a better route to the Attakwaskloof.
We thought day four was going to be a rather flat day and so went on a quick 15km ride with 600m of climbing before breakfast… only to find out later that the 80km planned ride did include some serious climbs with an ascent of 1400m. A lot of hills and valleys had to be conquered until we reached Bonniedale Holiday Farm, a natural fynbos farm situated in the Outeniqua Mountains.
We ended the day with a traditional braai at the lapa and talked about the challenge that awaited us the next day – the Attakwaskloof Pass itself. The pass that links Mossel Bay to Oudtshoorn was used by ox-wagons from 1689 until 1869 when the nearby Robinson Pass was completed. The actual Attakwaskloof Pass is only 10km long and full of historic relics like block houses and a toll house.
Nico and his family gave us some valuable tips and info about old historic ox-wagon trails that are suitable for off-road cycling. We will definitely come back to try them out. There are also loads of hidden San paintings in the mountains; their locations are kept secret in order to protect them from damage and if you want to see them you need to go on a guided hike.
Although Nico gave us very clear route descriptions, we took a wrong turn right in the beginning as we could not believe that the pass should start from a rocky riverbed. But it did, and the day began with some more bike-hiking. The pass had some tricky steep climbs and puddles in store for us, allowing us to proceed only very slowly.
The views of the Outeniqua Mountains with their beautiful peaks were absolutely breath-taking, as was the Fynbos with flowers blooming in their full splendour so we enjoyed taking our time to ride.
To conclude, riding the Attakwas does require a reasonable level of fitness. However, if it gets too steep one can always walk and enjoy the surrounding mountains and flora. This tour is perfect for off-road cyclists and mountain lovers. Admittedly, the photographs in this blog cannot do justice to the beauty of the mountain pass. Please contact us if you are interested to experience the Attakwas yourself and we will tailor-make a trip for you.